Grass Valley Brides

Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.

 

And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboys series. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.

The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!

I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories. 

 

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.  The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.

I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.

If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county. 

Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.

When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley. 

I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances! 

My contribution to the series is Grass Valley Brides.

I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.

He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him! 

What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?

     Again . . .

Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.

Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.

Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.  

Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Will true love find its home in the hearts of these Grass Valley Brides.

 

Dear Mrs. Cargill,

At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.

Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.

Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.

Respectfully,

Mr. T. Thompson

Grass Valley, Oregon

 

What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?

 

 

 

 

Andrea Downing on how Wyoming Women Take the Lead

Before I was able to purchase a small place in Wyoming where I live part-year, I always thought of Wyoming as ‘the cowboy state.’ The symbol of a cowboy on a bucking horse is pervasive in the state, and shops and bars are plentiful in throwing around the word ‘cowboy.’ But the other nickname for the great state of Wyoming is ‘the equality state’ because, as any feminist historian may know, Wyoming was the very first place in the entire world to give women the vote. Although it’s often said that the decision to give women the vote had to do with the comparatively small population residing in Wyoming at the time, the pro-suffrage vote was generally along political party lines with the Democrats bringing in the law on December 10, 1869. At the time, there was something akin to five men for every woman in Wyoming.

Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

In September 1870, women finally got their chance to cast their ballots…and apparently predominantly voted Republican. Later that year, women jurists served, and in 1871, the first female Justice of the Peace was elected. Women went on to serve in several capacities, including in the state legislature. However, in my own neck of the woods, in the valley of Jackson Hole, things were a bit slower to take off, but when they did, women certainly made their mark.
It’s difficult to believe that the area in which the town of Jackson now sits was once called Marysvale, but that was the original postal address for the area. The first homestead claims had been filed in the 1880s, mostly by men, with women and families arriving later. In 1893, Maggie Simpson became the official postmistress sitting on a property that now is the center of town. She renamed the district Jackson and, as everyone now knows, that is the name that stuck.

Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

By 1900, the town was slowly developing and lots were being sold for housing and shops, but it remained a fairly laid-back place with no real government. It took another twenty years for a town council to be elected—all women! At the time, the population of Jackson was 307 and Grace Miller beat one Frank Lovejoy for the position of mayor, fifty-six to twenty-eight. The five-woman council was able to collect long-overdue taxes, improve road conditions, maintain the Town Square, control roaming livestock, give access to the cemetery, expand sewer and water systems, and install electric lighting and a phone service. They also employed the first Town Marshal, a woman! Pearl Williams had formerly been working at the drugstore as a clerk, but having been brought up on a ranch located between Jackson and Wilson, she had her own horse and could look after herself in the wild. Apparently, most of Pearl’s time was taken up giving interviews to reporters who loved the story of the female marshal in the wild west. The truth of the matter was that the town jail cells had no doors and the worst incidents Pearl apparently handled, aside from keeping stray cattle out of the town square, involved drunken cowboys.

My own first visit to Jackson was as a young girl in the 1960s. I don’t remember much other than going up to Yellowstone except that it was still a fairly quiet place reveling in its small-town life. I suppose in the 1970s when my book Always on My Mind is set, it was just beginning to evolve into what it is today—a vibrant place that welcomes men and women (!) from around the globe, pandemics permitting. And women, of course, continue to play a vital role in both the state government and the town of Jackson.

If you’d like to win an e-copy of Always on My Mind, comment below and let me know what you think it might have been like for a woman living in Jackson in the seventies. There certainly was a lot going on in the country at the time. Here’s the book’s blurb to give you some ideas: 1972 – Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies.

Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.
Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop’s inability to express his feelings.
Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, “You were ‘always on my mind’?”

 

Find Always on My Mind at these booksellers:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

His Boots Are Made For Running!

Running for sheriff, that is!

Tug Moyer isn’t your average, every-day guy.

He’s a widower with two kids and great parents who jumped in when Tug lost his wife so they could help with the kids. Now… with Tug’s bid to become the next Grant County sheriff at hand… it’s Tug’s time to put his best foot forward, but when his smart and helpful daughter posts a video about her dad needing a new wife…

A video that goes viral within hours!

Tug’s got a mess on his hands.

The school is not amused. The sheriff’s department is not amused. And Evangeline’s teacher is the least amused of all. How could a sheriff’s deputy, a man who does teen-empowerment podcasts and blogcasts, not understand the dangers of kids let loose on the Internet???

Tug’s not your typical Western hero. He’s not a cowboy, but he wears boots. 🙂

He’s not riding range or roping calves or herding cattle, but he’s there, in the thick of a beautiful Western state that’s become a hub of agricultural beauty, vying for the sheriff’s office, fighting crime, helping kids and saving lives, unaware that his growing interest in Evangeline’s teacher might be his undoing.

Christa didn’t come into the ranks of teaching easily. The daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, a woman who sacrificed so much to get her baby sister and daughter to America, Christa had a rough childhood that framed the solid person she is today. But when one of those youthful mistakes is made public, she knows she can become the downfall of the man she’s fallen in love with.

Boots aren’t just for riding, are they?

Wearing boots makes a statement.

Cool guys dare to wear them in Manhattan.

My son who moved to Texas 18 months ago now owns boots…

And loves them.

It’s not a fashion statement.

Perish the thought.

It’s a personal statement of self-confidence. And maybe a hint of swagger.

Having a hero running for office deepened Tug and Christa’s conflict, but it also gave the reader a better look at who Tug is. And his partner, Lorenzo Calloway, who will be the hero in the third Golden Grove book. Lorenzo is a boot-wearing deputy as well. Raised on a Central Washington beef ranch, Renzo wears the uniform but he’s on hand to help during busy times of calving, wrangling and getting calves to market. Unlike Tug, Renzo will not be running for any kind of office, but he’s the kind of man who stands tall in those boots, who stands firm for faith and family… but more about Renzo and Sarah later! 🙂

Boots sell movie tickets…. Tom Selleck, Dennis Weaver, Sam Elliott, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne… but look at the more recent Stetson wearing crew:

Tommie Lee Jones… Jeff Bridges… Kevin Costner… Kurt Russell… Val Kilmer…

Boots have crossed the marketing line. They’re not only acceptable anywhere, they’re beloved! And they go great with jeans, skirts, dresses…

Now I am not a fan of boots with shorts…. I’m just sayin’, that’s a little too oxymoron for me. If it’s hot enough for shorts, give me sandals or sneakers…. but that’s just me.

So what are your thoughts about boots? 

Here in the cold north, I’ve got snow boots and farm boots, but that’s a whole other blogpost! Share your boots thoughts below, and I’ll tuck you into a drawing for one of two copies of my just released “Learning to Trust”!

 

AND WE HAVE A WINNER FROM RUTHY’S EARILIER MARCH POST… and by earlier, she means before she had flu that ended up as pneumonia, when she could think a cognizant thought, darlings…. Luckily, she’s almost 100% healthy again!

Winner is Quilt Lady!!!! Congratulations, you’ve won a Kindle copy of Ruthy’s bestselling “Welcome to Wishing Bridge”!

A New Year, A New Western Series!

I am absolutely delighted to start off the new year with a brand new Western trilogy from Love Inspired Books.

 

On shelves nationwide right now, at Walmarts and Krogers and Winn-Dixies, and wherever mass-market paperbacks are sold. I’m so excited about this series, tucked into the heartland of Washington State, where fruit rules the land, and small farms are being gobbled up by major fruit conglomerates as soon as they become available. And I’m not against big business. I’m a capitalist. I believe in free enterprise.

But I’m also a small farm owner and the landscape of the American farm will change drastically if we lose all these small farms, roadside stands and  hands-on farming opportunities. Sure, bigger is better in some ways…

But it can also be production-line impersonal, so we need to strike a balance.

And that’s why I wrote this book. The pumpkin farmer in me loves small business and roadside stands and loves shopping local whenever possible, but it went deeper than that. It went to the hero’s story, a man who served his country well but lost his edge after a tragic military accident.

And then God puts Libby Creighton in his path. A falling-down farm. Time to harvest. A very sick elderly man. And Jax McClaren has every skill that Libby needs to make this final season a good one for her aging grandfather, but does he have the inner strength to do it?

I fell in love with Jax. I think you will, too!

And you’re going to love this glimpse of orcharding, a spunky pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps heroine, a super cute kid, a guy who learns to forgive himself and maybe– just maybe– has the chance to re-script the life that he thought he didn’t deserve.

So January here on the farm begins four months of quiet time… much appreciated quiet time! I get to write more, and I start each year by planning my writing schedule for the upcoming two years. That way I know when I have breaks in the action and how to plan out my writing hours to make sure everything gets done.

We have snow.

We have cute kids.

We have a new furnace, and this will be my first winter with warmth, so I’m frankly excited about that, LOL!  We’ve been heating with wood but long cold winters and a sprawling old farmhouse left cold pockets, but no more… And heat is something to happy dance about!

So what’s your winter look like? Is it peaceful like mine or do you have 400,000,000 things to do? Tell me about it!

I have two copies of “A Hopeful Harvest” to give away today, so leave a comment below and we’ll chat!

 

Color on the New York Farm for This Western Author!

All y’all know that I live in Western New York, right? And I figure that the title “Western” is all I need to write wonderful award-winning westerns… and a whole lotta other stuff, too, because I am so blessed to be doing exactly what I always hoped, dreamed of and wanted to do. Write the kind of stories I love to read…

But we talked about the other side of being me, and that’s the farm side which from May to October is REALLY INTENSIVE and mostly fun, we will not talk about GFS.

“Grumpy Farmer Syndrome”

We’ll keep that under wraps, okay? 🙂

I had two books release in June and July… The final mystery of “Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard” “Just Over the Horizon” and I loved being part of that New England series! So fun! And I worked with a great team of authors and editors to put it all together. SWEET! 

AVAILABLE HERE!

Beautiful ending to a wonderful series!

And then there was the third Fitzgerald Sister story “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart”, the beautiful finale to the Shepherd’s Crossing series set in ranching country of Western Idaho,

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON….

 

How fun to be able to do two things I love. Write books, and help run a pumpkin farm that’s about to explode with pumpkins, corn stalks, hay, straw, ornamental corn, baked goods, stacking tables (for stacking pumpkins) mini-donkeys (Alexis and Tanya) wood rounds, wood stumps, firewood (all Dave, please…. although I can run power tools, I don’t play with chainsaws!)

And yesterday our pest control service came to annihilate multiple bee hives, including a monster-sized paper wasp nest with a LOT OF INHABITANTS that’s right over our display yard…. sorry, wasps. When you start paying the taxes, you get to stay. 🙂

Here are some shots of the busy-ness that’s been going on the past two weeks, including bringing small people on board. Our maxim is: Start ’em young at Blodgett Family Farm!

 

Decorating the big red wagon is always a fun job! This is where it begins…

 

My sister Ginny and wonderful niece Amanda are here, helping paint things in the garage/artist studio. (It’s really JUST A GARAGE that’s filled with nice people volunteering their time!)

My buddy Lisa is the creative genius behind a whole bunch of new things on the farm, pretty fall decoratives that add color and punch to the displays.
Amanda and Paul are building the backdrop to the photo op… so families can stand in front of it and have their picture taken at no cost…. We’ll finish it up in a day or two, but here’s a shot from last year’s photo op…
Photo op when Cinderella came to visit the farm last October!
Always time for romance!!!!
One of our newest mums, aren’t they gorgeous?
Xavier, creating stacks of pumpkins for the displays… Don’t you love those rich tones?
My friend Lisa designed the new mum signs… and check these colors. Aren’t they wonderful? This Rustic look features classic mum colors and our “Farm Chic” display is more Fixer Upper/Joanna friendly, with subtle tones. So fun to play in this world and make my entire yard a decoration!
Xavier with a couple of his stacks as we fill the wagon!

 

And this is what the wagon looks like right now:

 

So this is how I keep busy over the summer, and after a wondrously busy August, September and October, I am sooooo ready for winter. No kidding, that’s my time of peace and focus on writing, writing, writing….

It puts me in my happy place!

 

 

Jolene Navarro: Buckaroos and Buccaneers!

We’re tickled pink to have Miss Jolene Navarro visit us again. This lady writes some of the most interesting books and posts and I think you’ll agree so make her welcome and show her some good old Wildflower Junction hospitality.

 

Hello, there! Jolene Navarro here, checking in from the beautiful Texas Gulf Coast. 

 

We come down here from the Hill Country as often as we can. I love sitting on the banks of the Frio River, but every once a while I want to prop my feet up the balcony and watch the waves.

Over a year ago as I was enjoying the warm breeze and the sunlight glinting off of the waves, I spot a gorgeous pirate ship sailing across the waters. It was as exciting as it was bizarre, to see it.

There is a company in the South Padre area, called the Black Dragon Pirate Ship Cruise. They offer full experience cruises aboard their ship, which has been modeled into a 17th century galleon above water, while retaining all of the modern luxuries below water.

 

 

Seeing that pirate ship brought a single question to my mind – how could I make a modern-day pirate cowboy?

 

At first, I didn’t have any answers. But as I sat on the beach and mulled over this question, I came to a realization that cowboys didn’t just roam the Texas countryside, they also lived along the beaches of the Gulf. One of the largest and well-known cattle ranches runs along the coast. You might have heard of the King Ranch.

 

 

After that, it became a game to figure out how alike cowboys and pirates really are.

 

  1. Their style of life. They long for adventure and pitting themselves against the elements of natures. Both a cowboy and a pirate often would spend months, or longer, away from home. Either because they were sailing the seas in search of treasure, or because they needed to herd cattle from one place to another.
  2. The camaraderie. Both styles of life create a band of brother type of living. These men had to trust each other to watch their backs and keep them alive during the dangers of their chosen occupations. The close quarters formed bonds that could be stronger than birth family. Singing around the campfire or playing music on the deck, they have a strong camaraderie.
  3. Hard and dangerous. Whether a pirate or cowboy, there’s no denying that their lives included a multitude of perils. Being one or the other took a certain kind of person – they had to be tough, unbreakable and sturdy. Cowboys had to ensure that they could herd thousands of longhorns to a certain destination and protect them from predators such as coyotes and rattlesnakes, and the ever-perilous possibility that the herd could go haywire. Pirates also lived a rough life, out on the sea for years during bitter squalls that threatened to break their ships to pieces and stole lives. Both have a respect for nature and a code of honor.

 

Buckaroos and buccaneers aren’t that different after all. And when you remember that a lot of Texas is the coastline (almost 400 miles), well… It isn’t hard to imagine stunning ranches overlooking beaches, with gorgeous vista views. Or the pirates that might have sought refuge in the area, striking deals with local ranchers, and enabling these two worlds to mix.

 

 

On our most recent trip to the beach, we came across this message in a bottle. The writer in me thought of all the stories this bottle could tell and the secrets it held.

 

 

Just like this message in a bottle, there are secret stories waiting to be told along the Texas coast where cowboys and pirates meet.

 

Does the meshing of those two worlds spark a story in you? Would you love to set sail on The Black Dragon pirate ship? I’m giving away two copies (Ebook or Print) of The Texan’s Secret Daughter so leave a comment to enter the drawing!

 

In my newest release, The Texan’s Secret Daughter, Jazmine has a secret that she knows it’s time to share. The secret rocks Elijah De La Rosa’s world.

Can this rancher make up for his past? 

Cowboys of Diamondback Ranch book #1

Turning his life around was the hardest thing Elijah De La Rosa ever had to do—until his ex-wife, Jazmine Daniels, returns with their young daughter he didn’t know existed. Now this successful rancher will do anything to be a good father. But can he forgive himself for the past…and turn their second chance into a family for always?

 

 

AMAZON B&N  |   APPLE  |   IndieBound KOBO

 

You can contact Jolene through her website: http://jolenenavarrowriter.com/

Old Feuds and New Loves…

 

This is a win it before you can buy it kind of day.

I have a wonderful new Love Inspired Western due to release next month and the members of the Love Inspired Book Club (through Reader’s Service) already have this book and I’m so glad that these thousands of early readers are loving it…

It’s a beautiful story. The one we’ve been waiting for, the third Fitzgerald sister has come to Idaho and she doesn’t come meek and mild.

No, ma’am.

Charlotte Fitzgerald may have been raised as a cossetted little Southern Belle but she’s hit the wall now that her no-good father stranded his daughters with no money, no jobs and a tractor load of debt… not to mention he kind of ran the family’s good name through a wood chipper, then a meat grinder for good measure…

But Charlotte’s a game one. She’s finished veterinary school with an internship in horse care and she’s been raised around Fitzgerald horses from the cradle. If there’s one thing Char knows, it’s horses… and now she knows how to provide their medical care, so that’s a big plus in a northern region that’s embracing all kinds of new ranches, including her uncle’s multi-million dollar operation that she’ll get a part of if she can work from the ranch for one year.

One year is nothing to Char… she’s ready to spread her wings and fly with her brand new (and heavily mortgaged) mobile veterinary van, the likes of which Shepherd’s Crossing has never seen… but not everyone who’s taken to horses takes to Fitzgeralds and when Charlotte is called in to pass judgment on a group of badly neglected horses… and disagrees with the older, established vet in the area… she sets herself up for a fight. And when the handsome Native American horse breeder agrees with her, and saves a horse his family shares a bad history with, the stakes get higher.

Trust doesn’t come easy to Char… And honesty is clutch with Isaiah so can he see the past for what it is before it ruins the present?  And is Char willing to give him a second chance after all she’s been through?

 

This is a great story of two strong people with vigorous roots and how sometimes those roots can twist and turn the wrong way, strangling the tree… but with the right care and trimming, even the threatened tree can thrive.

 

(Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties, the picture comes through as broken no matter which one I use or where I put it… silly blog! A bit temperamental today, I’d say! Here’s a link so you can see this great cover: LINK TO HEALING THE COWBOY’S HEART! )

 

Does forgiveness come easy to you? Or do you have to dig deep to move beyond things?

Give me a comment below and let’s talk grudge-holding and forgiveness. I came from a long line of grudgeholders on the Herne and Logan sides of the family, and those folks made the Hatfields and McCoys look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood… so you know what I’m talking about!

I don’t hold grudges. It’s like the most unhealthy thing you can do, it’s so destructive to relationships but mostly to us. To our hearts, our souls, our mental health. Forgive and move on…

Life’s too short to be a tempest in a teapot!

Where Has All the History Gone?

“Where has all the history gone? Long time passing…

Where has all the history gone? Long time ago….”  (parody, Peter, Paul and Mary “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”)

I’m wearing a mix of hats today! My history-loving bonnet AND a modern day cowboy hat because this upcoming Love Inspired book is a contemporary Western romance with a great, tough heroine and a SWOON-WORTHY hero… that I hope you love!!!!

We live in different times.

When I look at middle grade and junior high history lessons now, they are very different from what I was taught… what my kids were taught… and what my grandchildren and friends’ children now see.

History is history. But it can be viewed through varied perspectives.

It is rife with mistakes, horror, trials and triumph. It is never one-sided. From the earliest written times and the earliest Biblical references, man has been as inclined to sin as the sparks to fly upward.

People lust for power. For sex. For money. And for some it is never enough, the head rush of being powerful, sexual and rich only adds oxygen to an already fuel-rich fire… and they want more.

That said, there are other sides to history as well. 

My Celtic heritage on the Logan side faced rough odds. For nearly nine centuries the Vikings ruled Ireland after defeating the Celts in the first century A.D. 900 years + or -…. When the Irish king Brian Boru waged a successful battle against them, the Viking power over Ireland was razed, but then came the Normans…. and centuries of English domination and rule when Irish land was taken from the Irish and doled out to English landowners… and the Irish pushed to less fertile lands or turned into share-holders. From Cromwell’s reign of terror from 1649 on, Irish Catholics were slaughtered, tortured and jailed and/or excised from their lands. A few generations later came the potato famine, a scourge that starved a nation but pushed many to a new opportunity, here in America or Australia.

Ireland wasn’t the only country that England claimed and re-distributed, of course. Our own America was formed in some large part by land grants given to English aristocrats. There was no or little thought given to the American Indians/Native Americans because the idea of “owning” land and distributing it through a legal process wasn’t part of their culture.

 

An ocean apart, and huge differences in formation of culture, science, language, mathematics… So when America “bought” the west in the Louisiana purchase, it seemed normal to the government. This had been the European model for hundreds and hundreds of years. 

Of course it didn’t seem one bit normal to the Natives occupying American prairies or mountains or woodlands, did it? 

It was an abomination. A threat.  Much like Ireland and other countries that were invaded and taken over by expansionist nations, their claims fell on the deaf ears of the more powerful.

Studying history, we can see the both sides…. Downton Abbey, one of the most watched and loved shows on modern TV showed the ups and downs of a prestigious English family as their days waned in light of a rising middle class. But those same rich people, hundreds of years before, helped fund expeditions to new lands and opened travel and opportunity, the very beginning that forged our land. America. The United States… and then we fought for that freedom and did the unthinkable…

WE WON.

And began our western expansion a few dozen years later.

Writing a modern-day Western with Native American characters isn’t easy. I tackled this in “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart”, my upcoming release from Love Inspired books…. how a Nez Perce family that chose land instead of the reservation (an option offered and chosen by some) can feel out of step with the past, and at odds with the present when the land they owned and sold is now worth millions…

And did you know that the Nez Perce tribe (a total misnomer because they never had pierced noses…) embraced the Christian faith quickly because they believed in one God, the Father Almighty already… So immersing themselves into the Christian faith didn’t require a leap… but giving up their land, their autonomy was a really hard thing to do. And like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” where young girls drive a dynamic that kills innocent people, young warriors launched an attack that resulted in a tragic war between the American army and the Nez Perce… A tragic story spawned by foolhardy, angry teens.

The American West is an ever-changing dynamic, but even so, romance and families and faith and cowboys make up a lot of that dynamic. There is something downright good about working the land and forging a life from it… and yes, there are winners and losers in war. There are things that happen that should never have happened. There is a cruelty in some men that can sicken the normal loving, caring person. But when we look and see that is the exception– not the rule– that’s when we realize we can learn from history. We should study history. And we should take and open view…

But we shouldn’t change history to fit our current narrative.

For every teacher that decries the explorers that first crossed the ocean, there’s a home they go to. An address they claim. A house or an apartment and a car or a subway or something linking them to the USA.

Without that history, those explorers, those navigators and those aristocratic land grants and land purchases, we wouldn’t exist here today.

Someone would.

Once discovered, it was clear that powerful countries would have their day and their say in this new land. History does that… it repeats itself quite often, so telling this story of a Nez Perce hero, a man whose work and passion is to re-develop the beloved and esteemed Appaloosa the Nez Perce made famous… and the horse doctor whose family bought up land… land that is now worth millions… and the anger that simmers over old wrongs and tragic mistakes.

This is what I hope when readers enjoy this story… that they’ll see a beautiful romance! A great love story. A story that makes them sigh, smile, and sigh some more. Here’s a link to this upcoming book on Amazon:  HEALING THE COWBOY’S HEART BY RUTH LOGAN HERNE

I’m giving away two copies today (when they arrive on my doorstep) so that you can read the book and offer your opinion, dear readers… I hope what you see is a well-told modern story where the past can trip the heels of the present, but where faith, hope and love stand strong.

What’s your take on history, friends? I’m on the road today, traveling to Baltimore for the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat, so I might not get on until later… But everyone who comments will be in the drawing for these two “Win ’em before you can buy ’em” books!

 

From ‘Digester’ to the Modern-Day Instant Pot!

In my new contemporary western romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, my hero’s (Beau) mother brings dinner out to the family’s ghost town resort under construction by my heroine (Ava). She made the meal, appropriately titled “Cowboy Stew” (recipe below) in a slow cooker, often called a Crockpot.

Now, I’d warrant all of you reading this has had a Crockpot at one time in your life. Maybe you still do. While the first slow cooker was actually invented in 1940, most of us will remember the Rival Crockpot, which was officially introduced in 1971 and quickly grew to be the RAGE. I got married in 1975, and you didn’t have a bridal shower (or a wedding) until you got a Rival Crockpot as a gift. We all did. In fact, I still have mine. A 4-

Rival Crockpot

quart, bright orange model. Works great to this day.

As my family grew, I graduated to a 6-quart model which I love, too. However, as most things go, even what’s been wildly popular will eventually lose its stardom for something new and exciting.

Enter the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

Oh, be still my heart. I got mine for Christmas. A complete surprise cooked up (pardon the pun) by my daughters who thought I needed one. I admit to being quite intimidated by it at first. In fact, I didn’t even take it out of the box for a week. But once I did, and I accomplished the first step—boiling water, by the way—I was hooked.

Believe it or not, pressure cookers have been around a very long time.  The first one was

Digester

invented by a French physicist in 1679, which he called the digester. Yuck. But the name stuck for a couple of centuries, until it was replaced with ‘pressure cooker’ by the military who needed a way to make fast meals in camps, as well as other inventors working to improve canning and beef extract production.  

As the years rolled by, the pressure cooker became smaller, more user friendly, and made cooking and preserving food more economical. I’m quite sure no one expected the primitive digester to evolve into an Instant Pot that can make everything from hard-boiled eggs to yogurt so fun and easy!

Here’s the recipe for my Cowboy Stew. I’ve had this recipe for ages, and I’ve made it in my Rival Crockpot too many times to count. Beau and Ava enjoyed it, too!

Cowboy Stew

COWBOY STEW

4 medium potatoes, sliced

4 large carrots, sliced

1 green pepper, cut in strips

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced in rings

Arrange in Crockpot in layers, beginning with the potatoes. Salt and pepper each layer.

Pour 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce on top.

Mix well in a bowl:

1 lb. hamburger

½ cup milk

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 slice bread, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Press into circle over vegetables to form a cover. Pour another can of tomato sauce on top.  Sprinkle with ½ tsp. oregano leaves.

Cook until meat and vegetables are done. May be baked in 350 degree oven for one hour, or until vegetables are tender.

***** ***** ***** *****

Here’s my favorite Instant Pot recipe. Since IP recipes tend to be lengthy from the steps needed, I won’t type it all out, but I’ll give you the link from the food blog, Rachel Cooks. It’s DELICIOUS!

Instant Pot Pasta with Sausage, Spinach and Tomatoes

Have you ever used a pressure cooker? Do you have a slow cooker? Is it a RIVAL? How about an Instant Pot? Do you love it? Hate it? Share recipes!

Join in, and you’ll be eligible to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

 

Buy A COWBOY AND A PROMISE on Amazon!

 

The Rugged Rock and Guest Author Mary Sullivan!

 

Please give a big Petticoats and Pistols welcome to our
Friday guest author ~ Mary Sullivan!
Miss Mary hails from Toronto, Canada and today is giving away a
copy of her newest release, MONTANA RODEO STAR 
to one lucky person who responds to her questions at the end of this post.

 

 

 

Petticoats and Pistols, thank you so much for having me here today!

I write about cowboys, ranchers, sheriffs, and small towns. Often, I have wondered why I’m fascinated with ranching and farming life when I have never lived that life. I grew up in a large city.

The source of this interest, I believe, was my parents who grew up in rural Newfoundland on the eastern edge of Canada. I grew up listening to my mother’s stories of her childhood, her experience light years from my own urban childhood. Her family lived a life of self-sufficiency ruled by ‘island’ mentality. She was a small child during the Great Depression. Anything they needed or that had to be done or fixed had to be handled on their own. They were hardy and resourceful.

Newfoundland’s nickname of The Rock is justified. It’s rugged, to say the least.

Despite this, the family grew all of their own vegetables—potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbages, and onions—and stored them winter-long in root cellars. Even the children had their daily chores. They were not idle.

They fished for cod and laid it out to dry on ‘fish flakes’ set up on a hillside in the sun. They also salted the fish.

They owned cows and chickens.

Every spring, they bought a pig that they fattened throughout the summer for butchering, curing and preserving in the fall. My mother, a great animal lover, doted on the pig every summer and would steal buttermilk after the cows were milked to rub over the pig’s back to make it soft!

Then, one day in the autumn, her family would send her off to visit friends or family so she wouldn’t be around when they killed the animal she had nurtured for months. It saddened her immensely. I asked her once how she felt about all of this and whether she could bring herself to enjoy the bacon and ham the pig produced. Her pragmatic response was, “Of course. I had to eat.”

Winters were harsh, with frigid temperatures for months on end and deep snow nearly covering ground floor windows. Winter started early and ended late.

The buckets and buckets of wild blueberries my mother picked and sold every summer bought her a new pair of shoes for the start of another school year in September.

I don’t romanticize how difficult her life was, but even given such a bare-bones existence, my mother had a happy and healthy childhood with loving parents. She had a wicked sense of humor, loved to play pranks and was adored by her one older and six younger siblings.

My brothers and sisters and I love to visit. The island and my extended family there hold captive a huge portion of my heart. Here’s a photo of me with my sisters wearing our tourist t-shirts during a recent visit!

 

I imagine large ranches as being much like islands, with life lived so close to the land and the harsh reality of nature and death a hairs-breadth away. I imagine self-sufficiency and pragmatism. I imagine tough, hard-working people.

 

My latest book, HOME ON THE RANCH: MONTANA RODEO STAR is the final, sixth book of my Rodeo, Montana, series. I have loved writing about the six women who labored to keep their small town afloat by reviving the local fair and rodeo.

Cocky but likable Dusty Lincoln meets his match in stubborn Maxine Porter. 
If ever two opposite should not attract, it is these two, but attract they do!

 

You can find it here: http://bit.ly/MontanaRodeoStar

 

I’m giving away a copy of MONTANA RODEO STAR to one of today’s blog visitors.
Please respond to the questions below for a chance to win.

 

Have you ever visited a ranch or wanted to?

Or did you grow up on one?

Or are you a die-hard city person?

 

 

Multi-published author, Mary Sullivan, finds fulfillment in writing heart-warming, small town romance.
Her first book, No Ordinary Cowboy, was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest.
Her books have since won awards and glowing reviews. For Mary, writing a book is very much like putting
together a jigsaw puzzle without the final image. She indulges her passion for puzzles—particularly getting
her daily cryptic crossword fix and putting together real jigsaw puzzles without the box—in her hometown
of Toronto.  

Mary’s Website:  MarySullivanBooks.com   

Follow Mary on Facebook at Facebook.com/MarySullivanAuthor