I’ve written in several different genres over the years but western romances have a special place in my heart. A native Texan, I spent a good part of my childhood on my grandparents’ farm. Even after we moved to the ‘big city’, I found a way to feed the need to see rolling countryside, hear the wild wind, and smell the prairie grasses by immersing myself in Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour novels.
Then, of course, there were the Saturday afternoon matinees that featured trail rides, gun fights and wild rides on horseback. What a great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon. But it was the books and television programs that really fed my needs for western living.
Television…strange topic for a blog by a novelist maybe. But mine was the television generation and I often had to decide between reading and watching my favorite western stories. At one time there were more than thirty westerns on television, which made this popular electronic device a true temptation. Maverick, Bonanza, The Big Valley…my family watched them all.
Of course one of the finest examples of this genre of television entertainment was Gunsmoke. Filled with western drama and humor, emotional tales of good versus evil, and a dose of romance (we all remember the lovely Miss Kitty), this show ran for twenty years. In the lead role of Marshal Matt Dillon was James Arness. Which brings me to the point of this blog.
Mr. Arness, a fine actor, passed away just last week, still receiving fan mail almost every day long after the show went off the air. That says a lot for the high esteem in which we hold certain types of stories and certain types of heroes. In his time, the western heroes of fiction embodied the highest of morals. They took their time with important decisions that needed time, but they were quick to act when the situation warranted it—sometimes with words but often with their fists or their guns. That’s not to say they didn’t exhibit worry or regret when their actions resulted in violence, but they did the right thing when it needed doing.
The hero of my western romance The Abduction of Miss Jenny Chandler is like that. John Walker Grayling, Texas Ranger in mid-nineteenth century Texas, feels genuinely, considers deeply and loves with all his being. I tried to create his character—and others in the novel—as true to the genre as I could…including, of course, that dose of romance. The heroine, Jenny Chandler, is on the verge of womanhood with all the angst of modern young adults…but with that spunk that makes her endearing.
So here’s to Mr. Arness, westerns, and the heroes and heroines with whom we love to fall in love.
Excerpt from The Abduction of Miss Jenny Chandler:
Something slammed into her from behind. She flew into the air. Diaz’ rope jerked tight, cut into her waist. Her right arm, gripped at the wrist in a strong brown hand, slashed downward. A knife blade flashed in the sunlight and the deadly rope fell limp.
Suddenly her face was buried in Gray’s chest and he wheeled the horse away. Fright and exhilaration gripped her as all the heroic images she had cultivated in her mind throughout their ordeal rushed upon her and she lifted her head to look into his handsome face. His eyes met hers and something raw and unfamiliar bolted between them. Then a shout from behind snatched his attention and Gray twisted to look over his shoulder. Jenny looked, too and saw Diaz raising his pistol.
“Hold on!” Gray commanded.
Jenny threw both arms around him as he swung the mare to the left. A shot rang out. Instinctively, Jenny lowered her head further. Something moved against her face and she heard Mischief snuffling inside Gray’s shirtfront. Then Gray jerked the reins to the right. The mare responded instantly, out-maneuvering another bullet. Another pull to the left brought them behind a low ridge tumbled over with outcroppings of rock large enough to hide them.
“Take the reins,” Gray ordered, pressing the warm leather into Jenny’s hands. “Ride due east.”
Sensing the change of grip, the mare tossed her head, forcing Jenny to battle the animal for control. Reaching around her, Gray plopped Mischief into Jenny’s lap. Then, gripping her waist, he pushed himself backward onto the mare’s rump.
Jenny clutched the nervous rabbit with one hand, still fighting to control the horse with the other. Gray’s agility stunned her. Was he ill or not?
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Get a gun and another horse. Don’t stop, Jenny. Not for anything.”
His gray-blue eyes locked with hers and Jenny experienced again that strange sensation coil deep inside her. Emotion begged for words to release it. She’d known Gray such a short time but knew that she would be leaving part of herself with him.
“I’ll catch up in a few minutes,” he promised.
Before she could reply, he swung both legs to the mare’s right side and leapt onto a nearby boulder.
“Go!” he shouted and Jenny kicked the mare into a run.
The Abduction of Miss Jenny Chandler available in print or ebook at www.jasminejade.com, www.amazon.com, and other fine booksellers.
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