Every Monday and Thursday for the next few weeks I will be posting a new article about western romances. Joining me in this project are several fantastic authors and readers. We will share with you our reasons for loving western romance and pass along some of the genre’s storied history. Each author will blog about a different topic, such as influential western romance authors, researching historical details, the various types of western romance, and more. Please tell your friends about this special event. And now here’s Jody!
Why Westerns? by Jody – A Dedicated Reader
In the world of romance novels one can escape to virtually any time period or culture, but when I’m in the mood for a good romance I almost always go with a western. Why? What causes me to bypass pirates, knights, governesses and European lords? Why do I favor gunslingers and bounty hunters, mail-order brides and ranchers, and heroic lawmen of the American west?
My upbringing has a lot to do with it. I was born of parents who loved rural living, horses and rodeo. My father even wanted to name me Cody, a favorite name among rodeo cowboys, but my mother couldn’t stand it. They compromised, naming me “Jody” – with a “y.”
Most parents rock their children to sleep in a chair; mine used a horse. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in front of my father as he walked his bay up and down the dirt road by our house. The motion of the horse always put me to sleep.
My mother barrel raced and rode her horse in parades. My father and his two brothers competed professionally in many rodeos. Dad was a bronco-buster while my uncles rode bulls. They also competed in “Silver Dollar Events,” named for the prize money paid in silver dollars. My dad was especially good at a race where a man on foot is “picked up” by a rider on a galloping horse. Dad always managed to grab hold of the saddle and swing himself up behind the rider as the horse raced by.
When I was five my father became a police officer and we moved into a suburb. We never again lived in the country, but Dad continued to rodeo until his late twenties, and he dressed western all his life. He was buried in his favorite boots, and we placed his best Stetson in his hands.
Although I grew up in a suburb, I spent every summer at my grandparent’s 20-acre farm. My grandfather refused to keep horses, but he seemed to have every other farm animal as well as acres of vegetables and alfalfa. Work never seemed to stop on the farm, but I loved every minute of it.
Without doubt, the love of a western lifestyle is in my blood. I gravitate toward romances that reflect my early roots — roots I am attempting to return to now that I live in the cowboy state of Arizona. Here, no one looks twice if I’m wearing my Justin boots in Costco. Anywhere I go I can count on seeing someone else besides me in a snap shirt and Wranglers.
Moreover, I’m surrounded by some of the richest history of the West. Forty miles from where I sit the Lost Dutchman’s gold still waits to be discovered. An hour’s drive east and I am in the land of Geronimo and Cochise, who waged war upon hapless settlers and the cavalry of Fort Apache. Two hours south I can stand in the O.K. Corral or visit the Clanton brothers’ headstones at Boot Hill. When I read one of the many western romances set in Arizona, there’s a familiarity that hits home.
Western romances are the story of us. They reflect the endurance and fortitude of our pioneer forefathers in our country’s not-so-distant past. I have a passion for American history – especially the eras of westward expansion. The men and women who pushed farther and farther west, seeking a place for themselves and settling the frontier, were like no others in world history. They were strong individuals who had to rely on themselves to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles that, invariably, stood in their way. Romances set in the Old West offer portraits of such people – fascinating literary characters who must problem solve their obstacles in order to obtain their happy-ever-after (HEA) ending. Or, in a sense, their American dream, which is something we still seek today.
I also love western romances because they are a reflection of my own real-life love story. You don’t see too many Vikings, buccaneers or knights in armor these days, but it’s still possible to meet a cowboy. I met mine 31 years ago. We had a whirlwind courtship, marrying three months after we met. Our first year together was filled with impervious obstacles rivaling those in any romance novel I’ve ever read. This isn’t the time or place to expand on them, but suffice it to say we endured, overcame and are still living our own HEA.
I guess I’ve taken the long way to explain that western romances are really just an extension of myself. When I open a western novel I see my police officer father in the sheriff. The ranch in the story suddenly looks a lot like my grandfather’s farm (which really did start out as a homestead). When I swoon over the literary hero, he suddenly begins to take on the persona of my own flesh-and-blood hero. Finally, when I close the cover of my latest novel I do it knowing that “happily ever after” doesn’t just happen in books. We can live as good as they read.
So, you western authors, keep writing! I promise I’ll be here reading.