Friday, February 2, 2018

Trail's End

Pampered Margarita McIntosh is not used to being forced to do things she doesn’t want to do—but when her father, Jock, sends her away for her own safety, she has no choice. The long journey from Flagstaff to Durango tests her personal strength of will as never before, and the secret she carries in her saddlebag could be the death of her. 

A rough Irish gunman, known to her only as “Rafferty”, is entrusted with getting her to her destination “safe and intact”—something he fully intends to do to claim the reward he’s been promised by Jock McIntosh. With a price on his head, the promised money is Rafferty’s ticket to a new life, and he’s not going to jeopardize that for anything—not even love.

But there are steamy nights and dangers all along the arduous trail for MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, with deadly secrets between them that passion cannot erase. With her father’s enemies after her and the secret she conceals, will Rafferty’s protection be enough to save their lives? And will the heat of their passionate love be enough to seal their future together—if they do survive?

Sometimes as a writer, I have to pull characters and plot lines out of thin air to craft a story. Other times, I’m able to share stories that have lived in my head for years. Such was the case with my first historical western, Margarita and the Hired Gun.

But where did the seeds that took root to become this novel come from? Reading classic quest  or journey tales like the Odyssey and watching old movies with my grandma, that's where.

There’s something about setting a character off on a journey, ending in self-discovery which piques my interest. I love to watch a character being tested and meeting challenges to come out at the end of the trail a stronger person.

Sancho Panza and Don Quixote on the trail
Now, put two mismatched strangers together on that journey and you’ve got a romance of epic proportions.

Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen
So, it with a nod to all the great journey tales and odd-ball couple movies, I set Margarita and Michael (AKA Rafferty) off on a journey.

Margarita McIntosh is a westerner by birth, but after her mother dies she’s sent to boarding schools out east. In her sheltered life, she’s never had to fend for herself. But, there's a change in her fortunes, and the pampered princess finds herself traveling for weeks on horseback, sleeping on the ground, battling the elements, and facing danger all alongside a big, scary Irishman.

While Margarita’s transformation is about finding her inner strength under trying circumstances, Michael’s journey is more of a spiritual one. Forced to flee Ireland, he has spent in years in America doing just about every bad thing a man can do in order to survive. He entertains Margarita around the campfire with his stories of time spent in a tenement in New York, his escape as a sharpshooter in the Civil War, and riding with an outlaw gang.

(When Michael is wounded, the pair have to hole up at an outlaw hideout for a few days, posing as husband and wife. He meets up with some old acquaintances while there. This part of their adventure inspired by my fondness for the Hole in the Wall hideout scene in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's cabin, Hole in the Wall.
I'm in the inside, looking out! Cody, WY. 

Every step forward on their journey together, Michael begins to shed his outer layers. As he starts to see himself fresh through the naive young woman's eyes, he remembers the man he once was and can possibly be again. He tells her his real name and every time she uses it (which she frequently does), it’s like a wake up call to his soul. Margarita is his conscience personified.

One of the most poignant moments in the book (in my opinion) is just as the two have had their first flirty moment, they are attacked. Although Michael saves her, the act of violence repulses Margarita. Michael is pulled right back to Rafferty.

Excerpt: He raised his hand and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. Margarita recoiled. He reacted like she’d slapped him. “I saved your life!” “I know, I know. I’m grateful.” The image came back to her. Michael standing over that wounded man, his eyes so dark they looked like cold, black stones, ready to cave the man’s head in with his boot. “This is what I do. You knew that.” “Knowing and seeing are two different things.” He sat back, looking away from her. “Ah, that’s it.” “In getting to know Michael Byrne, I forgot about Rafferty.” He looked back at her with a pained expression, but then his eyes hardened with anger. She sat back further away from him. “Margarita, those two men are not like any men I hazard you’ve ever met before. I know the kinds of things they’ve done. Do you know what they would’ve done to you before they killed you?” He pulled a gun out of his pocket and held it sideways in front of her face. “This is the gun I took off Brady. Do you see the notches in the handle? Each notch represents a person he killed.” “I imagine you’ve killed more.” “Maybe, but he was proud of the people he killed. So proud, he struck a line in the handle of his gun for each kill. I am never proud of killing a man. Every man I dispatch is one more notch in my soul. I don’t need to put notches in my gun.” He stuck the gun back in his pocket. His face contorted with anger. “Listen, I have killed men. Lots of them, and killing is killing. I’m not excusing the things I’ve done. But I vowed when I deserted from the army I would never shoot another innocent man. I’ve had to pull the trigger on men who were ready to do the same to me, and I’ve been hired to take out men who were acting out of the reach of the law. Murderers and outlaws. I may be fooling myself, but I think the world is better off without those men.” He stood up and began pacing, different emotions warring over his face. Then, he turned to her and pointed his finger at her. “And don’t you look down your nose at me. How do you think your father paid for your fancy clothes and schools?” “You said my father didn’t kill innocent people.” “He didn’t have to, because he hired me to persuade them to see things his way. I didn’t have to kill any of them.” He stood up then, raking his hand through his hair, putting his emotions back into order. “Come on, let’s find their horses. You’d like your own mount again, wouldn’t you?” He held out a hand to her, but she couldn’t make herself put her hand in his. He made a clucking sound and turned away from her. Margarita hurried to walk behind him. Whatever else he was, he was her protection, and she now knew there were things to be afraid of.

And, now, Margarita and Micheal hit the trail again along with five other full length novels in Under a Western Sky! And what great company to be in along with Prairie Rose Publications authors Cheryl Pierson, Kaye Spencer, Tracey Garrrett, Agnes Alexander, and Celia Yeary.

Where do the very best love stories blossom? UNDER A WESTERN SKY, of course! This fabulous boxed set of six tales of danger and romance are sure to capture your imagination as you are carried away to the old west. Handsome marshals, Texas Rangers, gunslingers, and wealthy landowners meet their matches with the daring women they happen to fall in love with, and you won’t want to put this boxed set down until you’ve read the very last story! 
For a limited time this boxed set, is on sale for $0.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited.

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons and author (just another excuse to show you my vacation pictures) 


Andrea Downing said...

Ummm, did Sancho Panza and Don Quixote fall in love? LOL But you are, of course, correct--literature and film are littered with mismatched pairs finding true love. The bond usually goes a lot deeper than what the eye can see. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester come to mind as do a load of Jane Austen's works. I'll look forward to discovering for myself whether Byrnes and Margarita are such a pair.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Patti, I can't say enough how much I loved MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN. You have such a way of telling a story, and your characters were so real to me--and I mean ALL of the characters, not just the main ones. Yes, Margarita and Rafferty were certainly a mismatched pair, but oh, how I loved the hope for a new future that came shining through! We are so glad to have you with us at Prairie Rose Publications--I always enjoy your stories, short or longer. Hope to see more SOON. (BTW, Margarita and the Hired Gun is on my keeper shelf--never to be removed.)

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Andi, Sancho and the Don may have had a thing going, LOL! Love is love. Having to read books in school like D.Q., the Odyssey, and the Once and Future King combined with watching those oddball romances and the old western TV shows while working jigsaw puzzles did some odd wiring in my brain! thanks for stopping by, buddy!

Cheryl, you're support and encouragement has meant so much to me. I'm almost finished reading Fire Eyes which opens this set and there are many moments I sit back and say "wow! Here's a writer!" Your story has everything and is told by a true storyteller. I am working on another full length for PRP and it is so much fun birthing new characters who at some point take over the tell their own stories, right? Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend!

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Kaye Spencer said...


All the stories in this collection are keeper-worthy. What I like so much about Margarita and the Hired Gun is the slow unfolding of Michael/Rafferty true personality. He is a man trying to figure out who he is. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that he has a spunky woman who is also discovering what she's made of right along with him.

Livia J Washburn said...

What a great line. Every man I dispatch is one more notch in my soul. Great line, great book, and a great collection. Thanks for sharing Michael/Rafferty with us.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Livia and Kaye, I'm honored to be part of this anthology. I'm reading it now myself and enjoying it! To me the old American west is a complex time. Characters often crossed the line from good to bad. With Michael I imagined basically a man raised in a moral home who has to wrestle with some of his later actions. I hoped he was a sympathetic character in spite of what he's become. She led and nagged him to redemption. Looking forward to reading the rest of the stories! The ones I've read are really top notch and the ones I have to get to yet, sound very intriguing. Thanks for stopping by!

TracyG said...

Patti, I loved this story. So proud to be included with all the authors in this anthology.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thank you, Tracy! I loved your story too! A Texas ranger, what's not to love? I'm looking forward to your interview on the subject.