Hunting for A Hero in Wyoming . . . I Found Him And He Has A British Accent

victoria_bylin_bannerI’m still in the thick of revisions for The Outlaw’s Return (LIH, February 2011),  but the end is in sight. That means I’m thinking about the characters for my next book.  The heroine’s easy.  This is Book #4 in a four-book series, so Caroline already has a personality and a problem. She was widowed shortly after the War between the States, and she’s wanted a family of her own for years.

So who do I set her up with? Right off the bat, I’m ruling out a preacher, a lawman or an outlaw.  Those are the heroes in the first three “Swan’s Nest” books.  So what’s left?Cowboy painint
A doctor?   I did a lady doctor in Kansas Courtship, plus I want to get Caroline off to an isolated ranch. A newspaperman or a lawyer? Same problem as the doctor. A rancher is an obvious choice, but he has  to be unique in some way.  

 I went through all sorts of possibilities before I settled on a character I’ve never once considered. Dear sweet Caroline is about to meet a retired British officer.  It just so happens he’s settled in Wyoming with this two children and he needs a nanny for them.  He also needs a nurse because he’s ill. And he’s not easy to get along with. The man is bossy. Wyoming Cowboy silhouetteHe’s exasperating. He’s accustomed to being obeyed, and he’s terrified he’ll leave this earth without providing a mother for his two not-so-adorable children.  (Change that: the kids will be a little adorable…maybe “a lot” adorable by the time I’m done.)

So how does my British Army officer end up on a ranch in Wyoming in 1876?   History led me right into the perfect set-up for this story.  The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers to claim 160 acres as their own.  The Powder River basin was rich with grass, largely untouched and just waiting for vast herds of cattle. Word traveled to the eastern United States and then across the Atlantic to Great Britain. Wealthy Englishmen began arriving with big ideas. TheWyoming Heroy invested in large herds that grazed freely on the open tracts of government land.

The first Englishman to run a big herd of cattle was Moreton Frewan in 1879. My book is set in 1876, but the conditions are workable for fiction.  I’m going to be doing a lot of research on Moreton Frewan. He came to Wyoming at the age of 25 and immediately made himself known. He built a two-story house near Kaycee that cowboys called Frewan’s Castle, and he had a knack for convincing his wealthy friends to invest in his cattle business.

Here’s a fun bit of trivia.  Frewan married a New York socialite named Clara Jerome. One of Clara’s sisters,  Jennie Jerome, became the mother of Winston Churchill.

This was quite a time in Wyoming. During the 1870s and into the 1880s, this rough-and-tumble landscape was a playground for visiting Englishmen and their families.  Big game hunts, fancy balls and lively parties were common.

As with all periods of history, events conspired to bring about change. More homesteaders arrived, claiming land and fencing it, so that the vast acreage was parceled out. With such laWyoming landscaperge herds, the pasturage was overgrazed. Investors wanted a better return, and the beef prices didn’t cooperate.  The biggest blow came with the winter of 1886-87.  It was disastrous. Ranchers lost up to 80% of their stock in the worst winter Wyoming had ever experienced.  By the 1890s, the British were pretty much gone from Wyoming.

I can hardly wait to get started on this book. My mind’s spinning ideas for scenes–a ball where my heroine feels insecure, a hunting trip gone awry–but first I’ve got to finish those pesky revisions. It’s frustrating, but I don’t really mind . . . Sometimes ideas are like spaghetti sauce. The longer they cook, they better they are.

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18 thoughts on “Hunting for A Hero in Wyoming . . . I Found Him And He Has A British Accent”

  1. Ah, another book to look forward to with plenty of wonderful ingredients. I am sure you will add a “secret” one too!

    Writing wishes your way, Julie

  2. Good morning, Julie! With the last rewrite, I’ve done a lot of thinking about secrets and why people keep them. They sure keep a story going! Hope you have a wonderful day!

  3. Love the ideas for your next book, Victoria. You can hardly wait to write it, and I can hardly wait to read it!!!

  4. I love the premise for this book! An Englishman in Ranching Country! I like the fact that the hero is British and not the heroine. I’m sure there will be some verbal clashes between the two. 🙂

  5. ooh, very fun change up
    sounds like a great book!
    beautiful pictures too
    i enjoyed a moment in your mind to see how those wheels spin!

  6. I love these ideas they sound like they will make a wonderful read! It amazes me how authors come up with so much to intertain us!

  7. Hi Judy, Sometimes a story rings all the right bells. I’m excited about this one. Now if I can only get the plot to work… 🙂

    Hello Margaret! I love outlaws and cowboys, but I wanted to do something different for this heroine. She’s waited through three books for her HEA. She’s going to get it big time!

  8. Hello Tabitha! I like the pictures, too. I turned the lanscape shot into the desktop on my computer for inspiration. That’s one of the things I do when I start a new book…I use a different font for writing, and I put up new pictures.

    Howdy, Quilt Lady! It’s always fun to hear from you 🙂 Ideas tend to come to me out of the blue. This one clicked right away.. Thank for visiting P&P!

  9. Hello Deb! The two of them will definitely clash. This guy’s used to giving orders, and my heroine’s is definitely *not* used to taking them. She’s a bit older and has a lot of poise. I’m looking forward to getting these two together!

  10. What an imagination you have, Vicki. Continued good luck with the brainstorming and research. One of my favorite books and mini-series ever, Centennial, featured wealthy British folks in Colorado. I had no idea!

    Good job, filly sister! oxoxoxoxoxoxox I can already feel the bristles of having someone expect that girl to take orders LOL.

  11. I’m ready for this book. I knew there was some British investment in cattle ranches and they made hunting trips. I didn’t realize there was such a social scene to go along with it. This should be a fun book to write and read. I’ll be looking for it.

  12. Hi Anita Mae, Thank you for coming by Petticoats & Pistols! I’m looking forward to learning more about the British in Wyoming. I like these two already!

    Hello Tanya, I’ll have to rent “Centennial,” or maybe reread the book. Isn’t that James Michener? I grew up reading his stuff. Loved it all!

  13. Hello Patricia! This is a classic case of research breathing life into a book. I love “clash of culture” stories. The conflicts always run deep, because there’s so much at stake. Can’t wait to going on it!

  14. Vicki, this is going to be an excellent story, I can just feel it. I’ve been Wyoming once and I will use that gorgeous country as a setting someday. Good luck with Caroline!

  15. Hi Tracy! I’m always inspired by gorgeous landscape. It’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to westerns. Love the mountains! Love the vast expanses of grass! Kentucky is home now, but I’d love to take three months to roam the West.

  16. Great stuff, a really interesting read added to favourites so will head back for new content and to read other people’s comments. Thanks again.

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