Though I only have two to my credit, I love writing Western historicals. I’ve written seventeenth century pirates, Regency dukes and Victorian gentlemen, but I have to admit to having a soft spot for my Western novels.
The fun thing about writing a romance set in the nineteenth century American west is that people ended up going west for a variety of reasons. Maybe they were looking for gold or working for the railroad or hungering for land of their own. Or maybe they were looking to get away from the past. Anything is possible. Anyone could become anything out west, no matter who they were before. And that simple truth opens up trails to innumerable secrets and stories.
Jack Donovan, the hero of my February release DONOVAN’S BED (Samhain Retro Romance), is a man with a secret. He’s traveled all over the west as a bounty hunter. Then a job went bad and he realized he needed a new life. So he took all the money he’d earned over the years and moved to a tiny town where he could start over, intending to keep his former life a secret. But Sarah Calhoun, the heroine, runs the town newspaper, and she smells a rat. She’s determined to uncover the truth about Donovan. After he insults her, she prints a story in the newspaper that the rich rancher is looking for a wife. The article backfires, and the ensuing flood of women on the small town of Burr opens up some fun chaos!
While it hardly compares to modern day, social rules for women out west seemed a little less strict than back east. Western living was hard, and a woman had to be just as tough, doing whatever needed to be done to get by. Women in the west had to worry about survival and had no time for frivolous nonsense. However, they were still expected to be virtuous and God fearing, whether married or single. Prostitution was still frowned upon, and unmarried girls were expected to retain their virtue until marriage. Most women in the west did intend to eventually marry, but until that day came, they could take on jobs and vocations that had been, until then, traditionally men’s.
A great example of this is Wyoming Territory, where DONOVAN’S BED takes place. Women were granted the right to vote in 1869 in Wyoming Territory. By 1882, when my story occurs, Wyoming was already allowing women to serve on juries and even had a female Justice of the Peace. Because of all this, it was easy to make my heroine the independent woman I needed her to be in order to boldly print the story about Jack Donovan’s search for a wife. The town accepted her doing that without much social punishment (though it certainly gave rise to gossip). It would have been much harder setting that story in an eastern state in the same year, as social mores were a bit stricter. A male editor might have refused to print or even read the story. But since I was in Wyoming Territory, where women’s rights had an early start, I could make it work.
I loved writing the town of Burr with all its quirky citizens. I’m giving away a copy of DONOVAN’S BED (electronic only) to one lucky commenter. An excerpt of the book is available here: