My parents moved to Southern California when I was 3. I grew up in the shadows of Hollywood at a time when westerns were popular on TV and in the movies. My idea of a cowboy was based on their fictionalized portrayal. I saw the hero as larger than life, a man who overcame the odds and sticky situations even though he was wounded both physically and emotionally. But what about the reality of the Old West?
It was no surprise that the first historical romances I’d written were all westerns. My heroes had all of the above qualities—good and bad. Their physical scars told a grim story; their emotional scars were deep-rooted. After all the research, I realized that in my books, reality and fiction met in the middle. Life wasn’t easy for the real-life cowboy in the 19th century. While not a pretty picture, I planted my cowboy hero in the middle of the era, hardships and all. I drifted toward the dark, brooding hero, a reflection of my state of mind. The combination came across as a strong, conflicted hero who fought against change but overcame the odds because of the love of his woman (heroine).
More than that, I love horses. I see an undeniable bond between a man and his horse, both powerful animals. There’s something majestic in watching a horse in motion and the rough-cut man who rode him as if they were one. Like the heroes in my stories, their horses have quirks, too. Sometimes, they seem human.
The American West has always appealed to my senses. “Modern” conveniences began to play a part at this time in history, yet there weren’t so many that their lives were made easier than the 20th century cowboy. And it isn’t far-fetched to create a heroine who is strong-willed or ahead of her time. In order to keep up and maintain my hero, she can’t back down, but she knows when to back off while standing her ground.
To date, I’ve had 2 westerns published. (The other 10 are gathering dust on a shelf in my office.) I set the first one, Rebel Heart, in Santa Fe. I didn’t pick the location; it picked me. I had felt a strange attraction to the town. When I wrote the story, I found myself writing about aspects of Santa Fe as if I’d been there before, even though I hadn’t. What I knew—or sensed—I had yet to research. The La Fonda hotel was very familiar to me. Oddly, I instinctively knew things about it that I didn’t come across until later on in my research. In this book, the hero, Beau Hamilton, is as flawed as they come, maybe even more so. The chip on his shoulder seems impossible to knock off. That’s the reason I wrote the heroine, Courtney Danning, as willful yet not against becoming emotional—enough to melt the hero’s heart and break through his sense of aloneness.
My second western romance, Love’s Sweet Wager, (released in July 2011) takes the reader on a journey along the California Trail. Although my hero, Reno Hunter, isn’t a cowboy, he’s a force to be reckoned with as well as a die-hard gambler accused of murder. Disguising him as a priest and making him blend in with the folks on the wagon train was completely against his character. When he sees Rachel Garrett with one of the families, he cannot contain his animal instinct and begins doing things priests are not supposed to do. Little does he know she’s hiding a huge secret herself.
Are my heroes typical of the western male? Probably not. Seeing their “macho” side give way to their compassionate one does something to my heart. And that’s the reason I fall in love with them time and again.
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