Krista, thanks for having me on A Passion for Romance today. I first fell in love with the romance genre back in the sixties when gothic romances were all the rage, devouring everything written by Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. While I loved all the elements of those stories, I was often annoyed with the weepy, needy heroines.
I much prefer spunky heroines—women who are stronger than they ever thought possible. Women who turn adversities into advantages. Women like I see around me every day.
For over fifty years I’ve read and studied romance. Noted the changes in the genre and the way authors tackle these transformations. Back in the sixties and the seventies, when the hero threatened to spank the heroine, we thought it degrading. Now it’s kinky. Witness the millions who have read Fifty Shades.
Years ago, readers were offered no heat ratings. Sex was never mentioned. A kiss was described as a “crush of lips” and typically saved for the final scene. In my debut book, Storm’s Interlude, the first kiss took place in the opening scene—and for the storyline, it worked.
Now we know romances can run the gamut from sweet to erotic. There are literally stories for every taste. I read them all because, for me, it’s the yin and yang, the push and pull, the attraction and detraction of the couple that appeal to me. And if the author’s able to put some humor into the mix, I am especially happy because I feel romance should be fun, too.
A few days ago, my historical romance, A MAN FOR ANNALEE, released from Still Moments Publishing. Set in a fictional town in Wyoming in 1871, this “sweet” novella is full of lovable, quirky characters. It is also the story of a woman who has lost everything in the Great Fire of Chicago, except her spirit. And it is her spunky, often wacky spirit that serves her well.
Annalee has come to a small town where there are very few single women, and the men are all determined to win Annalee’s favor. Boone Hartwell, the town’s marshal, is determined to win her hand…but so are a few others.
“Ideas, is it?” Her hands fisted on her hips. “Just what kind of ideas are you speaking of? ‘Cause I’ll have you know I’m a graduate of Miss Feather’s Finishing School for Refined Ladies of Culture and Proper Decorum.”
Levi squirmed and studied the tops of his boots. “Honest, Miss Annalee, I meant no disrespect. I meant it as a compliment.”
They both turned at the sound of more horses coming up the dirt lane. “Now, who?” Annalee turned on her heel and headed for the steps. Outside another buckboard rolled to a stop. “Who are you?”
A dark-haired young man jumped down and gave a lecherous grin. “No, darlin’, who are you?”
How Boone got to her side so quickly, Annalee didn’t know, but his normally jovial voice was steely serious. “You’d do well to show the lady some respect, Clarence Stoner.”
Clarence’s hands clenched and unclenched a few times. “Meant no harm.”
“I know you’re used to dealing with the soiled doves at the Red Garter, but Annalee here is a lady.” A muscle in Boone’s cheek twitched, his displeasure obvious.
Clarence smiled when he stepped forward. “Annalee, is it?”
“Yes. Annalee Gallagher.”
“Well, I owe you an apology, misspeaking like I did. But you is a purty lady, and I gots me a powerful weakness fer purty ladies.” He shot Boone a glance when he heard him growl. “My father and I run Stoner and Son’s Mercantile. I’m here to deliver things old man Tanner ordered when he heard you was a comin’. And if anything don’t meet with your approval, you just let ole Clarence know. I do aim to please.”
His smarmy smile made her skin crawl. “How did you know I’d be here today? How did Levi know?” She turned to Boone.
“Word spreads, Annalee. I mentioned it when I rented the buggy to bring you and Cora here today.”
“I see.” She walked to the buckboard and peeked under the protective canvas at a green velvet settee and matching chair. “I don’t believe it!” She reached out to touch the plush upholstery. Two pretty kerosene lamps with green bases also caught her eye. A gasp escaped her lips. “A tallcase clock. What fine-looking wood! I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!” This was better than Christmas morning. She ran to the rear of the buckboard, throwing back the canvas. “Look! A brass tub for bathing!”
Clarence sauntered over next to her. “Yeah, I figure you oughta look real…” Before he could finish, Boone had him by the scruff of the neck.
“Either you tame that tongue of yours, or I’ll take out your teeth.” He shook Clarence. “I warned you about talking to her like that.”
Clarence broke free of Boone’s grasp. “What’s wrong with you? You’re as touchy as a thumb what’s been mashed by a hammer.” He narrowed his eyes at Boone. “You layin’ claim to her yourself?”
The muscle twitched in Boone’s cheek again. His steely gaze stayed glued to Clarence, and his voice was low when he spoke. “Annalee, go inside.”
If this man thought she was going to miss one word of this conversation, he really was a clabber-headed fool. “No.”
He gave her a quick glance. “Do what I say, now.”
She folded her arms at her chest. “I listen to no man. I’ve been my own boss for years now.”
When Clarence guffawed, Boone scowled at him. “I’m telling you for your own good, Annalee, go inside.”
Levi stepped into the conversation. “The lady said she listens to no man. I figure that means you, too, Boonie. You and me is good friends and all, but a lady’s vishes come first.”
Three Fingers hurried around Levi to stand in front of Boone. “Yeah, let my woman be.” His lips peeled back in a snarl, revealing two blackened teeth.
Boone’s eyes nearly bugged out when he yelled, “Your woman?”
“That’s right. You a-heard me and what’cha gonna do about it?” He raised his fists.
To her surprise, Three Fingers threw a punch. Suddenly, all four men started fighting. They hit, kicked, elbowed, grunted, groaned, cussed and rolled around in the dirt. A flurry of eight arms and legs stirred a dust storm. All the while, Nugget, circled the fracas, barking and growling.
A brawl! And it was over her. “Stop! Stop it, I say!” When her shouted pleas went unheeded, she stormed up the steps.
Cora stood on the porch wringing her hands. “Oh dear, oh dear! Whatever shall we do?”
Annalee stormed by Cora, madder than a hornet in a Mason jar. “I’ll show you what I’m gonna do.” She marched into the kitchen and Cora followed. Reaching for a large pot hanging from a peg, she went to the pump. “Get that other pot over there. We’ll fill them both.”
“Then I’m going to show them who’s boss on this piece of land.”
Both women carried their heavy water-filled pots to the brawling gang of hooligans. “When I count to three, toss your water on ‘em. And try to get as much on Three Fingers as you can. He smells like he hasn’t bathed since Lincoln was President.”
“Oh dear, what will Franklin say when he hears about this?”
“You’ll just have to handle him like you always do. Ready? One…two…three.” Both ladies threw the cold water onto the men.
Screams and curses punctured the air. The men stood, staggered and sputtered. Boone shook the water from his hair. “Wha…?”
“Not one word, Boone. Do you hear me? You and the rest of these lackwits need to get off my property.”
She tossed her pot into the dirt. “Cora, I’m ready to go, if you are.”
Annalee marched to the buggy, crawled into it, and leaned over to pull the older woman onto the seat next to her. She picked up the reigns and slapped them against the horses’ backs. Before the team of horses had gone twenty feet, she pulled them to a halt, turned, and sticking two fingers in her mouth, whistled for Nugget. Boone’s dog immediately ran and jumped onto the back seat. With a toss of her head, she drove away leaving four wet, hardheaded men in her dust.
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