One great thing about life is the cycles of taste and the times when “what is old is new again”—a saying my grandmother used to great effect when explaining why trying to follow a fashion trend was just wasteful. After all, what was out of style today would be very much in style in a short period of time. And so it goes with books. Especially romances. First they say historicals are dead, then contemporaries, then suspense and, always, the Western is done, buried somewhere on a trail. Most likely in Texas. Or Wyoming.
I fell in love with the Western with the television series Deadwood. Not your usual cup of television storytelling, Deadwood is set in the 1870s in the Dakota Territory as the gold rush is in full blast. The town is filled with miners, prostitutes, saloon keepers, merchants and an assortment of characters. Shades of every lust and sin appear in each episode. The story lines and characters are superb. And best of all the series awoke the desire in me to read Westerns.
I went digging into the shelves to find some nuggets of reading gold. I discovered Jodi Thomas for the first time with her Whispering Mountain books. They weren’t the old Western romance I remembered from previous years, as the women in these stories were as tough as the men and still had time to love. Plus the bonus for me was that Thomas’ books are set in Texas, my home. I may not have been born here, but after raising two children through the school system I am more familiar with the history now than I was during my first attempt at reading Westerns. Although Thomas now mostly writes about contemporary Texas, I still joyfully re-read some of her Western historicals when the mood hits (especially after watching a season of Hell on Wheels, the A&E series about the mobile town that traveled with the men racing to build the First Transcontinental Railroad). Thomas’ latest, Promise Me Texas (Berkley, November 2013), involves a romantic encounter on a train—complete with a wreck and hijinks galore.
Getting closer to the present day, Jodi Thomas’ next book, Betting the Rainbow (Berkley; March 31, 2014), the seventh in the Harmony Texas series, is about two women from the small town of Harmony. When a poker tournament comes to Harmony, Dusti Delaney is ready to win enough money to finally leave town. She just needs the help of expert poker player Kieron O’Brian to teach her enough of the game to win. Meanwhile, Ronny Logan has finally returned to Harmony and she’s planning on settling forever—without the distraction of a man. But fate has other plans. The Harmony series is filled with emotional stories of regular people finding each other in small town Texas. You can read them in order or not. Either way, you’ll enjoy the read.
So, being a fan of the Western romance, I was excited to find new author Sabine Starr. She’s been writing for a year or so but I just discovered her exciting stories. Starr’s latest, Belle Gone Bad (eKensington; March 20, 2014), pairs a woman searching for the renegades who murdered her father and fiancé with an artist who sometimes gets in over his head. She poses as his muse—courtesan style—and he tracks a kidnaper. In the end, they can’t keep their hands off each other as they manage to survive in outlaw country.
If you’re looking for lots of humor and hot romance, then don’t dare miss any of Carolyn Brown’s contemporary Westerns. Her latest series, Cowboys and Brides, matches up cowboys with the appropriate loves of their lives. Brown’s cowboys are all a wee bit damaged and each heroine is something really special. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying as you read—a great combination when you need a break from a dreary winter. Imagine if a love letter went missing in the postal system years ago and was recently discovered. What if that letter had the power to change lives in the present? Cowboy Greg Adams finds out when Emily Cooper ends up on his grandmother’s ranch with letters from a man long forgotten. The Cowboy’s Mail-Order Bride (Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 2014) explores the situation in both generations with humor and sizzling sensual heat.
So, when you’re stuck in another never-ending winter storm, remember you can always find some heat in a Western romance.
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors Adventures in Fiction in February, an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.