Tuesday, September 21, 2021

WESTERN TOWNS - REAL OR FICTITIOUS By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

When I choose a historical book setting, I usually pick an existing town that boasted a railway station in the 19th century, then create a fictitious town not too far away.  That way, my character can travel most of the way West by train as opposed to stage coach, but I can be free with my creativity wherever I plunk them for the story. 

It was exciting to find this photo of Durango in the 1880’s, a year before the first train stopped there in August 1881.  Ridgemont is my latest fictitious town an indeterminate distance away.  The name seemed to fit, given there are mountain ridges all over the area. 

The first book to feature Ridgemont takes place when the town is in its infancy, settled there by Shane and Lacey Blackman in A BRIDE FOR SHANE, currently on sale today only for 99cents.


Fast forward a few years, the town is growing and requires someone to uphold the law.  Enter Weston, the town sheriff seeking a mail order bride in A BRIDE FOR WESTON.  Weston releases this Friday, the 24th. Or you can pre-order now to ensure you have it delivered to your kindle early Friday morning.  Here’s a preview!

         Seeking an unusual woman for matrimony.  A helpmate in the serving of justice.  Marriage in name only.  Sheriff Holmes, Ridgemont, Colorado. 

          Talia spent most of the trip West praying she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life.  And Lord knew, there’d been plenty of mistakes thus far in her twenty-some years on earth.  She took solace from the fact that a group of women she knew and trusted from the church back home were convinced this was the right choice. 

          To date, the group had matched dozens of destitute, young, female parishioners with lonely, God-fearing bachelors on the other side of the country.  Two of them even remembered Sheriff Holmes’s father, a preacher who had, unfortunately, been killed doing the Lord’s work.  They encouraged her to put her name forward.    

          “What does marriage in name only mean?” she had asked one of the older ladies from the church who was helping her pen her response to the sheriff.

          “He means it won’t be necessary for you to share his bed.”

          Talia wasn’t sure what kind of helper the sheriff needed, office work perhaps, but compared to working off her deceased husband’s tavern debts, this chance to make a fresh start far from the Brooklyn docks and the tenement where she grew up seemed like the answer to a prayer, and before long she had a train ticket in her hand.

          Her heart rate sped up as the train began to slow.  “Next stop, Durango,” yelled the conductor.  Talia rose and wiped her damp palms on the front of her best skirt.  A dull-colored, serviceable cotton, it had been nothing special to start with, even before it became wrinkled and dusty from the trip.  As she prepared to disembark, she wondered what kind of woman the sheriff was expecting, and prayed he was a kind man.            

          As she stared at her surroundings, inhaling the unfamiliar, dry, desert air, a man approached, dark-hair visible beneath his brown Stetson, sunlight hitting a silver star pinned to his chest.  She smiled tentatively, but he walked right past her as if she was invisible. 

          “Sheriff?” she called.  “Sheriff Holmes?”

          He turned and his eyes raked over her in an impatient way that left her feeling wanting.  He took a tentative step toward her, eyes narrowed.  “Mrs. Frank?”

          Relief flooded through her as she nodded. 

          He came right up to her then.  Tall and broad-shouldered, he loomed over her, making her feel insignificant.  You’re Mrs. Frank?”

Get your copy here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B097QF2YZC

A BRIDE FOR WESTON is Book 8 of a 9 book series.  See what titles you might have missed here.    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B097HK95X9      

And in case you’re wondering, Ridgemont is growing on me.  My hero, Grant Chisholm, in MAIL ORDER NOELLE, which releases November 30th, makes a cameo appearance in A BRIDE FOR Weston.  A wealthy cattleman and known womanizer, Chisholm also calls Ridgemont home.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Making Ice cream like it's 1899

 I recently purchased an ice cream maker and in looking for what I wanted it was amazing to see how many options are out there. I went with the old traditional bucket style ice cream maker but one with a motor to do the hard job of cranking for me. 

Ice cream makers like this have been around since the mid 1800s and have changed little over the ages. The original ice cream maker was invented by American Nancy Johnson, in 1846. Johnson developed the very first ice cream maker. It works with a crank and coarse salt. 

Summer has traditionally been a time for making and eating ice cream but it is also common in the north to use snow to make ice cream in an old fashioned churn. Oddly, these old fashioned, muscle driven machines are now quite expensive and fashionable. 

Throughout the history of homemade ice cream making people have tried to make that hard churn easier by using a variety of machines to turn the handle for them. These attempts have included using the tractor engine, or pullies to make the crank turn. More often than not, however, the ice cream was made by turning the handle until it couldn't be turned any more. 

"I shall never forget my amazement at seeing a brisk Yankee housewife lay hold of the handle of the ponderous tin cylinder, and whirl it with such will and celerity, back and forth, back and forth, that the desired end came to pass in three-quarters of an hour."

A black and white photograph of a woman in a black dress with a corset, puffy sleeves and a full skirt sitting at a small table on which is a tea set. The woman is holding something in her right hand and looking directly at the camera.
Portrait of Marion Harland from "Marion Harland's Complete Cook Book," 1906 (https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/ice-cream-1927)

Ice cream was a huge hit on those hot summer days and as refrigeration improved it became more common, though still a spectacular treat to the majority of people. 

In my recent book, Catherine's Conundrum, two suitors for Catherine's hand, square off at the crank handle to see who can go the longest without taking a break. If you've ever made hand churned ice cream you know how hard it is and just how much you hand and arm hurt by the time it is all done. 

To be honest, as much as I love my new electric ice cream maker, I miss the old bucket and crank my parents kept in the basement so long ago. There is something ageless and endearing about the hand cranked machines. 

I wonder if the competition at the ice cream churn will help Catherine know her heart. 


Catherine Harvey has been given an ultimatum but is it one she can live with? Her family has determined that she must wed and have presented her with two choices, but how does she choose between her best friend and a dashing man of means?                                       

       Jaden Ackerman has been friends with Catherine his whole life. She’s a sweet, intelligent, and kindhearted girl but there has never been any spark between them. Will friendship sacrifice everything to protect her from a devious pretender?                                       

 When Catherine runs away from the conflict will one man find the courage to win her heart?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Butternut Squash Recipe


1 butternut squash-peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and ground pepper to taste
Step 1:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Step 2: Toss butternut squash with olive oil and garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange coated squash on baking sheet. 
Step 3:  Roast in the preheated oven until squash is tender and lightly browned, 25 - 30 minutes.

​NOTE:  If you don't want to cube butternut squash, you can simply cut in half, take seeds out, and then season with olive oil, garlic, and salt/pepper. It may take a little longer to cook. Take out when tender and browned.

See you next month,

Lianna Hawkins
Award-Winning Author of Western Romance
www.Lianna Hawkins.com


Tuesday, September 14, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Phantly Roy Bean Jr.

I have been researching what men think they want in a woman. You may ask why? Simple matter is, I want to make sure my characters are not one-dimensional. Secondly, I also want to add characters that are not carbon copies of the characters from my previous stories.

Yes, men and women are basic characters, but it's the nuances that make them fun for me. We all love the hero who saves the damsel in distress. Of course, my damsels would just as soon save themselves as be saved. See what I mean?

We've all heard about Judge Roy Bean's infatuation with The Jersey Lily. What was the allure, the draw, the connection. These thoughts run through my head as I head down the rabbit hole of research.

Lillie Langtry - Wilipedia

So what's a person to do? Hit the internet and as a friend says use 'the google'. I crack up everytime she says it. Anyway, there are all kind of people who are willing to share their opinions. While I don't subscribe to all they say, they do give a writer some ideas for people and situations. 

Below are a few you may find interesting:

Newsletter for finding the right man

Video on 'healthy' relationships

What men want - 'Get the Guy'

8 Feminine Qualities by Matt Boggs

There are tons of other sites out there, but these are what struck me as I started this research. Perhaps you think I'm a bit silly, but I find that no matter how far out there, they do give me fodder for stories and situations. Hope you find something you can use. 

Perhaps I'll find some additional 'research' you may enjoy. If so, I'll share. (Smile)

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Friday, September 10, 2021

My Story Inspiration for Between Home & Heartbreak

 My Story Inspiration
By Jacqui Nelson

What inspires a story? How about...sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Eldorado, and picking the name Eldorado Jane (for a Wild West superstar trick rider heroine)?

Last month I shared my Story Inspiration page (a page I've included in the back of all of my books) for book 1 in my Gambling Hearts series, Between Love & Lies. 

Today I thought I'd share the inspiration for book 2, Between Home & Heartbreak...

Between Home & Heartbreak book cover


Story Inspiration page ~ from the back of the book

I love spending time pondering names. In Between Home & Heartbreak, the spark for the stage name Eldorado Jane came from the desire to have a two-part name like Indiana Jones. One part fancy or unusual, the other common or plain. Jane was a quick choice for a common but still beautiful woman’s name.
The name Eldora was an easy pick for a short version of Eldorado. The “Dora” part of Eldora led to Dorothy and the last name Dority as well. Dority was also a pick from the TV series Deadwood (a violent but also incredibly fascinating series) in which two of my favorite characters were Al Swearengen and his right-hand man, Dan Dority.

Bringing Eldora and Lewis’ different personalities together was great fun—as was researching traveling vaudeville performers. America’s most iconic Wild West show, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, started in 1883 but it wasn’t until 1885 that it featured its two equally large but also opposite personalities: the flamboyant embellisher, impresario Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody), and the understated but brilliant sharpshooter, Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Mosey). He called her Little Missie. She called him The Colonel. 

Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Eldorado (found in this book’s preface) provided inspiration before and during writing. After I thought of Eldora casting a soothing shadow over Lewis (when they first met), I remembered Poe’s poem. It seemed only fitting that Lewis would soon see Eldora as not only his Angel Eyes but his faithful shadow.

Who is Eldorado Jane? Long-lost friend or scheming Wild West superstar?


Gambling Hearts Series, Book 2

Texas Hill Country – 1879

Plain Jane Dority vanished while riding in a storm beside her childhood best friend. Eighteen years later, Wild West trick-riding superstar Eldorado Jane returns to claim her birthright: the Dority homestead now owned by the steadfast Texan who never forgot Jane or forgave himself for her disappearance.

Lewis Adams would give anything to see his friend come home, but he’s certain Eldorado Jane isn’t his Jane. So why does this mesmerizing woman—with the talent and fame to have anything she desires—want the remote patch of land that he loves? There’s only one way to find out: accept a wager with a deceiver who holds the power to bring back his friend or break his heart. The outcome rests in her hands. Or does it?

Friendship. Betrayal. Blackmail. Eldorado Jane holds every card…except the one that matters most.

InD'tale Magazine Book Review "A real page turner, this is a quick and satisfying read."


Between Love & Lies, book 1
Between Home & Heartbreak, book 2

The Gambling Hearts series. Love is a gamble, especially if you're holding a losing hand.

Hope you enjoyed my writing inspiration and that your Friday and your September are...filled with fabulous autumn color and fun 🍁🍂❤️

~ * ~

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Telephone Game - A Post Worth Repeating!


Copyright Information
I published this a few years ago, and now as a new Grandma, and working full time, and just moving to a new home, I find this story is worth repeating. I hope you agree.

I truly hated doing research in college. Hours in a dusty library (remember those), looking for answers to someone else's boring questions. Very rarely did I happen on to anything that awakened my imagination. Yet I fumbled forward through bone dry historical texts, praying something poignant would pop out of a book so I could finally finish my report and join my friends at the university pub.
     It wasn't until I became a writer, much later in life, that I learned how interesting research could be. History is amazing. Every event that occurred before set in motion the cause and effect for our modern world. Everything we know, do, have, want, need, and hear has a history to tell. But here's where it gets a little curious. If we take the willy-nilly subjectivity of human nature and mix it with a little innocent exaggeration, how can we be so sure those recollections are the absolute truth?
     How could those well-intentioned historians remain unaffected by time and circumstance and possibly even social pressures the same as you and me? Even an innocent sugar-coating could skew the facts exponentially. What if we've not been given the actual truth but rather the 'opinion' of the author instead?
     One small example, the fairly well-known idiom, Circle the Wagons. My family used it often when I was a child and sometimes even now. If a loved one needed support or protection, we'd come together to help however we could. We'd Circle the Wagons. But several meanings have evolved since it was first coined in the 1800s.
     I always thought it referred to settlers on an old west wagon train who created a circle of protection from raiding marauders. But further research revealed another meaning. Circle the Wagons was the practice of settlers using a circle of wagons to corral their very expensive cattle. Hah? No way. How did that get so mixed up?
     So, I wondered, how do we know what is fact and what is fudged in all things historical? Does it matter if we've learned the complete truth? Or is it better to carry on the slightly watered-down or worse yet, overly dramatized, version for those who follow in our footsteps? Has the recollection of events evolved into something far from the truth as in the fun, yet revealing Telephone Game suggests?
     This is just me going off on a philosophical journey. It makes me thankful I write fiction, so if I miss a fact or two, I'll be okay. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for listening.
Rhonda Frankhouser
Award-Winning Contemporary and Western Romance Author


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Romance at Rinehart's Crossing


I've been working on a new book that takes place in a town that really was a stop on the Oregon Trail. 

Back then, the town had a variety of names, but was often known as Stone House, for the two-story sandstone house that rose out of the sagebrush not far from the banks of the Malheur River. 

Built in 1872 for Lewis and Amanda Rinehart, the house opened on New Year's Day in 1873 with a grand ball. Soon, the upstairs ballroom was sought after for various functions, while the rooms below were used as a stage stop, and even a refuge during the Bannock Paiute uprising in 1878. 

A few people even referred to the growing community as Rinehart's Crossing, since there was a ferry crossing there (as well as hot springs!). Eventually, the town was incorporated as Vale. 

Today, the Stone House still stands, and is open as a museum. 

You'll get to read about the Stone House and some of the residents in my soon-to-release sweet romance titled Romance at Rinehart's Crossing.

It's part of the Regional Romance series releasing September 17 with new books by Kari Trumbo, Kit Morgan, and Peggy L. Henderson. Each book features three complete stories. 

Life on the Oregon Trail will never be the same . . .

Tenner King is determined to make his own way in the world far from the overbearing presence of his father and the ranch where he was raised in Rinehart’s Crossing, Oregon. Reluctantly, he returns home after his father’s death to find the ranch on its way to ruin, and his siblings antsy to leave. Prepared to do whatever is necessary to save the ranch, Tenner isn’t about to let a little thing like love get in his way.

♥ Austen – After spending her entire life ruled by her father, Austen Rose King certainly isn’t going to allow her bossy older brother to take on the job. Desperate to leave the hard work and solitude of the Diamond K Ranch, she decides a husband would be the fastest means of escape. If only she could find a man she could tolerate for more than five minutes.

♥ Claire – Two thousand miles of travel. Two thousand miles of listening to her parents bicker about the best place in Oregon to settle. Two thousand miles of dusty trails, bumpy wagons, and things that slither and creep into her bedding at night. Claire Clemons would happily set down roots that very minute if someone would let her. What she needs is her own Prince Charming to give her a place to call home. When a broken wagon wheel strands her family miles from civilization, she wonders if handsome Worth King, the freighter who rescues them, might just be the answer to her prayers.

♥ Kendall – Anxious to escape her mother’s meddling interference, Kendall Arrington leaves her society life behind, intent on experiencing a Wild West adventure. Hired as the school teacher in a growing town on the Oregon Trail, Kendall hopes to bring a degree of civility and a joy of learning to the children of Rinehart’s Crossing. However, the last thing she expects to find is a cowboy with shaggy hair, dusty boots, and incredible blue eyes among her eager students.

Will love find the three King siblings in Romance at Rinehart's Crossing?

Read all the books in the Regional Romance Series featuring historic locations, exciting drama, and sweet (yet swoony) romance!

Tenner looked at Austen, then at Worth. “There’s going to be some changes around here. Starting tomorrow, you two are going to help get this place whipped back into shape. I don’t want to hear any whining or excuses. If we hope to make it through the winter, it will take all of us working together. Is that understood?”

Worth glowered at him, but finally nodded in agreement.

Absorbed in the newspaper, Austen acted as though she hadn’t heard a word he said.

“Austen Rose! Are you listening?” he asked, perplexed by his sister’s odd behavior.

“Yes, yes, whatever you say, Tenner.” She sighed dreamily. “I wish I could meet B.K. Kendrick. He writes the most wonderful poems.”

Worth snorted. “If you like drivel written by a sissified dandy with cotton for brains.” He snatched the paper from Austen and stood, acting as though he intended to stuff it into the stove.

Austen jumped up and grabbed it from Worth, then meticulously smoothed the creases from the paper. “It isn’t drivel. It’s moving. His poetry inspires romance and love and—”

“Stupid, silly girls to grow addlepated at his ridiculous rhymes about birds and breezes,” Worth taunted.

Austen looked like she might reach across the table and slap Worth, so intense was her fury. “He writes beautifully. Something about his style makes me think of Mama and the poems she used to read to us.”

Taken aback, Tenner stared at his sister. “You remember that?”

Austen nodded. “I loved to listen to her. We all did. We’d sit on a rug by the fireplace and eat popcorn and listen to her read on cold winter nights. In the summer, after the work was done, we’d gather on the porch where there was a breeze and sip lemonade while she read. I miss those times. I miss her.”

“I do, too, Austen.” Tenner reached out and placed a big hand over his sister’s small fingers. “Would you like to hear one of the poems you and Worth used to beg her to recite?”

At the excited nod from his sister, Tenner began:

       Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward …