Are There Taboos in Writing the Western Historical Romance?
I had a new writer tell me she didn’t think you could tackle a controversial subject in a western romance like you could in other genres. She said all you have to do to write a western romance is dream up a handsome cowboy and a pretty maiden, thrown in a few gunfights, a fistfight or two and a gang of outlaws or rustlers. Then you have the couple argue and make up and all will end well.
Of course, those of us who write western historical romance know there is more to the story than gunfights, outlaws, rustlers, (though they may be there) and a romance that ends well.
When I started writing western romance it never occurred to me the number of topics some people might consider taboo that I’d end up including in my novels.
My first book, Fiona’s Journey came out in 2012. It touched on the horrible subject of child molestation and rape. Though I never graphically described either of these in my writing, it left no doubt in the reader’s mind what was being referred to.
In Valissa’s Home I discussed gambling. Not the regular kind of gambling that takes place in a saloon as happens in most westerns, but one of my characters suffer a gambling addiction so bad that he not only lost all his fortune, but also that of his sister.
Prejudice was one of the topics in the book Amelia’s Marriage. A lot of people, including her father, were appalled when Amelia fell in love with, not only a bounty-hunter, but a bounty-hunter who happened to be half Lakota Indian.
Drina’s Choice was a mail-order-bride story. Though many men in the west wanted a wife to ease their loneliness and to give them children as heirs, there were other reasons for using this service. In my book, the mail-order-bride was arranged to keep a rancher from losing the ranch he’d worked so hard to build into a profitable enterprise.
Dealing with a heroine who was born with a withered foot and could never walk, but who had dreams and hopes of one day having a man to love and to love her back was the premise of Hannah’s Wishes. Also I touched on how an unscrupulous relative could take advantage of someone with a disability.
Rena’s Cowboy was the one time-travel I’ve written. It explores how an accomplished, savvy policewoman of today’s world copes when thrown back into the primitive way people had to live in the 1800’s. It also shows how men of that place and time could learn that women were strong and could hold their own in most any situation.
Edwina’s Husband deals with a woman who has been raised by her not-so-religious preacher uncle who has a bible verse for everything that happens, though he sees everything in the world as evil, including his wife and his niece. Of course, he sees no wrong in himself.
Child abandonment is the first problem that crops up in Camilla’s Daughters. There is also the problem of child slavery and how a woman who never wanted children contends with having two girls thrust upon her – one an infant and the other an eight-year-old.
Family loyalty and revenge is in Opal’s Faith.
Hate and acceptance is forefront in Belinda’s Battle, my newest romance from Prairie Rose Publications released May 19.
In some of the books I have sketched out I will tackle such things as: Remorse and loneliness in Zenia’s Guilt; Unwanted pregnancy and responsibility in Isabel’s Baby; and infidelity and forgiveness in Nelda’s Return.
After these books are finished, I’m not sure what, but I will come up with something else for my main characters to face. I hope it will be something I won’t be afraid to tackle or something that I’ll shy away from. I have learned that no subject is taboo when you write a western romance as long as it is written with tact and in a non-offensive way.