By Kelli A. Wilkins
Today I’m sharing part two of an “inside look” at the making of my new historical western romance, Lies, Love & Redemption. In the first blog, I talked about how the book came to be and discussed the research involved in writing a historical romance. Today, I’ll explore the characters and touch on another subject—realism.
The book opens with Sam, the hero, bleeding from gunshot wounds and stumbling across the prairie. He’s wondering if he is already dead and suffering in hell for what he has done in the past.
This gives readers initial insight into Sam. Right from the start, we know he has done something that he feels guilty about, and he is harboring secrets. We also see that Sam is stubborn and not the type of man to give up easily.
When readers meet Cassie in her store, they see that she works hard trying to make her store successful. But they also see her going through the motions and wondering why she bothers.
Each character is at a cross-roads, and everything is about to change for them. As the book progresses, we learn that Cassie is headstrong, stubborn, and not the type to take guff from Sam or the people in town. She’s running a store all by herself and doesn’t like to accept help or rely on anyone.
I contrasted Cassie’s independent nature with a secret vulnerability. The consequences of a failed relationship left Cassie emotionally fragile and broken. She says she’s not afraid of anything, but later we learn that’s not true. Deep down, she fears losing the store. She’s also afraid of falling in love with Sam, only to lose him. Cassie has experienced many losses in her life, and she is hesitant to open her heart and trust anyone.
Sam is a noble man who feels he has a debt to pay and a duty to watch over Cassie, and this leads to conflict between them. She doesn’t want to admit that she needs his help, and he is being overprotective of her (or so she thinks…).
Although Sam comes across as honest and open, readers quickly discover that Sam is keeping his past a secret and is hiding his true identity—and much more—from everyone. Sam is a troubled soul who has also experienced a lot of loss in his life. Without giving too much away, readers learn that Sam lost someone very important to him through an act of violence, and he’s set on getting his revenge—and that’s not pretty.
This leads me to my next topic—realism. Before I sat down to write, I did a lot of research about general stores, what life was like in the 1870s, etc., and I learned that life back then was very difficult and much different from how we live today.
People died of infections, diseases, and all sorts of other ailments, and there was the threat of violence to consider. The west was known for being “lawless” and some people took advantage of the fact that you could practically do whatever you wanted. (If you really want to see how gritty and brutal life was like back then, watch the TV show Deadwood. You’ll see gunfights, murders, robberies, hangings, and other acts of aggression that were all-too-common in that era.)
Life for anyone in the “wild” west was tough. Combine that with the fact that women virtually were the property of their husbands and had no rights, and you have the makings for pretty rough times for women.
I incorporated a few of these elements into Lies, Love & Redemption. How could I not? The setting and time period have to be realistically represented in the book. Although readers might take issue with including violence in a romance, it has a place in the story (to a degree). If everything was too perfect or too pretty, the book would lose the richness in details that bring it—and the characters—to life.
Having Sam face the threat of a potentially lethal infection, Cassie trying to help a woman escape a violent marriage, and Sam admitting the horrific truth of his past, all work together to give the book an authentic feel.
And part of an author’s job (especially when writing historical romances) is to let readers live the story through the eyes and experiences of the characters. One thing authors are told is to make life difficult for your hero and heroine. If there is no conflict or drama, the story becomes dull, and the characters have nothing to strive for and don’t grow.
Yes, I may have put Sam and Cassie (and a few other characters) through an emotional wringer, and yes, they had to face violent situations, but they’re strong and their challenges built up their resilience.
And of course, as in any romance, it all worked out happily-ever-after.
Here’s the summary and a brief excerpt:
Lies, Love & Redemption
Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.
Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.
As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?
Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.
Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?
Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?
“I hate to tell you this, but you have a big problem.”
Sam broke off a chunk of bread and dipped it into the chicken broth. “Honey, I’ve got a lot of problems, starting with the fact that I got shot and nearly died. What else do I have to worry about?”
“A man who stands about six foot six.”
His heart skipped a beat. “Shit. Tell me it’s not your husband.”
“No.” Cassie laughed. “Luke, the sheriff. He was here this afternoon asking questions about you. Holloway’s a small town. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. Folks are bound to be curious when a shot-up stranger wanders into the only store, bleeding to death.”
He slurped more soup.
“Luke thinks you’re wanted, an outlaw, or… I don’t know, whatever he can dream up that might get him a reward.”
“I’m not wanted.” He gazed into Cassie’s brown eyes. “I know you have no reason to believe me, but I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Luke will be back tomorrow morning, and he’s determined to talk to you. He’s gonna ask how you got here and who shot you. I don’t care what you tell him.” She rose and uncorked the bottle of medicine on the tray. “Drink this.”
“Doc left two?”
“No. This is something different. I took this off the shelf downstairs.”
“Won’t you get in trouble with your boss?”
Cassie chuckled. “Nope. I am the boss. It’s my store. I can take what I want.”
“Oh.” That was unusual. Most women couldn’t handle the responsibility of running a business. How had Cassie come to own a store?
“What’s in it?” he said, eyeing the bottle warily. Patent medicines, or snake oil treatments, often made you feel worse than if you took nothing at all. They were full of arsenic, turpentine, or kerosene. “I don’t take well to these medicinal potions.”
“And I don’t regularly offer them, but this should dull the pain.” She poured a spoonful of the amber liquid and held it out. “Open up.”
He was about to argue, then thought better of it. If this poison helped him sleep, he’d be content with that much, at least. “Couldn’t I have whiskey?”
Cassie grinned. “This concoction is about three-quarters whiskey. That’s why I keep it on the shelf.”
He gulped the medicine down, and his eyes watered. “It sure burns like whiskey,” he said, clearing his throat.
“Good. Now that you’ve had food and medicine, I’ll let you sleep.” Cassie set a glass of water on the side table and headed for the door. “I’ll come back for the tray in an hour. Try to rest. Luke will aim to catch you muddle-headed in the morning. I told him you were still unconscious.”
“Why did you lie?”
“I figured you could use the time to get your story straight. Luke’s nosy, like everyone else in this damn town. We don’t get strangers coming through here, so you’re a curiosity. People are going to be suspicious of you.”
He nodded, grateful for the warning. The less Cassie and the other townsfolk knew about him and his past, the better.
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I hope you enjoyed this inside look at the making of Lies, Love & Redemption. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media!
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
In 2016, Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Kelli’s third Medallion Press historical romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was released in September 2016.
Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor. She also writes a weekly blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/.
CATCH UP WITH KELLI
Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins
Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb
Medallion Press Author Page: http://medallionpress.com/author/kelli-wilkins/