Monday, March 23, 2009

Westward expansion

The other day during my drive home from work I was suddenly assailed by an overwhelming urge to read a historical Western romance. Trust me, I was as confused as you are! A Western? Really? I think if you look at my track record of book selections, when it comes to low man on the totem pole that subgenre is only trumped by Historicals set pre-1750 (which I tend to avoid like the plague.)

Why do I avoid Western romances? I can sum it up in one word: heroine. It seems that there are only two Western heroines: 1) the pampered East Coast deb who arrives in the Wild West unprepared for the harsh realities of frontier life, or 2) the pampered daughter of the big ranch owner (who was probably sent away to school out East where she learned to be a lady.) Both of these scenarios often lend towards the TSTL heroine. The sun is setting and lightening is flashing over the mountains? Why, I think I will suddenly decide to go on a walkabout. The local Comanche tribe has been raiding and killing settlers? Of course I will walk up to the bold, shirtless warrior and start giving him a piece of my mind. There is trouble brewing and that bold, shirtless warrior is riding hell bent for leather towards my home with a dozen of his friends? Oh where is my Pa? I couldn't possibly pick up that shotgun and try using it myself.

Ok, Ok, I know those are generalizations. I am also aware that this is another example of Old School romance not clicking with me. Let's face it, most Historical Westerns were written in the 80's, the land of the Big Mis and wilting flower heroine.

I know not all books written during that time period stuck to that mold. I know that there have been Westerns written more recently that would eschew the stereotypes. But which ones are they? Where is the Western with a heroine like Jessica Trent (Lord of Scoundrels) or Lydia Grenville (The Last Hellion)? Which Western has a hero that is not domineering, that appreciates a woman who is self-sufficient and sarcastic?

Can you tell me the name of these books? I really need to feed this sudden Western romance craving.


Wendy said...

Pretty much anything written by Maggie Osborne. Specifically I'd recommend Prairie Moon, The Promise of Jenny Jones or I Do, I Do, I Do (which is a lighter read). Also A Reason To Live by Maureen McKade. Hope's Captive by Kate Lyon (seriously, don't let the cover turn you off). Outlaw's Bride by Jenna Kernan. Those are the ones off the top of my head.

Westerns are my absolute favorite sub genre in romance, and trust me. If they had stayed in the mold of the noble savage 1980s old skool, that would not be the case. Western romances have come a long, long way.

she reads said...

The other heroine (western) that I see a lot and drives me to drink is the hard as nails dirt crusted woman who has no clue how to be feminine.


I'm unstatisfied western-wise, but if I figure something out I'll be sure to share.

Kati said...

Um, I'm a BIG HUGE fan of Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty. It's extremely hot, and there's is some backdoor action (if that's not your thing), but the book itself is well written and I like the hero quite a bit.

I also have very warm and fuzzy feelings for Elizabeth Lowell's "Only" series, but honestly, I don't know how they stand the test of time. But I remember really enjoying them when I read them.

Mollie said...

Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare

Linda Howards:

A Lady of the West
Angel Creek
The Touch of Fire

Pretty sure those are the only westerns I've even read. But I liked them all. Particularly Ride the Fire it's very reminiscent of the Last of the Mohican's movie with Daniel Day-Lewis.

Bridget Locke said...

This is not a romance, per se, but I cannot recommend Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson. It's based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker who is kidnapped by a Comanche tribe and raised as one of their own. It's also a love story.

I will tell you, it's in turns violent, sweet, heartwarming and then heartbreaking, but I kid you not, it is one of the best books I've ever read.

Bridget Locke said...

And that reminds me, I need to review on G&BBs. :)

JenB said...

I second A Reason to Live by Maureen McKade. It's a wonderful and very "grown up" book. No overbearing heroes or simpering heroines in this one.

The heroine does beat herself up a bit too much for my liking, but I remember only taking away half a point for that. The hero and the story more than made up for it. I believe it was a 4.5 star read for me.

Nicola O. said...

Maggie Osborne!! Just about the only Westerns I'll read.

I just wish she'd keep writing, durn it.

Some of the old Elizabeth Lowell ones aren't too bad.

I like Catherine Anderson OK too, although she might be a little sweet for some tastes.

Sarai said...

Hey would you guys consider Annie's Song a western? Probably not considering there's no cowboys but it does take place on a ranch and the girl is Deaf only no one knows it. LOVE THAT STORY Jen and Ames recommended it to me. Maybe an easy way to break into them?

Not really a fan of them myself so can't help you much. Sorry luv

Kristie (J) said...

Besides the ones Wendy recommended because she and I are soul sisters when it comes to Westerns, and OF COURSE Ride the Fire (or any of her historicals), Cheryl St. John writes a Very Fine Western. Also Lorraine Heath writes such a fine western it makes you weep. I gave up on her a while ago when she moved her settings to England because they can't even compare to her Westerns.

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