Friday, April 28, 2017

How Much Social Commentary Should Historical Romances Include?

Most people pick up a fiction book to be entertained and escape into another world for a few hours. They want to think of the problems wrestled with by others. Even if the reader isn’t looking to specifically learn anything new, the author can use the vehicle of the novel to provide information that leads the reader to further reflection on a topic. Of course, the details have to be subtle, or the author risks the reader setting aside the book due to a lecturing tone. Novels written about events in the current times cannot escape containing bits of social commentary, because the author sets obstacles familiar to contemporary readers before his or her characters and guides them through the problem-solving process.  

Historical authors may have the same goal but have to research what situations were ongoing in the time period being written about. Culture clashes have existed since the first peoples moved out from their secular group to explore what was beyond that next hill or across the nearby stream and encountered those from another area. In the settling of the American West, one of the biggest clashes came over grazing rights and, by default, water rights. Although the grazing lands were public, because sheep eat the grass down almost to dirt level, insufficient forage was left behind after a herd moved through an area. This issue put the cattle ranchers and sheep herders on opposing sides, and often violence resulted. Over the fifty-year period starting in 1870, 120 armed engagements occurred resulting in the deaths of 54 men and between 50,000 and 100,000 sheep.

Even within the cattle industry, different views about who had rights to the public grazing lands existed. The conflict between free grazers and a powerful rancher was depicted in the 2004 movie, Open Range, starring Kevin Costner, Annette Benning, and Robert Duvall.

I used this well-known animosity between cattlemen and sheepherders for building a recent story set in 1887 Aspen. Similarly, other writers have used the theme of Romeo and Juliet or the feud of the Hatfield and McCoys as the spine of their stories. Another goal in my story planning was to relay that those with opposing habits might also possess unique skills that could prove helpful if a person looked past the prejudice.

As with many of my stories, I also included a comedic layer to counter-balance the serious elements. In this case, dogs served that role, and I contrasted the highly trained shepherding dogs owned by the heroine with the rambunctious dogs owned by the hero.

Is learning about social attitudes of past times one of the reasons you read historical romances? (an electronic copy of my Christmas set novella goes to a random pick of one of the people leaving a comment)

BLURB for Silent Signals:

After losing half his herd in the Great Blizzard of 1886, rancher Konrad Werner needs to safeguard his cattle. Tomboy Anora Huxley trains the Australian Shepherds and Kelpies that run the family’s sheep herd. Although cattlemen and shepherds are at odds, the pair discovers common interests. A threat is overheard, and Konrad rides out to Anora’s ranch to protect her. The tense situation reveals their true feelings. Will Anora be swayed by family loyalty, or will she listen to her heart that responds to Konrad’s silent signals?
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Donkeys, Burros, and Mules ~ Oh My!

In the old west, one of the most used beasts of burden was the donkey. Also known as the burro and ass. I always wondered what was the difference between the them. Well, none.  The donkey has over 185 breeds worldwide. So a burro is a small donkey.

You can hardly picture a miner without his trusty sidekick burro beside him.

Mules are the result of a cross between a donkey and a horse. Specifically a male donkey with a female horse. A female donkey and a male horse result in a hinny.

Mules are typically sterile, but there have been a few who have had offspring.  Horses have 64 chromosomes and donkeys 62 while mules split the difference with 63. And seem to pick the best of both their parents traits.

The result ~ mules are sturdier and hardier than horses and were desired for the wagon trains going west. While a horse will work itself to death, a mule will not. A good trait but it has earned them the characteristic of stubbornness

The west was mined, scouted, and tamed on the backs of donkeys and mules. They hauled freight and families. Let's applaud the lowly donkey and mule.

~~~~~ Hope you enjoyed the information.  Hee Haw 
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pony Express - From St. Joseph to Sacramento

I've always had a fascination with the mail service. I have three generations of my family in the US Postal Service, and spent my afternoons after school at one station or another waiting for my mom or dad to finish work.And one day I sat in the ladies locker room and typed out a story on the typewriter on a discarded desk. So, I guess you could say that I started my path to publication in the backroom of a post office.

The Pony Express was a valiant idea, one that came out the amazing period of growth in America. The time it took for mail and packages to traverse from the Mississippi River to the West Coast was time consuming and could be unreliable. So when Russell, Majors, and Waddell created the Express, it was a step between freight wagons and the train which hadn't quite reached across the states and territories.

From St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California - Home stations and Swing stations popped up, linking towns of all sizes with mail and news from loved ones and businesses back east. And when it started the Pony Express could deliver mail in ten days!

The stations were located from 5 to 20 miles apart, keeping the wear and tear on their horses to a minimum. There were a few breeds and types of horses used along the trail. From East to West, you'd see Morgan ponies, and then in the middle of the trail there would be Pinto ponies, and finally on the Western part of the trail Mustangs. And like the varieties of horses, the express hired a number of men to ride the trails. Men who came from all walks of life, but they needed to be young, thin, and good riders.
The route would change from time to time over the length of the express and not all of the original stations continued in operation throughout the length of the express.

But they knew it wasn't going to be easy, not when they advertised for riders "Orphans Preferred." These men made history! And when the telegraph stretched across the land, the Express riders knew that their jobs were coming to an end. Communication continued on, and the West and East of North America came that much closer and would continue to come closer as time, transportation, and technology continually changed daily life for people in the mid to late 1800s.

(the picture on the right is of a Pony Express saddle and the saddle cover made of leather with pockets for the mail, called a mochila. The wooden saddles were light, made to spare the horses from additional weight, it was the leather covers that were laid over the saddles that would be taken from one horse to another at the different stations.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blog Tour Tuesday - ALWAYS, RANSOM by: Reina Torres

Today Blog Tour Tuesday features 
Always, Ransom - 
Book 1 of Three Rivers Express Series 
by Reina Torres

About Always, Ransom:

The Express took men and rode them hard across the West. That adventuring spirit belonged to men full of life, ready for whatever met them on the trail, everything, except for love. 

Ransom McCain was the last man hired to ride for the Three Rivers station, but he was chosen to take the first ride west because he could think on his feet. Tensions are high because there are people determined to make the express fail, and little does Ransom know that he would fall for a woman caught in the crossfire.

Delia Burroughs is a young woman with plenty of heart and the strength of spirit to help her family survive in the West. But one by one they’ve left until it’s just Delia and her father. His grief and struggles may make it impossible for her to leave and make a family of her own. When she met Ransom, she knew she’d found a man she could love, but forces are determined to take her new home from her and perhaps her chance at real love.

Ransom and Delia will have to decide if what’s happening between them is something they want to fight for, or will they let themselves be pulled apart by the danger they’re both facing.

The Three Rivers Express Series is a set of Sweet Western Historical Romance which will be written alternately by Reina Torres and Nan O’Berry 

Starting with the Spring of 1860 when the Pony Express began their service of mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California, each of the Three Rivers Express books will take on a new season and a different rider. 

Spring 1860 - “Always, Ransom” by: Reina Torres
Summer 1860 - “Always, Clay” by: Nan O'Berry
Fall 1860 - “Always, Wyeth” by: Reina Torres
Winter 1860 - “Always, Stone” by: Nan O'Berry

Ride the trails with our intrepid heroes and heartwarming heroines of the town of Three Rivers, Wyoming

You may purchase Always, Ransom 

Chapter One:

It was the first day of spring and the riders had been up from an hour before dawn seeing to preparations for the meeting. Levi Hawkins, the Station Master for Three Rivers had been on the porch of the bunkhouse waiting for them to stumble out into the darkness with a list of the final chores in his hands. He gave the first set of marching orders to Ransom as he was always the first to step up, and beside him was Clay Adams, an inch thinner than Ransom but an inch taller in height.
That meeting had been a few hours earlier and now, Ransom gladly set the last of the chairs in place in the first row of the church. The long wooden benches that always occupied the tidy building were enough for the normal crowd of residents, but today it would be site of a meeting that involved nearly fifty people,  who were coming in from miles around the town and they needed every available inch of the building to fit them all, including borrowing some chairs from the General Store and Levi’s own, leaving his dining room and living area nearly bare.
Stretching to ease the dull ache in his back, Ransom McCain lifted his head and rubbed the back of his hand over his brow. Even in the early morning chill, it was easy enough to work up a sweat given all the work they’d had to do. He caught Clay’s eye and gave him a nod. “Almost done?”
Clay shook his head and turned around, heading outside into the warm dawn, and coming back a moment later with a chair that looked like the legs had been cobbled together from several different chairs, each turned leg had its own unique pattern. “Just this one left and we’re done.” Setting the chair into place with a satisfied nod of his head, Clayton looked up and nodded. “Now I’m done.”
Ransom dug the paper list out of his vest pocket and ran his eyes over the penciled marks before he folded it back up and tucked it away. “And we’ve finished the list.”
He made his way through the sea of chairs to his friend’s side and together they made their way back outside. The church sat at the end of town, almost like a sign marker that proclaimed civilization in the middle of the vast expanse of land that was Wyoming. From the front steps of the church, you could see all the way down the main street, all the way down past the General Store, the bath house, and both saloons that called Three Rivers home. And even now, with the sun’s rays warming the ground and rousing the normal residents, there were a number of wagons and riders on horseback entering the town.
Beside him, Clay blew out a long whistle. “There’s still one thing we need to do.”
Ransom looked at his friend and shook his head. “The list is done, remember?”
Clay’s smile was just a shade under a grin. “Levi’s not the only one in charge.”
“Oh,” the truth of his words hit Ransom square in the chest, “that’s right. Mrs. Hawkins.”
The two shared a look and dashed off across the street between a pair of riders who were entering town on an easy lope. With a wave from Ransom, they made their way through the maze of corrals and fences and into the bunkhouse with laughter shaking at their shoulders. Both men snatched up the bundles of clothes that they’d left out on their bunks that morning and took off again across the dusty street.
Standing just inside the door of the bath house was Jeb Miller, an older man with an easy manner and a sharp razor. He was currently at work on Levi himself, laid out in the barber’s chair with a froth of white across one cheek.
“Nice to see you boys again.”
Ransom smiled at the sight before him and tread carefully into the room. “Good to see you, Mr. Miller. Sorry to rush in like that.”
Clay set his bundle down on a counter. “We wanted to beat the rush and a get a head start on Mrs. Hawkins’ rolls for breakfast.”
Levi chuckled in the chair and Jeb had to lift his razor away from the man’s cheek. “Well, I’m sure my wife will be happy to know she inspired your behavior even if it took her baking to do it.”
Jeb clucked like a mother hen. “Now hold still, Levi, I’ve got work to do.” He tossed some words over his shoulder as he cleaned his razor. “Go ahead into the other room. I’ve two baths drawn up and ready. You’ll get first dibs on the hot water.”
Well that’s all it took to get the boys moving. Even though they were full grown men, the prospect of a tub full of hot steaming water all to themselves was enough to prod them into action.


Delia Burroughs sat beside her father on the front seat of the wagon and tried to ignore the pinched expression in his face as she gathered her shawl about her shoulders. “I’m sure they kept room for us at the Livery, Pa.”
The only answer was a swift crack of the reins and grumble from the man beside her.
Earlier that morning, her father had been full of excitement for the day ahead. He was old friends with Levi Hawkins, the Station Master at Three Rivers, and if truth be told, the reason why her father was manning the swing station just a few miles outside of town. But when her father had gone outside he’d found that not only had his son hitched the wagon for the trip into town, but he’d also saddled his own horse and had packed his saddle bags to the hilt.
Delia hadn’t heard the beginning of the conversation, but she had heard the end of it. James had made his feelings quite clear and while her father had stood there, glaring at his son, his hands fisted at his sides, she knew the confrontation had hurt him deeply.
She could hear it in the shuffle of his steps on the kitchen floor as he’d rummaged through the cabinets and she’d heard it in the hollow thud of the empty bottle as it had fallen from his fingers before he’d emerged again from the house.
But she had no way of fixing it then, for James had already ridden off down the road, leaving the both of them behind.
Even though that had been several hours before she knew her father was still struggling to deal with the loss.
“I’ll help you, Pa.” She sat on the seat, grimacing as the wagon hit a rut and continued on. “I can saddle the horses. I can brush them down and feed them.” She tried to catch his eye, but he wouldn’t meet her gaze. “You taught me how.”
“I taught you to saddle a pony,” he scoffed at her words, leaning further over the reins as if it would make the horse move faster, “you can feed them, and muck out stalls, but these are Morgans, Delia. They’re strong and most of them half broke. They want them for speed. You’re not used to that. You’ll get caught up in the reins and break your neck.”
She heard the venom in his words and shrank back from the cold cut of his voice, but she refused to cower. She kept her back ramrod straight as they continued on, but she closed her mouth and kept it closed for the rest of the trip. There was no reason to utter a word. She smelled the stiff crawl of alcohol on his breath and knew that if she pushed him anymore, he’d likely seek out more in town. She’d done her level best to hide the stuff and dispose of it when her father was gone from home. But she always seemed to find another bottle when he’d return.
At least on this trip into town, she knew her father would be there with Levi at the meeting and then they would have supper with the Hawkins family. With luck, they’d return early from the meeting, now that James was gone. There would be more work to do and two less hands to do it.
A stiff wind blew sideways across the trail and her father’s shoulders rose to block the wind from his neck where the sliver of skin was exposed above his collar. Beside him on the bench, Delia felt the wind go straight through her like a knife. She had her mother’s old woolen jacket that she’d managed to cut down to size, but even with that added layer, the wind was vicious and felt like needles prickling against her skin.

When they were within sight of the town, Delia let out an audible sound of relief and she saw her father turn toward her. She flinched, her hand grasping at her skirts, not because she was afraid of him, but because she didn’t want to hurt him any more than he’d already been hurt.
“I’m sorry, Del.” Hearing him call her the childhood nickname he’d given her was another pang of pain in her heart. “I’m sorry for this morning.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Pa.” She struggled to give him a smile and ease the tension between them. “You weren’t expecting James to leave.”
The wagon rumbled on, slowing when a horse rode in from the south and pushed in front of their path. “He didn’t say anything ahead of time, but I suppose I should have seen it coming.”
Delia wanted to nod and agree, but she kept still and quiet. James and her father had been growing apart since her mother passed on a few years before.
“He didn’t want to live there. He didn’t want to be so far away from everything.”
“We’re not so far away,” she added in, eager to make things better for him, “it didn’t take us long to come into town, even with the wagon.”
Her father nodded and he whistled, turning the horse’s ears back. With a tug on the reins, the gelding ambled toward the livery barn on the left. “Still, it wasn’t what he wanted, so I guess letting him go was for the best.”
There was so much more that Delia would have wanted to say, but none of it would have made a difference to her father. “You’ll not breathe a word of this, Del.” He didn’t sound angry. Her father sounded desperate. “If they ask where James is, you tell them he stayed behind.”
She nodded. And when he narrowed his gaze at her, his eyes glittering with intense pain, she opened her mouth and told him what he wanted to hear. “He stayed behind.”
Her father’s expression eased like a cramp, a rush of a grin across his lips caught her off guard and when he brought the gelding to a stop at the door of the barn, she wasn’t ready for the sudden stop and nearly pitched forward off the seat.
“Whoa there.” A soft voice caught her attention and her hand as she reached out to steady herself. “Careful now.”
Turning to see her rescuer, she was taken aback. The man at her side was a stranger to her. “Thank you,” she felt her chest constrict beneath her corset, the bite of the stays eased up as she drew in a breath.
“You don’t want to fall from there.”
She looked down from his face to the ground and nodded, feeling like a silly goose. She knew precisely how high she was from the ground. She’d been climbing in and out of the wagon for years. But sitting there, her hand in his, gazing down into the face of the man who’d sprung into action to keep her from pitching forward from the bench, she was suddenly unsure of herself.
She tried to draw her hand away, but he held on. His hold wasn’t painful, but she questioned his touch with her eyes and a curious curve to her brow.
He answered with a soft chuckle and slight bow of his head. “I might as well help you down if you were planning to get out of the wagon. Since I already have your hand.”
She blushed and felt the heat tickle her skin from her cheeks to her ears. And that’s when she wanted to take her hand back, only to bury her face in both of them and hide until the awkward moment was over. She turned to her side, hoping that her father would help, but he was already climbing down from the wagon, deep into conversation with Levi Hawkins.
“I can assure you,” he turned her head with his humor-laced tone, “that you can trust me to help you down.”
“I trust you,” she began and her mind took a moment to catch up to the words she’d sputtered at him, “I’m just not sure I trust myself.”
Picking up her reticule from where she’d tucked it under her skirts, she stood, keeping a hold of his hand as she stepped down onto a runner. Her second foot followed the first and with an indrawn breath she felt herself lifted down to the ground. She felt her skirts swirl around their legs, coming to a stop in one direction and roll back in the other as she covered his hands with her own.
“Thank you,” she repeated the words she’d spoken earlier and found that she meant them in more ways than one. She felt safe with his hands upon her waist. And when she looked up into his eyes she felt a subtle confusion sweep through her. He was pleasant enough to look at, but that wasn’t anything new to her. Working at a stage depot brought her into contact with a number of men, from all walks of life, but this man, the way he looked at her made her feel as if the ground beneath her feet moved, as if the ground beneath them was alive. “Goodness.”
He smiled at the sound of her voice. “I-”
“Olivia?” Turning toward the much beloved voice, Delia felt herself cast adrift again, reaching out with her hands to find purchase. And stepped into the embrace of Olivia Hawkins.
The two women laughed and pulled the other closer into each other’s arms. With their eyes squeezed shut they turned around in a whirling circle. “Oh, thank goodness you came.”
Delia heard the joy in Olivia’s voice and found herself clutching the other woman closer, missing the maternal affection that Mrs. Hawkins always seemed to have in excess. “I wanted to see you again, so very much.”
“Well, we shall have all day together, Delia, but-” Olivia stopped short, releasing one arm from her embrace and turning Delia back toward the wagon, “I should introduce you to one of our riders.”
Delia saw the same young man standing there and smiled at him. Of course he was one of the riders. Nearly every man in town that she didn’t recognize was likely to be employed by Russell, Majors, & Waddell, either was a rider or a livestock tender or like her father, tasked with maintaining one of the swing stations.
Olivia waved him closer and stepped between the two. “Delia Burroughs, I would like to introduce, Ransom McCain.”
Delia watched as the man bent slightly at the waist, lowering his head for a moment before standing to meet her gaze again . It was a gesture that told her he had manners. And it was the ease of his movement that told her his manners had been ingrained in him for quite some time. But it was the soft look in his eyes that had her near breathless.
He had quite simply stolen her heart.
“Miss Burroughs,” his voice was deep, deeper than she had expected. He was smaller in stature than her brother. Even from his place a few feet away, she knew that he was only a few inches taller than her, and that was just fine. “I'm pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Mister McCain, was it?” She heard her tone and knew she'd put in a little lilt at the end just for his benefit.
And when he nodded, she ignored the pointed look from Olivia at her side.
“Pleased to meet you as well. Have you been in Wyoming long?”
His smile broadened and he twisted his neck slightly as if his collar had tightened about his neck. “No, miss. I haven't been here more than a month or two. And in Three Rivers no more than half that.”
“Well,” she lifted her chin and gave him her best smile, “you are welcome. I’m sure you’ll do well here.” She turned and nodded at Olivia as she struggled to ease the hitch in her breathing. “The Hawkins family is the best in these parts. They’ll take good care of you if you do the same for them.”
She could see Olivia’s face flush with healthy color as she took her hand.
“If it wasn't for them,” Delia felt a knot form in her throat, “we wouldn't be here today.” And with that unexpected admission, Delia felt her lungs gasp for air. She turned away from the look of concern in Ransom’s eyes, and even the thought of his name made the sensation worse. What had made her say such things in front of him. How silly or needy must he see her now?
The worry rolled over her like a rush of heat and she gave Olivia’s hand a squeeze as her stomach threatened to rebel. “I'm sorry, Olivia dear, I am not feeling quite well.”
Delia saw Ransom step closer to her and she sighed with relief when Olivia took hold of her arm and pulled her closer and into her own side.
“You must be freezing. It can't have been that warm when you left the station. Come,” she drew Delia along with her toward the house, “Ransom will care for the horses. We’ll get you inside and before the stove to warm you up.”
Delia gave her a grateful smile and walked beside her to the gate. It was only when they paused for Olivia to lift the latch that Delia spared a look back toward the barn and found Ransom hard at work, removing the harness on their horse, his hands moving in a careful methodical manner, and she could tell by the way he bent over the horse, his head turned toward the old gelding’s ear, that he was talking to him.
The gentle gesture was one that she knew she wouldn't soon forget, nor was her heart likely to make it easy for her as it seemed to swell deep within her chest.
“He's a good man, Delia.”
She heard the soft laughter in Olivia’s voice and turned to look at the kind woman beside her. “Of course. I doubt Levi would hire anyone who wasn’t.” She followed Olivia through the gate and paused while Olivia set the latch again. “And I owe you both for helping Pa with the job at the station.”
Olivia took her by the arm and gave her hand a pat. “Levi recommended your father for the job because he has faith in him. We both have faith in him. You’ve all had your struggles since your mother passed, and we were happy to give your father a chance to continue doing what he was meant to do.”
They climbed the steps to the porch together and Olivia held the door open for her younger friend.
“And perhaps you were meant to be here as well. With friends who consider you as one of the family.”
Delia found herself wrapped in the embrace of Olivia’s daughter, Anna. “Oh, goodness!”
“It’s been so long since we’ve seen you!”
Delia marveled at the change in the young girl who was less than a year younger than her brother. In just the last few months, little Anna had sprouted up like a wildflower. Her long hair, which, like her delicate features, marked her as Olivia’s daughter, was dressed in long braids that trailed down her back. With a soft sigh, Delia brushed the wisps of hair back from Anna’s temples. “Too long, my friend, but we are together again.”

The ache in Delia’s middle eased as she was drawn easily into the rush of gentle emotions that surrounded her and thanked her lucky stars that she still had such wonderful friends who loved her as much as she loved them.

About Reina Torres:

Love - Romance - Books

Aren't they all the same thing?

Oh, I sure hope so! 

I've been reading romance books for what seems like forever. When I was a teen, the days that I wasn't in dance class after school I'd go to the mall to wait for my mom to finish work for the day and my haunt of choice... Waldenbooks. (I think I just showed my age there.)

Whether it was Scottish Lairds, Medieval Knights, Regency Gents, Rough and Tumble Cowboys, or handsome modern Heroes, I loved them all! There was always another hero and heroine to follow through page after page of breathless love!

I really hope that my readers will enjoy some of the same thrills as discover characters to love between the pages of my books.

Connect with Reina Torres:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fascinating Facts about Fragrance Or Stinky romance of the Old West

Recently, on a Facebook group that I frequent, we had a discussion on things that bother readers. A few readers mentioned how it bothered them that authors constantly refer to a man’s scent. And how, if we are historically accurate, they wouldn’t have smelled that nice or WORSE, if we are historically accurate, the smell of horse might not be that pleasant.
Now, this may come as a surprise, but this is actually a question I can speak to! I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and one of the things I studied was sensation and perception. Not only that, I’ve actually experienced the phenomenon in my own life (and so have you). So, here we go. Let’s dial our time machine back to the year 1880 and get a noseful!

Have you ever walked into a veterinary clinic or into a barn? You probably noticed that the smell about knocked you off your feet at first, but after a few minutes, you barely noticed it at all, unless you focused on it. Our brains were designed that way! Scent is a way to let us experience our surroundings. This hasn’t changed. The first scent you take of a place warns you or warms you, depending on where you are, but fades fairly quickly, so that your other senses can do their jobs.
We find the smell of body odor offensive and so would people 1880. However, we put our own 21st century spin on it when we assume that the experience would be the same. It wouldn’t. If you actually traveled back in time, the smell would bowl you over just like if you walked into a barn today. People then, wouldn’t have noticed body odor as stringently as we do now by virtue of the fact that it was commonplace. They didn’t use deodorant and their diets were much different than ours, creating different scents. Not only that, it would’ve been rare for a man or woman in the west to not smell (at least some of the time) like horse. That smell was probably so prevalent that, for the most part, it went unnoticed.

Romance writer’s use all the senses to pull readers into their stories, but in the case of smells, being historically accurate can cause a problem. It is pretty difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone from that time period. The fact is, tooth powders didn’t do what our own minty toothpaste does, talc did little other than keep you slightly drier than without, even soap wasn’t heavily scented like it is now, and bathing wasn’t something people did every day. Yet, the population kept on rising.
So, next time you read a romance and the hero smells like leather and hay, remember, to your heroine, that scent means he’s a full-blooded man who works hard. And let’s face it, that’s attractive no matter the date.

Kari Trumbo is an inspirational romance author, blogger and proud home schooling mother to four great kids. She interacts often on reader groups on Facebook and volunteers at the local library when needed. When she isn’t writing, she is obsessively reading and expanding her skills as a wordsmith. Kari lives in her great-grandfather’s remodeled 1890-built home in central Minnesota with her husband, children, cats, and one hungry wood stove. You can find her at

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Arkansas Valley and the Lake County War

As Colorado moved toward statehood, there were many starts and stops along the way. Many were the men who wanted statehood, but where starts and stops along the way. One such man was Charles Nachtrieb. His story follows the quest for statehood and the growing pains the Arkansas Valley, Lake County which was later divided into Lake and Chaffee County. One such episode in the journey was what became known as the Lake County War. Here then is the story.

The Lake County War, was full of vigilantes, traveling preachers, judges, criminals and chaos. To this day the true story isn't fully known. Into this mix was Charles Nachtrieb, early settler in the area between what are now the towns of Buena Vista and Salida. While I knew of the Lake County War, I was unaware of Nachtrieb and his part in the story until research on his daughter, Dr. Josephine Dunlop, brought him to my attention.

Mr. Nachtreib, born April 20, 1833 in Germany, arrived in the Lake County area around 1859. He was a candidate from Lake County to the convention to admit Colorado as a state in 1865, which was approved by the voters. Although a constitution was adopted, President Andrew Johnson rejected the petition in 1866. (Colorado was not admitted as a state until 1876, becoming known as the Centennial State)

In addition to having a business along with being postmaster in Nathrop, Colorado, Nachtrieb also owned land in Gunnison County, located just west over the pass from Nathrop, where his large ranch was located. (Nathrop is an Anglicized version of Nachtrieb). He is also credited with having the first grist mill west of the Mississippi. An old school in Nathrop.

In 1879, Nachtrieb, along with Otto Mears and Issac Gothelf filed articles of incorporation with the state for the Poncho (Poncha), Marshall and Gunnison toll road which would run over the mountains and into Gunnison county. The toll road was expected to cost twenty-five thousand dollars and run from Poncha Creek in Chaffee County to the Gunnison River. Apparently there was a verbal agreement between Mears and Nachtrieb that Mears would build from the Gunnison side to the top of Poncha Pass and Nachtrieb would build from the Lake County side. This arrangement came about as a result of Nachtrieb's grist mill and the farming, especially wheat. this was coupled with the fact of higher prices being paid for flour in places like Oro City and other mining communities in the area. 
Mount Ouray from the north side of Poncha Pass, U.S. 285

On October 3, 1881, according to newspapers of the time, a man named Burt (Bert) Remington shot and killed Nachtrieb in his store. Some reports say Remington was a disgruntled former employee of Nachtrieb. Remington escaped after the shooting and the search was on. On Thursday October 6, 1881, Governor Pitkin issue a proclamation and offered a reward of $300 dollars for the arrest of Remington. Nachtrieb was forty-nine at the time of his death.

How does the Lake County War fit into all of this?

In 1874 Elijah Gibbs and George Harrington quarreled over property, fencing and water. About fifteen days later, one of Harrington's outbuildings was set of fire and when he went to deal with the blaze he was shot and killed. Due to the quarrel Gibbs had with Harrington, he was the prime suspect. Tempers and gossip fueled the flames over the killing and soon Gibbs was marked for a lynching. Cooler heads prevailed and Gibbs, along with his hired hand were bound over for trial. With emotions running so high, the venue for the trial was changed to Denver. There Gibbs and his hired hand McClish were found not guilty. McClish left the area, but Gibbs returned to his home in Lake County (Now part of Chaffee County).

It appeared things had to return to normal, but in January of 1875 the vigilantes got a warrant for assault, for the first quarrel between Gibbs and Harrington, and went after Gibbs. Gibbs, along with others made a run over South Park, down Ute pass and ended up in Colorado City, a town just west of the new town of Colorado Springs. The sheriff secured warrants and followed the men to Denver.  Gibbs and his cohorts were allowed by the sheriff to stay, due to implied lynching stories put out by the papers in Denver.

At the end of January of that same year the Committee of Safety organized in response to Gibbs and the Regulators he was purported to be a part of. This Safety committee, composed of most of the prominent men in the region, including Nachtrieb, intended to rid Lake County of all suspected murderers, cattle thieves, land grabbers and any other undesirables. In following through with their agenda, the flames grew greater. Anyone coming into the area was questioned, and if they were determined to be 'undesirable' they were asked to leave. One of the men questioned was Judge Elias Dyer, son of the itinerant preacher 'Father' Dyer. He took exception to being told to resign, when he told his inquisitors he believed Gibbs was not guilty. Dyer returned to the area and while holding court was shot and killed. There were those who said Dyer, by his actions, brought about his own demise, while others said the opposite.

Judge Dyer, in writing his thoughts in the matter, indicated that the man who killed Charles Nachtrieb was the nephew of Mr. Harrington, the man whose murder started the whole affair. To this day, the who, whats and wherefores are hidden in time and memories. Story after story offers conflicting information. In the end, was Charles Nachtrieb killed over 'wages' or the 'war'. We may never know. The Lake County War, a year long, impacted the lives of so many. Like the death of Charles Nachtrieb, we may never know the whole true story.

What I've shared is just a small part of the story of Charles Nachtrieb and the Lake County War. For more on the War, the book by Don and Jean Griswold, “History of Leadville and Lake County Colorado” is a good place to start. There is additional information by Gayle Gresham, whose great great grandfather was also involved, in the book “Rush to the Rockies” published by the PPLD as part of the Regional History Series.

Colorado, while a beautiful state, had many rough times on its journey to the place we now know. Perhaps this story will help to understand the history that made it part of the Wild West.

Doris McCraw who also writes under the name Angela Raines is an Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women's History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blog Tour Tuesday--Baling Wire Promises by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Healer Fantine Pomeroy and five children, aged five to eleven years, are the only survivors of an orphanage fire. She vows to transport them safely to another orphanage, and then she can return to her music studies. But she soon discovers the task may be more than she can handle.

Bounty hunter Pete Andrews is beaten after delivering his last bounty. Unsure if robbery or retaliation is the motive, he sets out to lay low and make a visit to his brother in Morgan’s Crossing. Unable to leave them on their own, he promises to get the woman and children safely to the next town. When he suspects his old life has followed him and threatens the group who has become dear, he vows to protect them. But will that be enough?
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As she got closer to the orphanage, she heard panicked screams from the second floor. The awful cries stayed her feet but only for a moment. Spitting sounds came from the roof as the roaring flames consumed the dry cedar shingles. Fantine ran around the side of the building, looking to see if the sisters had gathered near one of the windows and lowered an escape rope made from tied bedsheets. Nothing. No one.

Biting back a cry, she charged up the front steps and reached for the doorknob but the radiant heat kept her from grabbing it. “Sisters, where are you?” She turned toward the town that lay at least a furlong away. No time remained for her to run in that direction. “Help! Fire! The orphanage is on fire!” Through the front window, she saw the staircase was fully engulfed and sobbed at the devastation she witnessed. The fire must have started on the first floor and climbed.

A form sprawled at the edge of the classroom, a book and candlestick lying nearby. Flames ate at the blonde woman’s clothing.

Oh, Sister Philippa. Fantine pressed a hand over her mouth at the horrifying sight.

On the kitchen side of the house, an upstairs window slammed upward. “Fantine! We’re trapped.”

Trapped? What was the sister saying? Fantine scrambled over the porch railing and jumped into the flower beds before running along the wall. “I’m here.”

Coughing, Sister Catherine leaned over the ledge and tossed down a metal box. “Take the records.” With jerky moves, she wrestled a ribbon from around her neck. “And the key.”

Fantine caught the scratched box and set it on the ground, then reached up and snagged the loop of ribbon. Remembering the flaming staircase, she searched her mind for another escape. No outside stairs had ever been built. A big mistake. Her heart lodged in her throat. “No, you must find a way.”

We’ve tried. Staircase is gone.” Sister Catherine pressed the crook of her arm to her face.

“I saw, but you could tie the sheets together.” Tears burned her eyes. Everything was happening so fast. She couldn’t think straight. She paced, craning her neck to keep Sister Catherine in sight. Smoke surrounded the sister’s head and crept along the wall toward the roof. “Or dangle the children from the window, so I can catch them.” Fantine stopped and held out her arms like a cradle.

“Smoke is too thick. Many already dead.” She glanced toward the room and pulled the neckline of her nightgown over her mouth. “Go to Virginia City…to Sister Lourdes.”

“No, Sister.” Fantine stood, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Hang from the window ledge and drop. Please, save yourself.”

“Promise…take children…to other orphanage.” She bent over in a fit of coughing.

Don’t give up. “All right, I promise to deliver them to safety.” She stretched her arms high, waiting for the sister to reappear, but her vigil was in vain. Long minutes passed.

Finally, the horrible truth sank in. Fantine dropped to the ground, arms wrapped around her middle, and rocked back and forth. Stunned, she could only whisper, “Can’t be happening, can’t be.” They were all gone. The four caring and devoted sisters who’d run the orphanage, and thirteen sweet, lovable children who would never grow to adulthood. “No, no, no.” Tightness gripped her chest and she could barely breathe. Fantine leaned forward and pounded her fists on the ground. Sorrow threatened to flatten her, and she keened, loud and long. When her throat was raw, she staggered to her feet and grabbed the box. The other children, I must see to them. I promised.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Behind the Book ~ Gloria's Song

by Kathryn Albright

What do the famous songwriters Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, George M. Cohen, Cole Port, Jerome Kern, and Scott Joplin all have in common with my latest story, Gloria's Song?

They all found their way to Tin Pan Alley during their musical careers.

Tin Pan Alley, NYC (Wikimedia CC)
Now days, music popularity is determined by how many times a song is streamed from the internet. Back before CDs and vinyl records, a songs popularity was determined by how many sheet music copies it sold.  From 1880 until 1953, Tin Pan Alley was the absolute center of the sheet music publishing industry in New York City. It was located on West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

When vaudeville singers would perform in NYC, they would often stop by Tin Pan Alley to find new songs for their acts. Musicians, Broadway singers, songwriters, and song pluggers found their way to Tin Pan Alley. Song pluggers were pianists and singers who were hired by the publishing company to familiarize the public with new songs and hopefully make the song a hit. George Gershwin got his start as a song plugger.

Gloria's Song is set in 1889. At that time, the popular songs coming out of Tin Pan Alley were ballads or comic novelty songs. These are the types of songs Colin McDougal, my character was trying to write. "Where Did You Get That Hat?" was a popular song of the day and one that I mention in my story.

Colin McDougal helps manage a tavern in a small town along the Potomac River. He has a knack for playing the piano and can play a tune easily after only hearing it once. He brings in a lot of business to his family-owned tavern, but secretly he hopes that one day, one of the songs he composes, will make it big on Tin Pan Alley.

At the same time, the growing piano-making industry likely gave song publishers a boost in sales. Several large furniture factories moved into the piano-making business and suddenly upright grand pianos became affordable for the middle class. It became the epitome of "class" to have a piano in your home and if you had a daughter, for her to learn to play.

Gloria, in my story, is such a daughter from the upper class. Outside of Tin Pan Alley, the popularity of classics and romantic music continued strong. Romantic composers wrote between 1815 and 1910. I envisioned some fun scenes between Gloria and Colin that incorporated their clash of music types.

One last thing that sparked my interest in writing Gloria's Song...  As some of you may know, I dedicated this book to my mother and I set the story on the Potamac River where my mother's family originates. My mother took years and  years of piano lessons and is a marvelous pianist, yet she has often remarked how her sister can sit right down and play anything at all simply by sight-reading it. To be able to "sight-read" something means that you can play it quite well without any practice. That was the seed of the idea for my story, Gloria's Song.

And now you know!

You can find Gloria's Song in ebook and paperback HERE and all the other wonderful stories of Grandmother's Wedding Quilts HERE.

Gloria Palmer has always done the proper thing expected of her as the daughter of a shipping tycoon. The approval of her family and friends mean everything. And yet, when the perfect suitor offers for her… she hesitates.

Colin McDougal has little use for those living on the fancy side of the trolley tracks. He’s too busy managing the family pub and, in his spare time, writing down the lively tunes in his head. So, when Miss Palmer asks for his help to prepare for a music audition, he is flummoxed. What does he know of highbrow music?

But with each practice session, their feelings for each other grow. When it comes time for Gloria to make a choice between what is proper and what she desires, will she realize that if music can cross class lines—and the trolley tracks in town—perhaps it can also harmonize two hearts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweets of Yesterday

by Shanna Hatfield

Due to the fact I have a huge sweet tooth, I often incorporate candy into the stories I write. 
(Blame it on my dad who gave me candy on a daily basis when I was a kid...)

It's not uncommon to read a historical story and happen upon a character enjoying a peppermint, lemon drop, candy stick, chewing gum, or perhaps a licorice whip.

I thought it might be fun to highlight a few other vintage candies...

In my current work in progress, a young man returns to his home in the West after spending several years studying back east. He brings with him a pocket full of Tootsie Rolls to share with his family, who enjoy this new and tasty treat.

Tootsie Rolls
In 1896, Leo Hirschfield invented the Tootsie Roll and named it for his daughter, Tootsie. His new hand-rolled candy sold for one penny. By 1905, the candy production moved to a four-story New York City candy manufacturing plant and deliveries were made by horse and buggy.

Jelly beans
Legend has it that jelly beans are a combination of the soft Middle Eastern treat called Turkish Delight (around for thousands of years) and the hard candy shell of Jordan Almonds (popular since the 17th century). An early (uncomfirmed) reference to jelly beans comes from Boston candy maker William Schrafft. Supposedly, he urged people to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Jelly beans did in fact become wide-spread in America by the turn of the century and sold with other penny candies. It wasn’t until the 1930s that jelly beans became firmly entrenched as a must-have for Easter. (Although chocolate bunnies earn top ranking as Americas favorite Easter candy.)

Although the origin of the gumdrop remains a mystery, the term first appeared in print in 1860. The candy was described as a soft gelatin-based candy that stretched like rubber when pulled. Some manufacturers also used a potato-based less stretchy method of producing the sweet at a lower cost. The candy became quite popular at the end of the 19th century. Ohio candy manufacturer Percy Truesdell is credited with developing the modern gumdrop in 1915.

NECCO Wafers
During my years growing up on a farm, I can’t think of a time when my dad didn’t have a roll of these candies around. He most often kept a handful of them in his shirt pocket, but they could be found in his pickup, the tractors, and sometimes even a stash of them in the shop. 

A young English immigrant by the name of Oliver Chase invented the first American candy cutting machine in 1847- for lozenges. He and his brother Silas Edwin founded Chase and Co., which became the pioneer member of the New England Confectionery Company family. NECCO wafers were originally formulated to give Union solders a burst of energy during the American Civil War. They reportedly worked so well, they were still included in military rations during World War II. The classic product contained 40 wafers in a roll with eight original flavors: lemon, lime, orange, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, wintergreen, and clove.

Whitman Sampler
Stephen F. Whitman, a 19-year-old Quaker, set up a small "confectionery and fruiterer shoppe" near the Philadelphia waterfront in 1842. He included exotic ingredients brought to him by well-traveled sailors and his candies quickly gained renown across the Northeast. Aware that presentation could be as important to selling his chocolates as the taste, he created beautiful packaging and advertised his sweets. Whitman’s Chocolates became a familiar name through advertisements in newspapers and magazines as early as 1857. His business thrived and expanded. In 1869, Horace Whitman replaced his father as president of the company. He introduced America to cellophane packaging - an astounding material that kept candy fresh, colorful, and clean. By 1907, “better” drug stores carried the boxes of candy on their shelves. In 1911, Walter Sharp took over as president and developed the Whitman's Sampler®, an assortment of the company's best-selling chocolates. Inspired by a cross-stitched sampler hanging in his home, Sharp worked with an employee to create the sampler that's reproduced on Sampler boxes to this day. By 1915, the Sampler had become America's best-selling box of chocolates.

Hershey’s Chocolates
Candy manufacturer Milton Hershey made the decision to try adding chocolate coating to his caramels in 1894. Calling this new enterprise the Hershey Chocolate Company, the company began producing milk chocolate in bars, wafers and other shapes in 1900. With mass production, Hershey was able to lower the per-unit cost and make milk chocolate, once a luxury item for the wealthy, affordable to all. In 1907, the company produced a flat-bottomed, conical milk chocolate candy that Mr. Hershey named Hershey’s Kisses Chocolates. At first, they were individually wrapped in little squares of silver foil, but in 1921 machine wrapping took over that job. Hershey provided milk chocolate bars to American doughboys in the first war. By the end of World War II, more than a billion Ration D bars had been produced and the company had earned no less than five Army-Navy “E” Production Awards for its exceptional contributions to the war effort. In fact, the company’s machine shop even turned out parts for the Navy’s anti-aircraft guns.

 The beginnings of lollipops go all the way back to the stone age when sticks were inserted into hives and the honey was eaten from the sticks. Fast forward to the 17th century when sugar became more plentiful. The English enjoyed boiled sugar candy treats, inserted on sticks to make it easier to eat. The word lollipop first appeared in print in 1784, referring to a sweet in general, not specifically candy on a stick. Even Charles Dickens included the term in his writings. Reportedly, the term “lolly pop” literally means “tongue slap.” The word for “tongue” is “lolly” in Northern England and “pop” means “slap.” It is thought London street vendors coined this term as they peddled the treat. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, supposedly the ends of pencils were dipped in candy for children to enjoy while they wrote. (It wasn't until 1858 that pencils were manufactured with erasers on the end). Around the turn of the century, the Bradley Smith Company, the McAviney Candy Company, and the Racine Confectionery Machine Company were all manufacturing candy on sticks. It wasn’t until 1931 when the Bradley Smith Company patented the name “lollipop” for their version of candy on a stick.

What's your favorite Easter candy?  Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
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