Like a lot of people in my generation, I grew up watching old westerns on TV. That included the classic shows like Bonanza and Big Valley. But I loved movies the best and have seen probably all of them at least once. Some many, many times.
No question, my all-time favorite is Westward the Women. Why? Because at its heart, it’s a romance. Crusty and skeptical wagon master Buck Wyatt is hired to bring a wagon train of respectable women across the country to a small California town populated entirely by men. Fifi Danon and her friend are showgirls trying to escape their current circumstances for a better life. Because “their kind” are being rejected as potential wives, the pair change clothes and masquerade as respectable women in order to join the wagon train.
From the moment the group starts out, the journey is beset with problems. Some of them are external. There’s a flood, an attack, a treacherous descent through the mountains, and a stampede. Then there are the emotional conflicts. A woman is raped. A young man is accidentally killed. A pregnant woman goes into labor. A group of men and women and abandon the wagon train, leaving the rest short-handed and defenseless. And all through their many trials, the completely inexperienced and struggling to survive women hold onto the hope that there’s a man waiting for them at the end of their destination.
Buck and Fifi constantly bicker. Why? Well, they’re fighting their mutual attraction. Buck is moving on to the next wagon train after this. He isn’t about to settle down, much less with a soiled dove. Fifi isn’t interested in a man who can’t see beyond her showgirl past and love her for the good person she is at heart. But, of course, they surprise each other, fall in love, and the journey teaches them both what’s really important in life.
My absolute favorite part of the movie is when the women finally arrive in town. They refuse to go any further until Buck brings them materials so that they can fashion decent clothing. They won’t meet their future husbands in torn, filthy clothes. Turns out, there’s no women’s garments in a town full of men. So, Buck returns with tablecloths and curtains and blankets and whatever else can be found, which the women then make into outfits that manage to be utterly charming.
If you’re a fan of old Western movies and haven’t seen Westward the Women, check out this gem. And then let me know what you think!
The Fillies give a big welcome to Regina Walker. Regina crafts interesting characters facing some of life’s hardest challenges. Her heart’s desire is to always point toward Jesus through the way her characters face challenges, relationships, and adversity.
Regina is an Oklahoma import, although she was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado. She likes to curl up on the couch and binge-watch crime shows with her hard-working husband. When she’s not wrestling with a writing project, she can be found wrangling their children, riding their horses, or working around their small hobby farm.
Before I get started, I want to take a moment and thank Karen Witemeyer for so graciously inviting me to write a post for Petticoats and Pistols. I appreciate all of the ladies that run this fun site, and I’m thankful you are here to read this post and the others!
For as long as I can recall, my mother has traced our family history. Sometimes she makes slow progress, occasionally great leaps, but it’s something she has built for years. While her dedication and commitment have always inspired me, I must admit that I thought it was such a boring pursuit.
I listened with half-hearted attention, my mind always wandering to something else. When I decided to take my writing seriously, I swore I would never write historical anything.
See, not only did genealogy bore me endlessly, but history, in general, made my eyes bug out of my head. I know it is important to understand certain aspects of history, but it was never my thing.
When I received a message asking me to join the Mail-Order Mama series, I wrinkled my nose. Historicals and I don’t mix! But I read the premise, and immediately, Mary Ann came to life and started whispering her story to me.
The way she respected and loved her father, the way he cared for their family, and the struggles with her mama all blossomed in my mind.
How could I say no to a story that was writing itself with no help from me?
I did end up helping sort out a few things in this story. I started my research on my mom’s website, reading about real-life people in our family. I selected Wyoming because my great-great-grandfather homesteaded there. The old house, although in terrible disrepair, still stands near Lake De Smet.
I chose to give Mason the last name Barkey to honor my heritage. Although my great-great-grandfather did not order a bride via the mail, it was my way of honoring where I came from to include the last name in this story.
Now, don’t let me fool you. I didn’t become a history buff and I’m not going to take up genealogy the way my sweet mom has. I did gain an appreciation for both history and genealogy that I did not have before.
Now that you know a little bit about how I came to write Mary Ann’s story – A Maid for Mason – how about a chance to win an e-book copy of my book? Three lucky winners will be drawn at random for this giveaway. To be entered, leave a comment on whether you’ve ever developed an appreciation for something because of a book you’ve read.
Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for spending a little time with me today.
The Fillies give a big welcome to Janice Cole Hopkins. She’s a long-time P&P follower and a lover of history as well as historical western romance. Janice writes her own books many of which are series! Now that’s a big Yee-Haw!
As wagon trains began making the trek west, more of the West opened to settlers. The midwestern states were once the frontier to be settled. However, the discovery of gold in California and the rich, fertile land in Oregon brought larger numbers.
To help protect the pioneers against hostile Indians and to give them a trading post along the way, forts were built. Forts Laramie, Bridger, and Hall in what is now Wyoming were constructed of logs, mostly cottonwood. Fort Kearney in Nebraska was built using adobe, sod, logs, and boards. Fort Boise in Idaho first used adobe. Travelers were excited to visit a fort and break the austere, often monotonous life on the trail. Yet, they found the prices outrageous because it cost to transport the goods there.
In my new release, A Few Bumps in the Road, Judith Johnson takes her younger brother and travels along a portion of the Oregon Trail to Kansas as a mail-order bride after their parents die. She meets her intended and his brother at Fort Ferguson, a fictitious fort based on most of the others I researched. Her husband, although handsome and charming, turns out to be a womanizer and has a drinking problem. Judith is determined to make her marriage work, however, and she keeps telling herself her situation could be worse. At least Calvin’s older brother is stable and responsible, providing a home for all of them on the farm. But farm life on the prairie can be hard in 1850, and Calvin’s attitude makes the struggles even worse. But she knew one thing. After the harsh conditions on the Oregon Trail, she never planned to go back, and she hadn’t even gone all the way to Oregon like most of the others were doing.
Although A Few Bumps in the Road is part of the Idioms & Clichés series, like all my books, it can also be read as a standalone. These books are loosely connected by one family’s generations. It is available in print, Audible, and Kindle.
Here’s an excerpt:
Judith’s eyes began to sweep around the fort when she saw a tall man striding their way. Despite his long steps he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get there.
Mr. Davis took a few steps forward to meet him and extended his hand. Robbie followed Mr. Davis, so Judith did too.
“Good to see you again,” Mr. Davis said. “Allow me to present to you Miss Judith Johnson and her brother Robert, better known as Robbie. Miss Johnson, this is Matthew Miller.”
A momentary flash of surprise flickered over Matthew’s face, but he tipped his hat and nodded. “A pleasure, Miss. Welcome, Robbie. I hope you both will be very happy here.”
She looked around wondering where Calvin could be. She didn’t see another man who fit what she knew of her fiancé.
“Cal woke up not feeling well and needed some extra time. He sent me on out to meet you, but he should be coming along soon.” Matthew must have seen her search.
“I hope nothing’s wrong.”
“No, we came into the fort yesterday evening. Cal woke up with a headache and queasy stomach this morning.”
Judith’s worry deepened, but she didn’t say anything.
“Come and we’ll go over to the building they use for a church. Cal will meet us there.”
You can read more of A Few Bumps in the Road in the Amazon sample and get more information by clicking here.
If anyone would like a free code for an Audible copy for A Few Bumps in the Road, message me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (You must have the free Audible account activated to redeem the code.)
For a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Few Bumps in the Road, what do you think would be ONE of the biggest hazards to living on the Kansas frontier in 1850?
I’m incredibly excited about my new release that just came out on Friday!
Henley is a sweet historical western romance that is part of the new Love Train series. You’ll see several of our Fillies in the series. In fact, Pam Crooks released Book 1 just a few weeks ago. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Christiana.
The books can be read in any order. The common thread between them all is that each heroine has a secret, and they all meet their hunky hero on the same train. You’ll see the conductor Henry, a baggage handler Willie, and a cute little pup named Scruffy in each story too.
Henley Jones and Doctor Evan Holt connect when they board the train in Omaha.
Love is a gamble, and heartbreak is a risk she’s willing to take.
Despite her dreams to set down roots, Henley Jones has never had a place to call home. She’s spent her life on riverboats and railroad cars, tagging along with her gambling father. A shoot-out during a card game results in his death, leaving Henley alone and nearly penniless. Out of luck and options, Henley agrees to travel across the country to the newly established town of Holiday, Oregon, to marry a stranger.
A demanding practice in a town clawing its way to respectability keeps Doctor Evan Holt rushing at a hectic pace. He’s far too busy to see to pressing matters like hiring competent help or finding a wife. When one of his patients orders a mail-order bride, Evan can’t decide if the man is crazy or brilliant. From the moment he meets her, Evan battles an unreasonable attraction to the beautiful, charming woman who seems to be hiding something from her past.
In a town flush with possibilities, will taking a chance on love end with heartache or a winning hand? Find out in this sweet western romance full of humor, hope, and love.
I thought it might be fun to share some quotes from the book.
The West was overflowing with gamblers.
They gambled on their dreams, and hopes, and families.
They gambled on opportunities to create better lives, or become better versions of themselves.
Most importantly, they gambled in the high-stakes game of love,
putting their hearts on the line, with no idea if they’d win or lose.
The child was as cooperative as a drunken donkey in a dynamite shack.
I’m starting to think there are rocks and tree stumps
smarter than Evan Holt.
Love might be the toughest gamble you’ll make, but it’s worth the risk.
My great aunt was born in 1873. She married at age fourteen. She kept house for her husband and his brother, who were more than ten years older than she was. She married young to relieve her parents of having another mouth to feed. She had two children and then buried her husband, leaving her a widow at a young age. She eventually found the love of her life—and then unselfishly allowed him his freedom to marry another. My great aunt did what she knew. She rented out rooms in her home and then became a land owner by ‘flipping’ houses, sometimes making them into two or more apartments and renting them out. She became the matriarch of her family while still a teen. She gave sisters, aunts and other women jobs in her multiroom boarding house and laundry. She gave the male family members jobs and references to keep them working. They all followed her from VT to PA and then to MI following the logging camps. She settled in west Michigan as logging slowed to a trickle and manufacturing was rising. Families came into the cities looking for work and rental homes.
That woman and her sisters are my inspiration. It is why I write about such strong female leads. Why I know how women of that age thought. Uneducated past the sixth grade, my great aunt carved a prosperous career out of hard work, common sense and guts. She personally cared for her aging parents and any relative who fell on hard times. At 96 years old, she left enough money in her will so that even her great nieces and nephews received an inheritance they could use toward college.
I have always been intrigued by the mail order bride phenomenon. It was truly a western United States experience, although women from all over participated, and it is still active to this day in the form of ads on the internet. Particularly from Russian brides. It was similar to the age-old practice of neighboring families planning for their children to marry one another when they got to marital age. Only this time, the actual couple had a say in whether they married or not.
In the US, there were magazines such as The Matrimonial News, which bragged it had assisted in over three thousand marriages. Either the man or woman could place an ad for the fee of $1.50 per word (about $30 in today’s money); so they were short and sweet. Only those serious enough to put their lives in a stranger’s hands need apply.
The beginning of such ‘contracts’ began when gold had been discovered and men rushed west. It was said to have begun when men, after setting up a homestead or mining claim, wrote home asking family or their church if there were any single women interested in joining them with marriage in mind. I can see some safety in doing such a thing. The man would be known by others, and they could vouch for his competency and integrity. The ones where men answered female-placed ads seemed a little less safe. Many times, these women were widows or spinsters without a family to depend on. If the woman arrived and found the man less than desirable, she didn’t usually have any other option than to marry him. Divorce was fairly high, with either party walking away from their commitment.
If the men were less than honorable, the women—young or old – could be sold to brothels or made slaves south of the border. No one knows how many women ended up like that, but it did happen. To help keep that from occurring, women were advised to ask for references from people who knew the potential husband. The sheriff and local minister were the two most trusted sources. The fact the women had no knowledge as to those references being truthful, was another thing. Usually, a few letters sent to one another over a couple of months was all they had to base their selection on. I have wondered at the destitution of those seeking husbands among the rough men in areas where men outnumbered women sometimes ten to one. Not unmarried females, just females in general. Where fourteen was not an uncommon age for wives, where tombstones noted the early deaths of wives and the even higher mortality rate among infants.
Some of my mail order brides face hardships both before and after their marriages. Having the women I had as examples, my leading ladies and gentlemen eventually find their happy ever after with their spouses, and the reader can sleep easily knowing everything works out. Just as it did for the women in my family eventually.
I’m giving away a free e-book copy of In the Sheriff’s Sights to one winner from the comments.
One questions authors are frequently asked is “where do you get your inspiration?”
My typical answer is “EVERYWHERE!”
It’s true. I find ideas for stories while flipping through magazine ads, standing in line at the grocery store, wandering through the mall (when we used to wander through the mall), even when I’m doing super exciting things like folding laundry.
But my favorite place to dream up new story ideas is when I’m on vacation with Captain Cavedweller. Ideas for some of my favorite stories have popped into my head while we were driving, exploring, or at a museum.
Such was the case two years ago when Captain Cavedweller and I were making the long, long drive all the way through Nevada.
The museum is a national historic landmark, but it’s also an operating historical railroad. The brochure you’re given when you pay your admission says: “It’s gritty. It’s dirty. It smells of coal smoke, creosote, and sweat…” It is not an exaggeration.
But the museum complex consists of a full-service rail yard encompassing 56 acres with 63 buildings, shops, and structures that served the historic copper mining region of Central Nevada for more than a century. Original railway locomotives, rolling stock, track, a passenger station includes three steam locomotives (two that are operational), six diesel locomotives, and more than 60 pieces of historic equipment.
I loved it! You can walk into the engine house and watch the mechanics working on train repairs. Right after I snapped this photo, a guy popped up in the smokestack. It’s was fascinating to wander around and see everything up close. It really put everything into perspective.
Several trains on display. Some of them were open for guests to climb on and look around.
I loved this train. It made me think of the Polar Express.
In 1910, the railroad needed a new locomotive to pull the passenger train on a daily round-trip from Ely to Cobre, hauling passengers, mail, and express shipments. Number 40 was purchased from the Baldwin Locomotive Works for a cost of $13,139. The train entered scheduled service with a speed of 40 miles per hour pulling a railway post office/baggage car and a first-class coach, both of which are still in service at the museum. When the locomotive was no longer needed after World War II, #40 was put on the list to be scrapped. Because the crews loved the engine, it mysteriously disappeared whenever someone in authority came looking for it. Because of the ghost-like movements of the engine, it became known as “The Ghost Train.” Thanks to the efforts of the crews, the train survived and still operates today, pulling passengers along the track.
And this train became the inspiration for Hope, a steam engine that travels though a whole new holiday series I’m releasing soon!
Another fun thing to see was this rotary snow plow. After a massive snow storm halted operations in 1907, the railway purchase a snow plow. The rotary blade could slice through drifts of snow and keep the track operation. A steam boiler resides inside a wooden body, but instead of turning the wheels on tracks like a regular locomotive, this one turns the massive blade. It could take up to three engines to push the plow through the snow.
In addition to seeing the locomotives, there were several displays with interesting historical items and information. The velocipede was invented by George S. Scheffield in 1877. This particular one was used to inspect the track from Ely to Kimberly and McGill daily. It is operated by pushing and pulling the handles while pushing on the pedals. Weighing only 140 pounds, it could be moved off the track by one person. This velocipede was rebuilt by Rick’s Restoration and featured on the History Channel program American Restoration. There were several pieces of equipment Rick’s Restoration had restored.
There’s also a great gift shop at the museum. They had dirty cat ornaments. I wish I’d taken a photo of the cat, but somehow failed to snag one. When we were in the engine house looking at the trains, a cat that was absolutely filthy wandered up to us and started rubbing on CC’s legs and purring. He kept the cat happy and purring for a while with some good scratches behind the ears then we went back to exploring. When we went to the gift shop and saw the ornaments, we mentioned meeting the cat. The volunteer working in the gift shop gave us a surprised look, then explained that most people don’t see the cat because it usually hides from visitors. We felt pretty special to have received personalized attention from their resident star feline.
Back to the inspiration: Within moments of arriving at the depot, I started thinking about an idea for a mail-order bride story. The more we saw at the museum, the more ideas that popped around in my head. By the time we left, I knew it wasn’t going to be just one book, but an entire series. One that involved a steam engine named Hope, a family tied to the railroad, and a series that spanned many generations. As we drove onward on our trip, we spent the next several hours brainstorming and jotting down pages and pages of notes which have turned into four full-length sweet romances that start in 1884 and conclude with a modern day romance.
The first book in my Holiday Express series will release November 30! I can’t wait for you to read it! And right now, I have it on sale for a special pre-order price of just 99 cents!
Four generations discover the wonder of the season and the magic of one very special train in these sweet holiday romances.
Aren’t the covers glorious? The amazing Josephine Blake from Covers and Cupcakes waved her magic wand and created them for me.
Release Date: November 30
Pre-order Price: 99 cents
Infuse your holidays with hope and humor in this sweet western romance
Left alone in the world after losing her parents, Cora Lee Schuster travels across the country to the newly-established town of Holiday, Oregon, to become a mail-order bride. She arrives in town to be greeted by her future father-in-law with her betrothed nowhere to be found. When it becomes obvious her reluctant groom-to-be has no intention of showing up at the family ranch where she’s staying, Cora Lee must decide if she’ll follow her head or heart.
Jace Coleman has loved trains since the first time he rode on one as a boy. Now, he spends his days as an engineer driving the Holiday Express line on a new engine named Hope. When a mail-order bride turns up at his father’s ranch to wed his brother, Jace has an idea his meddling father has tried his hand at matchmaking. The longer Cora Lee stays at the ranch, the harder Jace works to keep from falling for his brother’s intended bride.
Will Jace and Cora Lee discover the gift of hope? Find out in this sweet holiday romance full of memorable characters, warmth, and Christmas cheer.
Holiday Hope is the first book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 7
Pre-order Price: $3.99
Hearts and humor collide in this sweet holiday romance
Zach Coleman spent his childhood dreaming about trains, and now he’s one of the repairmen at the Holiday engine house who keeps them chugging down the tracks. Life couldn’t get any sweeter, or so he convinces himself, until he’s on his way home from work and saves a woman from getting hit by a wagon. How was he to know that one, brief encounter would upend his world?
Lorna Lennox grew up with the best of everything in life. Her father, a railroad tycoon, has made sure of it. Now that he’s moved her into a new house in a remote Oregon location, Lorna wonders if she’ll fit into the small community. She’s barely arrived in the town of Holiday when an adventure leaves her at the mercy of a handsome stranger. One she finds impossible to forget.
Will the holidays present a chance for hearts to entwine? Find out in this sweet holiday romance rich with history, humor, and the joys of Christmas
Holiday Heart is the second book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 14
Pre-order Price: $3.99
A winning combination of romance, humor, and history
Widow Britta Webster can hardly remember life before her village was overrun with German soldiers during World War II. All she wants is to live a peaceful existence and raise her child. But she will do anything to protect Joshua, even if it means begging a stranger to take her to America where her son will have a safe place to call home.
Honor, grace, and duty are the driving forces behind Bryce Coleman’s approach to life, even as he strives to survive in war-torn France. Severely wounded, he’s left by his comrade in the cellar of a woman who clearly wants nothing to do with him. When she pleads with him for her son’s future, Bryce feels bound by an obligation to the widow for saving his life.
Will a burdensome agreement turn to love when hearts come home to Holiday? Find out in his sweet historical romance packed with vintage charm, nostalgia, and the wonder of Christmas.
Holiday Home is the third book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 21
Pre-order Price: $3.99
Will delving into the past kindle a forever love?
Kali Hoyt loves old things. Old books. Old dishes. Old cars. Old love stories. Hired as the director of the newly-formed preservation society for the town of Holiday, she can’t wait to begin digging into the history of a place she enjoyed visiting during her childhood summers. When her cousin introduces her to his best friend, Kali has no idea the grease-covered redneck will have such a monumental influence on her future.
Trace Coleman has spent his life being groomed to take over his family’s vast Lennox Enterprises empire. Astute at running the company, he much prefers to spend his days tinkering with the old steam engine that his great-great-grandfather worked on as a mechanic in the Holiday engine house. When he encounters the newly hired director for the preservation society he founded, he knows her presence in Holiday is going to change his life in ways he can’t begin to imagine.
Will two reluctant hearts succumb to the magic of the holidays? Find out in this sweet holiday romance filled with humor, heart, and love.
Holiday Love is the fourth book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
I am so excited about sharing these books with you and hope my readers will fall in love with the Coleman family like I have. There’s even a man named Nick who suspiciously looks a lot like a Victorian Santa making an appearance in all four stories!
What inspires you?
Post your answer for a chance to win a mystery gift from me!
They made their way to Missouri to join a wagon train company. Hopeful Americans and immigrants alike longing for a better life. The free land in the West, and especially in Oregon, seemed the stepping stone to that life of plenty.
Just imagine that first day of walking the hundred miles to the other side of the continent. Here’s how I pictured it for my latest heroine in Beau’s Elegant Bride:
The oxen slowed even more than their typical crawling speed. One even tried to snatch a mouthful of grass from beside the road. Using the small whip in his hand. Beau carefully snapped it above their heads. At the same time, he crooned a command.
“Giddup now. Day’s not done.”
The cattle resumed their walk, pulling slightly faster. It seemed they were no happier to be on this trail than Francy was. Never in her life had she imagined to feel any kinship to stupid beasts.
While more than an estimated 400,000 people left from Missouri on wagon trains for Oregon, very few made it to that spot. Only about 80,000 actually settled in Oregon.
If you’ve played the popular Oregon Trail game, you might think these overlanders simply died. That works for a game, but is historically untrue. Very few actually passed away.
The trail ended some pioneers’ dreams merely because of broken wagons. If a traveler didn’t bring an extra axel, he had to settle near where he was stuck. That is, if someone couldn’t help repair the wagon.
Even then, discouragement might have been enough to make the man decide to stay on the plains. After all, land for farming could be claimed there and if a man had served in the Union Army during the war between the states, he could stake a claim for little or nothing.
As wagons reached the Rocky Mountains, travelers could see distant towering shapes growing daily larger. Imagine how intimidated those people felt. Already tired from crossing the plains, they saw those distant peaks and knew they needed the energy to get over the mountains. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Oregon-Trail
At the junction of the Raft and Snake Rivers, trails verged to other parts of the country. These promised a bit easier going or even the chance to settle and leave the trail behind.
Denver had a boom of miners. The young city, not much more than a collection of tents as you can see by this picture, desperately needed the produce from farmers.
Many settlers veered toward the land available there. Word had been passed to these travelers that the soil was good. The promised of building a home and even planting a late summer garden lured some from their goal of Oregon.
My characters in Beau’s Elegant Bride consider this very thing:
Panic flashed through her. “Do you think we might farm near the Crooks? Are they going all the way to Oregon?”
“Might be we could change plans. The Crooks are leavin’ the company and followin’ the South Platte in a few days.”
“Are there mountains that way?”
Beau squeezed her tighter and rested his chin on her head, not something easily done as they were similar in height. With her head bent against him, he managed it. “I’d need to study my map or ask William Crook ‘bout it. He says the people in and around Denver need farmers bringin’ in vegetables.”
News from California circulated in the East about the rich soil and crops that could be grown. California, with its warmer temperatures or even the promise of gold, also had some separating from the wagon trains to make up a smaller train as they headed away from the company to take a southern trail.
Where did all the settlers go? The easy answer is they simply settled, lived, and helped change the face of our nation.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think you’d have had the strength needed to stay on the path to Oregon? Or would you have stopped or veered off course long before? I’m giving away an ebook copy of Beau’s Elegant Bride to three (3) lucky commenters.
The Sweepstakes Rules posted on P&P apply.
A retired high school English teacher, she and her husband reside in Saginaw, Michigan. Her sweet historical romances focus on her home state of Wisconsin. Inspiration to write came in part from hearing family stories about her pioneering Wisconsin ancestors.
Hey, y’all! It’s an honor and a thrill to be back visiting you here at Petticoats and Pistols. You know, the name of this blog says it all. At least for me. Women can be feminine and still be downright dangerous.
My new book, A Scout for Skyler, from the Mail-Order Mama series, has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets The Beverly Hillbillies.
Yes, it’s a comedy, but my heroine, Priscilla Jones, was written as a serious tribute to some of the most amazing pioneer women in American history.
Over the years, my research has introduced me to some gals who defied expectations and overcame some impossible situations. Sometimes, it was life-and-death. Other times, it was a matter of life—hers, and how she wanted to live it.
As I was writing A Scout for Skyler, I had these historical figures in my head:
Of course, when we think of rough-and-rowdy frontier women, the first one to come to mind should be Calamity Jane. She lived in a man’s world. Smoke, drank, chewed, and fought with the best of them.
Orphaned at twelve, left to care for five brothers and sisters, Calamity did not shirk her duty. Most likely she did work as a prostitute early on to provide for the family. She left the lifestyle behind, though, by learning to shoot and throw a respectable punch. Everyone who knew Calamity did respect her courage and her kindness. She rescued a runaway stage from a Cheyenne war party and nursed some Deadwood residents back to health during a smallpox epidemic. The only thing Calamity couldn’t do was win Hickock’s heart.
Susan McSween watched her husband get gunned down in the street during the Lincoln County War. Livid over his murder by a US Army colonel in cahoots with the Murphy-Dolan gang, she stayed in town and hired an attorney to fight for justice. He was soon murdered, as well. Susan still didn’t back down or leave. She changed tactics. She figured out the best way to get back at the corrupt forces in Lincoln County was to hit them in the pocketbook.
Susan McSween was a shrewd businesswoman and she put all her efforts into frustrating her nemesis, James Dolan. Eventually, she became the Cattle Queen of New Mexico, at one point running nearly 5,000 head of cattle. Best of all, she outlived all her enemies.
And I thought of Nancy Hart, a patriot on the frontier of North Georgia. The Cherokee named her War Woman because she was fearless and an accurate shot (even with crossed eyes). Her real legend came about when she killed six British soldiers with their own guns.
I could go on and on. The women who built this country were tough, stubborn, and courageous. Suffice it to say, the things my girl Priscilla Jones does in A Scout for Skyler—she’s totally capable of them. Because real heroines have gone before her.
My hero, Captain Corbett, is an arrogant Scotsman who believes women should have babies not opinions. How well do you think an attitude like that would have gone over with the rough-and-tumble Calamity Jane, or the fiery, refined Susan McSween?
In A Scout for Skyler, all these ladies have a voice, and the story was a hoot to write. Talk about fireworks and sassy dialogue.
A Scout for Skyler is part of the multi-author series, Mail-Order Mama. All the stories are stand-alones but have one thing in common: the mail-order bride is a surprise. I hope you’ll check them all out.
I’ve always loved writing Mail Order Bride books. I often wonder if I would have had enough nerve to travel across the country to marry a stranger.
Many women did so out of necessity. The Civil War created not only an abundance of widows but also a shortage of men. Many women needed marriage just for survival. Single women had a hard time making it alone in the East. This was especially true of widows with young children to support.
Still, the thought of a woman traveling thousands of miles to an unknown future is hard to comprehend.
Would I have done it?
I like to think I was adventurous enough or at least brave enough to have done it. However, recently, I found myself in a situation that makes me now know I’m basically a coward at heart. Yep, I would have lived and died an old maid had I lived in the 1800s.
How do I know this? It all came about when a friend of mine insisted I sign up for one of those online dating sites. She said it was nothing more than a modern-day Mail Order Bride registry like they had in the Old West. After initially resisting, I finally gave in. I figured if nothing else I would get a story out of it.
Lo and behold, I was contacted by a man who was also a widow and lived locally. He suggested we meet for lunch at a nearby restaurant. He seemed nice enough, so I said okay. Writers will do almost anything for a story, right?
The restaurant happens to be one and a half miles from me, but it felt like a three-thousand-mile journey. A zillion thoughts went through my mind, mainly having to do with ax murderers.
I Almost Chickened Out
There were umpteen places to turn around and I considered every last one of them. By the time I reached the restaurant, my hands were glued to the steering wheel.
I was about to race for home when I spotted a nice-looking tall man waiting by the door. I opened the window and croaked, “Are you Jim?”
He said that he was and that was the beginning of an amazing whirlwind romance. Who would have ever thought such a thing possible? He is a wonderful man and I’m so lucky to have found him. We laughed because it turns out he had been just as nervous that first day as I had been.
Jim and I are getting married on June 5th and since we plan on doing a lot of traveling, this is my last blog. I’ll miss you all but will come back to visit. You can’t keep us fillies away from the barn for long.
Thank you so much for your great support through the years. Just for the fun of it, I’m giving away an eBook copy of my book, The Outlaw’s Daughter. Ah, but you’ve got to answer the following question to qualify for the drawing.
Have you or would you ever consider trying an online dating site?
I just love when I get a new cover. It’s like opening a present on Christmas morning. I never tire of seeing the new designs by the people at Sourcebooks. They’re truly amazing.
I especially love this one. The colors are so beautiful and the models are truly romantic
This is Outlaw Mail Order Brides #4 and the ex-preacher Ridge Steele gets a bride at last.
Except Adeline Jancy cannot speak.
She communicates through writing so she carries paper and pencil everywhere. But just because she can’t speak, doesn’t mean she’s passive. Ridge finds that out pretty quick and doesn’t make the mistake again.
This story is about finding hope and having the courage to right wrongs. Ridge and Addie are reaching for the impossible. Oftentimes it’s easier to let things stay the way they are, especially when living in a safe, outlaw town. It’s a lot harder to force change and they had to reach a point where they could accept that it would be possible by the slimmest of margins to make their lives better and grab hold of their future.
I’m going to be very sad to leave Hope’s Crossing. I love all these people. But a new series awaits and will start soon.
So tell me what you like or don’t like about this cover and/or the title. The book comes out on November 24, 2020.