Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Research ya gotta love it!

by | March 24, 2009 | 14 comments

I like research. Really what historical writer doesn’t? You have to have a curiosity for why they did things this way and how that worked to really tell a story that pulls the reader in and makes them live the life of your characters.

Nothing is more fascinating to me than visiting a museum in the area my story is set. I love looking at old photos, reading journals and diaries, and visiting with the people who love the history of the area. The one-on-one interviews with people are where the juicy tidbits can be picked up.

For one book, I learned how they hauled heavy cast iron cooking stoves into remote places via mules. And this was from a man who as a boy went with his father to town and purchased the cook stove for his mother and helped haul it home. They strapped long poles to the outsides of pack saddles on two mules. One mule in the front, the poles and one mule in the back. The trail was narrow only one animal at a time could walk on the sides of rocky canyon walls. The stove was tied to the poles. When the animals got tired, they’d go down on their knees and rest. And according to the person I talked to, the animals wouldn’t get up until they were rested, so there was no sense hurrying them. You just took a seat and whittled until they got up.

The great information find I dug up for my latest release, Outlaw in Petticoats, had to do with saloon bars. One of the reasons the bar top was such thick wood was to allow for finger holes underneath. When there were drinking contests, a man could put his fingers up in the holes under the counter and remain standing. Try it sometime. If your fingers are stuffed into holes, it’s just like your hand is tied to the bar. I used that information when my heroine tries to fit into the male crowd while the hero is getting information.

Blurb for Outlaw in Petticoats
Maeve Loman has had her heart crushed before; she isn’t about to have it happen again. When she takes Zeke Halsey up on his offer to help her discover the truth about her father, she’s sure she can control her traitorous body and not fall for the man’s considerable charms.

Zeke Halsey has wanted Maeve Loman since he first set eyes on the prickly schoolteacher. Even as she thwarts his advances, he sees the desire burning in her eyes. He knows she feels abandoned and uses bravado to keep people at arm’s length. Offering to help her find her father, he hopes to prove he’s not going anywhere.

Excerpt (after the bar scene)
The horses were saddled. Zeke looked around.
Where’d Maeve go? She knew better than to wander
around this town unescorted.
“You see the woman I came in here with?” he asked
the boy tending the horses.
“She stumbled out back a while ago.” The boy lugged
two buckets of water down the aisle.
His heart thudded in his chest. Damn. He should
have paid more attention to her. She drank the beer at
the Umatilla like a thirsty cowhand. And he knew she’d
never tasted the drink before today.
He stepped into the open alley behind the livery and
scanned the area. Nothing moved. Where could she have
wandered? A moan filtered through the night air. Zeke
cocked his head. There it was again. He moved in the
direction it appeared to originate. That’s when he spotted
the privy.
Standing in front of the building, he ran over the
proprieties of opening the door. When another moan
echoed inside the shack, he grabbed the door and yanked
it open. Maeve sat on the wooden bench, her head
propped against the wall. Her eyes were closed, and she
gulped air like an animal taking its last gasp.
“Maeve?” He reached out and shook her arm.
“Maeve.” Her eyelids slowly rose.
“Zeke. Did you find my father?” A silly grin
brightened her face.
“No. We’re getting ready to ride out and find Barton.”
He grasped her arms, pulling her to a standing position.
She flopped against him, wrapping her arms around his
In her condition, he couldn’t put her on a horse by
herself. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her
back into the stable.
“She need a doc?” the stable boy asked, scurrying
over as Zeke placed Maeve on his horse.
“No.” He swung up behind the drunk woman. “Hand
me the reins to that horse.” When the boy complied, he
nodded his thanks and urged his horse out of the building.
They wouldn’t be able to travel as fast riding double, but
at least he wouldn’t have to keep stopping to make sure
she was still mounted.
The arm circling the rag doll woman in the saddle in
front of him, rested just under her breasts. What would
she do if he slid it around and- He groaned. Now wasn’t
the time. He’d never take advantage or any woman in this
state and especially this woman. He wanted her trust.
Taking her when she was drunk wasn’t showing her any
kind of trust.
“Zeke?” Her head smacked back against his chest.
Lucky for him she was short enough her head didn’t hit
him in the chin.
“Do you think my father is alive?”
“It’s hard to say. Don’t think about it, just go to sleep,
you’ll feel better after you rest.” He kissed the top of her
head and snuggled her against him.
She sighed and wrapped her arms around his arm
like she hugged a puppy or a pillow. Now why couldn’t she
be this clingy when she was awake?
He shook his head. No, he didn’t want a clingy, needy
woman. Maeve’s independence had captured his
attention. Her insistence she needed no one pushed him
to prove her otherwise. If she wanted to find out the truth
about her father, she needed him. Would she find a reason
to slip out of his life once she had the answers? The
thought squeezed his chest. He’d find the truth, and then
he’d prove to her he was nothing like the man.

To enter to win a pdf of Outlaw in Petticoats leave a comment. If you’d like to learn more about my other books and me or to enter my monthly website contest, go to: www.patyjager.com


  1. housemouse88

    Would love to win A PDF of your book. Count me in. Have a great day.

  2. Susan Macatee

    Great excerpt, Paty! And I agree, first hand research is the absolute best! You learn all those little details that bring a reader into a historical.

  3. Helen Hardt

    Hi Paty — fun post! It is amazing what our research turns up. I have a love/hate relationship with research. I love finding out new things, especially those juicy little tidbits that can make a story shine. But I hate that it takes time away from my writing, LOL.


  4. Jannine

    Hi Paty:
    I loved the excerpt. The scene made the h/h real. Sounds like you have a great book there.

    I know what you mean about the research. It’s the best part of writing. When I wrote Rebel Heart, I learned so much about sheep ranching that I probably could have done it with my eyes closed, LOL.

  5. Lauri

    I too love the research part of writing. The finger holes in the bar is classic!

    Great excerpt!

    Hope it’s a great day!

  6. Kathy Otten

    Love that tidbit about the finger holes under the bar top. And mules not getting up until they were rested. The people in stories always seem to have a stove in their house or cabin, never thought to wonder how they came to be there. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Paty Jager

    Thanks you for stopping by, housemouse88. Your name is in the drawing.

    Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Helen! Yes, research is a time suck, but it makes the story so much better.

    Hi Jannine. Outlaw has received some good reviews. My family had sheep when I was growing up.For the most part they are not very bright animals. LOL

    HI Lauri! Thanks for stopping by!

    Hey Kathy! It’s amazing to think how a lot of household items made it to some remote areas.

  8. Mary Ricksen

    How unrealistic our stories would be without the research. Those are the thing that make us believe what we are reading. And I love a book that teaches me and entertains me!

  9. Paty Jager

    So true Mary. I think that’s why most people read historicals- to learn about the past in an entertaining way.

  10. Kytaira

    I love reading a book with accurate historical details. Not to many details or I feel like I’m reading a text book but enough that I feel immersed in the time. I wonder if anyone got their fingers stuck in the holes. Sort of like getting your fingers stuck in a bowling ball! Congrats on the release! It sounds great!

  11. Paty Jager

    Kytaira, thanks for stopping by. I wondered that same thing about the holes. My dh has followed a ball down the aisle a time or two! LOL

  12. Paisley Kirkpatrick

    I also love research. My first story’s research was dear to my heart because I was able to get a copy of my great, great grandfather’s journal that is kept under glass in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. It’s in his own handwriting of course and so beautifully done that I almost felt like I got to know him a bit. The journal was written on his trek across country in 1849 to the gold fields in California.

    Loved your excerpts…

  13. Paty Jager

    Hi Paisley, How wonderful to have something of your great grandfather’s to use for research!

  14. Paty Jager


    Mary Ricksen please e-mail me at patyjageatpatyjager.com and I’ll send you a pdf of Outlaw in Petticoats.



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