Guest author Suzie Grant still believes in happily-ever-after, and after growing up reading classic adventures like Treasure Island and Gone With The Wind, and watching westerns like Gunsmoke, Lonesome Dove, and Bonanza, Suzie knew what she wanted to do with her life. She lives happily ever after with her new beau, three boys and one little Shitzhu named Peppy Le’Pew in NC. From Castles to cowboys there’s something thrilling on every page of her books. 


Stetsons, Colts and Wranglers, Oh My …

Western Romance authors then & now

By Suzie Grant 


A little over a hundred years ago the market was saturated with Dime novels where the lonely cowboy rode off into the sunset. And then in 1902 Owen Wilson published The Virginian, a lone, chivalrous cowboy who rights wrongs, a romance, and a final gunfight became the standard for the formula Western for the next century.

With the release of The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, an Avon single title romance paperback, the face of the romance genre changed forever.

clip_image004Rosemary Roger’s, Sweet Savage Love was released in 1974 and carved out a niche for the American western romance in the industry. She is considered to be one of the founders of the modern historical romance. Every night for a year, Rogers worked to perfect a manuscript that she had written as a child, rewriting it twenty-four times. When her teenage daughter found the manuscript in a drawer, she encouraged her mother to send the manuscript to Avon, which quickly purchased the novel.

clip_image006LaVyrle Spencer worked as a teacher’s aide at Osseo Junior High School. In her thirties, she read Kathleen Woodiwiss‘s novel “The Flame and Flower”, which gave her the idea to become a novelist. She decided to try transferring to paper a recurring dream she was having about a story based on her grandmother’s lifestyle on a Minnesota farm. Her story became her first manuscript, The Fulfillment, and she sent it to Kathleen Woodiwiss. The bestselling author read the novel and promptly mailed it to her own editor at Avon. The editor purchased the novel, which was published in 1979.

Spenser was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame in 1988. She wrote 23 sweet historical and contemporary novels. Published around the world, her works included 12 New York Times Bestsellers, and she has won four RITA Awards, 3 Golden Medallion Award and a Minnesota Book Awards. LaVyrle said: “the trademark of my books is mending relationships.”

Linda Howard came on the scene in the early eighties and helped build the genre to what it is today. She cut her teeth on Margaret Mitchell, Robert Ruark, “and aclip_image008nything else that fell into my hands,” she says. Whether she is reading them or writing them, books have long played a profound role in Linda’s life. Linda wrote her first book when she was 10 years old. “Needless to say, it was unpublishable,” she says. “It didn’t even have a title.”

She continued to write fiction, concentrating on romantic stories. “I get bored with politics and murder and mayhem,” she says. She eventually worked up the courage to submit a manuscript for publication. “It made me sick literally, physically ill. It was like putting your naked baby into the mailbox. And I lost 20 pounds waiting to hear from them. I couldn’t eat.” Linda needn’t have worried. Silhouette Books bought her manuscript, beginning a career that has lasted years and earned her many awards and letters of praise from adoring fans. She has over 10 million books in print around the world, and has written more than 25 titles.

Western romances grew in popularity over the years. The setting itself is by definition uncivilized and a breeding ground for romantic conflict. Authors like Johanna Lindsey, Diana Palmer, Kat Martin, Elizabeth Lowell tamed the Wild West with overbearing heroes and spunky heroines and created the genre that we now, know and love.

Westerns, romance in general, has evolved dramatically over the years but we should always be proud of where we came from. And looking back on these old titles while researching this project, I realized how little we’ve documented about our progress through the years. It was very difficult to find a “history of the western romance” and hopefully someday that will change.clip_image010

Some of my favorite titles were Johanna Lindsey’s Savage Thunder and Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series. I can still remember the way my heart fluttered and how much I hated for the story to end.

Today the genre has a solid and steady audience, and while we’ve lost the limelight, we still carry the torch. There’s something romantic and enduring about a western, a sense of pride in our heritage and an elusive quality of a dying breed. The wide open spaces are as compelling today as they were then, the ideals of old and the tip of a cowboy’s hat at a lady are all things that mark this genre as unique and beautiful. I don’t think any other genre will ever capture my heart the way westerns have, and hopefully years from now readers will still feel that sense of pride in claiming this genre as “ours.”

Looking back through our genre’s history may bring us together but looking ahead into our future, you can rest assured knowing that the cowboy legend will endure both time and trends.

When all the others die out or fall by the wayside, you can bet there will always be westerns available to read. With authors like Jodi Thomas, Georgina Gentry, Leigh Greenwood, Bobbi Smith, Patty Jager and so many more that I would have a hard time remembering them all, who keep this genre alive and breathing. I take a moment to tip my hat to those, past and present, for keeping the American dream in our hearts. May we always have pride in our heritage and a western in our hands.                                 

15 comments on “Western Romance, The Story of Us Part III

  1. Carry a torch, indeed we will, Suzie, and your well-written article explains why! Like the others who have commented, your listings of all those favorite westerns makes me want to dust them off and reread them. As for those of you who haven’t read any of the greats, you’ve got some catching up to do! What we need is a new TV western series, maybe another epic movie like “Dances With The Wolves” to stir a new generation of viewers and promote a renewed interest in the history and romance of the Old West.


  2. Is it any wonder we are so much alike??? I read these same books and feel in love with the genre. Your blog was excellent!



  3. Olivia Kelly

    This is such an interesting blog, since I have never been one to read Westerns and now I am intrigued! I have heard of some of these books, but never read them, so I guess I should get to my library and grab a couple. I know they are not technically Westerns, but I think the closest I have gotten is reading Lisa Klepas’s Texas based series. They are sort of the epitome of the modern Texas cowboy, if he was obscenely rich, that is. The men sort of fit my image of a cowboy, though- rough, manly men who don’t take crap off anyone and are overwhelmingly sexy and physically tough and (of course) muscled like a god. Maybe a trip to Texas is in order…. ;D


    • texasdruids

      Olivia, you wouldn’t want to visit Texas right now. We are in the middle of the worst drought in the 25 years I’ve lived here. I’d do a rain dance if I knew how!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the Western Romance series. Westerns are in my blood, and I’m out to make some converts. I hope you will be one of them. Hugs, Lyn


    • Thanks for stopping by Erin and Olivia! I would agree, waiting to travel to texas until the fall might be a better idea lol. Poor Lyn, she’s roasting down there. I have not read Lisa Kleyas’s Texas based series but I think I’m going to check it out. Thanks Olivia!


  4. One of these days I *have* to read The Flame and the Flower. I loved many of these authors, having spent many a night devouring their books. Thanks for reminding me of some of my old favorites – I need to reread some of them someday soon 🙂


    • texasdruids

      Me too, Erin! Susie has me craving some of those old faves. Thanks for visiting us here.


  5. Wow. It is fascinating how these books came about. The Flame and the Flower is one of my all time favorites. I think I need to get it off the bookshelf (it was a keeper) dust it of and read it again.


    • texasdruids

      Amy, thanks for stopping by. The flame and the Flower is one of my faves too. In fact I love all of Woodiwiss’s early books. Some of the later ones, not so much, but I still read them because she wrote them.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Amy. I haven’t read that book in years. I’m not even sure I still have it. We’ve moved so much over the years I seem to have lost quite a few books. Maybe it’s time to do a search, I’ll bet it’ll be a collector’s item soon.


  6. Btw, if we can more than ten commenters I’ll give away a free copy of The Devil’s Daughter. Let’s see how many people we can get to join us here! I love a challenge! lol


  7. texasdruids

    Suzie, it’s my pleasure! You wrote a terrific blog article. It has already received comments on my blogger site. If you have a couple minutes, you might want to reply. Lyn


  8. Pingback: Western Romance, The Story of Us Part III | Lyn Horner's Texas Druids | Partner Connection

  9. Thanks for having me here, Lyn! I’ve loved all the blogs so far. Looking forward to the rest of the series.


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