Where can you set your Western Historical Romance? The quick and most logical answer is that it can be set in any state west of the Mississippi River. But…and that is a big but, you book may or may not start in the west, but it does end up there. Since I am familiar with my own, I will show examples of this from my published books.
The mail-order-bride book is an example of the life of the heroine beginning in the east and her accepting the hand of a man located in the west. In DRINA’S CHOICE, Drina Hamilton lives with an abusive father and knows she needs to get away from him. She accepts the proposal of a rancher in Arizona and moves there. After her trek west, the rest of the story takes place in Arizona.
Another type book is when the entire family moves west for another reason such as wanting to start a new life, hoping to strike gold or any other reason you can come up with. In OPAL’S FAITH, Opal Barnett’s father lost his job because he tried to report his unsavory banking boss. It is long until the family has lost everything they have in Memphis, Tennessee. The father inherits his brother’s ranch in Arizona, and moves his wife and four daughters there, though none have any experience in ranching.
The third is when an easterner goes west for some other reason. In XENIA’S RENEGADE, Xenia Poindexter and he sister are lured from their home in Virginia by a vicious lie that their uncle is in trouble. They go to Arizona to help. On the way, Xenia’s sister rescues an orphaned baby who happens to be a half-breed. Faced with prejudice they are forced to accept help from two cousins who also happen to be half Indian. They are accepted in the area because they happen to be the richest ranchers in the area.
Some books begin in the west and stay in the west. AMELIA’S MARRIAGE, the first in the Settler’s Ridge series, is an example of this. Amelia Donahue was born and raised on the huge Double D ranch in Wyoming. She is kind of a rebel and her father thinks the only way he can settle her down is to force her to marry his foreman, a horrible man who has the elder Donahue fooled. Amelia goes into town and hires a bounty hunter to marry her for six months so she won’t have to marry her father’s foreman.
Occasionally you will come across a book that takes place in different places. BELINDA’S YANKEE, is one of these. Shortly after Belinda Babcock sees her father murdered and their home in Alabama burned by Yankee troops, she finds a wounded Union Yankee officer and nurses him back to health. In turn he helps her get to her relatives in Louisiana. He goes home to New York to resume his life and finds his life there is not what he expects it to be. He decides to find Belinda again, but she and her relatives have moved to Colorado.
Occasionally you’ll find a western book set in the east. HANNAH’S WISHES is an example. Most of the book takes place in Savannah, GA. Hannah Hamilton, confined to a wheelchair because of a birth defect, has been raised by an aunt that has her own sinister reasons for letting the girl live with her. Because her sister in Arizona is concerned she sends a detective to Savannah to check up on Hannah. In the last chapter, Hannah does move to Arizona to be near her sister.
Then there is the different western such as RENA’S COWBOY. Rena Dumont is a present day, widowed, Atlanta, GA police officer. Caught in a cave-in in the west, when she comes to she finds herself on a ranch in the year 1876.
As you can see, you can use the setting of your novel to your advantage. You are the author and you have the power to set it anywhere you want to. But there are a couple of things you must remember. First be sure to know the state you’re using in your novel. If you don’t live there or have traveled there in person, make sure to look it up on the internet. Most states and cities have great websites. They also have lots of information in historical writings and photos. There is no excuse to set you novel in North Dakota when you have it located near the Grand Canyon. Set your story in Arizona. And if you mention the Rio Grande River, be sure you’re using Texas as a setting, not Kansas.