One of the things I tried to capture in my book In Your Arms is the vast diversity of the Old West. I absolutely love romances about the intrepid pioneers that tamed the wilderness along with their hearts. Strong heroines who seek a new life on the frontier and gorgeous cowboy who help them fulfill their dreams are irresistible to me. So much so that I’ve written all about them in the other books of the Montana Romance series. But for In Your Arms, I wanted to take a different look at things. I wanted to write about the other west.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the history of the opening up of our country is the fact that the West was in so many ways more accepting and more varied than the East. It had to be. In a world that was challenging at best and deadly at its worst, there wasn’t time to stop and worry about whether someone was a man or a woman, whether they had been born in the USA or overseas, or what color their skin was. There was land that needed to be tamed, cities that needed to be grown, railroads that needed to be constructed, and a world that needed to rise.
Much of the work that went into building the West was done by immigrants and minorities of one kind or another. The railroads that define so much of western life couldn’t have been built without Chinese immigrants. Great swaths of Utah wouldn’t have been settled if not for the persecuted minority of Mormons. The West was the first area of the United States to allow women the vote because women were a necessary part of civic life in an area with a struggling population. Even African Americans found greater opportunity (at first) in the early days of the West. It was a land of opportunity for so many different kinds of people…except Native Americans.
This is what I wanted to write about in In Your Arms. My heroine, Lily Singer, is a Native American woman who has lost her identity. She was taken from her tribe as a small child and raised in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School back east. Shortly before my book begins, she has accepted a teaching position in Cold Springs, Montana and moved back to an area to which she feels a draw, but which is painfully hostile to her and people like her.
In writing this book, I didn’t want to paint this awkward chapter of our history with an entirely black or an entirely white brush. The truth is that it was far from cut and dry. There were no singly-defined good guys and bad guys in the story of what happened to the Native Americans. Yes, it is tragic that their way of life was destroyed to make way for the America we know now, but as I discovered when doing research about the phenomenon of Indian schools at the end of the nineteenth century, more often than not the intentions of the missionaries who started these schools was good while the results were destructive.
Even though she was given a fine education, one that enabled her to enter a career that would provide for her and help her to educate the next generation, the school where Lily was raised has stripped her of her identity. This happened to far too many young men and women. Where one side thought they were providing the ultimate help—bringing young people into the modern world, civilizing them, and giving them skills to build a better life—the other side saw it as the rape of their culture. People like my character Lily found themselves in the middle of this bittersweet tug-o-war of ideals.
Fortunately, In Your Arms is ultimately a happy story. It’s a love story. It’s about finding that place where you belong with the person you were meant to be with. No matter how challenging our lives can be, home really is where the heart is. I loved writing this story for Lily and Christian and bringing them together to find their ultimate home with each other. And really, that was what the West was all about. It was about making a home for yourself against the odds, no matter who you were. It was about finding that path that was right for you, even if society said it was dangerous or risky. It’s about all those things that we read Historical Westerns for in the first place. I hope you enjoy it!
Merry will be giving away a free copy (digital or print) of In Your Arms to one lucky person who leaves a comment!
Merry Farmer is an award-winning novelist who lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. She has been writing since she was ten years old and realized one day that she didn’t have to wait for the teacher to assign a creative writing project to write something. It was the best day of her life. She then went on to earn not one but two degrees in History so that she would always having something to write about. Today she is a giant History nerd and a hopeless romantic waiting for her own love story to start. Her first book, The Loyal Heart, is a swashbuckling Medieval Historical Romance involving a love triangle that will keep you guessing. Both The Loyal Heart and its sequel, The Faithful Heart, are available wherever eBooks are sold. The third book in the trilogy, The Courageous Heart, will be available sometime this Fall. She has also begun a new Western Historical Romance series set in Montana in 1805. The first of that series, Our Little Secrets, is now available. The second, Fool for Love, will be released in early 2013. Merry is also passionate about blogging, knitting, and teaching her niece to knit.