I love writing “preacher” heroes. Even before I made the leap to Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals, my Harlequin Historicals all had preachers with grit and purpose. They had faults, too. And courage. And hearts as big as the sky. I can’t think of anything more “alpha” than a man who’s willing to die for a cause, and that’s the kind of preacher I write.
Next in line for hero status is Reverend Joshua Blue. Josh and his wife Adie are side characters in A Bounty Hunter’s Bride (Love Inspired Historicals, May 2008). They get their own story in A Maverick Preacher (LIH, February 2009). Josh isn’t shy. He’ll ride into an outlaw camp or preach in a saloon. He’ll take a punch if it’s called for, but he’s just as quick to protect the people in his care.
Old West preachers ministered to people where they lived. Like his real life predecessors, Josh starts a church in a saloon. He’s a peaceful man, but he carries a gun. It’s a calling card of sorts, his way of meeting men on their own turf. When he rides into outlaw camps, he’s quick to tell the story of Jonah and the whale. He believes in second chances, mostly because he very much needed one for himself. That’s one of the things I love about westerns. Everyone gets to start over.
My preachers are fictional, but I’ve borrowed bits from historical accounts. One of my favorite stories gets mentioned in Of Men and Angels (HH, July 2003). When William Merritt, a maverick preacher in his own right, leads a church service in July, the men sing “Silent Night” because it’s the only church song they know. Reverend John Leaf (Abbie’s Outlaw, April 2005) is a reformed gunfighter. He walked into my mind fully formed, a mix of the violence and humility that come from staring down the gun barrel of eternity.
Old West preachers weren’t wimps. They traveled for miles in storms and brutal heat. Along with their wives (there’s more to be said there!), they started churches and towns. They lived with purpose and brought hope to the far edges of the world. They weren’t perfect men, but more than a few were hero material.