February 13, 2012

More Than Cowboys

by Tara Manderino 
The west was more than cowboys.
I love cowboys. But there are more people who lived in the west than the men who ran the ranches and kept the herds in line. I admit I am one of the people who used to watch Big Valley, not just to see Nick and Heath. My favorite episodes featured Jarrod, the lawyer. I have been totally fascinated with the life of the school teacher, the shopkeeper, the lawyer, the preacher --everyone in the town. What made the mail order brides come west? What about the sheriff? The Civil War heroes? The newspaper man? The banker?

The openness of the western territories drew many types of people, not just cowboys. For many, it was a chance to start a new life, to leave their old ways behind and reinvent themselves.  Some went because they craved a challenge, some for the cheap land, and others because they simply had nowhere else to go.

The first two titles in my series, President’s Orders, takes place in the west -- Oklahoma Territory and Colorado. As agents for the relatively new Secret Service Agency, Simon Barr and Luke Hayden travel across the country, wherever they are needed, solving crimes that could affect national security, and dealing with their respective love interests. Think Wild Wild West meets Romancing the Stone.

The Secret Service was the last act signed into effect by President Lincoln, hours before he left for the Ford Theater, although it did not officially receive its first commission until 1865. Interestingly enough, the Secret Service was not originally created to protect the President, but rather to investigate counterfeit currency.  Later, it was expanded to include any issue threatening national security. The first book in the President’s Orders,False Notes, deals with counterfeiting, while the second, Heart Quest, has the men searching for a stolen stone from the Heart of Egypt, and returning it to its rightful owner before an international incident occurs. 

As partners, the men rely heavily on each other, in turn, giving strength to others around them. Both men have a deep sense of integrity and wide moral streak, making them among the best at what they do. Simon is definitely a man of action, quite happy to ask questions later, whereas Luke tends to think things through, often providing a voice of reason, at least when his heart’s not involved.

Here is a brief excerpt of the beginning of False Notes, giving you an idea of Simon'’s opinion on the west.

            The night was clear; he swore the stars were only inches from his head and he only had to reach out a finger to touch them. It was one of the things he so enjoyed about the territories. He had no complaints when assignments took him this far west, although he knew a lot of the other government agents didn’t care for the area, or the people. They weren’t civilized enough, he often heard.
            He snorted aloud at that; the people he had encountered were a lot more civilized than their eastern counterparts. And that included the Indians. When his horse snorted
back, he chuckled and reached over to pat the horse’s neck. “You agree, I see.”
            He put one booted foot in the stirrup, started to heave himself into the saddle, and then stopped, his right foot still touching the ground. He cocked his head to the side,
listening again for the sound, and sure enough, it came—a slight scraping noise. When Pride turned his head, as if questioning just what Simon intended to do, he pushed aside the big horse's head and removed his left foot, then quickly and quietly looped Pride's reins around the nearby hitching post. Rubbing the horse’s nose, indicating that he should be quiet, he swiftly pressed himself up against the wooden wall of the building and into the shadows, trying to gauge the direction of the sound. There was nothing sinister about it, but it was out of place. Finding what didn’t belong was part of his job.

False Notes is available on Amazon ,  Barnes and Noble and other premium distribution sites.

In Heart Quest, Maj, Luke’s love interest, tries to calm a young student’s fear of moving west:

“Uncle Albert said I have to leave here. I have to go west.”
And Maj couldn’t wait to go back. Tamping down her excitement, she waited to hear the girl’s concerns.
“All of those savages live out west,” Deidre said from her lofty age of ten years. Since her easel was next to Annabelle’s there was no chance the child wouldn’t have heard her.
Annabelle cried harder and Maj sighed. Standing, Maj reached in her pocket for a freshly laundered handkerchief. Taking Annabelle’s chin in her hand, she turned the child’s face toward her as she dabbed at the girl’s tears. Putting both hands on Annabelle’s shoulders she made sure she had the child’s complete attention before speaking.
“Annabelle, did you know I am going to go with you?”
The girl stopped crying for a moment and stared at her.
“Really? You’re coming with me?”
“Not for always, but I will be with you on the train out west and stay with you at your aunt’s for a few days.”
“Aren’t you afraid of the Indians?” Deidre asked.
Maj refrained from scowling at the girl. “Not at all.” No need for the girl to know that was a lie. Some of the tribes terrified her. “I know a lot of Indians,” she said not quite truthfully. Leaving her hand on Annabelle’s shoulder, she stood and realized she had a little audience, mostly made up of girls ten and under. She suspected the older ones were listening but wouldn’t be caught dead admitting to it.
“I used to live out west, you know. In Oklahoma. It’s really not too different from the east,” she told them.
“I heard houses had dirt floors.”
“True, some of them do.” The house she had shared with her sister in Minnesota when they were children was one of them. “But there are also grand houses as fine as any I’ve seen here. A lot of people who live in the west used to live back here, so they’ve brought their ways with them. And now that the railroad goes across the country, I’m sure people will be visiting more and more.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes, I do.” In spite of the harum-scarum way she had traveled east, it had still been relatively easy. Certainly much quicker than her trip from Minnesota to Oklahoma when her uncle had come for them. He hadn’t been one to spend any extra money; they traveled by wagon despite the fact they had few possessions to bring with them.
“But what about the Indians?”
Maj tried not to heave too loud a sigh. “What about them, Deidre? Some of them go to school back here, you know. Some even go to other countries for schooling.”
 “My father said the savages don’t have any schooling,” Deidre sniffed and turned back to her painting.
Maj refrained from commenting. It wasn’t her place to get into an argument with the students, and she certainly didn’t intend to negate what the girl’s father said, but as far as she was concerned, some of those savages were much more polite than Deidre.

Heart Quest is available on AmazonBarnes and Noble and other premium distribution sites.

Adventurous heroes. Audacious heroines.
Tara Manderino books.


Miriam Newman said...

Tara, although I can't write Westerns, I admire those who do. I think there is so much of the Old West still in us--in our everyday thoughts and actions, even when we're not aware of it--that this influence will never die. At least, I hope not.

J.D. Faver said...

Great post, Tara. Simon and Luke are indeed heroes to be proud of. My grandfather ran away from a Catholic boy's school in New Orleans to be a wild young man in the Oklahoma Territory. He started out as a drug dealer (sold patent medicines) and later became a banker. His branch of the Chase Manhattan was the only one west of the Mississippi to stay open after the crash. Your adventurous western historicals capture the spirit of the men and women who tamed this rugged territory. Good writing.

Tara said...

Thanks, Miriam. I do think the spirit of the west is still alive, and should continue to be nurtured. Every time I come across that 'it doesn't follow the rules' mentality, I say thank goodness.

Tara said...

Thanks for commenting, J.D. Sounds like your grandfather could be a great character in a book. :) I love these types of stories.

E. Ayers said...

Oh, this sounds exciting. I love a good romance especially with "real" men. I also love the concept of your heroes being SS men. Today these guys still work for the treasury. (I know a real SS man. LOL They still have some amazing training and they know how to quick draw.)

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

Tara, it's easy to see you really love the west and cowboys. But, wait just a dad gummed minute. Jarrod? Pshaw. Nick was my hunk of choice. Still is. ;-)


Michele Hart said...

I always liked the townfolk, too, Tara. :-)

I wish all Romance readers the delights of your stories.

Michele Hart

Anonymous said...

I always loved Heath, gentle and yet tough when he had to be. Big Valley was a must see every week back then, I still catch it on some channels now. Love it, although I think I've seen everyone.

I watch Gunsmoke one of the writers on there is unbeatable. John Meston. What scripts he could write. Loved them.

Cowboys will live on through us.

Carol said...

I love cowboys too. Through Simon and Luke you bring the old West alive. We have cowboys in our lineage, but most lived a hard life. They worked from sun up until sun down, good honest men. False Notes is a very fascinating story! Heart Quest is on my TBR list!

Tara Manderino said...

Thanks for stopping by, E. The original SS split into different organizations -- the FBI being one of them. Fascinating stuff.

Tara Manerino said...

LOL, Jane. Nick and Heath were appealing, but I just loved the way Jarrod would talk his way out of things! Just saw that Peter Breck passed away Feb. 6. Another cowboy gone.

Tara Manderino said...

Michele, thanks for stopping by. I loved the shows with cowboys but even at a young age I figured there had to be more people!

Tara said...

Rita, I'm with you! One of the things I absolutely loved about Jarrod was that he talked first. If he reached for his gun, you knew there was serious trouble. :)

I'll have to pay better attention to which Gunsmoke episodes were written by Meston.

Tara said...

Carol, I think the real cowboy's life was a hard one -- fascinating, but physically demanding. You caught a glimpse of Luke's personality in False Notes. In Heart Quest, it's flipped around so that it really is Luke's story, but you know these partners-- they're always in the picture.

S.D. Bancroft said...

Cowboys(and the people that settled our great country) have always been a fascination of mine. I love the way that you have taken a part of our history and made such entertaining stories for us!
Looking forward to your next story!

Tara said...

Thanks for stopping by, S.D. I find writing historicals fascinating. In talking to someone once, they didn't see how anyone could function without email. In 1874 (when my stories take place) there was the telegraph and telegrams -- just consider them the emails of the day.

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

I love westerns! Both books sound wonderful, and the covers so eye catching. There's just something special about a cowboy. Yummy!

marybelle said...

There is something rather special about reading or viewing Westerns. Yes, the cowboys of course, but it took more than cowboys.

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

Oooh I love history and especially love book steeped in it. This looks great Tara. By the way, that's some handsome cowboy on your cover. ;)