Today, I am happy to introduce fellow Wild Rose Press author, Caroline Clemmons who has just released her first self-published novel, "Brazos Bride", a fantastic Western stories set during the 1800s. As I'm a UK writer I tend to focus on UK history when I write my Victorian novels because of the real places I can visit and events I can track. However, for my favourite historicals to read? 1800s American historical is right up there at the top of the list - such an exciting time and ripe for the picking for every romance writer out there. Cowboys, conflict, danger and survival. What more does a writer need? Take it away, Caroline :)
My western historical BRAZOS BRIDE, set in 1870 North Central Texas, has me excited. While considering this trilogy, I engaged in a lot of research on stage lines, Comanche attacks, pioneer settlements, and a million other things specific to the area and time period. Let me tell you some of the places and events that inspired me.
Frankly, I love trilogies. I like seeing the hero and heroine from the first book reappear and still happily married in the second and third books. Family-oriented books also appeal to me, so this trilogy features three brothers: Micah, Zach, and Joel Stone. You can see why it’s subtitled Men of Stone Mountain, can’t you. It’s Zach who lives on Stone Mountain, at least in the first book. But back to inspiration.
There is a fascinating book, PAINTED POLE by Barbara Belding Gibson, about the Belding Ranch. When the first Belding came to Palo Pinto County, Texas in 1859, he found a small cedar log cabin already on the land. To people in the UK, I realize that this is not old. But remember, we’re the “new” part of the US and for Texas, that time period is early. Mr. Belding had a huge ranch that has since been divided several times among descendants. The portion on which Barbara and Cy Gibson live includes the original cabin, smokehouse, and cold room. These rooms have been preserved and incorporated into the newer portions of the ranch house. The cabin is now a bathroom--roomy for that purpose, but small for a home. Fortunately, the Gibsons love history and are excellent stewards of their heritage.
Several years ago, Hero noticed in the local newspaper that the Belding-Gibson Ranch was holding an open house. YeeHaw! We attended and I was enthralled. This ranch was perfect for the first book in my trilogy! Not the house, because the heroine, Hope Montoya, is Hispanic and lives in a two-story Spanish-style hacienda. The hero, Micah Stone, lives in a replica of the Belding Ranch cabin with a dog trot extension. I enlarged the cabin minutely, so there was room for five bunks and some other furniture. I also attached a porch with a couple of benches and a chair for the hero, his brothers, and two ranch hands. That’s the fun part of writing; we can take reality and twist it to suit our stories.
The Brazos River runs through this area, winding through ravines and creating lovely scenery. The hills are the Palo Pinto Mountains, called that by the Native Americans who labeled them “painted poles” for the scrub oaks colorful fall leaves. They aren’t the Appalachians, folks, but the Palo Pinto Mountains are beautiful in their own way. To someone like me who grew up in relatively flat West Texas, they are gorgeous.
When I was a small girl, I lived in Southern California and fell in love with the Spanish architecture prevalent there. Probably that's why I love Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque so much. Anyway, that’s what I chose for the heroine’s home. In my mind, I can picture it so clearly. I hope my writing brings the home to life for readers.
Another commonality of this trilogy is that each involves a type of poison. In BRAZOS BRIDE, the heroine is being poisoned and enlists the hero’s help to discover the killer. Her plan involves a temporary marriage of convenience. Well, you’ve read enough romances to know how that will go, right? But you need to read this book to see how they arrive at their happy ending. Really, you do need to read the book. Here’s the blurb:
Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?
Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.
And here’s an excerpt from just after the wedding:
She looked at her hands. Perhaps she was unreasonable. Or maybe insane for sympathizing with a man who'd had to work harder because of her family.
"I know it is an odd situation. If—if you wear your shirt and britches, I guess it would be all right if you slept on top of the cover here." She patted the bed beside her.
He froze. Not a muscle moved, and he only stared at her. Had she misunderstood? Did he think her offer too forward?
She babbled, "That is, if you want to. You said I should trust you. Well, maybe you would be more comfortable where you are." Why didn't he say something? Would he prefer sleeping in a chair to sharing the bed?
From the street below, she heard raucous laughter and someone called to a man named Ben. Music from a piano, she supposed in the saloon, drifted in through the open windows. A gust of breeze moved the curtains and slid across her skin. In this room, though, there was no sound.
Slowly, he rose and extinguished the lamp as he moved across the room. She slid one of the pillows beside hers then scooted down. What had possessed her to offer him half her bed? Would he think she invited more?
Too late to take it back now, for the mattress dipped as he stretched out. Quaking inside at the thought of him so near, she turned her back to him. She heard his weary sigh, as if he relaxed for the first time in a long while.
"Good night," she offered, and hoped he understood the finality of the phrase.
"Yep. Good night, Mrs. Stone." The mattress shook as he turned his back to her. She felt the soles of his feet press against her ankles. He must be several inches too long for the bed and she guessed he had to bend his legs to fit. She didn't dare turn to see firsthand.
She lay perfectly still, afraid to take a deep breath. Soon his breathing changed and she knew he slept. Outside the open window the town quieted and the distant tinkling of the piano was the only sound. Light from the full moon illuminated the room and slanted across the bed. A soft breeze drifted across her, lulling her in its caress.
With a sigh, she fought to relax, but abdominal pain kept her awake no matter how her body cried for rest. Perhaps if she planned, she’d forget the pain and chills that racked her frame.
Plan, yes. She needed a plan for food preparation when she returned to her home. No, Micah said he had a plan. Oh, dear, once more he took charge when it was her life, her home.
Maybe Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jorge would have left by then and things would be fine. Already she felt more secure. She sensed her eyelids drifting closed and the sleep’s blessed relief approaching. She snuggled into the pillow.
A gunshot ripped apart the night.
The blast startled her and she screamed as something thudded near her head, showering her hair and face with splinters. Panic immobilized her. What had happened?
Micah dragged her onto the floor as a bullet ripped into the mattress.
Want to know what happens next? BRAZOS BRIDE is available in print and e-book from Amazon. Here’s the buy link:
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Thanks to Rachel for having me as her guest today! Thank you, readers, for taking time to look at this post.
So great to have you visit with me again today, Caroline - wishing you lots of sales...I'm nipping over to Amazon to get my copy right now :)