Karen Witemeyer ~ Brits in Texas?

I love to read stories set in the American West, but I also enjoy a good Regency romance. So when I was dreaming up ideas for the book that would become Head in the Clouds, I thought it would be fun to mix the two and bring an English nobleman to Texas. But before I could do this, I set out on a research expedition to discover if such a scenario was too farfetched to be believable. As it turns out, the idea could’ve come straight from history itself.

Several notable members of the British aristocracy made their mark on Texas in the 1880s. Arguably the most outrageous chap was Heneage Finch, Seventh Earl of Aylesford. Whether due to pricked pride or a broken heart, the earl fled England and made his way to Big Spring, Texas in 1883 after discovering his wife’s affair. Unimpressed with his title, the locals called him “Judge,” but he won their affection by buying drinks at the saloon on a regular basis. He set himself up as a small rancher and bought the local hotel in order that he or his guests would always have a room when needed. He bought a local butcher shop so he could have mutton whenever he liked, and he bought the saloon to ensure a ready supply of whisky, which he drank to great excess. Witnesses told tales of seeing liquor bottles piled up higher than a haystack outside his home. The Earl of Aylesford died at the age of 36, and not surprisingly, when the doctor who prepared his body to be shipped to England examined his liver, he found it as hard as a rock.

Other Englishmen made a more positive contribution, however. In 1884, John Farwell travelled to England to organize a group of wealthy investors to develop the now legendary 3,000,000 acre XIT ranch. He succeeded in forming the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company of London which included such notable investors as the Earl of Aberdeen and Henry Seton-Karr, a member of Parliament. Thanks to the money supplied by these English gentlemen, the Capitol Syndicate was able to fence off the land, dig water wells, build windmills, purchase over 100,000 longhorn cattle, and pay the 150 cowboys who worked the ranch.


 XIT Ranch Cowboys, 1881

 My favorite discovery, however, came when I researched the small county in Texas where I had chosen to set my story. As it turns out, another nobleman had come to Menard County a handful of years before my hero, but instead of hailing from England, he came from France. According to the Southern and Western Texas Guide for 1878, a French nobleman named Earnest Carlin, who was a millionaire and banker in Paris, closed his business and came to Texas with the single purpose of engaging in sheep husbandry, knowing that a pound of wool could be produced in Texas at 20% the cost of production in England. He purchased 30,000 acres of rolling prairie at the head of Los Morris Creek, a tributary of the San Saba River. He supported 30,000 sheep and built a rock palace that was one of the finest buildings in Texas. In a county history document, I read an anecdote about the awe this man’s house inspired. Apparently, whenever he and his wife travelled, the locals would come to gawk at his porcelain bathtub and other luxurious furnishings.

After reading the tale of “King Carlin’s Ranch,” my ideas about an Englishman who comes to Texas to make a name for himself in the wool industry seemed imminently more plausible.

So what are some of your favorite incongruous pairings in the novels you read? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a signed copy of Head in the Clouds.

Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she swears off romance. Until a Texas sheep rancher with a British accent and a mute little girl in a perilous situation stir her heart and reignite her longing for a happily ever after.

“Witemeyer’s sophomore tale is entertaining and exciting…Readers won’t be disappointed in the strong, lovable Adelaide and her ultimate Prince Charming.” – Publisher’s Weekly


And if you’d like the chance to win other historical romance titles, visit my website at http://www.karenwitemeyer.com/get_connected.html and sign up for the monthly drawings. I give away at least two historical romance titles every month, and once you sign up, you are automatically entered in all future drawings. Enjoy!

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49 thoughts on “Karen Witemeyer ~ Brits in Texas?”

  1. I am reading a book right now where the hero is British in the Old West. I do love these sort of stories. The hero is trying to convince the heroine he isn’t a dandy but a man of experience. So I am very excited to see your book also has a rancher with a British accent.

    Isn’t it interesting, they managed to get past the Revolutionary War grudges :-), wanted to flee to America and did make a successful life here?

    My favorite incongruous pairings are many, whether it is a character with a certain background doing something the reader wouldn’t expect or two characters who are exact opposites being attracted.

    Two examples: I love giant gentle men and tiny fiesty ladies as the romantic pairing in many a novel. I loved Jessica, an English noblewoman, finding herself on a ranch in Kaki Warner’s Pieces of Sky.

    Thanks so much for a great post and enter me for sure.

    Peace, Julie

  2. Yes,it is fun to read about people with such different backgrounds falling in love an how they handle it,even if its just North an South,its so much different than usual,thanks for such a great post

  3. oooooh, i love the whole premise!
    and the title
    i love it all

    i like most pairings 🙂
    a native american and a white girl is always a nice one too
    i just can’t think of any other right now…brain’s slow to get a movin’ this morning

    loved reading about finch
    i’m glad he really lived it up before he checked out

  4. Good morning, Karen, and welcome back to the Junction! What a gorgeous cover–makes me want to run to the bookstore immediately. 😀

    I’m a sucker for opposites. As Julie said, a giant of a man and a tiny, strongwilled woman are my favorite. In my stories, I try to match up opposites for my h&h–makes the story twice as fun to write.

  5. Hi Karen,
    Love the cover of your book! It sounds like a story that I would enjoy reading. I too like opposites from many different points of view.
    Great post!

  6. I love reading about strong-willed women and giant men. They just make a good story, because you have the man that is tough and semi gruff. then you have the lady that is strong-willed and semi-stubborn. The book looks good!

  7. I enjoyed your post today and learned something fascinating. Historical fiction interests me greatly and a great facet of it is when people from another country settle into a totally different locale. A Spanish encounter with a British is an interesting combination.

  8. a surly hero and a fashionable young heroine- the hero eventually falls for the surly man and his ways change being around this gentle fashionista.

  9. a surly hero and a fashionable young heroine- the hero eventually falls for the surly man and his ways change being around this gentle fashionista.
    Opposites attract and people change.

  10. Karen, a big welcome as a guest on P&P! I’m really excited to have you blog. And a very interesting blog too. One of Lorraine Heath’s early series featured three British friends who came to Texas to seek their fortunes. I loved that series. In Kaki Warner’s “Pieces of Sky” her heroine was from England. She landed on a ranch in New Mexico. Another wonderful book.

    I loved “A Tailor-Made Bride!” It was one of the best stories I’ve read in a while. You must have a terrific sense of humor because some of your scenes were downright hilarious. And the road to romance in that one was indeed rocky. I can’t wait to read “Head in the Clouds.” I know it’ll be great judging from what I’ve read about it. You’ve gotten some excellent reviews.

    Hope you enjoy being here as a guest and come back often.

  11. It’s not something I would have thought of (that’s why you’re the writer lol). A lot of time travels mix it up quite a bit. The last one I read had an 20th century female working in an art museum and an English artist back in the regency area. I love different combinations. And what a lovely cover!

  12. Hi, Jeannene. Thanks for stopping by this morning. You must have been up early on a Saturday to be the first poster, so a little brain sluggishness is to be expected. You’re definitely entered in the contest!

  13. Good morning, Julie. I’m with you on those gentle giants and short, feisty women. I also love seeing those big, muscular men cradling a baby. Nothing makes me sigh more. Love it!

  14. Vickie,
    Some of my favorite romantic opposites were Julie Garwood’s Scottish highlanders and English lasses. The Secret is one of my all-time favorite books with that premise. Love that story!

  15. Hi, Tabitha. Wasn’t Finch a crazy bird? I wonder if his heavy drinking and rowdy living was covering up for his hurt over his split with his wife or if he had always been that way. I can’t help but want to write a different ending to his story. Bring him a woman that will heal those old hurts and give him a reason to set the whisky aside and find a new path to happiness. Guess it’s the romantic in me that wants everyone to have a happily ever after.

  16. This post resounded with me since many settlers in NM are from Germany and decided to make permanent roots here. It is a far cry from their homes and the land where they were born but they adapted to this harsh environment and met many others from the NE of the U.S.

  17. Hi, Tracy. Thanks for having me back at the junction. You gals are my favorite online folks to hang out with. I, too, love pairing opposites with the hero and heroine. Makes for great conflict. In my next book, I’ve got a blacksmith with a criminal past pairing with an uppity pacifist librarian. There’s no end to the incongruous pairings we can have. Thank goodness!

  18. Sharon – They did a great job with the cover, didn’t they? What you can’t see is on the back. On the front, she’s so absorbed with her book that she’s about to tumble off the porch. Well, on the back, they show her legs in the air and the book flying. Too funny!

  19. Robyn – your comments made me smile. You could have been describing my hero and heroine from my first book A Tailor-Made Bride that came in in June. The hero is a set-in-his-ways livery owner and the heroine is a stylish seamstress. She loves creating beautiful things – he thinks facy duds are just about vanity. You’re right – they made for a crazy pairing.

  20. Linda,
    Thanks so much for the warm filly welcome. You are such a sweetie. You’re also the second one to mention “Pieces of Sky”. Sounds like I’m going to need to find me a copy of that one. It must be good.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Hannah and Jericho in Tailor-Made. I hope you have just as much fun with Adelaide and Gideon.

  21. catslady – Thanks for coming by today. You’re so right about those time-travel pairings. They create great incongruous pairs. Who didn’t love watching Kate & Leopold work through their differences? Love that movie.

  22. Anne – Thanks for adding your perspective. I have so much respect for people who have the courage to leave everything familiar and make a new start in a strange land. How terrifying that would be! At least an Englishman would speak the language. Most immigrants didn’t have that luxury. I know I’d be lost trying to make my way in another country where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t understand the customs. It was hard enough moving from California to Texas! LOL.

  23. Beautiful cover… Head in the Clouds sounds like a great read!
    Enjoy reading some interesting pairings… some mentioned already… english misses & scottish highlanders, englishmen in the old west, etc… love to read how the couples get past obstacles to obtain their happy endings!

  24. I like stories where your hero and heroine are from different worlds, such as she is rich and he’s poor as a church mouse. Or he came from a wealthy upbringing and lost it all and has to learn from her what it’s like to work for a living. Would love to be entered into your giveaway and thank you for the chance.

    I also love the whole Beauty & the Beast storyline.

    Cindy W.


  25. Hi, Colleen. Great to have you here today. Thanks for your interest in Adelaide and Gideon’s story.

    And Cindy – you hit on my favorite fairy tale of all time. I adore beauty and the beast stories. Those tortured heroes who can only find their way out of their emotional prison through the love of a good woman. I can’t get enough!

  26. Enjoyed reading the comments. I just like to read a good story and don’t pay much attention to characters from different countries or other disparities.

  27. Karen, I’d love to read your newest book. I’ve always been fascinated by English aristocrats, especially why they came to the US. Many went to NY. I didn’t know about Texas.

    caralynnjames at yahoo dot com

  28. Very interesting! I just read a novel by Laurie Kingery…Mail Order Cowboy, Love Inspired Historical, and her hero is a British cavalry officer who travels to post-Civil War Texas to seek his bride. So, it definitely works! I absolutely love the cover, and when you said the back shows her falling with book flying and boots in the air, I just know I have to have this one. Thanks for the history lesson!

  29. Mary, my friend. Great to see you here. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Who says we can’t have the best of both worlds? A little regency charm mixed with Texas toughness–might make a very yummy hero. 🙂

  30. Hi, Minna. Glad you stopped by. I’ll be sure to enter you in the drawing.

    Carol – I have Mail Order Cowboy sitting on the top of my TBR pile. It’s coming next. Can’t wait to dive in and see what the similarities are. Thanks for sharing!

  31. The only odd pairing that came to mind that I love is Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. I love opposite personalities.

    rmjagears AT gmail DOT com

  32. You have another lovely cover. Whoever is doing your cover art is doing an excellent job. The feeling of the story is there to see. The first pair that came to mind when reading your post was the couple in AFRICAN QUEEN. You couldn’t get two more different people. They did work wonderfully well together though.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  33. Karen, I have your book. I thought it was in my stack but wasn’t sure until finally I got the stack out and looked. It sounds terrific. I’m moving it to the top.


  34. Head In The Clouds sounds like a great read, I’ve
    just added it to my TBR list.

    A couple of books I read recently paired courtesans
    and titled gentlemen. They eventually came to an accord which allowed them to live harmoniously
    within the mores of their times.

    Pat Cochran

  35. Hi, Melissa. You can’t beat Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Jane Austin made the perfect pairing there, didn’t she? Now I’ve got the urge to power up my Netflix and watch Pride and Predjudice again!

  36. Hi, Patricia. Thanks for the compliment on the cover. I am so blessed at Bethany House. I think they have the best Art Department ever.

    I think I saw The African Queen years ago. That was with Kathryn Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, right? Two very set in their ways people, but they found a way to make it work. I love those old movies. Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck – great stuff.

  37. Hi, Pat. Thanks for your interest in Head in the Clouds. I hope you enjoy meeting Adelaide and Gideon.

    I read a great book by Amanda Quick several years ago called Mistress where the heroine pretended to be a reclusive gentleman’s mistress to make her way in society. But when he hears about it, he shows up (of course), and things really heat up after that. I thought that was a unique twist on the story line you mentioned. So many possibilities!

  38. I loved Tracie Peterson’s book A Fragile Design because the girl, Arabella is kind of a feminist figure in her generation, and the man she falls in love with is rather sexist in the beginning. Please enter me in the drawing! 🙂

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