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Monday, February 17, 2020

Talking with Mary Sheeran

 Mary Sheeran and I have known each other since the mid-1990s, and over the years have sung in several different choirs and ensembles together.  Since I've gotten more serious about my writing, we've also been meeting regularly for moral support and cheerleading.  So it only made sense to celebrate her Prairie Rose debut, A Dangerous Liberty, by interviewing her.

Although you’ve also lived in the Midwest, you’ve been a Northeasterner for a long while.  And yet you describe the far West with such passion and immediacy. Can you tell us about how that came about?

Until I got out of college, I hadn't made it past Indiana.

I was interested in Virginia City because of the TV show Bonanza. I loved those stock shots of pine trees, desert, and Lake Tahoe. (I also loved Pernell Roberts!) I did considerable reading about the history of that area in college, and after I graduated, I went there. I got a cab from the Reno airport up to Virginia City.  Live and in person, that country just took me over. The desert amazed me with its colors, just as it amazed Elisabeth. I didn't know it was so alive. I didn't know then that the Paiute tribe had been finding food in that desert for centuries. The immensity of the sky, the desert, the mountains beyond were both spectacular and terrifying.

One of the nights I was in Virginia City (I went back several times), I woke myself up at four in the morning to watch the sunrise over the desert, a kaleidoscope of deep purples and blues fading to bright red and then to white, the stars vanishing over the mountains. It was like a miracle, the best show on earth. We are so fortunate to have this land, and we should work to protect it. 

When I went to San Francisco, I took trip to Yosemite.  When the bus climbed up the Sierras to the Yosemite entrance, there it was, brilliant sunlight on the granite formations, the pine trees soaring above us all. My jaw literally, and I mean that literally, dropped wide open. The Japanese tourists around me were snapping pictures, but I don't think you can capture the beauty of that sight. Two days was not enough. So every spring, for the next ten years, I spent a week in Yosemite, in a cabin - just four walls - and walked in the meadows and into the forests and hiked up to Vernal Falls and sat by the rushing Merced River where a coyote sat next to me, watching along, too, and the roaring of Yosemite Falls drowned out everything. The expanse of that country, the power of it, the scent of pine constantly in the air was enthralling. My life was incredibly busy then - work, school, church - and going to Yosemite was a great joy, a gift, a place to learn how to breathe again.

The West always seems like home to me when I write about it, when I visit it, when I'm thinking about it. It's my special place, and yet it's still a stranger. I have so much to learn about it. It’s a strange romance we have, the West and me. I could probably never live out in the wild. I love New York and all it offers. But I have these images in my mind and heart.

By the way, if you look at Livia's cover for the book, the open window looks out on the desert with the Sierra Nevada range just beyond. I love how that cover turned out. 

You’ve been singing and performing most of your life.  Are there aspects of your own experiences as a musician that you used in writing about Elisabeth?

I've sung all sorts of music, a ton of classical, opera, church music, and the American Songbook. If I'd made Elisabeth a singer, it would have been about my point of view, and this way, I had to imagine it for Elisabeth. I used my singing but through a piano, if that makes sense. I imagined a pianist's frame of mind. I imagined and read about pianos and pianists in that time. I listened to a lot of the piano literature of the time. Concerts were different then; the kind of concerts and recitals we have now were still being figured out in the mid-nineteenth century.  

Women as pianists were considered a bit of an anomaly in Elisabeth’s time. Women played the piano at home, but performing on stage was a different matter. Clara Schumann was admired, playing her concerts, composing, wearing black, all her music memorized. There was this emotional response to Schumann, the assumption she was playing in memory of her dead husband, so people could think of her as the widow, even if she was a brilliant musician - It was still about a man. Elisabeth has the same problem as Schumann, as her own music is perceived as an expression of her father's oratory, especially when it’s powerful and dramatic.

Women were not allowed to study composition at the Paris Conservatory until 1870. In this country, Clara Bauer founded the Cincinnati Conservatory in 1867. Elisabeth is right on the cusp of a time when women were starting to make their presence known in the concert world. And conducting! Good grief, no woman did that. Stand with her back to the audience and conduct an orchestra of men? Women do conduct orchestras now, but even the other day, it was a big deal that a woman conducted the orchestra at the Oscars. 

Elisabeth finds herself in the midst of a great deal of political change:  abolitionism, voting rights, and the rights of women more generally. How do you think these issues affect her?

As an expatriate, Elisabeth felt the United States had lost the dream. It was over, finished. She'd seen her father killed, she'd seen Lincoln killed. Reconstruction was crumbling.  When she finally returns, she wants to skip right over the country and get to St. Petersburg. And yet, her love of country, affection I think she calls it in chapter one, tugs at her. To her surprise, she dives into politics. It was in her blood, to her surprise, and it was a way she could keep her father alive. You're not going to kill him off. I'm still here. The country wasn't abandoning the dream. People were fighting for it. But in joining the fight, Elisabeth increased the risk to her own life.

That part of the book gave me a chance to include what some women felt about not getting voting rights. "I have all the rights I need" is the big one, or "My husband will protect my rights." It shows how frightened some women were to declare that they were human beings, equal to men. It was a big deal when the California legislature passed, with some lobbying by Elisabeth and her friends, an act that entitled women to their property if they were divorced. 

Elisabeth made friends with interesting women, a reporter, a poet - whom she hired as a lyricist. Some wealthy women were politically active. Being back in her home country affected Elisabeth strongly. Perhaps she thought she was keeping her father's voice alive, but she was finding hers.

One of the great joys of writing historical fiction is delving into the past.  Do you have one or two favorite pieces of research that you’ve found over the years, whether or not it’s fit into a story?

My thesis in college, now lost, was about the theater on the Comstock Lode. "From Bear Fights to Shakespeare" is, I think, what I called it. It’s so indicative of the time and place. The opera house (that’s what they called the theater) really did have a bear fight one day and Hamlet the next. Some evenings were specially advertised as appropriate for ladies and children. It was also an arena where several women were heralded as artists.

There is more research being done about women in mining communities now, simply because there are more women studying and writing about that history. I keep discovering things. Women of all nationalities ran boarding houses, restaurants, shops. One woman, Mary Mathews was a contemporary woman in Virginia City, in the 1870s, and she wrote a book called Ten Years in Nevada. I would love to explore a character like her. Alas, she reveals herself as a bigot; she is quite outspoken about the prejudices of her time. She was not rich, she was struggling to get along and would take any job that she could grab, she was politically active, belonged to a lodge, and did charity work. She was one stubborn, tough woman, no delicate flower. History doesn’t seem to stop.

Who are some of your favorite fiction writers?

The trouble with spending a lot of time writing historical fiction is that I don't get to read much in the way of fiction, although I push myself. I've probably read more plays than fiction, too. 

I broke into Edith Wharton's house many years ago, so I'd better read her books. I love House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. Ethan Frome is on my bookshelf but I haven't read that since senior year in high school. 

Every so often I pick up Willa Cather's A Lost Lady. The story haunts me.

Sam Clemens became Mark Twain on the Comstock; Roughing It is amusing, but Huckleberry Finn gets better every time I read it. I don’t know how he does it.

Philip Roth! I loved American Pastoral and The Plot Against America. 

But the biggie was the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon. I found them at Hess’s Department Store in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I was in high school, and I wanted to read something with sex in it! I picked one up because the back of book copy called her “the most ravished and ravishing heroine in fiction.” She’s much more than that (and the sex was fairly discreet).  The first five books are incredible, the first one, Angelique, is not only entertaining and my God romantic, it is packed with history, yet everything is in character and the tone is marvelous. The series set in Louis XIV's time, one book is entirely in his court, with amazing detail, and a great love flames through the whole series. Sergeanne Golon was a husband/wife team;. Serge Golon died sometime after the sixth book, and the series does a downward spiral after that. I try to read them every couple of years.

And the dread final question:  What’s your next project?

I'm jealous of you, already at work on your next one. I put out two books right in a row. Banished From Memory took six years of reading, watching movies, and writing. And then there's the whole page proof business and so forth. I wrote A Dangerous Liberty years ago, but Prairie Rose took it this past year, and it was just published at the end of last month, when I'd barely gotten over Banished. So there were those page proofs and thinking about it, getting back into that world.

Elisabeth and Will are still hanging around, and I don't know if that is going to last; there's so many things I didn't touch on. I'm curious about the people around Elisabeth, especially wonderful Mai Lan. Virginia City and the Comstock are always on my imaginative doorstep. When I was on a writer’s retreat, I started a book about an actress there, but I haven’t worked on it in a while. I think I should do something closer to home and me, but “should” is a deadly word.

 This is a long way of saying I don't know yet. But stuff is spinning around in my head. 

Very out of focus selfie of us at a favorite cafe.

You can buy A Dangerous Liberty here:

And if you want to read more love stories featuring independent women, there's my Courting Anna:

Friday, February 14, 2020


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY EVERYONE! This is a re-run of a previous blog from years past, but I "love" love letters, and I am so proud of Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters I just had to give it another shout out!

Ah, those wonderful love letters! Don’t we love reading them? I must admit I have an affinity for love letters because of the insights they give us into the past, and the people who lived then.

With Valentine’s Day almost here and my 39th wedding anniversary just celebrated on the 10th, love letters are something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Probably because of the time of year, but also because, as authors, we have to use letters and notes in our writing to “get the message” across that perhaps our characters might not be able to speak aloud.

My hubby is, like many men, not sentimental. He wouldn’t care if I never got him another Valentine’s Day or anniversary card, but they mean a lot to me—so we exchange them every year. I suspect that, through the years past right down to the present, most men didn’t and don’t make flowery love speeches from their hearts, or even write their innermost thoughts and feelings in cards and letters.

One of the most poignant love letters I know of is the famous letter written by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou, just before the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 where he died at the age of 32. Married only 6 years, he left behind two small sons and his wife, Sarah. The letter he wrote to Sarah days before he was killed is one that speaks poignantly of his guilt at having to choose between his duty to country and duty to family. Ken Burns used a shortened version of the letter in his series, The Civil War—and its contents are unforgettable, and so powerful it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

In part, it reads:

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

I had to come up with a love letter, of sorts, for my latest novel, Sabrina, part of the 4-book set entitled MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. Oh, nothing to beautiful as this letter penned by a soldier marching to his inevitable death, but a letter that had to convince Sabrina to leave her wealthy lifestyle in Philadelphia and come West to Indian Territory!

Sabrina and her three older sisters have to have mail-order arrangements in order to get out of the fix they’re in with a step-father who plans to sell them to the highest bidder—and they don’t have much time to do it. When Sabrina receives two proposals on the same day, she counts her lucky stars that she’s able to compare the two letters and has a choice between the two men who have written her—something many women of the day did not have.

She’s safely with the man she’s chosen now, Cameron Fraser, but she’s remembering the day she received the letters and why she made the decision she did. Take a look:

She’d answered ads from both Cameron Fraser and David Mason. Ironically, she’d received offers from both men on the same day. That had been a blessing, as she was able to compare their responses immediately.
Mr. Mason had written one page, in sprawling wide script.

“I have need of a wife to help me raise my four children I was left with after my sainted Amelia passed on last year. Your help will be appreciated. And I will do right by you. I hope you are a willing worker and a good cook. Can you make good cornbread? That is a must in our home…”

She’d opened Mr. Mason’s letter first, and tucked it back into the envelope quickly. She’d hoped she’d managed to keep the revulsion from her face when her oldest sister, Lola, had come hurrying through the door. Lola was five years older, and Sabrina could never manage to keep a secret from her, no matter how she tried.

“Well?” Lola had asked, pinning Sabrina with “the look” that Sabrina dreaded.

“I haven’t read them,” Sabrina said defiantly.

“Bree. You know we have to get out of here—the sooner the better. We don’t have much time.”

Here’s the difference, and why she chose Cam. He wanted her for more than making cornbread!

Lola had turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. That’s how Sabrina knew her oldest sister was angry—or hurt. Maybe both.

She’d sighed, and begun to open the letter from Mr. Cameron Fraser. And before she’d read the entire first page of his two-page missive, she knew her decision was made.

Dear Miss Remington,

Thank you for your very kind response to the ad I placed for a bride. I felt out of place to do such a thing, but your answer made me glad I did so, after all.

I know that Indian Territory may seem uncivilized and wild to a well-bred lady such as yourself, who has grown up in the cultured, genteel society of the East, but I assure you, I will do everything in my power to welcome you. In no time at all, I hope you’ll come to think of the Territory as your home.

My family owns a fairly large cattle ranch in Indian Territory. I wanted to assure you that, although the ranch itself is somewhat isolated, we are close enough to Briartown to travel there frequently for supplies.

You will be safe here, Miss Remington, and cherished. You will be well-treated, and I promise you here and now, I will never raise a hand to you.

If it is your will, and I hope it will be, I am willing to be a good and loving father to any children we may have—and a good and loving husband to you.

The sky here is the bluest you’ve ever seen. The water is the freshest and coldest. And I hope you will come to love the open range as much as we Frasers do.

I await your arrival in Ft. Smith. I will meet you there, where we’ll be legally married in a civil ceremony before we travel together to the ranch. Enclosed, you will find a financial draft for your passage and travel expenses.


Cameron James Fraser

Something about the underlying feeling of the words Cam had written spoke to Sabrina. That he’d taken time to describe—even briefly—how he felt about his ranch made her know that he cared about her feelings—not just about what skills she might bring to the marriage table.

I see it, too, don’t you? He loves the land and his life, and wants her to share it with him. I wonder if women who were forced to take this route looked for these types of things—I know I would. And Sabrina is a bit of an adventurer, so going to Indian Territory would not hold her back. Adventure awaited!

Have you ever received a love letter that meant the world to you? I’ve had a few in my lifetime, and they’re tucked away in my desk and my heart! If you would like to share, we’d love to hear about your love letters—it’s that time of the year—love is in the air!

Here’s the blurb for MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS–buy link below!

Boxed set of four full length mail order bride novels.

Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…

LIZZY: Livia J. Washburn

Elizabeth Remington’s world is turned upside down when she is forced to become a mail-order bride. With her cat, Fulton, Lizzy flees to Alaska—only to discover the man she’s to marry is not who she thought he was! Now, she must protect herself from the biggest danger of all—her own heart. Handsome Flint McKinnon has signed his soul away to her step-father, hasn’t he? He’s chased Lizzy across the continent, but can she believe him when he says he loves her?

BELLE: Jacquie Rogers

Belle Remington must marry someone before the dangerous Neville Fenster catches up with her. She hightails it out of Philadelphia to the wilds of Idaho Territory to become a bootmaker’s bride, but when she arrives in Oreana, she discovers her groom has been murdered! Now, handsome, inebriated rancher Cord Callahan insists on fulfilling the marriage contract himself. Belle is beautiful and smart as a whip. But she has a secret. When Fenster shows up, can Cord protect the woman he wants to love forever?

SABRINA: Cheryl Pierson

Impulsive Sabrina Remington, the youngest, weds a man she knows her family would disapprove of. Though Cameron Fraser’s family owns a ranch in lawless Indian Territory, he’s made his way in the world with a gun, living barely on the right side of the law. With everything on the line as Bloodworth and his henchmen close in, will Cam be able to protect Sabrina from the desperate man who means to kidnap her for his own wicked purposes?

LOLA: Celia Yeary

Sensible Lola Remington, the eldest of the four sisters, must be certain the others are on their way to safety before she can think of fleeing Philadelphia herself. With the help of a local bridal agency, Lola finds the perfect husband for herself—in the wild countryside of Texas. Jack Rains owns a ranch and he’s in need of a bride—and children, of course! But just when Lola starts to believe there might be a future for them, she discovers a hidden letter from another woman…Jack’s first wife.

Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Here’s the link!

Mail Order Brides for Sale: The Remington Sisters is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Here’s the link!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sewing Patterns, Scarlett O’Hara, Little Town on the Prairie, and a Valentine’s Day-themed story by Kaye Spencer #sewing #prairierosepubs #valentinesday #westernromance

I’ve been browsing the Internet for long denim skirts without success. Skirts that struck my fancy had their own special issues: exorbitant prices, outrageous shipping costs, not the right material, not my size, not long enough…

I loathe shopping under any circumstances, and I avoid actually going into stores to try on clothes, but I still wanted a long denim skirt. Other than hiring a seamstress (not a viable option), I was going to have to make a skirt myself.

I still sew an occasional crafty project or help a granddaughter with a book report doll,

but I haven’t sewn clothing for myself or anyone else in years. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that my patience for sewing rivals this child’s patience.

Another reason I wasn’t keen on the idea of sewing a skirt is that it meant a search through my storage trailer for the tote with my patterns, which brought to my tangential mind the scene in Gone with the Wind when Scarlett decides to cut up the draperies to make herself a new dress.

In case you’re not familiar with that scene in the book and the movie, I’ll warn you they aren’t the same. Here is the draperies clip from the movie.

For the curious among you, the scene in the book is on pages 382-384. I referenced my copy, which is the 1964 edition published by The Macmillan Company, New York.

Back to my skirt… I located  my box of patterns, ordered a medium weight denim, cut the pattern, and sewed.

No surprise that I don’t like the result. The denim is too heavy. I don’t like the drape. I’m going to give it one more try, though. I’ve ordered a lighter weight denim.

Yes, this is me modeling the unhemmed denim skirt.

I’m headless, because my hair rivaled Medusa’s at that moment and, coincidentally, I was making this exact face.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re probably wondering what sewing a denim skirt has to do with a Valentine’s Day western romance, Little Town on the Prairie, and Scarlett O’Hara’s curtains dress.

The connection is sewing patterns.

According to this Wikipedia article HERE, it wasn’t until the 1860s (in America) that ready-made patterns came about. A magazine called The Mirror Of Fashion, published by William Jennings Demorest and Ellen Louise Demorest, offered one-size patterns of the latest fashions. The patterns “were of unprinted paper, cut to shape, and could be purchased ‘flat’ (folded)…”

Ebenezer Butterick, James McCall, Vogue Pattern Service, and Simplicity Pattern Co., Inc. soon followed with their own sewing patterns. It would be years before pattern layouts, identification of pattern pieces (meaning which was the collar, cuff, etc.), and more than the briefest of instructions were included.

Back then, whether you purchased a catalog sewing pattern or, more likely, made your own, you took great care to preserve every pattern for the priceless treasure it was as a time-saver when so many sewing projects were completely done by hand and each new dress, shirt, coat, etc. had to be designed, fitted, and a ‘trial run’ made with inexpensive material to see how the real item would fit and where it needed tweaking. It was a tedious process.

This excerpt from Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder illustrated how difficult and time-consuming it was Laura’s mother, Caroline, to make a dress for Mary (page 90 of Little Town on the Prairie, A Harper Trophy Book, 1971).

Ma was nervous about this best dress. She had made the summer dresses first, for practice with the patterns. She had cut the patterns from newspaper, using her dressmaker’s chart of thin cardboard as a guide. Lines and figures for all different sizes were printed on it. The trouble was that nobody was exactly any of the sizes on the chart. After Ma had measured Mary, and figured and marked the size of every sleeve and skirt and bodice piece on the chart, and cut the patterns, and cut and basted the dress lining, then when she tried the lining on Mary she had to make changes all along the seams.

In my short story, Mail-Order Mix Up in the Lariats, Letters, and Lace Valentine’s Day-themed anthology of western romance stories (Prairie Rose Publications, 2016), seamstress Irene Mason, widowed after 24 years of marriage to a no-account ‘traveling salesman’, answers a mail-order bride advertisement. In preparation of leaving, she sells almost everything she owns to pay the debts her dead husband left her with. In this excerpt, she’s talking to her lawyer.


“Let’s take care of business. Now that the creditors are paid, is there anything left?”

Arthur removed an envelope from an inside coat pocket. “Just over three hundred dollars.”

Dear Lord. She looked the envelope a long time before she took it. Despite her determination to bear with equal dignity whatever the amount—much or little—her shoulders slumped with crestfallen disappointment. This piddling amount was hard to take. The money, along with a few personal keepsakes and sentimental pieces of furniture, clothing, sewing machine, box of patterns [emphasis mine], and sewing basket represented the sum total of her life. Not much to show for a woman her age. When it came down to it, though, she had no reason and no right to ride the pity wagon. Much as she was tempted, neither could she place al the blame at the no-account’s feet. She had some culpability in getting where she was today, and there was no use whitewashing the truth of why she’d married him.

Okay, maybe using sewing patterns as the thread (pun intended) that holds this blog article together is iffy. I hope you found something of interest or, at the very least, something that made you smile.

Lariats, Letters, and Lace

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kaye —

Computer clip art image - Collection of Crazy Computer Cliparts:

Monday, February 10, 2020

February 14 -- Valentine's Day

February 14 is Valentine’s Day, the holiday when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. Are you ready to tell your sweetie just how you feel?

As is the case with many of our holidays, this one has origins in an ancient festival. Valentine’s day comes from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February, which celebrated the coming of spring and included fertility rites and the pairing of women and men.

The day is also known as St. Valentine’s Day. Legend surrounds the identity of the original Valentine. Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Another common legend states that St. Valentine defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war and that it is for this reason that his feast day is associated with love.
Formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. With the introduction of penny postage and envelopes in England in 1840, the exchange of valentines increased, and the use of lace paper, delicately ornamented, became popular.

In the U.S., woodcut valentines were produced by Robert H. Elton and Thomas W. Strong of New York, but soon gave way to the lace paper delicacies imported from England. Less expensive creations by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, first appeared in 1850.

Hallmark Corporation was started by brothers Joyce Clyde (J.C.) and Rollie Hall in 1910, when they sold postcards door to door in Norfolk, Nebraska, where they lived. At age 18, JC moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with two card-filled shoeboxes.  He traveled by train and peddled his postcards in the surrounding small towns, until he was able to open up a storefront in downtown Kansas City with Rollie.

The Hall brothers were the first to put greeting cards in envelopes in 1915, which they felt was more discreet. With the start of World War 1, their greeting card business took off, as servicemen and their families looked to stay in closer contact. The brothers are also credited with the invention of decorative wrapping paper in 1917—when they ran out of plain paper—as well as the card display racks you still see in every store today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Prairie Rose Sweetheart of a Deal—Free Books

The Innocents (The Innocents Mystery Series) (Volume 1) by C. A. Asbrey

Pinkerton Detective Abigail MacKay is a master of disguises—and of new crime-solving technology! But she’ll have to move fast to stay a step ahead of Nat Quinn and Jake Conroy.

Nat and Jake are the ringleaders of The Innocents, a western gang that specializes in holding up trains carrying payrolls—and Nat is pretty savvy when it comes to using the new sciences of 1868 in committing his crimes.

Charismatic Nat and handsome Jake are on the run, and they’ve always gotten away before—before Abi. But when Abi is caught by another band of outlaws during the chase, there’s no other choice for Nat and Jake but to save her life. Abi owes them, and she agrees to help them bring in the murderer of a family friend.

The web of criminal activity grows more entangled with each passing day, but Nat, Jake, and Abi are united in their efforts to find the murderer. Once that happens, all bets are off, and Abi will be turning Nat and Jake over to the law. But can she do it? She finds herself falling for Nat, but is that growing attraction real? Or is he just using her to learn more about the Pinkertons’ methods? Abi always gets her man—but she may have met her match in her “best enemies”—THE INNOCENTS.

The Witch-Queen (Legends of Winatuke Book 1) by Sarah J. McNeal

The Dark Isle has been a refuge for evil since time began in the world of Winatuke, and the most depraved and wicked of them all is the witch-queen, Mahara, who rules over the malignant kingdom of darkness.
Mahara has taken a captive, a prince of the Nimway people, and she plans to use him for the revenge that burns in her soul. By forcing her own daughter, Isadore, into marriage with Prince Gabriel, she hopes to gain the power she craves over the Nimway—especially her ex-lover and Isadore’s father, Raven.
Her scheme goes awry when love begins to grow between Isadore and Gabriel. Isadore realizes the only way to save Gabriel is for them to escape together, but at the last minute, that plan fails. Separated from Gabriel,  Isadore is forced to continue to the Nimway kingdom of Valmora alone to seek help from her mother’s enemies.
Once Isadore gains their trust, Gabriel’s brother, Raphael, volunteers to travel to present-day Earth to get help. To save his brother, he must bring Raven back to the world of Winatuke, and ask him to risk his own life in the battle against Mahara’s evil forces.
It seems an impossible task. How can they ever defeat Mahara? With the evil forces she can summon at will, it seems Gabriel’s life will be forfeit. But Isadore refuses to allow that, risking her own life to save him. Forced to follow her heart, Isadore wonders if she can ever win her father’s trust or Gabriel’s love. She only knows she must defeat her mother’s evil vendetta for all time. No matter the consequences she must vanquish THE WITCH-QUEEN

A Restless Knight (Dragons of Challon Book 1) by Deborah Macgillivray

Had the music stopped, or had she just ceased to hear it? All she could do was stare into the dragon green eyes. Drown in them. This man was her destiny. Nothing else mattered. He removed the netting from her grasp and then dropped it.

Shaking, Challon took her face in both hands. The hunger in his eyes rippled, tangible. So strong, it nearly robbed her of breath. With a need, tempered with reverence, he took her mouth with his. Lightly at first. Then deeper, more desperate, more demanding. The primitive male desire to mate unleashed. Beneath it all was his need for her—in ways she knew he did not begin to understand.

She smiled. He would.

Lost in the power, Tamlyn was not aware of the hundreds of other people around them or their celebrating. To her, the world stood still, narrowed, until there was nothing but the star-filled night.

And Challon.

“Deborah writes as if she’s been in Medieval Scotland and can somehow, magically, take you back there with her to stand amidst the heather and mist of another time. This is breathtakingly beautiful, award caliber writing.” — New York Times bestselling author, Lynsay Sands.

Big Meadows Valentine (Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 Book 1) by Zina Abbott

Some men left the civilized settlements of the east to risk life and limb in the lawless gold and silver mines of California and Nevada for wealth. Beth Dodd left behind her little sister and the civilized farming region of southern Ohio that she loved to travel to those same gold and silver regions in search for her scalawag of a husband who deserted her. In Lundy, Beth finds rancher named Val Caldwell with a heart bigger than all the gold in the Mono County mountains of the eastern Sierra-Nevada. She stays, knowing she has a responsibility to settle affairs with her husband. But, having lost almost everything she valued due to the decisions forced upon her first by her father and then by her husband, can she ever again trust a man to have any degree of influence or control over her life?

Bitter over laws that favor men over women and determined to start a new life for herself and her sister on her own terms and through her own efforts, Beth resists the attraction she feels towards Val. Can Val make any headway in his quest to persuade Beth to consider a future with him someday?

The Crow and the Coyote (The Crow Series Book 1) by Kristy McCaffrey

In Arizona Territory, Hannah Dobbin travels through CaƱon de Chelly, home to the Navajo, in search of a sorcerer who murdered her pa. Only when she retrieves the silver cross taken from her father's corpse will she be able to free her pa's spirit, and allow him to be at peace.

Bounty hunter Jack Boggs—known as Crow—is on the trail of a vile Mexican bandito when he discovers Hannah and her companion, a superstitious old Navajo woman. He knows he must protect them, but with the shadows of Hallowtide descending, more dark magic is at hand than any of them know.

A Heart on Hold (An Everlasting Heart Book 1) by Sara Barnard

Charlotte Adamsland is separated from her husband, Sanderson Redding, the day after their marriage. A captain in the Confederate Army, Sanderson must return to his unit, leaving Charlotte alone on their Arkansas homestead to fend for herself. Yankees camp around the town of Altrose, bringing their own kind of lawless danger. And then, one dark day, a Southern soldier arrives with terrible news…Sanderson has been killed trying to escape a Yankee prison.

Sanderson has found salvation and hell in a single turn of events he could never have imagined—his much-younger brother, Jackson, is his Yankee guard. When Jackson’s cruel commanding officer learns of the brothers’ family ties, he devises a wicked plan to see them both dead. Jackson is determined to get his brother to safety—but a last-minute betrayal by another prisoner could be the death of both brothers.

Charlotte can’t accept the news of Sanderson’s death—he promised to come back to her. She heads north armed with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her love home—one way or the other. Will she be able to rescue him? Or will her love remained locked forever in A HEART ON HOLD…

Prince Charming Wore Spurs (Indigo Springs 1) by Nan O’Berry

Fairy tales do exist—just ask Gillian Malone!

When rancher Logan Malone drags his feet on finding love, his five-year-old daughter, Gillian, persuades a local matchmaker to help her find a new mother.

Enter Delaney Holmes, a Washington socialite fleeing from the press after being left at the altar. Swearing off men, she takes the job as a nanny to a precocious five-year-old in a backwoods Texas town called Indigo Springs.

But Logan Malone is a six-foot cowboy hero complete with white hat and a swagger that puts John Wayne to shame. Can he put away the ghost of Gillian's mother to follow the rules of the Fairy Tale Code in order to win Delaney's heart? Or will Delaney's secret past keep him from proposing?

With true love at stake, there’s only one thing for sure—in this real life fairy tale, PRINCE CHARMING WORE SPURS—and it’s going to take some powerful magic to ensure a “happily ever after” ending!

For the Love of Mike (Men of Maine) by Diana Tobin

Michaela Sparks left her hometown years ago to prove herself. When a good friend, Nancy, is killed in a terrible car accident that leaves Nancy’s two daughters motherless, Michaela marries their father. Now, circumstances have brought her full-circle, back to the small town of Webster with her two adopted daughters—and the hope for a brand new start for all of them.

Ethan Reigh is the new coach of the Webster Wolves junior hockey team. New in town, he rents a room from Michaela’s mother, Nettie Baxter. Though an injury ended his pro career in the NHL, he never shares the extent of what’s happened—the partial loss of his leg. When he meets Michaela, known as “Mike” to her friends, he’s torn between hope for a wonderful new relationship—and fear of losing her if she knows the truth.

But Mike has had enough of deception to last a lifetime, and she knows there can be no love without truth. Will she measure up and be able to claim the man she so desperately wants a future with? Ethan is prepared to show her how much he cares—he’ll do whatever it takes FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE.

Texas Jeopardy: A Texas Ranger James C. Blawcyzk Novel by James J. Griffin

Texas Ranger Jim Blawcyzk lands in hot water when he kills a drug dealer in a shoot-out between the Rangers and a gang of modern day outlaws deep in the heart of Texas. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg as he uncovers the criminal connection between these same drug dealers and a slew of murders taking place across several Texas counties.

When the hit men come after him and his family, they get more than they ever bargained for—the fight is on, and Jim Blawcyzk is one Ranger who is determined to get his man, or die trying.

As a deadly shooter chases his wife, mother, and baby son through city streets, Jim takes the battle to him in the most personal way he can. A Texas Ranger to the bone, Jim Blawcyzk vows to protect and defend his family, friends, and beloved home at any cost, in this deadly TEXAS JEOPARDY…