Hearts Through History Romance Writers

First Kiss – Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold

Colorado, 1880s, at an outdoor city dance –

He rested his hands on the wagon side just above her shoulders. Even in the dim light he saw the pulse in her throat beat. Close enough to feel her warmth, hear her slightly accelerated breathing. Her tongue nervously crept out to moisten her lower lip and his gut tightened. Did she taste as sweet as he suspected? Feeling his own blood pulse, his voice hardly more than a whisper, he asked, “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

Chapter Five

Her knees strangely weak, Julie leaned gratefully against the high side of the wagon. Her heart raced and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. On impulse she had allowed him to lead her past the punch table. With his nearness he’d stolen her ability to think clearly.

Why was she being so jittery? They were still only yards away from the dance floor, she still heard the orchestra, the buzz of conversation.

But how could she think when he was so close? Every breath she took carried the scent of soap, tobacco, and his warm, musky indefinable male scent. The dim light cast his face into planes and angles. Would the mustache be stiff and scratchy or soft and silky? The thought of finding out made her breath catch.

“Tell me your name, sweetheart,” he repeated. His mouth moved closer to hers, his low voice a velvet caress that sent shivers across her shoulders.

“Julie,” she managed to whisper. “Juliette Marie.”

“Julie,” he repeated as if he liked the sound of her name in his mouth. He bent his head. Her heart raced with anticipation and dread. She wondered wildly if she was afraid his kiss would be just like others—or more afraid it wouldn’t.

He touched his lips to hers. At the soft caress of his mouth, her eyes fluttered closed. His gentleness left her without resistance, the liquid heat of his kiss seeped through her body to lodge in the most unusual places. How could the warmth of his lips and the silkiness of his mustache make her breasts tingle? He lifted his head and she realized the soulful sigh she heard was her own.

How I Named My Characters

The idea for Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold came from the location of Durango, so looking into Durango history, I chose the 1880s.  To the location and time I added some general plotting.  But a story is told through the character, so they must have names.

I already had the name of my heroine, Julie (a cute blonde girl that I used to work with).  But Julie is not really historical for that time, so making the backstory (all that happens to you character before the book starts that make them who and what they are) that her father was a fan of Shakespeare, so named his daughters Cordelia (King Lear) and Juliette (with Romeo).  I don’t actually say this in the story, so if you caught the Julie and Cory connection – good for you.

Once I had the heroine’s name, I needed a hero for her.  One that would contrast and eventually connect with her character.  My hero’s name is Wes, to underline ‘the west’ where the story takes place (and short and easy to type – always a consideration).  I didn’t want Wes to be short for Wesley (too Princess Bride), so made it a contraction of his last name, Westmoreland.  Again the sub text of connection with the wide open spaces of the west.BCColoradoSilverFinal2a

 Julie’s Uncle Frank is named after a nice guy I used to work with.  Other character names seem to just pop up full blown.  Landham Kennedy, the villain’s name came just that way.  There were a lot of Irish immigrants in the United States which accounts for the Kennedy.  But I don’t think Landham is his real first name, but one he took when he came west.  I see Kennedy and his friend/hanger-on Rickman as hiding their southern roots of being poor white trash.  Both Clare and her brother, Lieutenant Sullivan also had ties to the wave of Irish immigrants in the 1840s. 

Wes’ friend Kate Valdez is obviously part Mexican, which would be realistic for a woman in either California or Colorado.  Kate just sounded like a good, solid name for an old friend.

In case you’re interested, the title comes from the silver and gold mined in Colorado, but also my heroine (with the silver blonde hair) and my hero (with the golden blond hair). 

Do you ever name characters after people you know?

Elizabeth I, Queen of England

Elizabeth I 

Elizabeth had always been a hero of mine, probably why my MA in History is a specialization in Tudor and Stuart England. 

 Elizabeth’s greatness lies in two parts.  The first that she survives to become Queen, and second that she guided England from the disastrous state she inherited to a wealthy and stable country. 

 As the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was born a princess, but as Henry progressed through his six wives, she was declared illegitimate, shifted from pillar to post and eventually reinstated in the succession after her younger half-brother Edward, her older half sister Mary (who also went through the legitimate/ill legitimate back and forth). 


Man’s Best Friend

BanditJump Man’s best friend

Once our son’s grew up and left home, my husband and I got puppies.  So now we do agility with our dogs, a Scottish terrier named Smokey and a Pembroke Welsh corgi named Bandit. 

So now I’m thinking about how to incorporate dogs into my stories.  Since I write (mostly) in the American west, there are plenty of opportunity to have a dog as a character.  In one story the cowboy hero brings his new wife a puppy.  Ranches often had dogs, as they were useful in helping drive cattle.  My husband’s family had a dog, Buster, that would help his father round up the cattle.  Our Welsh corgi would be over the moon if we had some cows so we could tell him to go get and drive them in for milking.

Dogs were also served to hunt vermin, especially terrier type dogs.  Cats get mice, but terriers can get rats.  And farmers always have grain to protect.Smokey at DogTV

And, of course, all dogs are watch dogs, who bark when something out of the ordinary happens.  I was always impressed by Buster, as if you drove up to my in-laws’ house in the Oklahoma county side, Buster would bark a warning as you drove up the long driveway.  If, however, my in-laws were not at home, Buster would just lay on the porch and give you look like ‘nobody home, silly.’  And he was big enough, that if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t have gotten out the car while he watched.

I would assume that most dogs in the American west were not the purebreds we would see today at a dog show.  If a hunting dog had a reputation of being a good hunter, people would want puppies from them.  Same with herding dogs, or terriers based on their ability.

Finally, one of the most common reasons for keeping a dog was for companionship the dog provided.  And while our dogs have the run of our house, I’m pretty sure my heroine who runs a boarding house will only allow the dog in the back porch or kitchen.  Our dogs don’t know how good they have it.

Blain’s Smokey of Santee, CGC, NA, NAJ

 & Blain’s Sundance Bandit, CGC, NA, NAJ, CTL2-F, CTL2-H




Adventures in England

Bodiam-castle-10My8-1197  My experience at Bodiam Castle, one of our adventures in England.


In 2004 my husband and I took a trip to England & Scotland.  This was one of my dream trips as I have a MA in History (specializing in Tudor and Stuart England) and taught Western Civilization at the college level.


After a week in London, we rented a car and took off to tour the country, staying in B&Bs.  At one point we stopped in a small village to get snacks, and the store keepers, knowing we were tourist by our accents, asked we we’d been to Bodiam Castle and recommended we see it.  So next morning we went to see.  As you can tell from the photo, Bodiam Castle was a moated castle built in the 14th century, the very iconic fairy tale castle with crenellated four towers.  The castle was partly dismantled in the 16th, but in the 1829 was partially restored.  Now it belongs to the National Trust and open to us tourist.  The exterior is almost complete, and even the gatehouse has the original wooden portcullis. 


Since we arrived early before the castle opened, we visited the souvenir shop.  While in the shop we talked to one of the locals who ask about our visit.  Learning I was a history teacher, he mentioned that later that evening the local historical society was having a reading of Rudyard Kipling and would we still be in the area.  He asked, “Do you like Kipling?” A pause while my inner American/Groucho Marx took advantage of an opening too good to pass up.  “I don’t know,” I replied, “I’ve never kippled.”  Apparently even old American jokes are new in England and everyone laughed.  Then I apologized as we would have to miss Kipling as we were leaving that afternoon.


The castle is only about half there as the timbers and wooden or lath walls are gone.  Was really interesting, you cross the moat, and at the barbican, the murders’ holes (pics).  Once inside, it’s quickly obvious that medieval people were much smaller that we are.  I’m not a tall person (5’4”) anyone taller than I probably would have to duck to get through the door ways.  Once inside one of the room that was still complete accept for the roof, it would have been very dark.


The really fun part was going up one of the towers.  As we’re going up the clockwise staircase (with very little steps, couldn’t get my whole foot on the steps), I’m explaining to my husband that the stairs are this way so that most people being right-handed, any invaders wouldn’t have room to swing their swords.  And right after I said this, we met a husband and wife coming down the stairs, the husband swing his cane to show his wife how the defenders would have the advantage over any invaders.  I forget if we backed down or they went back up, but there was no room to pass on those stairs. 


Once we got to the top of the tower, here was a great view over the country side.  You could have seen anyone who was coming a long way off.  We had a great time at Bodiam Castle all because we stopped and talked to people in small shop.



Have you ever stopped and without planning found an interesting place?


What’s in a Name?

medieval pigOk, I admit it, I was a history teacher.  I taught American History and Western Civilization at the college level.  I think being a history teacher was great preparation for being a story teller.  After all, that what history is, the story of who we are and where we come from.  It’s the story of us.


You want to make the history personal to the students.  One of my favorite lectures to do this was talking about surnames in the Middle Ages.  Once the population began to grow there had to be a way to tell all the Tom, Dick and Harry’s from one another.  So surnames were added.  Names came from a variety of way.  Many from attaching the patronymic ‘son of’.  Examples: Leif Ericson (Eric’s son), George MacDonald (son of Donald), John O’Reilly (son of Reilly), Ivan Petrov (son of Petre), John Williamson (son of William). OK, you get the idea.


Some names came from where you lived.  Woods, Fields, Rivers, Bridges.  Or if your French instead of English, DuBois (the woods), DuPont (the bridge).  Who you worked for such as King (Reyes, Reyna, Roi/Roy), Bishop, Priest, Mayor, etc.


Surname also came from occupations.  Farmer, Cook, Butcher, Clerk/Clark, Fuller, Dryer, Miller, Taylor/Tailor, Cooper, Butler, Fletcher, Wright (depending on what you built – Boatwright, Wheelwright, Cartwright), etc.  All these occupations exist in languages other than English, such as the German Snyder (tailor).  And of course, the most common surname, Smith.


Some other ‘Smith” German: Schmid, Schmidt, Schmitt

 French: Lefebvre, Lefèvre, Lefeuvre, Lefébure,

Spanish: Herrera, Herrero, Ferrero,

Portuguese: Ferreiro, Ferreira

Italian: Ferraro, Ferrari  (Yes, that fancy sports car the guys always wanted is a ‘Smith’)


One of my family names is Palmer – which means at one time, some of my ancestors made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


Do any of you have great stories of your family names?