When we think about storytellers who've shaped our contemporary images of the American Southwest, names like Larry McMurtry  , Horton Foote , heck, even Louis L'Amour come to mind. 

 

Their novels, stage and film work encompass themes and issues which can be stark, humorous, edgy, raw and even boldly romantic in a tumble-weed swashbuckler sort of way.  Yet the trait those authors' pieces have in common is that they're all social histories of a sort, recording the desires, challenges, triumphs and tragedies of folks whose lives intersected amidst the unforgiving climate of some of the nation's most beautiful country.

 

Authors who create western-set historical romance novels set as their task celebrating women of the West who forged lives of independence and meaning almost out of necessity, yet in ways their sisters in other parts of the U.S. hadn't the opportunities.  And today's western-set historical romance heroine can come from any strata of society, exhibiting self-determination that jibes with our modern sensibilities, especially because, as American readers, we know these characters depict women very close to those who paved the way for the lives we're living.

Jessica Thornton is an example of the kind of woman long depicted in western-set romances.  The heroine of Kaki Warner's marvelous debut, "Pieces of Sky  ," Jessica has immigrated to America from her comfortable home in England.  The gently bred deportment expert and milliner has fled everything she loves after surviving a violent act which left her deeply shamed - and with what some would consider a disgraceful secret.

While traveling in New Mexico to reunite with her brother, Jessica is injured in a deadly stagecoach accident, and is saved along with several others when one of the passengers, cussing, rough-and-tumble rancher Brady Wilkins, nearly cripples himself heading to his home and returning with help.

At Wilkins' ranch, Jessica finds Wilkins' family and workers are pleased to care for and welcome her.  She's enchanted and comforted by the humble beauty of the New Mexico terrain, and the awkward, but tender attentions of Wilkins himself.  Yet Jessica's got demons to face - and a bit of maturing to do, despite her advanced "spinster" status and rather too much experience with hard knocks. 

And Wilkins?  Well, learning what makes Brady Wilkins tick and drives him to save everyone's day is worth the price of admission to "Pieces of Sky," which is saying something, because the love story is grand and the novel's one to savor.

"Pieces of Sky" begins a series of romances featuring Brady Wilkins and his brothers.  If Warner's depiction of Jessica and other female characters as capable and multi-faceted remains true, we're in for some special reads as the Wilkins men find themselves in the hands of women who've met the challenge of life in the American West, and who're ready for love.

What qualities of the western-set romance heroine do you most admire? How do you see western-set romance having been influenced by popular western genre fiction? What do you enjoy about western-set romance fiction?


For western-set holiday fun, and a look at how books get titled, check out "Texas Xmas" at Heart to Heart romance blog!

Comments
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎10-14-2009 09:16 AM

Great article once again cowgirl. I really love western romance either historical or contemporary and I also love western romance both historical or contemporary with a Native American theme. The two authors who come to mind are 

1) in the general western arena is Linda Lael Miller who writes both historical and contemporary western romance, she has a lot of strong heroines in her works and what I love about them is that they never give up no matter the adversities. You can find them either running the ranch or running from abuse or down and out and they always persevere.

2) with the Native American theme I love the work of Kathleen Eagle who is married to a Lakota Native and writes beautiful novels about the struggles of todays men and women. Her heroines are also proud and strong but are usually white and they find the love of their lives in a strong and often battered Lakota hero.

But not only do I love the romance in these works but the beauty of the land that's described by the authors who's descriptive dialogue take me right into the hearts of their stories where I enjoy them more.

Deb

by PrincessBumblebee on ‎10-14-2009 12:56 PM

Don't kill me, but I'm not really that into Westerns. I think, mostly, it's because I live in hickville, anyway, and want something totally different. But, I k now there are those out there who simplly love it and props to them!

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-14-2009 06:13 PM

Princess, so much of genre fiction reading is about escape, so I can imagine you don't want to go next door to 'get away.'  No wonder you love Kresley Cole's demons, weres, vamps, valkyries, et. al, so much!

 

Two great authors, Deb, stars of western romance.  LLM really does 'down home' well, and, of course, I'm a big fan of her historicals. Her Creed Christmas novel this year is super.  She surely creates a gritty atmosphere, even in the best of circumstances. She just doesn't let you forget that the West was 'frontier,' and was kind of being made up as things went along.

 

I'm glad to hear you like Kathleen Eagle's novels. Have you read her newest category? She believes really strongly in the dignity of the individual, and her novels about what she calls American Indians -- and others call Native Americans -- reflect her concern for Am Ind men being seen as individuals, rather than caricatures.  In the books of hers I've read, I've found her heroines to be women who were very lonely and somewhat sad, and who became 'happier' with the hero. that's distinctive, because sometimes heroines are so 'positive' and 'strong' they never show unhappiness/sadness, just determination.

by 1lovealways on ‎10-14-2009 11:43 PM

Hello Everyone!

 

Linda Lael Miller and Kathleem Eagle are among some of my favorite authors!  I've gotta say I love KE's American Indians/Native American romances.  I have one that is an absolute favorite, Private Treaty.  She wrote this book years ago and I still keep hoping she'll write a sequel. Her books have enlightened me so much on AI/NA history and keeps doing that.  It really doesn't matter what LLM writes, you can bet it will be good!  She's just one of those authors who can delve into any theme and make it spectacular.  I have one of her books on My Wish List.  I'd know KE had a new book out.  I'll have to check that out.  I'd really like it if LLE would wrote some more paranormal (sigh).

 

In western romance, I like the it that the heros and heroines are strong and persevere.  Sometime it's the heroine that perseveres because of the hero and vice versa.  The setting of the wild untamed west is what I like best.  It always amazes me how this raw untamed land was settled.  A lot of work. I grew up and still live in Texas and love it's people and the beauty of it's vast landscape and  open spaces, although I'm a city girl.  When I read about these open spaces and landscapes, no matter what western state, in a book, I get a visual of what it must have been like!

 

Princess, I know what you mean by wanting something different. I love my state, but I love escaping to somewhere different.

Through reading I can do that if I never get to visit them personally.  And although I love cowboys, I've fallen in love with the otherworldly characters of vamps, demons, fairies and weres to name a few!

 

Other authors that write great western historical romance are Madeline Baker (Lover Forevermore), Elizabeth Lowell (Only His), Rebecca Brandewyne (The Outlaw Hearts, Love Cherish Me) and Linda Howard (The Touch of Fire, A Lady of the West, Angel Creek).  These are some of my favorites by them.  Michelle, you know I had to mention The Touch of Fire.  I love that book! :smileyhappy:

 

 

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎10-19-2009 11:31 AM

I never think of myself as a fan of Westerns, but I've read quite a few that I liked a lot (Western romances, that is): Janet Dailey's old ones, Sarah McCarty, Geralyn Dawson, Kathleen Kane, etc. Do Texas stories count as Westerns?

About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Categories