Thursday, July 30, 2009


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio
(Information gathered from the Houlton Pioneer Times web site)

Whenever we’re hungry, all we need to do is go to the refrigerator, pop something into the microwave oven, set the timer for the allotted minutes, and then sit down and eat our food. It wasn’t so easy for the people of pioneer times. A lot of time was spent in the getting, growing, and preparing foods.

First a pioneer farmer had to work out the supply problems before the family ate well. Land had to be cleared and a crop garden had to be planted. No matter what was grown, it had a fence around it to keep out the livestock. Common garden crops included corn, potatoes, beans, onions, squash, pumpkins, and turnips. Fruit trees took time to grow, so it took a few years to have their own apples, but other wild berries and fruits were picked.

In the forest, there was meat from deer, bear, turkey, squirrel and wild pigeons. The pioneer farmer also raised chickens, hogs, sheep and cattle. With the cedar sticks and oak logs burning many good smells came from the fireplace; the boiling of hominy, the steaming of sassafras tea, the baking of cornbread, and the frying of meat.

A dutch oven was used to cook food in, as well as brass kettles, large and small iron pots and skillets. Jars, crocks and mugs were also needed. Early potters found clay to make dishes. The firing of the pottery was done in a huge oven of brick with a slow fire of poplar wood. This firing took twenty-four to thirty-six hours. The pioneer often ate on a trencher. This was a wooden plate made from a board. Some plates, spoons and forks were made from pewter or out of wood horn.

Baskets were made for carrying, measuring and storing food. Splits of white oak, hickory ash or buckeye made good baskets. Honeysuckle vine, willow cane, and cornhusks were also used. Baskets would last many years. Other containers such as pails and buckets were made of wood. All day-to-day cooking was done in the fireplace. These fireplaces were usually big enough that you could walk into them. The making of apple butter and soap were done outdoors.

Corn was a common food of the pioneer family. It had to be shelled before it could be ground into meal. Shelling of corn was a chore for small children. It was often done in front of the fireplace on winter nights. Corncobs were saved to help start a fire and to smoke some meats.
The most common bread was made from corn meal, salt, and water. This was known as corn pone or hoecake. Cornbread was made from corn meal, eggs and buttermilk. It was cooked in the dutch oven covered with coals.

Pumpkins were one of the most useful of the vegetables. They could be kept fresh by putting them in a dry, cool place. Pumpkin was mixed with corn meal to make pumpkin bread. It could be baked whole or mashed up. Pumpkins were also fed to the animals.
Butter was made in churns. After the butter formed in the churn, it was lifted out into a wooden bowl and washed several times. A little salt was added. It was then put into pretty molds.

There was not much sugar in the pioneer’s kitchen. Honey, maple syrup and sorghum molasses were used to sweeten foods. Bees were kept in hollow pieces of the tree trunks. The bees made the honey. Maple sugar could be made by boiling down maple tree sap. Molasses was made by boiling down the liquid from mashed sorghum cane.

Fresh meat was cooked by broiling, frying, boiling, and roasting. Meat was preserved by being salted, smoked or pickled. Pork or ham was the most common meat of the mountain people.

Vegetables and fruits were cooked fresh or preserved by drying or pickling. Jelly could be made from wild grapes and blackberries. The entire family helped with the making of apple butter. Long hours were spent cutting up the apples. Before sunup of the big day a fire was started under a large copper kettle. The apples were added and the cooking began. All day the apples cooked over a slow fire. The apples always had to be stirred, so as not to burn them. By the end of the day, the apple butter would be done and put away in jars for the winter.

Drinks of the pioneers were sassafras tea, buttermilk, apple cider, fruit wines and spirits. The family liked hickory nuts and walnuts. Children gathered nuts each fall.

During the summer, the diet of the pioneer family was good. Common farm tools used to plant, grow, and pick crops were the harrow, plow, hand cradle, flail, hoe, rake and pitch fork. The diet was not as good in the winter months because foods were hard to keep. The root cellar was used to keep vegetables (potatoes, cabbage, and turnips) and fruits(apples, pears, and quince).

Smoked meats might have hung from its ceiling. The root cellar was often dug into a hillside. This helped make the room both cool and dark. Foods needing to be kept cool and dry were kept in the loft of the log house or hung from the ceiling beams. Corn, dried beans, pumpkins and apples were examples of these foods.

The springhouse was the walk-in refrigerator of the pioneer time. It was built over a mountain spring. In the summer, it became a storehouse for fresh milk, butter, eggs, buttermilk, sweet cream and cheese. These foods were kept in bowls and placed in the cool spring water. I can’t imagine getting up in the middle of the night and trying to grab a snack from the springhouse. I’m sure glad I’ve got a refrigerator instead.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Motion Sickness or Stage Travel

As a writer of historic romance I like to make sure I know all I can about modes of transportation during the era I write about. I've yet to use a stage coach in a published book but one of my characters had a brief trek in one in a story that is making agent rounds.

So here is a bit of info I gleaned from researching stage coaches.

The first Concord coach was built in 1827 and cost $1200- 1500. It weighed 2000 pounds and had leather strap braces rather than springs to give a swinging motion rather than a jolting ride. Leather boots in the front and back held baggage, mail, and valuables. Extra luggage was also stored on top.

A single coach could hold nine passengers inside and up to a dozen on top. The coach had leather roll down curtains and three leather upholstered seats with little leg room. The front row who faced backwards had to dovetail their knees/legs with the passengers in the middle row facing them. They had fifteen inches per passenger to a seat when it carried the nine passenger capacity. The passengers in the middle had no back support other than a wide leather strap for support or a leather strap that dangled from the ceiling, which they could grab when the road was treacherous. The average speed was five to eight miles an hour.

In some areas there were different rates for the same trip. If you paid the highest price you were 1st class which meant you rode all the way, 2nd class you paid less and had to walk in the bad places, 3rd class you paid the least but you walked in the bad places and had to push at the hills. Most overland stages required passengers to walk in the rough spots and men to help push up some hills.

Some prices from 1880:
Boise City to Winnemucca $35.00
Boise City to The Dalles $54.00
Silver City to Winnemucca $20.00
Silver City to Boise City $ 8.00

The rides were either sweltering or freezing. The weather wasn’t any easier to keep out of the coach than the dust and mud. Women who were seasoned travelers knew to wear long duck cloth dusters to keep their clothing clean. Few hotels sat along the routes and travelers sometimes had a choice of sleeping in corrals or in the street. The way stations along the routes were often crude structures made of either lumber or adobe. The Stops were famous for bad food. The usual menu consisted of jerky or salt pork, stale bread, bad coffee, and always beans.

Besides the close quarters, dusty trails, and rustic stage stops there was also the threat of Indian attacks and robberies from outlaws.

Raphael Pumpelly, who rode on the Butterfield Overland Mail stage west to Tucson, noted:
"The coach was fitted with three seats, and these were occupied by nine passengers. As the occupants of the front and middle seats faced each other, it was necessary for these six people to interlock their knees; and there being room inside for only ten of the twelve legs, each side of the coach was graced by a foot, now dangling near the wheel, now trying in vain to find a place of support. An unusually heavy mail in the boot, by weighing down the rear, kept those of us who were on the front seat constantly bent forward. The fatigue of uninterrupted traveling by day and night in a crowded coach, and in the most uncomfortable positions, was beginning to tell seriously upon all the passengers, and was producing in me a condition bordering on insanity…"

William Reed described the experience of motion sickness in a coach.
"The heat could be unbearable; the bodies of the passengers covered with sand, which permeated every inch of clothing. The rough roads gave to the coaches a motion not only from side to side, but a roll from front to back. Seasickness in the hot desert air, some said was far worse than the same ailment out on the cool Pacific waters. A seat in the front, in back, and a bench in the middle called for precise seating… Dust, sweat, insects, and a variety of irritating conditions made for an interesting, if not particularly pleasant trip across the arid desert."

The stages were the main source of mail delivery. When Wells Fargo started moving valuables via stage they sent guards along with the stages and made them more vulnerable to outlaws.

Overland stages traveled continuously though the day and night. Trying to sleep in one of these, confined with eight other people, I think I'd go mad. I don't do well on little sleep. LOL

If passengers, who had tickets to a town farther along the route, chose to stay in a town or at a home station to seek relief from their journey, they could become stranded for a week or more before resuming their travels. A ticket did not guarantee passengers the right to travel on the next stage, when the seat was occupied by another.

There were two types of stations: home and swing. The home station allowed passengers time for a hasty meal. The swing station was a ten minute stop to change the team of horses.

They was a code of etiquette for traveling on the stage in the 1870's.

• When a driver asked a passenger to get out and walk, one was advised to do so, and not grumble about it.

• If the team of horses ran away, it was better to sit in the coach because most passengers who jumped were seriously injured.

• Smoking and spitting on the leeward side of the coach was discouraged.

• Drinking spirits was allowed, but passengers were expected to share.

• Swearing was not allowed, and neither was sleeping on your neighbor's shoulder.

• Travelers shouldn't point out spots where murders had occurred, especially when "delicate" passengers were aboard.

• Greasing one's hair was discouraged because dust would stick to it.

I'm pleased to have received a review for Miner in Petticoats that stated: Author Paty Jager has faithfully reproduced the setting and attitudes that permeated this period of western expansion. That's why I research.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Erastus "Deaf" Smith

Some called him Johnny-on-the-Spot.

Eratus “Deaf” Smith, ace scout, soldier, spy and hero of the Texas Revolution, commanded Sam Houston’s scouts at the Battle of San Jacinto. As scout, he set up the Battle of Concepcion and the Grass Fight, and he brought the Widow Dickenson and her baby back to safety from the fallen Alamo. When Sam Houston wanted Vince’s Bridge destroyed, so that neither his Texians nor Santa Anna’s troops could escape the field of San Jacinto, he called on Deaf Smith. Smith also briefly captained a company of Texas Rangers after the War.

Born in Duchess County, New York, on April19, 1787, Erastus Smith settled in San Antonio de Bexar, raising livestock and working as a scout, spy, soldier, and surveyor. Accepted as a member of the Tejano (Latino-Texan) community, he was known as “el Sordo” (the deaf man). He died in November of 1837, when the Republic was barely a year old. Sadly, he lost his eyesight, too, before he died. Smith became a folk hero in Texas.

Deaf Smith County borders New Mexico in the far-flung Panhandle of Texas. The county is one of about fifty descendant counties from Bexar County in South Texas (San Antonio.)

In a saucepan, combine: ¾ cup vinegar, ¾ cup corn oil, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil—set aside to cool.
Chop: 1 cup chopped green pepper, 1 cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped green onions and tops. Place in a mixing bowl.
Drain: one 16-ounce can shoepeg corn, one 8-ounce can LaSeur peas, one 2-ounce diced pimentos.
Lightly mix the chopped and the drained vegetables. Pour the vinegar and oil mixture over vegetables and mix. Refrigerate several hours. The salad stays crisp for days.
(Disclaimer: Recipe from “Tastes and Tales of Texas,” but the same recipe can be found in numerous other cookbooks, and written on 3x5 recipes cards in many kitchens.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


For some reason, choosing the name of the heroine of a story is hard for me—much harder than naming the hero. I’m wondering if it’s because, as women, we give more thought to what we find attractive in a man (naturally!) Even if he’s “Hunk of the Week,” if his name doesn’t appeal to us, it’s hard to think of him romantically.

We are seeing our heroines from a different perspective. They are…us. So, naming them might not be as important in our minds, since secretly, we are them. (No, we can’t use our own name!)

The various heroines of our stories, while different in some respects, still retain qualities of ourselves that we’ve endowed them with. If you look at the heroines you’ve created, though they come from different places and circumstances and have different views of the world, there are some basic things about them that don’t change.

There are at least three basic considerations for naming our heroines, apart from the obvious ones we covered when we talked about naming our guys (time period, setting, etc.)

The first one is, understanding the heroine and her motives.

Let’s look a minute at how a part of ourselves creep into our heroines’ lives, no matter what sub-genre we write. I always think of two examples that stand out in my own life experience that are easy to show.

Growing up in the 1960’s, women had three basic career opportunities: teacher, secretary, nurse. Those limitations didn’t matter, because I wanted to be a nurse ever since I could recall. But because my parents discouraged me from that field, I never pursued it—except in my writing.

At some point, in every story I write, that aspect of myself comes through in my heroine. There is always a need for her to use her nursing skills, and it’s usually to take care of the wounded hero. (In a Cheryl Pierson story, the hero will always be hurt somewhere along the way. Much like the guys with the red shirts on Star Trek know they wont be beaming back to the Enterprise from the planet’s surface, my heroes always have to figure they’re going to need some kind of medical care to survive my story.)

The second example is the fact that, being a child of an alcoholic father, I do not like surprises. I want to know that things will be steady, stable and secure. But what can be certain in a tale of romance? Nothing! Just as the hero of my stories is going to be physically in jeopardy at some point, the heroine will always have to make a decision— a very hard decision—as to whether she will give up everything that she’s built her life around for the hero. Will she take a chance on love? In the end, of course, it’s always worth the gamble. But, because I am not a risk-taker in real life, my heroines carry that part of me, for the most part, with them—until they have to make a hard choice as to whether or not to risk everything for the love of the hero.

The second consideration is, that we must like the heroine.

She is us! Have you ever started writing a story after carefully picking names for your hero and heroine, only to discover you really don’t like the character herself; or maybe, when you write the name of the character, you feel your lip starting to curl? Is it the name itself you don’t like after repetitive use, or is it the character you’ve created? Either way, there’s a problem. Stop and consider exactly what it is about that character/name you have started to dislike. Remember, the heroine is part of you. If you’re hitting a rough spot in real life, it could be you are injecting some of those qualities into your character unwittingly. There may be nothing wrong with the name you’ve selected…it could just be your heroine has taken an unforeseen character turn that you aren’t crazy about.

The third consideration is that we have to give her a name that reflects her inner strengths but shows her softer side.

This is not a dilemma for male characters. We don’t want to see a soft side—at least, not in this naming respect.

I try to find a name for my heroines that can be shortened to a pet name or nickname by the hero. (Very handy when trying to show the closeness between them, especially during those more intimate times.)

I always laugh when I think about having this conversation with another writer friend of mine, Helen Polaski. She and I were talking one day about this naming of characters, and I used the example of one of my favorite romances of all time, “Stormfire” by Christine Monson. The heroine’s name is Catherine, but the hero, at one point, calls her “Kitten.” Later, he calls her “Kit”—which I absolutely love, because I knew, even though “Kit” was short for Catherine, that he and I both were thinking of the time he’d called her “Kitten”—and so was she! Was “Kit” a short version of Catherine for him, or was he always thinking of her now as “Kitten”? Helen, with her dry northern humor, replied, “Well, I guess I’m out of luck with my name. The hero would be saying, ‘Oh, Hel…’”

One final consideration is the way your characters’ names go together; the way they sound and “fit.” Does the heroine’s name work well not only with the hero’s first name, but his last name, too? In most cases, eventually his last name will become hers. Last names are a ‘whole ’nother’ blog!

In 1880, the top ten female names were, in order: Mary, Anna, Emma, Elizabeth (4), Minnie, Margaret, Ida, Alice, Bertha, and Sarah (10).

By 1980, they’d changed drastically: Jennifer, Amanda, Jessica, Melissa, Sarah (5), Heather, Nicole, Amy, Elizabeth (9) and Michelle.

Twenty-eight years later, in 2008, there seemed to be a resurgence toward the “older” names: Emma, which was completely out of the top twenty in 1980, had resurfaced and taken the #1 spot, higher than it had been in 1880. The others, in order, are: Isabella, Emily, Madison, Ava, Olivia, Sophia, Abigail, Elizabeth (9), and Chloe. Sarah was #20, being the only other name besides Elizabeth that remained in the top twenty on all three charts.

If you write historicals, these charts are great to use for minor and secondary characters as well. If you’ve chosen a name for your heroine that’s a bit unusual, you can surround her with “ordinary” characters to provide the flavor of the time period, while enhancing her uniqueness.

Names can also send “subliminal” messages to your reader. I wrote my short story, “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES,” (release date Dec. 2, 2009) about a couple that meet under odd circumstances and experience their own miracle on Christmas Eve. Halfway through the story, I realized what I’d done and the significance of the characters’ names.

In this excerpt, widow Angela Bentley has taken in a wounded stranger and the three children who are with him on a cold, snowy night. Here’s what happens:


Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”
“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”
She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

I hope you have enjoyed this look into A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES. Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Native Americans Preferred Paint Horses

When it comes to American history, no other animal is more closely associated with the story of this country than the horse. Inseparable from the Wild West, and indistinguishable from the image of the American cowboy, horses will be forever identified with the picture of early Americana. But no breed of horse is more interconnected with this cherished history than Paint horses.

But as closely associated with American history as they are, ironically, Paint horses had their start in America via Spain. When Spanish explorers came to the New World in 1519, they brought with them an enormous amount of supplies and a number of horses. These Paint horses eventually dotted the landscape in wild herds, and by the 1800s tribes of American Indians were using the breed for riding.

There were a variety of names attached to these spot covered horses throughout the 1800s and 1900s, but the name that seemed to stick was the Pinto horse.

History records that the Apaches and Comanche were among the first tribes to obtain horses in the American Southwest. It appears these two tribes first obtained horses in trade or by stealing them from Spaniards. They preferred horses that were already broken for riding to the wild mustang. It is thought some Indians in Texas had horses as early as 1659.

The importance of the horse to the Indian was obvious—it gave him mobility and importance. Indians were quick to realize the potential of horse and rider and became a master at horsemanship.

In cowboy movies, it isn’t unusual to see Indians riding paint/pinto horses. Indians had a practical reason for riding paint horses. The colors were the easiest to alter to coincide with changing seasons. Also, the American Indians were experts in the art of camouflage. They devised protective tactics for camouflaging their horses and themselves in enemy territory and ably out maneuvered seasoned soldiers and unfriendly tribes.

So that both horse and rider could pass unobserved across the open plains, the Indians chose paint horses with colors that blended with the natural and seasonal backgrounds of the countryside. For example, dun, roan or light sorrels were ridden in summer and fall. In the winter, white or palomino was indistinguishable in snow.

An Indians wealth was determined by the number of horses he owned. Paint horses were especially treasured and prized. Once an avid horsewoman, I, like the early Native Americans preferred the pinto over horses with solid colors.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tanya Hanson: Cold Spring Tavern...still standing after all these years

Howdy, ya’ll. Guess what? It’s possible to time-travel in Southern California not far from my homestead! Just twenty minutes from the coastal town of Santa Barbara, you’ll find Cold Spring Tavern, an original stage-coach stop that hasn’t changed much at all in 130 years.

Since my current release, Marrying Minda, starts out with a mail-order bride arriving in a strange town by stagecoach --wearing her white wedding gown no less, you could say I’ve got stagecoaches on the brain. And any time, any reason, Cold Spring Tavern is one of my favorite places to go. Although its name suggests just one spring, truth is, some 52 springs burble on the property set in a rustic, woodsy mountainside on the San Marcos Pass. If you come for lunch on a cold day, you can enjoy a gorgeous rock fireplace roaring with heat…and small wood-burning stoves throughout the tiny rooms.

Although game meat is often featured on the daily menu, my favorite is the chili burger…with extra pickle. Whenever I need an old-style western fix, my hubby and I take a drive through the pass and get lunch at the tavern.

The “necessary” is still an outhouse…with modern plumbing, and pictures and newspaper articles of the tavern’s past life adorn the walls. Built in 1856 for travelers braving San Marcos Pass, the tavern’s various owners have, fortunately, protected its original Old West appearance. Started in 1886 as a relay station for stagecoaches, the tavern saw drivers exchanging horses and adding two more for the arduous trip over the mountains. Passengers could stop for meals that, according to legend, were as delicious then as now.

Chinese laborers constructing the “turnpike” over San Marcos Pass in 1868 bunked in the old "Road Gang House" still situated on the property. Featured on many TV shows and at least once a movie set, the tavern has over the years hosted celebrities whose visits the owners do not publicize because “that’s why they come here.” A regular visitor brought his elderly father recently who claimed the place hadn’t changed a whit since his first visit years ago. That is my idea of preserving history!

In a recent poll. Cold Spring Tavern has been voted the most romantic place in California. I couldn’t agree more. If you’re ever in the Santa Barbara area, make sure you relax in the Old West ambience of Cold Spring Tavern. Although it isn’t far off the “turnpike” (aka Highway 154), it’s hidden a mile or so up the mountain, and you are literally in another world, far away from modern hustle and bustle.

Here’s a short excerpt of Minda Becker arriving in Paradise to marry….the wrong man. I’m thrilled her story has been a top seller at TWRP since its release. Enjoy!

~Tanya Hanson

Paradise, Nebraska, July 1878

Where is Norman Dale?

Minda’s heart thumped. The noon stage had run late, so he had plenty of time to get here. Unless he had backed out.

She swallowed hard. Nowhere on the empty street did she see a bridegroom bearing a bouquet of her favorite white roses.The gulp turned into a sob. They had signed a legal contract fair and square, and the dry official document hadn’t stopped them from falling a little bit in love with each other. His letters had been full of compliments and promises and excitement, too, about meeting face-to-face.
And today was the day.

Even in the stuffy interior of the stagecoach, Minda shivered with a chill of unease. After tossing her valises on the boardinghouse steps, the driver lifted her down. Minda shrugged out of the long linen duster she’d worn as protection against the grime of travel, for underneath she wore her wedding gown. Norman Dale’s last letter had sweetly insisted they wed the minute she arrived.

Trying to impart a radiant smile, she paid no heed to the reactions of her fellow travelers. The woman wearing an old-style coal-scuttle bonnet of green gingham had chatted pleasantly for the last five miles, but upon seeing Minda’s silk and lace, her mouth turned wide and silent as a full moon. And a grubby codger leered while showing off his two brown teeth.

She ignored them just as she’d paid no heed to her younger sisters’ claims that a spinster didn’t need a lovely white wedding gown. Well, Minda Becker might be a spinster and a mail-order bride on top of it. But she was a bride, and she was going to do it right.

In the hot dust of the departing stage, she drooped in disillusion at the hard-luck little town. Norman Dale’s letters had glorified Paradise. Truth to tell, her new hometown was one brick building and a dozen false-front wooden structures with miles of cornfields and prairie grass billowing around the edges. Her bridegroom’s own farm and fine wooden house must lie quite a ways outside of town.

She caught sight of a trim white church down the street and the slew horses and wagons hitched to rough-hewn posts along its side. Relief as sweet as her silk dress flooded her. Of course. Norman Dale must be busy greeting wedding guests who waited on a bride delayed by a stage running late. Of course he’d be along in a minute to fetch her. They’d already agreed to march up the aisle together. A widower had no reason to wait at the altar for a mail-order bride who had no one to give her away.

Past the church, tables piled with platters and baskets sat in the shade of big cottonwoods along the riverbank. Her wedding dinner. Goodness, she was about to become Mrs. Norman Dale Haynes. With a quiver of delight, she shook dust and wrinkles from her skirts and walked up the boardinghouse steps to seek a mirror and a bowl of cool water for freshening.

But a closed sign hung on the lopsided door. Minda smiled at her reflection in the grimy window anyway. Likely the innkeeper was a wedding guest already at church. After digging through a valise, she brought out the veil she’d fashioned from odds and ends at the millinery back home. Just touching the beautiful headpiece set a new flock of butterflies aflutter inside her belly. The froth of netting cascaded from a wreath of roses she’d crafted from scraps of ivory velvet.

As she arranged the veil, she heard her name. However, the angle of reflection didn’t let her see the speaker.

“Miz Becker? You are Minda Becker, right?”

She turned to see a man approaching, tall and lean in his Sunday best, awkwardly carrying her bridal bouquet.

Mr. Norman Dale Haynes. She couldn’t stop the outtake of breath. He was much younger and far more handsome than the daguerreotype he had sent her. Hair dark as midnight brushed each side of his neck, and tall as he was, her head wouldn’t reach his shoulder. Her face warmed. It wouldn’t take long at all to give him her whole heart.

Or her body.

Her heart hammered beneath her whalebone corset. Heat that had nothing to do with the weather poured over her like new milk. Merciful heavens, he must have wed young the first time around to have the teenage daughter he needed her to raise.
This man didn’t appear to have any flaws at all.

She tingled from top to toe, recalling how her three married sisters, with many blushes, had explained the delights of the marriage bed. She wanted the same for herself.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Suspension Bridge brings Progress to 1870s Waco

The Brazos River runs through Waco, Texas. During Waco's early history, crossing the river was dangerous to both men and animals. When Waco became a common stop on the Chisholm Trail, the need for a safer crossing became necessary.

Designed by the same architect who later built the Brooklyn Bridge, the Waco Suspension bridge, touted as the longest bridge in the world at the time though this claim has been questioned, opened in 1870. Supplies were hauled by wagon from Galveston and required nearly three million bricks made by a local brick maker.

At the time it opened, a toll house, complete with a yard and it's own windmill sat at the entrance. The fee for pedestrians and cattle was five cents each. By 1889, money collected had repaid the near $141,000 it cost to construct the bridge and tolls were suspended.

In the picture postcard above, courtesy of, you can see that the banks of the Brazos was a place for family and community to gather for social events. The same is true today.

My novel, My Heart Will Find Yours is set in 1880s Waco. Here is an excerpt that includes the supension bridge.

Royce studied the amber liquid in his glass. Pearl had been missing for four years today. Tonight, for the first time since she disappeared, he’d visit the Reservation, Waco’s red-light district, and pay for the company of a woman. Before today, touching another woman would have felt like cheating. His Ma and Pa, God rest their souls, raised him and his brothers to be honorable men, men who were faithful to their women. But his wife was dead, and his body screamed for release.

There were a number of women in town who’d expressed their sympathy when his wife went missing, and several made obvious their eagerness to give him comfort. He’d do his own picking and choosing when the time came. Until then, one of the girls for hire at Josephine’s would do.

Royce studied his face in the mirror, ran his hand over his jaw, feeling the scratch of whiskers. Shaving everyday was a pain, but he couldn’t stand the dandified mustaches and beards so many men favored these days. If he started courting, he’d have to shave twice a day. He glanced over in time to see Judge Stokes in the big double window as he passed by the saloon. The judge’s daughter, Danielle, was still single. At twenty-eight-years-old, she was well into spinsterhood.

Just last week she’d made a point to speak to him and Garrett after the monthly Saturday social. She’d blushed prettily when she invited them to dinner. Before Pearl, he’d escorted Danielle to a number of social functions and considered marrying her. But he’d made that trip to San Antonio, met Pearl, and then no other woman would do. Odd Danielle had never married. She was a beautiful woman and well thought of in the community. He might just invite her to the upcoming July Fourth dance.

Hell, he’d ask her as soon as possible. It couldn’t be tonight though as he’d never approach a woman with the smell of Josephine’s clinging to his clothes. He grinned at the thought and shook his head. Tomorrow night he’d go home, clean up, and he and Garrett would ride out to the judge’s place. Maybe take her a handful of those gardenias she liked.

He finished his drink and laid money on the bar. “Thanks, Hans.”

“Anytime, Marshal.”

The heat, fueled by the high humidity of summer, hit him as he stepped outside. He tilted his hat forward a notch to keep the sun out of his eyes, yet allow him to see clearly. A man couldn’t be too careful on the streets, especially a lawman in a town nicknamed Six-Shooter Junction. Trouble could come from any direction. His eyes studied a stranger in the alley leaning against the wall of the hardware store, and then flicked to the angry cowboy riding by, whom last week Hans had tossed from his saloon into the street. Probably most dangerous was the cocky kid, spoiling for a fight and out to make a name for himself, ambling toward him now. He stayed alert as he passed the boy and walked toward the banks of the river.

The suspension bridge looked odd stretched out across the Brazos. Though completed ten years ago, it looked foreign and disrupted the stark beauty of the river with its grass and tree-covered banks. But industry was changing towns, and folks had to accept modern inventions or be left behind in the rush for prosperity.

He found a big oak, sat down, and leaned against its large trunk—a barrier for bullets, stray or otherwise. Its rough bark was uncomfortable against his sweat-soaked back, but he didn’t care. It would be dark before too long, then he’d go to Josephine’s. Prostitution was legal, but it went against the grain to be seen going in a whorehouse in broad daylight. He removed his hat, let his head rest against the tree, and closed his eyes.

Goodbye Pearlina, my lovely Pearl. Rest in peace.

My Heart Will Find Yours is available now in both ebook and print formats at The Wild Rose Press and and Barnes and

Please check out the contests on my blog Linda's Musings and website.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Desires of the Heart, My Heart Will Find Yours, Flames on the Sky10-9, The Wild Rose Press; Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom 7-9, Champagne Books.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Marriage Bed

No, you won’t find it here…But that is the premise of Kendra’s Choice, my novella which will be released in October.

Book Blurb: Kendra Parker needs a man--it's research for Widow Swanson's article, "What Every Woman Needs to Know about Her Marriage Bed." But the sparse population of Eastern Colorado in 1883 doesn't offer many choices, until Major Marlow arrives.

Sterling Marlow rode into the Parker farm in time to celebrate the wedding of one of Kincaid Parker's daughters. But it was the Pastor's older daughter, Kendra, who caught his attention. Her seductive body wanted him, and who was he to deny the needs of a young woman?

Of course in romance books the hero and heroine fall madly in love and live happily ever after. 99% of the time they marry, because, after all, it is a romance novel. But in reality, the ‘romance’ or ‘love’ didn’t play into marriage until the mid-1800’s. Some claim woman’s suffrage had a lot to do with it.

At first marriages happened for pure survival, it provided a safer environment for creating and raising offspring—the goal was to continue our species. Next came marriages of convenience. From the poorest societies to the wealthiest, it was to merge funds, land, and belongings, each union was meant to build upon what the families or societies already owned. Love was never a consideration. Some actually thought it was an encumbrance or nuisance to ‘fall’ in love with a spouse. After all, the merger wasn’t about the bride and groom, but the ‘power’ of the union.

During the 1800’s woman where becoming more educated, and independent, they no longer ‘needed’ a man to survive. They could own land, earn income, and demand respect…so therefore ‘love’ became a ‘reason’ to get married. And mating became something more than a duty to assure the family continued into the next generation. In other words, ‘sex’ was fashioned. It became an act to be enjoyed instead of endeavored. And low and behold the romance novel was created.

In Kendra’s Choice, Kendra isn’t looking for love, she wants to experience sex. It’s all she can think about since reading the Widow Swanson’s article. This fact, of course, floors Sterling, and eventually he threatens to tell her father about the ‘little game’ she’s playing.

It was fun to put this type of twist on a historical romance novel and watch how it played out for the characters. Here’s a short blurb:

"And this here is my other daughter,” Kincaid said.

Sterling turned and this time he couldn’t tug his lids down. He was too stunned. For a split second he thought he might have to pound on his chest to get the air out of his locked lungs. When the air did release itself, he coughed at the whoosh.

“Kendra, this is Major Sterling Marlow,” Kincaid continued.

His eyes had gone dry from lack of blinking. Sterling closed his lids, but quickly opened them again—half afraid the vision might disappear in the blink of an eye. She hadn’t, and the sight made his groin tighten and grow with such ferocity it almost took his breath away, again.

Straight long hair, the exact color of a chestnut filly, fluttered in the wind. Flyaway strands twirled around her face, and as graceful as a songbird flies, she raised a hand, brushing it aside. The sight was indescribable. He’d never seen anything lovelier, more perfect. Her eyes were so blue, he wondered if she’d plucked them out of the Colorado sky. Their gazes met, and his heart slammed into the side of his ribcage with a solid thud.

One of her thin, fine brows rose in a subtle arch as those blue eyes lowered to his feet, and with a hot, piercing gaze slowly eased all the way up his body. When the intense stare paused for a brief moment near his belt buckle, his shaft jolted. He swallowed, took a fortifying breath, and met her eye for eye when her gaze once again lifted to his face.

A coy smile twisted her mouth as the tip of her tongue slipped out to moisten pink lips. Sweat popped out on his neck, he tensed against the shiver rippling over his shoulders.

Kendra Parker lowered her hand from her hair, held it out to him.

It took every once of control not to grab her hand, pull her against his chest, and kiss the hell out of her. He’d never met a more beautiful woman, nor had one made love to him with their eyes before. Damn! He was wound tighter than a diamond back. Exhaling, low and slow, he reached for her hand.

“Miss Parker,” he greeted, wincing at how his tone was a good three notes higher than normal.

“Major.” Her voice was as lovely as the rest of her—soft, sweet, and more provocative than any saloon girl could ever hope to mimic.

She didn’t try to pull her hand away, just let her supple, smooth palm rest against his. Their matching heat mingled, danced. Those blue eyes, still locked onto his, smoldered with enough heat to spark a fire all the way down in Texas. His toes curled inside his boots.

Kincaid’s voice broke through the buzzing in his ears. “Kendra, your mother needs your help.”

The fingers wrapped around his hand tightened for a split second, and the long lashes over her eyes lowered. Her lips pursed as she let out a long breath before she said, “Yes, Papa.”

Sterling told his hand to let go, but it was another second or two before his fingers listened and lessened the hold he had on her. Slowly, sensuously, her fingers slipped away. A trail of heat bolted up his arm hotter than venom from a snake bite.

Kincaid spoke again, but it sounded like he was in the bottom of a well. Sterling really didn’t give a damn what the man said. His eyes were locked on the woman walking away. Her hips swayed with each step, making the lilac colored dress float this way and that, and right above her trim waistline the bottom tips of her long hair flip-flopped. The vision was hypnotic. If his knees hadn’t been locked, they would have collapsed, and sent him sprawling to the ground.

I posted a day early since we're leaving town in the morning, I hope that didn't disrupt anyone's schedule! I also hope you all have a wonderful Independence Day!