Years ago, when I first inquired about being a guest author on the Petticoats & Pistols blog, I had a fan-girl moment when Karen Witemeyer replied to me. I’ve been a fan of her books since I first discovered them!
She was so gracious and welcomed me with kindness. I admired the women who were part of this group and wished I could be one of their “Fillies” too.
Sometimes wishes do come true! In 2017, I was invited to join them as a regular author, and I’ve loved being one of the Fillies in their corral of western authors. So, when Pam and Karen started kicking around the idea of a legacy project for Petticoats & Pistols, something we could all participate in, I was excited at the prospect. Then the decision was made to tie the stories in our series to Annie Oakley, which made it even better.
In case you’ve missed all the announcements, our joint endeavor is called the Pink Pistol Sisterhood. Eleven of us have written sweet western romances, all tied to the journey of a pink-handled pistol that Annie passes on to the heroine in the first book, which just happens to be written by Karen. Make sure you read In Her Sights! It releases March 30!
Captain Cavedweller happened to be in an antique shop last fall and found a book about Annie Oakley that he knew I needed to have. Written in 1981 by Isabelle S. Sayers, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West from Dover Publications features more than a hundred photos, illustrations, posters and advertisements. Being able to see so many visuals of Annie really helped not only clarify in my mind the hero she would be to Rena (my heroine), but also how her influence would help shape Rena’s character in my book (#2 in the series), Love on Target.
When I was thinking about my story and the characters, I knew I wanted it to be set in the town of Holiday, a place that exists only in my imagination, but it’s at the heart of several of my books, both historical and contemporary. (You can read the beginning of the town in Holiday Hope. )
My hero in Love on Target, Josh Gatlin, was a character who had a brief mention in my book Henley. I thought he’d be wonderful for the hero in this story. Since nine years had passed from then, though, I wanted him to have experienced love and loss, and it provided a perfect way to include the character of his five-year-old daughter, Gabi.
Rena is strong and courageous, but she’s also soft-hearted, and whether she admitted it or not, she really, really just wanted someone to accept her for who she was, scars and all, and love her.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book!
“Laura has lost her mind if she believes all this romantic nonsense,” Rena groused as she returned the letter to the pocket in the case and set Laura’s letter aside to tuck into the packet of letters she’d kept from both of her cousins over the years.
“Of all the silly, pretentious …” A snort rolled out of her. “True love my foot. I’m more likely to lasso the moon than I am to fall in love because I held this gun. Although, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.”
She started to close the case, but changed her mind and lifted out the pistol. The thought that the gun had been in the possession of her hero, Annie Oakley, made her long to shoot it. Just once.
With a plan in mind, Rena set aside the case, tugged on her boots, and rushed down the ladder. She gathered a pocket full of cartridges and her pistol in the gun belt, which was the same caliber as the pink-handled weapon, and headed outside. She stopped by the woodpile and selected a large slab of bark that had fallen off a chunk of wood, then went to the barn where she painted a red heart on the bark, then added a white circle in the center of it.
She experienced an almost giddy sensation as she carried the bark and the pistols to what had once served as a corral. The whole thing needed to be rebuilt, which was on Theo’s long list of tasks he wanted to finish before summer arrived.
Rena knew he wouldn’t care if she practiced her shooting there since there was nothing behind the fence she could damage.
She used a nail to hang the bark on the fence, then retreated to the burn pile by the outhouse where she retrieved half a dozen tin cans that had once held peaches. It had been a while since she’d practiced shooting targets.
To make sure she hadn’t lost the skill, she lined up the cans on fence posts on either side of the heart she’d painted on the bark, took out her pistol, moved back several yards, and loaded rounds into the cylinder.
After widening her stance, she lined up her first shot, released a breath, and pulled the trigger.
The sound of the bullet pinging the target rang out as the can flew backward off the post. Rena shot the remaining cans, then smiled with satisfaction as she climbed over the fence to retrieve them. She set them back up on the posts, rested for a minute on the top pole of the fence, face turned to the sunshine as she soaked up the warmth. Then she hopped down and riddled the cans full of more holes before she stowed her gun in the gun belt and draped it over a fence post, then took the pistol with the delicate pink handle from where she’d set it on a stump.
“Promise of true love,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb over the handle before she loaded five shots in the revolver and took aim at the target she’d painted. “True love. What an absurd notion. Laura really should mind her own business and cease meddling in mine. If she thinks this gun will lead me to romance, she needs to have her thinker checked for defects. Instead of dreaming of true love, setting love on target seems like a much better idea.”
She blasted five holes in the middle of the white circle she’d painted inside the heart on the slab of bark, taking a great deal of satisfaction in blasting holes into something that represented romance and love, at least in her mind.
“Now that’s some fine shooting, Miss Burke.”
Rena yelped in surprise and spun around, pistol still in her hand as she pointed it at the intruder who dared to interrupt her target practice.
Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?
Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.
Saddle maker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.
When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Find out in this sweet historical romance full of hope, humor, and love.
If you were in Rena’s shoes (or boots), what would you do?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Holiday Hope and Henley –
to get you ready to read Love on Target when it releases April 10!