The Great Western Drive: Gnawin’ Bones

Friday, August 21, 2009 10:00
Posted in category Guests and Events

Great Western DriveOur three blog hosts cum Western Romance experts have taken the time to tell you a little more about their thoughts and feelings concerning this beloved genre of theirs. So sit back and have fun with these ladies as they answer the same questions from their very differing points of view!

Sybil in Sybil-ese:

GREAT WESTERN DRIVE: What was the first western romance you ever read?

SYBIL: No clue. Whirlwind Bride by Debra Cowan is the first western I see reviewed on TGTBTU on 3/14/05, but was nowhere near my first western. Or my first Harlequin Historical. I want to say prolly Nicole Jordan’s The Outlaw or Elizabeth Lowell’s Winter Fire, which lead to the Only Series (Winter Fire is still my FAVE and the only series ROCKS).

BUT back when I read trash (I say that with so much love and why I am confused to this day why romance is called ‘trash’), but from 13 to early 20s (I slowed down around 17 cuz I was verra busy causing trouble, uh I mean working), in between reading all of V.C Andrews, Sidney Sheldon, Daniele Steele, Jackie Collins I read a western romance. All I recall, it’s a cover with a bathtub type thing (barrel like) with the outlaw behind her. She was kidnapped. And uh… that is just about it… This is the time to I read Glitter Baby by SEP.

Shadowheart

I always say my first romance was Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale because that is when my OCD blogness started. When I went searching for like minded people, found Maili’s blog and AAR. It is when I started my blogspot and blah blah blah (I warned you I ramble, yes?) AND didn’t figure out until after I was blogging for a few years? that Glitter Baby was THE SEP. So I still don’t really ‘count’ that nameless book.

GWD: Do you have a favorite western romance author?

SYBIL: I have favorites I like to bitch about *g*. No longer writing westerns but SHOULD BE faves would be Susan Kay Law, Maureen McKade, and Dana Ransom.

GWD: How about a favorite western hero? Heroine?

SYBIL: Oh I suck at this type of question, can I phone a friend?

GWD: When reading, what do you look for in the perfect cowboy?

SYBIL: Oh holy hell, these questions were put together while I was dealing with the website cuz yuck. I will go with K and W gave amazing answers and point you to them. [Ed. you could try, Syb!]

GWD: And the perfect cowgirl to go with that cowboy?

SYBIL: Someone who can hold their own…

GWD: How do you know when you’re reading a bad western romance? Are they any signs?

SYBIL: The author takes the idea that alpha means abuses, demeaning, or assholish. But oddly I can read and LOVE Elizabeth Lowell’s old westerns. For some reason they don’t trip my switch as being ‘too much.’

If the characters all sound like they are in 2009, I can’t read that, or if the cheese is just too fantastic. The whole drama over Cassie Edwards was odd to me because her writing seems like such a bad joke, I was not at all surprised it was copy and paste.

GWD: What’s the one thing that will really turn off you when reading a western romance?

SYBIL: LOL the above

GWD: How do you know when you’re reading a good Western

SYBIL: LOL I make it through the first few chapters without a headache from rolling my eyes.

GWD: Is there one Western that stands out above all others?

Ride the Fire

SYBIL: Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare. There is something about a book that opens with a man pointing a gun at a very pregnant woman demanding she doctor him and she gets the upper hand in the first few chapters.

GWD: Who is the Western Author who no longer writes them that you miss the most?

SYBIL: Oops, I answered this, huh? Did I miss anyone? Lorraine Heath REALLY should come back as well as Patrica Potter

GWD: Why do you think westerns have seen such an ebb and flow over the years?

SYBIL: I think it is totally about glitz and glam. People think west and think of the work, sweat, work, bawdy women, work and go ewwwww I want that pretty, pretty, pretty Regency book. Waltz me baby, which is all well and good, but people tend to forget a lot of the Regency history in those books are painted with the same romance brush as westerns.

Personally I don’t ‘put myself’ into the shoes of the heroine. I don’t want to fall in love with the hero as much as I want to fall in love with the love story. And some of my themes lend themselves so well to westerns – Second Chance stories, Road Romances, ‘Cabin Romances.’ People also forget America had a lot of money and glam in the East, so some of those ‘westerns’ can give them both things. They even have virgins in the west… honest.


Ramblin’ Kristie J:

GWD: What was the first western romance you ever read?

KRISTIE: I’ve been reading Westerns for years, so I can’t remember exactly which one it was – but I have a feeling I was at a UBS looking for Rexanne Becnel and forgot her name and ended up getting a Rosanne Bittner instead. I can’t remember what book it was – but it blew me away and I was hooked from then on.

GWD: Do you have a favorite western romance author?

KRISTIE: Well, Rosanne Bittner *g*. Also Patricia Potter, Cheryl St. John, Lorraine Heath (Westerns only). Those are the ones who first come to mind.

GWD: How about a favorite western hero? Heroine?

KRISTIE: Hero – there are too many to choose from!! Heroines one of my favorites is Miranda Hayes from Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner.

GWD: When reading, what do you look for in the perfect cowboy?

KRISTIE: I always love a hero who is wrecked for the heroine – in any genre. I also love the tortured hero. Lobo from Patricia Potter is one who fits both those bills.

Mountain Wild

GWD: And the perfect cowgirl to go with that cowboy?

KRISTIE: As for cowgirls – one who is strong, who doesn’t rely on the hero to bail her out. One who wears dresses for the most part, although I did just finish Stacey Kayne’s latest, Mountain Wild, and she was a trapper yet I really liked her. I think it was because she was forced into her circumstances rather than choosing it. [Ed. See, Sybs, not so hard!]

GWD: How do you know when you’re reading a bad western romance? Are they any signs?

KRISTIE: I started reading one not long ago and the author put in “Western” speak!! It was awful – even worse than Scottish speak. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It may have been a good story, but I’ll never know. Wooden stereotypes are also annoying.

GWD: What’s the one thing that will really turn off when reading a western romance?

KRISTIE: Bad writing, bad writing, bad writing. As much as I love Westerns, a poorly written book will turn me off.

GWD: Is there one Western that stands out above all others?

KRISTIE: Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner. If someone asked for my choice for one that embodies most of what I love about the genre, this is my number one pick.

GWD: Who is the Western Author who no longer writes them that you miss the most?

KRISTIE: Lorraine Heath – without question. Her Westerns had a poignancy – every single one – and I don’t think she has captured that as well in her English historicals.

GWD: Why do you think westerns have seen such an ebb and flow over the years?

KRISTIE: I think all genres have an ebb and flow but the Western more so then most. I don’t think a lot of readers have tried them, so they don’t know what they are missing. I think a number of readers who have tried them just haven’t read the right one for them. And I think some readers like being carried away by the fantasy of England. But if they read the right one – and see what a good Western can offer – I think they can be swayed. There are a lot of genres I thought I’d never try and yet when I read that one book, I was converted. And I think there are quite a fan of Westerns who have kind of ‘forgotten’ about them. We are really hoping to reach all those groups with this Drive.


Wendy, the SuperLibrarian:

GWD: What was the first western romance you ever read?

WENDY: Nevada Nights by Ruth Ryan Langan, a 1980s-tastic western romance that I read when I was around 14 years old and the first book I read that had gasp s-e-x in it. This book features some of my favorite old-skool tropes. Convent-raised heroine? Check. Mysterious gunslinger named Colt? Check. Soap opera style plot featuring heroine’s odious long-lost family? Check. I wouldn’t recommend this book to readers today, but, dang, as a doe-eyed teen I flipping loved every single word.

GWD: Do you have a favorite western romance author?

WENDY: Hands down Maggie Osborne. She wrote fantastic heroines and never took the easy way out in her stories.

The Horseman

GWD: How about a favorite western hero? Heroine?

WENDY: This is tough. I have a huge soft spot for Beta heroes, so probably Dillon Hennessey from The Horseman by Jillian Hart. Although I also have a soft spot for younger heroes who feel like they have to ‘prove themselves’ – so on that front I think Austin Leigh from Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath wins.

GWD: When reading, what do you look for in the perfect cowboy?

WENDY: I’m looking for a hero with a strong moral code. Heroes that, while they might have terrible reputations, will ultimately do what’s right.

GWD: And the perfect cowgirl to go with that cowboy?

WENDY: Generally speaking, I like heroines with gumption. They don’t have to kick ass and rescue themselves necessarily, but I also want them to do more than sit in the corner, ring their hands and cry. A lot of western heroines start out their romances literally up against a wall (and no, not in a good way!) and I like reading about a woman who isn’t going to simply roll over and die or pray for a hero to come along and rescue her.

GWD: How do you know when you’re reading a bad western romance? Are they any signs?

WENDY: There’s a long-lost gold mine in the plot. Seriously. Every terrible western I’ve read tends to feature a long-lost gold mine. Also, there’s a bathing scene. Hero and/or heroine spies the other one taking a bath in a stream, pond, lake, whatever and they get all tingly. Sort of like spies in Regency historicals, the bathing scene has been done to death in westerns and it needs to be taken out behind the barn and shot.

GWD: What’s the one thing that will really turn you off when reading a western romance?

WENDY: Too-stupid-to-live heroines who aren’t dead yet. Look, living in the west was hard. There weren’t a lot of comforts, and for that matter, there wasn’t a whole lot of structured law. When I read about a heroine doing something stupid in a western, I think to myself, “How is she not dead yet?”

GWD: How do you know when you’re reading a good Western?

WENDY: Westerns aren’t all that different from other romance subgenres. I’m looking for what I call the Emotional Gut Punch Moment. That moment when the author takes all the emotion, heartbreak, angst, etc., rolls it up and smacks the reader over the head with it. Every book in my keeper stash has such a moment. That moment where the author literally rips my heart out, resurrects it, and stuffs it back into my chest cavity.

A Reason to Live

GWD: Is there one Western that stands out above all others?

WENDY: This is tough because I’ve read so many great westerns over the years. I would say Lorraine Heath’s Texas/Leigh brother trilogy, mostly because it’s one of the few times in my life I’ve ever read a series back-to-back-to-back. Also, A Reason To Live by Maureen McKade, just for the sheer emotional intensity of that story. That story knocked me out.

GWD: Who is the Western Author who no longer writes them that you miss the most?

WENDY: Definitely Maggie Osborne, who retired after her last book in 2004. I really admire many of her books and, frankly, I think the romance genre desperately needs more writers like her.

Of authors who are still publishing but have left the west? Probably a toss up between Lorraine Heath and Nicole Jordan.

GWD: Why do you think westerns have seen such an ebb and flow over the years?

WENDY: Demographics have changed. The baby boomers literally grew up on westerns, in books, films, and TV. You couldn’t turn on a TV in the 1960s without tripping over a cowboy. But as time has advanced, publishers (like every other industry) is desperate to court that 18-49 year old demographic, and frankly? Those readers (of which I’m one) didn’t necessarily grow up on westerns. Also, publishers want to make money – so they’ll hop on The Next Big Thing, whatever that is, when it starts to sell. Hey, the western romance was king at one point, but like everything, it couldn’t last forever. Readers got burnt out. They got tired of slogging through crap to get to the gems. So they went looking for something “new.” I think readers will come back to the western, especially those readers hungry for real emotional stories. It’s just going to take publishers willing to take the “risk” and talented authors churning out quality stories.

GWD: And there you have it, Western fans, the be-all, end-all last word of the biggest fans in blogdom about reading those famed Western romances. You ready to gnaw on some bones with these gals?

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