(Adera’s note: Since I have sold a western romance to Samhain, I am hoping to feature more western authors on my blog. I start with the lovely Caroline Clemmons.)
Romance Western Style
By Caroline Clemmons
What began my personal love of the West? In the evenings, my dad often told stories of his family coming to Texas from Georgia after the Civil War. He was a great storyteller and I couldn’t hear enough of those tales. Even after I’d memorized the anecdotes, I urged him to retell each one.
Next came the movies: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lone Ranger, Hoppalong Cassidy. Have I forgotten any? Personally, I wanted to ride the range with Roy, saving the West from the bank robbers and rustlers I was certain plagued the land. Imagine how disappointed I was to learn he was married to Dale Evans. My family watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Rifleman, Maverick, and others on TV and never tired of them. Then life intervened, as it did for all would-be cowgirls and cowboys.
As an adult, I discovered Louis L’Amour. Among others, I also love the books of Jodi Thomas, Maggie Osborne, Jacquie Rogers, and the westerns Lorraine Heath wrote years ago. However, Louis L’Amour is my author hero. I’ve read each of his western books at least twice, and several of them too many times to count. FALLON is my personal favorite: what woman can resist a reluctant hero who thinks he’s bad but is actually a good, hard working, clever man protective of others?
In my writing, I usually choose to write about 1870-1890 and the time of the Texas cattle drives. Yes, I also write contemporary cowboys, sheriffs, and detectives, but none are more appealing to me than those of the late 19th century. So many things fascinate me about this time period.
Would I have wanted to live then instead of now? No! I like my current creature comforts, thank you, but I love reading and writing about that earlier time. The Civil War and Reconstruction were over, yet law and order was far from established. Men—and women—were frequently isolated and had to defend themselves and their families. If there was an area lawman, he was often too far away to offer immediate help.
When the Civil War was over, men returned home (if they still had one). In Texas and a few other states, many unbranded cattle had bred during the war and ran wild. An industrious man could gather these and place his own brand on them, then drive them to market in Kansas. According to T. H. Fehrenbach in his book LONE STAR: A HISTORY OF TEXAS AND THE TEXANS, cattle sold for two dollars a head in Texas in 1875, but brought ten dollars a head in Kansas. Since cowboys made the same wage per month and received the same food regardless of where they rode, it cost no more for a rancher to have his ranch hands drive cattle to market. Fortunes were built during this time.
The wealth didn’t come without cost. Danger lurked everywhere in the West, but on the trail hazards multiplied. Indians, rustlers posing as Indians, rustlers posing as law men, and a plethora of other bad men wanted the benefit of others’ hard work. Then there were the natural disasters: swollen rivers, lightning storms, and stampedes. Texas cattle sometimes carried tick fever and threatened to infect cattle in other states. Cattlemen from the intervening trails crusaded to block Texas cattle from crossing into their area, and it’s no wonder, is it? The astonishing fact is that any cattle made it to market.
Yes, you say, but how can it be a romance when there were no women on cattle drives. You’re right, you’re so right. Cowboys are a superstitious lot, and they believed women on a drive brought bad luck. In that way, cattle drives are far from romantic. If you’ve read my book THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, book one of my Kincaid series, you learn that wives are not invited on a cattle drive.
No, it’s not the actual cattle drive that appeals to me, but the era. A young man with nothing could homestead land, gather unbranded cattle or buy a few head, and create a small ranch. With hard work and perseverance, he could expand. Of course, then he’d need a wife to share his life. They’d face trouble—it always came—and stand side by side to triumph. At least, that’s the way it happens in my novels.
And it wasn’t just ranchers and cowboys who did well in the Old West. New towns offered opportunities for men of all walks of life. In my latest release, GABE KINCAID, book four of the Kincaid series, the hero is a lawyer in a Texas town founded by his great uncle. The heroine doesn’t come to search for a husband; she joins a circus to escape two powerful killers who want her dead.
Women from areas where most young men had died in the Civil War didn’t have to remain spinsters. They could travel West and marry, sometimes via mail-order arrangements. How many mail-order western romances have your read? I’ve read too many to count, but I still love them. TABITHA’S JOURNEY is my Stone Mountain series novella about a mail-order bride switch. (I’m working on another mail order bride story. I love the book but it’s too soon to reveal details. Wait until September.)
There were wagon trains heading West then stages and locomotives. The heroine of HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain series book two, only wants to catch the stage and head east. By traveling West, a single woman had an opportunity for a family of her own. Wouldn’t it be difficult to weigh the benefits and disadvantages? The thought of marrying a stranger is not appealing, but neither is being the family’s spinster daughter living at home or working as a companion to an elderly relative. I think I’d have risked the mail order bride route, wouldn’t you?
Reading about people who adapt to new circumstances, meet obstacles they’d never imagined, and triumph while finding a soul mate is very romantic. Who wouldn’t love a tale like that?
ABOUT CAROLINE CLEMMONS
Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances whose books have garnered numerous awards. Her latest release is GABE KINCAID, book four of her popular Kincaid series. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.
Caroline is a member of Romance Writers of America, the RWA chapters Yellow Rose, From The Heart, and Hearts Through History. Her latest publications include the acclaimed historical Men of Stone Mountain series: BRAZOS BRIDE, HIGH STAKES BRIDE, and BLUEBONNET BRIDE and the audio books of BRAZOS BRIDE and HIGH STAKES BRIDE.
Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets. Prior to writing full time, her jobs included stay-at-home mom (her favorite), secretary, newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, bookkeeper for the local tax assessor and—for a short and fun time—an antique dealer. When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, painting, and getting together with family and friends. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, WattPad, Shelfari, and Pinterest.