My Cowboy Heroes and the American West–Jannine Corti Petska

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.

Leave a comment today for a chance to win an electronic copy of Love’s Sweet Wager.


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15 thoughts on “My Cowboy Heroes and the American West–Jannine Corti Petska”

  1. Hi Jannine!

    Thanks for sharing how you came to write Western romances. Brooding conflicted heroes saved by strong-willed heroines are the best! :o)

    Your books sound wonderful!!


  2. Jannine, welcome to P&P! We’re so happy to have you and to find another who shares the love of cowboys. You should feel right at home here. My favorite type of hero is one who’s wounded deep inside and through the love of a special lady the softness he’s denied himself. Those types really touch my heart.

    Both of your westerns look wonderful. And what great titles. I wish you lots of success with them!

  3. Hi Jannine, welcome to P&P. I have not read your books before but will be looking for them. I love finding new western authors. Thanks for sharing your books with us.

  4. Hi Jannine,
    I loved reading your blog. Both of your books sound like great reads! I too love the dark, brooding hero. I am happy for the opportunity to meet a new author and look forward to reading your books!

  5. I have a couple of books to add to my TBR pile today. I find I don’t read enough Western historical romances and being as the Wild West sounds like an exciting time, I need to remedy that. Thank you for joining us.

  6. Hello ladies. My goodness, thank you for the warm welcome and all the comments. I’m glad there are so many others who love historical western romances.

    Athough I’ve been concentrating on writing medievals lately, the historicl American West is dear to my heart and my first love. I will eventually get back to writing westerns again, but first I have two medievals to write, each one ending a series that’s already in print.

    For those who read my westerns, please drop me an email and let me know what you think. Of all the westerns I’ve written, Beau Hamilton from Rebel Heart is handsdown my favorite hero. I think the nurturing person I am wants to care for him, help him heal his wounds. To me, he is sexy, sexy, sexy!!!

    Nice to see all of you here today. Good luck in the contest to win a copy of Love’s Sweet Wager.

  7. I liked the introduction to your work. I can see where Reno disguising himself as a priest, might have been hard to pull off. Quite the opposite role for a tough, rough gambler.

    Best wishes with your work.

    It’s eerie that you had a connection to the LaFonda Hotel. Kismet that you should write a book about it.

  8. Jannine, thanks for coming to Wildflower Junction for a visit. Both of your books sound great. I love the LaFonda Hotel in Santa Fe; and understand how sometimes a setting begins your story not a plot. I felt that way when I was in Andersonville, Georgia, even having to go back the next week on my way home from Florida. It’s eaten at me ever since and then when I got into the research and found some eerie connections, it really ate on me…and still does. Again, thanks for stopping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  9. Thought I had commented yesterday after reading your post, but guess I didn’t.

    I really do miss having western series on TV. They were such a large part of growing up. It seems all that is on today are law enforcement dramas. Not that many of them aren’t good, but a few cowboys thrown in would sure be nice. I grew up about as far from cowboys as one could, which may have been part of the appeal. When you think of all the great westerns that were on TV, I wasn’t the only one who was drawn to them. Rin Tin Tin and his human co-stars came to our town and I think virtually everyone in town showed up outside the TV station to greet them. (Boy does that show my age) I am so glad authors like the Fillies and yourself are keeping the cowboys and their stories out there for us. I am curious about your quirky horses.

    Good luck with having more of your books published.

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