What a nice surprise, to get an invitation from Cheryl St.John to blog here! Cheryl and I met a looooong time ago at a writer’s conference, and one of the best parts of being a writer has always been the friendships we make in this biz! It’s a real pleasure to be here among so many other Western titles and authors, because Western romances have always been my favorites!
In the early ‘90’s when Cheryl and I met, I was writing for the Zebra Heartfire line. Spicy-hot stories about feisty young heroines who won the day–and their heroes–their way! Lots of action/adventure, and lots of sex.
Well, my stories and my covers have changed! The books in this Angels of Mercy series were first labeled “inspirational,” and they’re all faith-and-family stories…like, the Waltons are visiting LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE!
But the star of GABRIEL’S LADY comes closest to being like my first adventurous heroines, in that she can outride and outshoot any man in Abilene! Solace Monroe was riding before she could walk, always with a Border collie tagging along (gee, where did I get the idea for putting a litter of Border collie pups in this series?! Say hi to Ramona!) She was born during a blizzard in the first book of my Angels of Mercy series, A PATCHWORK FAMILY and now that she’s eighteen she has a matched team of bays, Lincoln and Lee, and she’s trained them to performance perfection. Her new dog Rex is a real ham…but bless his heart, he can sit so still–trusts Solace SO much–that she can shoot an apple off his head!
Solace is so busy training horses, dreaming of riding in a Wild West show, she has little time for guys…until Gabe Getty comes back into her picture in a big way. Gabe, too, first appeared in A PATCHWORK FAMILY as a kid gone mute from watching Indians massacre his family and burn his home. Those same puppies brought him out of his silence, and he grew up with the kids Mercy and Judd Monroe took in during the first book.
As GABRIEL’S LADY opens, Gabe–who is 9 or 10 years older than Solace–is marrying the gorgeous socialite Letitia Bancroft, and is junior partner in Mr. Bancroft’s law firm. He thinks of Solace as his best friend’s kid sister, and poor 12-year-old Solace feels like a sparrow among swans at the wedding. Her unruly waves, broad shoulders and tanned, fit body just don’t fit 1886 society’s expectations for a lady.
But six years later, the tables have turned: Gabe is widowed, deeply torn because his pretty wife was addicted to laudanum and took their unborn child to the grave with her. Letitia’s diary revealed some shocking secrets and Gabe finds himself jobless, homeless and hopeless…
Until he sees Solace straddling those two matched bays, barefoot, with her hair blowing in the breeze as she urges them into a full gallop. And Rex hops on with her! Is it any wonder Gabe’s heart beats faster? MY heart certainly did when I wrote these scenes!
The tension cranks up when Solace joins Apache Pete’s Wild West Extravaganza–disguises herself as a young man–and is then framed for murdering the show’s lady sharpshooter, Crack-Shot Cora. Good thing Gabe’s a lawyer–but then, he can’t defend her case because he’s become a judge in the court where she’s to be tried! Things get complicated! And leave it to little redheaded curly-top Bernadette to save the day for Aunt Solace–at least in the courtroom.
Of course, it all works out for Solace and Gabe in the end–and I throw in a few surprises along the way. I got a few thrown at me, too, when a little boy named Charlie showed up OUT OF THE BLUE…and wow, did I love that kid from the moment he asks Gabe, “You from the orphanage, mister? Come to fetch me back ‘cause I runned away again?”
My goal is always to make my readers laugh–and cry–and come back for more! I love pulling your strings! My Angels of Mercy series (named for Mercy Monroe, heroine of A PATCHWORK FAMILY) has been a joy to write because I get to see all the kids who show up in the first book grow up and have stories of their own, while the West and our nation changes so much, as well! And lots of readers write me, saying, “Write them faster! We can’t wait to see what happens to Billy–or Solace–or–”
The challenge of writing a series? Making sure that readers who pick up, say, GABRIEL’S LADY, will love and understand the characters for who they are in this book–enough to go back and start from the series beginning. It’s a fine line, deciding how much back story from the Monroe-Malloy family to include: I know my longtime readers want to catch up to what those characters are doing…how they’ve changed as they’ve matured. Mercy, the mom of the series, begins as a Kansas settler in her 20’s, and by the series end she’ll be celebrating her 60th birthday! It’s a rare treat for a writer to live with a character this long, but Mercy’s a very special mom, and I’ve loved every one of her angels more than I ever dreamed possible when I conceived this series years ago.
So what do you think about series? Do you enjoy seeing characters grow and change through the course of several books? Or, when you see a book is in a series, do you put it back because you’d rather not hunt down the earlier books? I’ve got a signed copy of GABRIEL’S LADY or a signed copy of A PATCHWORK FAMILY for the two of you who give me the best insights about this!
Thanks so much, Fillies, for inviting me to your corral! I’ve enjoyed reading your entries–and I’ve enjoyed lots of your books for years!