I’ve always thought of myself as having dual citizenship—that is, I had a Yankee (Hoosier) father, but I was born in Temple, Texas and my mother was a Texan. Because we were an Army family, I ended up in Ohio, but every year we made the trek down to Texas to visit family there in Austin, Brownwood, San Angelo and a little country town called Christoval. During those times, I absorbed the amazing history and lore of that wonderful state and its plain-spoken, salt-of-the earth people, and began to appreciate the vastness of the state with its varied climates and topography—tropical, high plains, piney woods, hill country, mountains, desert. Texas has it all.
Then my dad was stationed in Korea for a year, and Mom and I went to live in Texas among aunts, uncles and cousins, including one who was a real cowboy, and certainly looked the part. I learned that there had been Cherokees in Texas, and that Cherokee blood sang in my veins, along with Scots-Irish, Huguenot and German. After that year I ended up with a Texas twang that comes back naturally when I’m among fellow Texans, and when I had to go back north, a sense that I was a Texan-in-exile. Returning to Texas always makes me feel like I’m coming home—especially if I arrive in spring’s “bluebonnet season.” At one time, I considered moving back to Texas, but my children live here, my other job (as an E.R. nurse) is here, and it seems I’ve grown some roots in Ohio, too.
I’d spent a lot of time in West Texas and Austin, and seeing places that sacred shrine to Texas heroes, the Alamo, but it wasn’t until I was showing my daughters the glories of Texas, though, that I was really introduced to the Hill Country of central Texas, that area of Texas bounded on the east and south by the Balcones Escarpment and on the west and north by plains and prairies. Its rolling countryside, studded with blue hills, cactus, cedar, liveoaks and mesquite and clear green streams, called to me. We were on the way to one set of relatives from the other, took a wrong turn and ended up in quaintly beautiful Fredericksburg in the heart of “German Texas.” German Texas?
My heritage was German on my father’s side, but I was intrigued by these Germans who had fled European turmoil and came to Texas when it was still a nation of its own, wresting a living from the rocky ground and living in mostly at peace with the Comanches. I resolved to come back and study the place, and I did, and eventually one of my books written as Laurie Grant, Midnight Satin, (Leisure, 2004) featured a German immigrant heroine.
As Laurie Grant, I’ve set books in a book in Texas cotton country, written a Texas cattle drover-hero in Abilene, Kansas, and had a Texas outlaw meeting an English duchess in Colorado, but most of my books have been set in the Hill Country, using imaginary Texas towns based on real places like Fredericksburg, Llano, Boerne, Wimberley and Comfort—with a dash of West Texas Christoval thrown in. I usually use a time period between the end of the Civil War and the 1890’s, when Texas was still plagued with outlaws and Indian raids, barbed-wire fencing wasn’t yet in use, and cowboys were in their heyday.
Now, writing inspirational historical romances for Steeple Hill Love Inspired under my own name, I’m still using the Hill Country for my setting. HILL COUNTRY CHRISTMAS, releasing in mid-October, is the story of Delia Keller, an impoverished young woman in post-Civil War Texas. Overnight, Delia has gone from the late preacher’s granddaughter to a rich young heiress. She’s determined to use her money to find the security she’s always lacked. Building herself a new house by Christmas is her first priority. But handsome Jude Tucker is challenging her plans and her heart….
The former Civil War chaplain hasn’t felt peace in a very long time, and he has a hard time letting go of his past. But as Jude gets to know the spirited Delia, he longs to show her what true Christmas joy means. In the rugged Texas Hill country, he’ll reach for a miracle to restore his faith…and give Delia his love for all seasons.
I’ll let you “Petticoats and Pistols” readers in on a little secret—this book wasn’t originally written as a Christmas book. But when Melissa Endlich, my wonderful editor at Steeple Hill, asked me to consider making it one, I was soon glad she did. Researching mid-1800’s Texas Christmas customs was a joy, and the cover is gorgeous with its blue hills background, and small-town Christmassy scene. I’m honored that Hill Country Christmas is Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals’ very first Christmas story.
Thanks to Petticoats and Pistols and especially to Cheryl St. John for inviting me to be a visiting blogger here. It’s the best western site around! I hope we can visit again when my next (still untitled) book is release in August ’09, featuring a lady photographer and a handsome, half-Mexican outlaw. I hope you’ll come visit me on my website and blog at www.lauriekingery.com.
One lucky reader who comments this weekend will receive an autographed copy of HILL COUNTRY CHRISTMAS!
ORDER A COPY FROM AMAZON ———–>