So what is a thong tree?  I learned the answer to that and other burning questions while researching my latest novel, A Man Like That.  This story is the sequel to Harvest of Dreams and set in the Ozark Mountains of central Missouri just after the Civil War.

No, a thong tree is not a place to hang your underwear.  Thong trees were trail markers left by the Osage Indians and early settlers.  They pointed the way to a trail, salt lick, spring, cave, or other landmark.  The Osage inhabited the Ozarks around Camdenton, near what is now the Lake of The Ozarks, until the 1820’s when a series of treaties finally deprived them of the last of their land.  By the time of my story in 1867, the Osage were long gone, but many thong trees remained.  Amazingly, some can still be seen in the area.

To create the distinctive bent trunk, the Osage would tie a leather strap to a sapling then stake it to the ground to bend the trunk.  Eventually, the leather would rot away, but the tree stayed bent in a very distinctive form.  In A Man Like That I used a thong tree as a marker between my hero, Morgan Bingham’s, land and the property of his relatives and sworn enemies, the McTaggarts.   Circumstances force Morgan to visit his kin several times, and at one point he and the heroine, Jessamine Randall, use the horizontal branch of the thong tree as a resting place on the trail.

In the story, Morgan’s family lives in a type of cabin called a dogtrot.  This architectural style originated in the Appalachian Mountains, the original home of many of the early Ozark settlers.  Traditionally, the dogtrot consisted of two log cabins connected by a breezeway, or “dogtrot”.  It allowed for improved ventilation and provided a shaded area in summer.  In A Man Like That, Morgan’s mother and sister live in one of the one-room cabins, and his brother, sister-in-law and young nephew occupy the other.

I really enjoyed researching the setting for this book because it’s off the beaten path as far as romance novels are concerned, and I’ve always been fascinated by unexplored territory.  My husband’s family is from the area of the Ozarks where I set my story, and I wanted to imagine what life might have been like for them in that time and place.  I invite you to check it out.


Here’s a blurb about the story:

Jessamine Randall, fearless crusader and champion of the downtrodden, is not a woman to be left waiting at the altar.  When her fiancé disappears hours before their wedding, the ever-resourceful Jessy hatches a plan to track him down and bring him back where he belongs.

Morgan Bingham knows he’s no good.  Never has been.  Never will be.  A former outlaw is no fit husband for the only daughter of the town judge, despite her misguided notions.  Besides, after ten long years away from home, it’s time to return to the hills and face his demons.

Ill-prepared, but armed with unshakeable certainty, Jessy follows Morgan to his family’s cabin deep in the Ozark Mountains where she’s sucked into a whirlpool of deep secrets and old hatreds.  While she struggles to bring light and hope into their dark lives, her greatest challenge is Morgan himself.   Can she ever convince him he’s worthy of love?

How do you feel about romance novels in non-traditional settings?  One lucky commenter will receive a copy of A Man Like That.

For an excerpt and buy links, please visit me at

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  1. Romance novels in non-traditional settings are interesting so long as they are anchored in fact. Tou certainly seem to have done your research.

    Best wishes for success with A Man Like That.

  2. I enjoy romance novels set anywhere anytime. It’s refreshing to learn about new areas. I loved Pamela Clare’s Surrender set in the 1300’s during the French and Indian War. I knew little about this time period or this war.

    I was fascinated by your thong trees. I live in Wisconsin next to the old meeting grounds of Menominee Indians, who were led by Chief Menominee John. We have 2 thong trees in our yard which overlooks Johns Lake!! Several are located around the lake directing people to our locale. There is also a huge red granite rock with the carving of a buffalo head and a warrior’s profile depending on the angle you look at it from. It is called Spirit Rock.

    I’ve never heard of a dogtrot but I’ve seen vacation homes split like this. Interesting!!

  3. Alison,
    Loved this post! Very interesting information. I had never heard of a thong tree before, either. Back “in the day” there were homes built here in Oklahoma with a dogtrot. My great aunt and uncle lived in one.

    Nice to see you here at the Junction!

    Cheryl P.

  4. Hi Alison, I’m from Missouri and (surprise!) I love your setting! Missouri has a very interesting history with lots of potential for romance and conflict.
    I had never heard the term “thong tree” before. I have only heard them called “trail marker trees”, so I’ve learned something from you all ready!
    I haven’t read any of your books yet, but can’t wait to get started. Should I begin with Harvest of Dreams?

  5. I enjoyed your interesting post and learned about your book and writing. Romance novels set in unique and memorable locales are always appealing and special.

  6. Hi Alison,
    I love the cover of your book, it is beautiful!
    I also enjoyed looking at the photo of the dogtrot cabin. It definitely sparks your imagination about who lived there and what were they like. I too have never heard of a thong tree.
    Best of luck with your book, it sounds interesting. I just recently purchased your book, ‘Harvest of Dreams’ on my nook.

  7. Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to hear other readers enjoy stretching the traditional boudaries of historical romance a bit.

    Thanks, Liz!

    Laurie – So interesting to know you have thong trees in Wisconsin, too! I live in Minnesota now, but I’ve never heard of any here.

    Hi, Cheryl! People are now building fancy vacation cabins in the dogtrot style. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

    Hello, Judy. How nice to hear from another “show me” gal! My first book, Harvest of Dreams, is set in Weston, Mo, in the northwest corner, and introduces the characters from A Man Like That. Each book stands on its own, but I think it’s always fun to start at the beginning of a series.

    Ann and Elizabeth – thanks so much for joining me today. A big part of the fun of reading historical romance is learning some new tidbit of information about our past.

  8. Great post, Alison, and very interesting information. I’d heard of a dogtrot before, but not a thong tree. I can’t wait to read your books. The setting is indeed unique and the stories sound wonderful!

  9. I’m so intrigued and charmed by your story line that I’m quickly typing this so I can order your books. Yay me!! I’ve found a new (for me, anyway) writer. Best of luck to you!

  10. Oh, Alsion, what an idiot I am. As soon as I looked your name up on Amazon and saw the cover for “Harvest of Dreams,” I thought, hey, I know her. I read that book and loved it!!! Senior moments come too quickly these days.

  11. What a great post. Being born and raised in the West, I don’t know too much about the east coast and a lot of the history. (Even though all my relatives are from NY, NJ, MASS, PENN.).
    I really believe a good romance story can be about anywhere in the world, in any demension.
    I actually like the idea of a dogtrot house. They were pretty wise to get the benefit of the breeze, especially with no electricity for fans, etc.

  12. I enjoy variety so I am all for any kind of settings. And historicals are great for all kinds of different times and places and I enjoy learning new places and times. I’ve also found when the author enjoys her research that it shows.

  13. Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Vonnie, I had to laugh when I read your post. Those senior moments will get us every time! I’m so glad you enjoyed Harvest of Dreams. I think you’ll find A Man Like That just as engaging.

  14. Your book sounds really intereting and I have added it to my TBR list.
    I like to read all kinds of stories snd non-traditional settings can be interesting.

  15. I love any type of romance. No matter the settings to me if its a romance its a hit with me
    Thanks for sharing the info I never knew. You books have been added to my TBR list

    Walk in harmony,

  16. Love the blog! Love learning something new. Have heard of the dog trot cabin but never the thong tree!

  17. I’m intrigued with historical romances set in China. You don’t see many of them, but it makes for a great clash-of-culture story. Interesting details about those thong trees! Thanks for visting P&P today!

  18. I love romance novels. Out of the ordinary, non-traditional settings, is wonderful then I don’t know what it going to happen.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  19. Well, you know, love makes the world go round and I’m pretty sure that love exists all around the world in some very interesting places. So yes, I like to read stories set in unconventional places. This book sounds very interesting and I’m glad I now know what a dogtrot is.

  20. Hello Estella, Joye, Connie, and Melinda. I’m so glad you enjoyed my research tidbits!
    Victoria – I also love the idea of Chinese historical romances! I studied Chinese art in college and find the whole culture fascinating.

  21. Love happens everywhere, so why not set stories just about anywhere. It is also a good way for us, the reader, to visit new places and meet new people. I enjoy traveling and exploring new cultures. Stories can introduce me to new ones I’d like to explore.
    Thanks for the information on the thong trees. Interesting.

  22. I embrace love stories in non-traditional settings. It’s refreshing and when you think about it the possiblities to celebrate love is endless amd that is a wonderful thing. I am more likely to be intrigued by a story if it is set somewhere unique 🙂 I know I will definitely appreciate Jessy’s resourceful in A Man Like That. She has spunk and courage.

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