While I could see shades of Cain Casey in Levi, Dr. Montbard certainly carved her own space out in this reader’s mind. She is the kind of person…ahem…character…that I would be proud to number among my friends. Honorable, dedicated, driven, respectful and caring. She has a big heart and it shows.
The author has once again crafted memorable characters that live on long after the book is finished. Ali Vali’s gift is not only transporting us to her world(s) but also populating those places with people that almost seem to breathe and stumble as we do.
This story had everything I hoped for – adventure, love, danger and a mysterious quest. I hope Levi and Yasmine (and her sister) have even more adventures, because I cannot wait to see what’s next for them.
This heart-warming novel will be available May 1st from the publisher, Bold Strokes Books, and May 11th everywhere else, but I suggest cutting out the middleman and getting it direct from the publisher.
At first glance, it may seem that the West was won by the men who braved the various dangers to make new lives. But eventually, men looked around and realized the new land was lacking. Some men wrote to their families, asking them to find a wife who would come West and join him. Some men wrote to churches, beseeching the clergy to find them a hard-working woman of good morals and strength of character. Other men wrote to “matrimonial journals”, essentially magazines focused only on matchmaking. Both genders would advertise their qualities and describe the potential spouse they sought. More often than not, interested parties would write back and forth to each other briefly before the brave woman left the life she knew and headed West. Sometimes, there would be no letters at all, but a church might put up train fare, tell the young lady who she was to meet and send her on her way.
(And you thought modern dating had risks!)
These mail order brides would become one of the more commonly known tales of the settlement of the Western United States.
But a lesser-known historical tale were the women who settled and homesteaded alone. Passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any twenty-one-year-old head of household the right to homestead federal land. Single, widowed, and divorced women fit this description, and many crossed the country to file homestead claims of 160 acres. Some men took issue with this and tried to force the women to give up their land and go back to what the men thought were “respectable lives for women”. Any woman just trying to make a life for herself faced even more danger beyond simple daily life.
Some women threw conventional expectations to the winds and did as they pleased. Some became small business owners who ran laundry services or tailor shops. There were even a few notable women who upheld the laws, such as F.M. Miller, appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in Paris, Texas in 1891. She was so remarkable that she was mentioned several times in newspapers as she assisted in the capture or transport of an outlaw. The Fort Smith Elevator (newspaper) on November 6, 1891 described her as, “a dashing brunette of charming manners…The woman carries a pistol buckled around her and has a Winchester strapped to her saddle. She is an expert shot and a superb horsewoman, and brave to the verge of recklessness…”
A young woman named Ada Curnutt made her mark on history back in 1893 when she single-handedly and fearlessly arrested two felons, named Reagan and Dolezal. The story goes that she found work as a District Court clerk and as a Deputy Marshal to U.S. Marshal William Grimes. Considering she was 20 at the time, this was a significant event. In March of 1893, she received a telegram from Grimes, instructing her to send a deputy to arrest Reagan and Dolezal for forgery. All the deputies were out in the field, so Curnutt took it upon herself to do the job. She took a train to Oklahoma City, asked around about the men and soon learned they were in a saloon. Respectable women would have never set foot inside a saloon, so she asked a man to go in and tell Reagan and Dolezal a lady wanted to see them outside.
When they came out of the saloon, Curnutt told them they were under arrest and read the warrants to them. Thinking the whole affair was a joke, the two men allowed her to put them in handcuffs, laughing the entire time. They soon realized it was no joke. She escorted them to the train station and sent a telegraph to the marshal’s office in Guthrie to inform them she was bringing in the felons. The men were tried and convicted of forgery not long after.
It’s a shame we don’t hear more about the women who tamed the West alongside men. Many members of the “fairer sex” were tough, resilient, determined and committed to making lives for themselves in an unforgiving land.
Do you have a remarkable woman in your family tree? Tell us about her in the comments section below.
Once in a lifetime, some folks are lucky enough to be the recipient of a life-altering gift. As far as I know, I’ve never been able to count myself among them.
Until this week.
Back in late autumn of last year (2020), I joined the Golden Crown Literary Society, a leading literary organization for editors, publishers, readers, writers, and friends/supporters who celebrate books about women loving women. A couple of months later, I applied to their writing academy. I was tickled pink when I got an acceptance letter! Their writing academy has educated, bouyed, supported and kick-started the careers of many authors. But as with quality education in anything we’re passionate about, it wasn’t free. They offer payment plans, so I wasn’t worried. Too much.
Just a couple of days ago, I was thrilled beyond words (which is saying a lot!) to find out that I’d been chosen to receive the very first Erica Abbott Mystery Scholarship! Erica Abbott was beloved and cherished by the lesfic community and when she passed away, she left a void that can never be filled. She was a friend to many and an accomplished and gifted writer as well. It is an unfathomable honour to be the first recipient of a scholarship in her name.
I have very large shoes to fill.
The Golden Crown Literary Society has apparently seen merit and potential in my writing, and it’s a mind-blowing opportunity to be accepted into the writing academy. I have a responsibility not to waste this moment…this gift. At the same time, I am reminded of the power the written word can have. Empires have been crumbled, or fortified with words. Swaths of wilderness and the animals that live in them have been saved or brought to ruin with a written word. The environment, and we ourselves can be saved with a series of words.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
Tell me about a gift you recieved that changed your life, or the way you viewed something.
There’s a lot to be said for experimentation in writing. Especially if it’s a genre a writer hasn’t tried before. The writer can try new points of view, new tropes or maybe new settings. Sometimes, writing in a genre they’ve not written in before can reveal new aspects of the person behind the keyboard.
Once upon a time (I promise this isn’t a fairy tale) I would have said I avoided romance books like the plague. Except, over time, I haven’t been. I read and review quite a few #wlw (women-loving-women) romance novels, mysteries and literary fiction books. I’ve also been reading a number of “straight” Western romances, particularly those set in the late 1800s. I seem to have developed a fondness for them, actually. There’s something intriguing about a woman setting off to make a life for herself, and marry a man she’s only ever written to and yet never seen. Talk about an adventure with a big helping of risk! What if the gent had misrepresented himself, or the woman had and her new man no longer wanted her? Or if they hit it off, what if she was woefully unprepared for the amount of work involved in homesteading? Anything could happen…wildfire, flood, a failed crop could lead to famine, their stock could die…
Life on the frontier was tough!
But all the while I’ve been reading these tales of risk, bravery and eventual love, an idea had been growing in the back of my mind. I could write one of these but put it in a place I know.
There aren’t as many historical records that tell us about matrimonial situations in the bush as there are for life on the prairie, but that’s where imagination comes in.
I know how winters are up here. I know how fierce hungry, wild animals can be. I know how a wolf howl can send shivers down a spine.
So, to that end, one of the pieces of fiction I’ll be working on over the next few months is a historical romance novel. The story of how Clara Livingston and Josiah Hunter make a life for themselves in the Canadian woods in 1860.
I’ll share behind-the-scenes glimpses and excerpts if you like, as well as tidbits of research. Let me know if this sounds like something you’d be interested in.
You might remember that I have a German Shepherd whose greatest pleasure is his morning walks. Now that the air isn’t frigid, I keep my eyes open for interesting photo opportunities, especially while the sun is still coming up.
This morning, this little tree, still coated in frost from last night, presented itself, back-lit by the rising sun.
Beauty is all around us. All we have to do is pay attention.