About the author:
Canadian writer Chad Strong has been around horses most of his life, riding western on rugged trails and in small amateur horse shows. His first novel, High Stakes, is a western historical romance set in Victoria, BC on Canada’s west coast, where he lived for many years. Currently he lives in southern Ontario with his wife and their three dogs and four cats. Welcome, Chad!
Lyn, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m happy to share my experience as a contributor to Rawhide ʼn Roses (A Western Romance Anthology.)
I came to be part of this project rather serendipitously. In May 2012 I had just published my first novel, High Stakes, a western historical romance, through Musa Publishing, and was searching for ways to promote it when I stumbled upon a group of writers having some interesting conversations on an Amazon forum dedicated to western historical romances. I discovered these ladies to be friendly, intelligent, dedicated to their craft – and very supportive of each other.
When the anthology was first proposed I immediately saw the potential to be part of something great. I’ve published several short stories across different genres, and was intrigued by the challenge this anthology presented. Writing short stories is in many ways even more demanding than writing novels – distilling a completeness of character and situation into just a few pages is daunting. The authors contributing to this anthology are all very talented, their stories diverse, and I’m grateful to be included in this collection.
My approach to writing for the anthology began with an idea for a young adult story in a contemporary setting with which I was familiar. Stable Hands, Stable Hearts grew out of my love for horses and for living life with them.
Stable Hands, Stable hearts
by Chad Strong
17-year old Scott is all set to win his first Hi-Point trophy at the last horse show of the year. But when he thinks he spots the girl of his dreams, will his feelings for her distract him from winning?
The announcer called something over the loudspeaker, startling Scott back to the present. His heart still pounding, he noticed his shallow breathing and moist palms and knew they were not show-ring jitters.
The class was Western Equitation. Scott settled Dakota into a walk along the rail well behind the horse in front of him. He breathed deep and slow, trying to relax — he didn’t need his nerves upsetting Dakota. But he had to know if it was Jenny. He hadn’t seen her since last summer, nearly a year ago. Why hadn’t he heard from her in the past three weeks? The last she’d said her family was moving nearer her dad’s new job so she might not be able to write much.
He signaled his horse to perform the judge’s requested gait changes, reverses, and other maneuvers, trying not to blow the class. If it wasn’t her, he could be allowing himself to be distracted by a complete stranger.
Finally the judge instructed them to all line up, facing him, in the center of the arena. Scott swung Dakota in alongside the other competitors. The judge asked them to back their horses. Scott remembered to keep a smile on his face.
A few moments later, the announcer’s voice came over the PA:
“In First Place, Novice Western Equitation, Number 14, Scott Archer, Riding Dakota Raider!”
His eyes searching the trailer area, it wasn’t until Scott heard his own name that he snapped back to the ring. His heart swelled in his chest and he patted Dakota’s neck as he squeezed him forward to receive their blue ribbon. “Way to go, buddy,” he said.
Thanking the girl who passed him their ribbon, he exited the ring and rode toward the trailers. Weaving through the crowd of spectators, competitors, and horses, he halted Dakota with a quick intake of breath. It was his Jenny! And she was looking right at him!
But standing with his back to Scott and his hand on Jenny’s shoulder was a guy he’d never mistake – Derek. Derek pivoted to see what Jenny was looking at and scowled. Was this why she’d stopped writing? Because she’d come back to be with Derek and didn’t want to tell him?
Rawhide ʼn Roses will be released on March 15, 2014. Meanwhile, you might like to try Chad’s exciting novel, High Stakes.
Nominated by the Western Fictioneers for their Best First Western Novel of 2012 Peacemaker Award, High Stakes is a compelling tale with the grit of a western and the allure of a romance.
Young gambler Curt Prescott returns home to Victoria, BC after a three-month poker circuit on the mainland. A new “Moral Action Committee” has sprung up in his absence. Headed by the wife of the new preacher, the committee threatens to cast out all soiled doves and gamblers from the city.
Curt meets the new preacher, “Bud” Andrews, Bud’s shrewish wife, Sarah, and their idealistic daughter, Mary. Bud seeks to convert Curt while Curt plans to destroy the committee, even if it means seducing Mary to shame the family. Pressures mount for Curt as he tries to help his young constable friend keep the peace with a notorious lowlife, while at the same time trying to ease his jealous girlfriend Del’s insecurities. As Curt falls in love with Mary, the battle for his lifestyle becomes a battle of life and death, and of love lost and found.
Mary grasped Curt’s arm. “This is wonderful. I’m having such a good time.”
“I’m glad.” He took the hand that grasped his sleeve and knitted their fingers together. Mary smiled and squeezed his hand. He felt that tingling sensation again.
They walked another half-mile to a place where the banks were less steep and the trees fell away for a small grassy meadow. The sun was high in the western sky and warmed them the instant they stepped into the open. The meadow was still surrounded by dense forest, still very private.
“Shall we sit awhile?” Curt asked her.
She nodded and they sank down onto the thick, soft grass, facing the creek. Mary drew a deep breath of the sweet spring air and hugged her up drawn knees.
“Feeling better?” he asked, leaning on his left hand and propping his right elbow on his right knee.
“Yes, much.” She smiled at him. “I feel as free as a bird.”
“I’m glad.” He beckoned her eyes with his. “I’m enjoying myself too, Mary. I really enjoy being with you.”
She blushed, and bit on her lower lip.
He chuckled softly. “I wish you didn’t embarrass so easily. It makes it hard for me to tell you how pretty you look sitting there, with the sun shining in your hair.”
The intensity of his stare drew her eyes to his and locked them there. He lifted his hand and touched her hair. She stiffened, and held herself frozen. He leaned over the inches between them and placed a soft kiss on her temple. He heard her sharp intake of breath.
“Are you afraid of me, Mary?” he asked, his breath fanning her ear.
“N-no. That’s silly.” She hugged her knees tighter.
He dipped his head and placed another kiss on her cheek. Her eyes ran away from his. “Mary. Mary, look at me.”
She bit on her lip again, then released it as she met his eyes once again. Holding her captive with only his gaze, he pressed a brief, warm kiss to her lips. She stiffened again, holding her breath, and did not exhale even after he’d drawn away. He cupped her cheek with his palm to keep her face toward him.
“That was nice,” he said softly.
She shivered, at last breathing out, and he sensed that one more kiss would send her running from him. He sat back but held her hand firmly in his. He could feel her anxiety in her rigid fingers. Gently, he stroked them, until at last she relaxed and met his eyes once again. There was uncertainty in them, a little fear, too, but there was also a small spark of awakened desire. He believed she was as close to wanting a man as she’d ever come. In time, she would want him beyond all reason, and she would surrender to him. And the spark he saw made him wonder if there was more passion hidden beneath her shy, quiet exterior than he had so far given her credit for. He was definitely going to find out.
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