Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks and Memories


HAPPY THANKSGIVING
from the GLIAS Crew

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Maureen McGowan, Lara Lacomb, Jan Schliesman
Bringing you new authors
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We hope it makes yours too !
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We're celebrating 4 years
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Cat Schield, Maureen McGowan, Jillian Stone,
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. . . when you're exhausted from Black Friday
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Get Lost in 19th Century Romance

Had it been just an hour ago she’d been sitting in a stalled train, impatient to reach her destination? How eagerly she’d looked forward to seeing their new home, dubbed by newspapers as “The Infant Wonder of the West. For weeks, she’d anticipated a great adventure, the kind of spine-tingling excitement found in her favorite books. Reality was grittier, bloodier, and utterly more terrifying.
From A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke 

In my latest historical romance, A Dangerous Passion, the heroine Lucy Forbes sets out to discover the kind of romantic adventures she’s only read about in books. 

What books was she reading? The same type of literature read by the majority of women in her day--Sentimental Fiction.

Before the romance novel, there was sentimental fiction (also referred to as domestic fiction). These stories were serialized in popular magazines as well as produced as novels, and were eagerly consumed by a growing population of female readers in the 1800s. 

The basic plot involves a young girl deprived of the support she’d depended on to sustain her, who must win her own way in the world. In the process, she finds inner strength and develops a strong conviction of self worth. This was a theme that resonated powerfully with women of this era, most of whom were under the control of men and rarely given credit for being intelligent or capable outside of the home.
 
The first big seller in this genre was Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World (1850). Maria Susanna Cummins is credited with setting the trend on fire with The Lamplighter (1854). It sold 40,000 copies in two months. She’d be considered a bestseller these days, but back then it was nothing short of astounding.

As beloved as these authors were among their faithful readers, they were ridiculed by male counterparts. Nathanial Hawthorne, in a letter written to his publisher in 1855, says this about them:

"America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash…"

Regardless of Hawthorne’s disdain (which reflected the opinions of most of the male-dominated literary industry), these “scribbling women” had a huge following. 

During the last half of the 19th century, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth was the single most widely read American novelist. Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth (as she was fond of signing her name) sold more books than Hawthorne, Twain and Melville.

She began writing in 1844 to support herself and her children after her husband deserted them. Most of her more than 60 novels appeared in Robert Bonner’s popular story newspaper, The New York Ledger, which reached about a million readers. Her best-known work, The Hidden Hand, was reprinted twice in serialized form and later issued as a novel.

The narrative would seem melodramatic and her characters stereotyped to today’s readers, but it appealed to an earlier generation of women who secretly longed to throw off cultural confinements and experience sensational adventures, if only through reading a book.

The Hidden Hand is my heroine's favorite book. Lucy identifies strongly with the feisty main character Capitola, who playfully pokes at conventional gentility. Here’s a snippet from the book, where Capitola is warned not to go out alone because of a fearsome highwayman.

    “What do you think of this outlaw, young lady?” asked the peddler, turning to Capitola.
    “Why I like him!” said Cap.
    “You do?”
    “Yes, I do! I like men whose very names strike terror into the hearts of commonplace people.”
    “Oh, Miss Black!” exclaimed Miss Condiment.
    “Yes, I do, ma’am. And if Black Donald were only as honest as he is brave, I should quite adore him! So there! And if there is one person in the world I long to see it is Black Donald.”
    From The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth

At one point in A Dangerous Passion, Lucy compares Henry to the villainous Black Donald. Like plucky Capitola, Lucy declares she prefers villains. But then she quickly points out that’s just in stories.

Why were these books so popular? The United States was entering a period of extreme change with regard to women’s roles in society; the suffrage movement was just starting to rumble, Westward expansion had begun. At a time when women were told they were fragile, emotional, childlike creatures, their own experience proved otherwise.

In A Dangerous Passion, Lucy takes inspiration from Mrs. Southworth's novels when she sets out to find adventure and pursue her dreams. However, when we meet her, she’s willingly put her life on hold to provide emotional support for her widowed father. She expects to marry one day (as most women did at that time), but she's in no hurry because she fears exchanging one set of duties for another. 

Lucy struggles to balance her desire for self-determination with a deep yearning for love, commitment and the fulfillment that comes from being united with someone, body and soul. 

Sound familiar? Our great-great grandmothers weren't so different from us. 

By the end of the 19th century, the sentimental novel had fallen out of favor. Later in the 20th century, what evolved from this form of commercial fiction is the genre we call Romance. Those of us who love our strong, determined heroines who fight hard for their happy endings owe a great debt to those scribbling women.

 A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke

Can a hero lurk in the heart of a villain? 
Life in a small New England village is too quiet, too ordinary for a free spirit like Lucy Forbes. When her father lands a job out West, she packs her books and her dreams and eagerly sets off to pursue the kind of grand adventures she longs to experience and write about. Yet the moment she steps off the train, she's thrust into the gritty reality of an untamed frontier—and into the arms of a scoundrel.

Henry Stevens, the ruthless railroad executive her father has been sent to investigate, is as passionate as he is ambitious. Brave and charming, as well as clever, and possessed of a sharp wit. He is, in fact, the most fascinating man Lucy has ever met. However, his opponents are vanishing, and strangers are shooting at him. Fearing for her father's life, Lucy resolves to unmask the secretive Mr. Stevens and expose a villain. What she doesn’t expect to find is a hero.

Here's an excerpt
As the carriage lurched and started off, she looked out the window, eager to see Parsons in the daylight. It was strange to see so many men, what with the war’s terrible impact on the male population back home. Out here, there were young and old, short and tall, and some dressed in the most interesting variety of clothing she’d ever seen. Whoever heard of wearing formal tails over fringed trousers? The few women appeared to be farmers’ wives, dressed in calico and wearing massive sunbonnets. They hurried in and out of stores, rushed along by the chilly wind.
False fronts adorned nearly every establishment. The buildings were lined up in rows and connected by broad sidewalks. Very neat and organized, as if someone had planned it down to the last detail.
In contrast, the muddy street hosted chaos. Crowded in between covered wagons were rowdy men on horseback, vendors pushing carts, railroaders with their tools, riding to work in the back of a buckboard wagon. Jangling harnesses were accompanied by the rhythmic pounding of hammers. And this was only the beginning, like the overture of an opera. Scenes to come promised to be even more exciting.
Lucy put her nose near the opening at the top of the window and took a deep breath. The air smelled of earth and fresh-cut pine, perhaps from those boards being used to build a new structure across the street.
Parsons had a raw, vibrant energy that Haverhill lacked. The small New England village offered no prospects for work—unless she wished to return to her aunt’s millenary shop—and even fewer for marriage. She had no reason to return to a place where the most exciting event was mail arriving from somewhere else. Her future was out here, and she couldn’t wait for it to begin. Filled with fresh vitality, she retrieved a journal from her satchel.
“Are you scribbling again today, Lucy?” Her father’s remark was lighthearted. Still, she found it difficult to smile. He didn’t understand her desire to become an author, and would disapprove if he thought she was doing it to supplement their income.
Sadly, if they had to rely on her ability to support them, she would have to go back to making hats. A dreadful thought. “You know me. I always have my pen and journal handy.”
Henry’s speculative gaze hung on her, sending skitters of awareness across her skin.
Her smile wavered. Heavens, he unnerved her. Maybe that’s what he intended. Did he resent her now that he knew the board’s intentions? She couldn’t blame him if he did, and couldn’t help feeling bad about it. He might deserve to be dismissed, but she knew first-hand what that kind of humiliation did to a man, especially a proud one like Henry.
“Where are we off to this morning?” her father asked.
To her relief, Henry looked away. Retrieving a small notebook from the inside pocket of his coat, he referred to it. “The roundhouse first, then the rail yard. We’ll return to the depot by noon. I’ve instructed my assistant to have luncheon served in my office…”
While he ticked off the activities on his list, she took the opportunity to study him. One could tell quite a lot about a person by observing the small things. In order to help her father, she needed to analyze Henry, much as she would a character in a book.
The hat he’d placed beside him was one of the newer styles with a short brim and rounded crown. Called bowlers, they were coming into popularity, especially out West. His white collar was turned down over a thin black cravat tied in a bow, and his tawny waistcoat had notched lapels. Overall, his style of dress indicated a modern mindset, someone who insisted on being at the forefront of progress, if not ahead of the crowd.
He’d slid into a slouch. Otherwise his head would brush the top of the carriage. One knee bobbed. When it stopped, his fingers drummed the leather seat. Impatient, or bursting with energy like her brother. Robbie had nearly driven Maman mad. He’d never been able sit quietly and read. Focusing for hours on paperwork would be an agony for someone like that. No wonder Henry needed an assistant.
His hair, glossy brown as a chestnut, wasn’t curly, but had a definite mind of its own. He’d smooth it over, and it would spring up. Then he’d frown. Apparently annoyed that he couldn’t control his hair as easily as he set his schedule.
There was a pleasing symmetry to his face, intelligent forehead, no-nonsense nose and a strong jaw, what she could see of it. His neatly trimmed beard was a shade darker than his hair, as were his eyebrows, which could lift independent of each other, as one did now when he glanced up from his notebook.
Lucy’s cheeks heated at being caught staring. Heaven forbid she gave him the impression she found him fascinating. “Sounds like a full day. I’m sure I’ll be interested in seeing everything. It’s been an exciting experience thus far.”


E.E. Burke writes romance from the heart, woven with history the way it really happened. Her latest American historical romance series, Steam! Romance and Rails, includes Passion’s PrizeHer Bodyguard and A Dangerous Passion. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®. She can be reached through her website, www.eeburke.com or on FacebookTwitter or Goodreads. If you love historical romance set in America, join E.E. and other authors and readers at American Historical Romance Lovers.

Do you have a favorite 19th century author or book? Who is it, and why?

I'm giving away 5 copies of A Dangerous Passion. Enter the raffle below and leave a comment.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Get Lost in American Historical Romance from E.E. Burke

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Can a hero lurk in the heart of a villain? 

     Life in a small New England village is too quiet, too ordinary for a free spirit like Lucy Forbes. When her father lands a job out West, she packs her books and her dreams and eagerly sets off to pursue the kind of grand adventures she longs to experience and write about. The moment she steps off the train, she's thrust into the gritty reality of an untamed frontier—and into the arms of a scoundrel.
     Henry Stevens, the ruthless railroad executive her father has been sent to investigate, is as passionate as he is ambitious. Brave and charming, as well as clever, and possessed of a sharp wit. He is, in fact, the most fascinating man Lucy has ever met. However, his opponents are vanishing, and strangers are shooting at him. Fearing for her father's life, Lucy resolves to unmask the secretive Mr. Stevens and expose a villain. 
     What she doesn’t expect to find is a hero.

Here’s an excerpt:
A brisk reminder of winter sent snowflakes swirling out over the muddy street, into the encroaching darkness. Taking a firm hold on the brim of his favorite hat, Henry leaned into the wind as he strode down the sidewalk toward the newly completed depot. The impressive brick and stone structure ought to convince anyone, even a railroad investigator, that the Katy was financially sound.
The train let loose with another long whistle. Out in the darkness, its headlamp flickered. Henry searched for a red signal light that would guide the engineer to the new depot. Why wasn’t it lit? He’d given explicit instructions for this train to be the first to arrive there.
Breathing fire, he shot across the street. Did he have to be a signal operator, too? One more blasted ball to juggle, as if he didn’t have enough.
The whistle shrieked, twice more and much louder this time. Then the roar of the engine became deafening as it charged past the new depot, heading for a weathered shack another fifty yards away. Next to it, a signal had been lit.
Henry released a stream of profanity. The fools had directed the train to the old depot.
He veered off across a field between the two buildings, lost his footing in the slippery mud and barely righted himself. By the time he neared the ramshackle building, he was panting hard and seething with fury.
A lantern mounted atop a pole illuminated the weather-beaten walls of a squat frame structure that had served as the train station since the town’s inception two years ago. As Henry reached the steps, he noticed four men on horseback, lingering in the shadows. The oddness of their behavior struck him, but those thoughts were swept away by anger as he raced past them and tromped through the door.
“Floyd!”
Henry jerked to a halt in the dark room. What the hell? He fumbled in his pocket for a pack of matches. Striking one, he peered through the small window separating the waiting room from the office. Not only was the station agent not here, no one was here. This was beyond strange. Floyd must’ve told everyone to leave, thinking the train wouldn’t be in until morning. That was the only explanation that made any sense.
A loud squeal signaled the slow down of the train.
Henry shook out the match and lit another. He turned up the wick in a kerosene lamp and hung it on a hook attached to a ceiling beam. Better get the stove going or the passengers would freeze while they waited. Squatting down, he opened the grate.
The door struck the wall with a loud bang. A cold gust swirled into the room as four men in dripping ponchos filed inside…the same ones he’d passed outside. Their hat brims were pulled low and heavy scarves concealed their faces.
Fear shot through Henry. He came to his feet, unbuttoning his coat to get to his gun. At the sound of a hammer being cocked, he froze. Despite being a fairly good shot, he was no quick draw. Whoever cocked that gun could kill him before he cleared leather. Worst case, they were here to rob him. Best case, they’d reacted after seeing him go for his gun.
“Sorry, you startled me.” He held his hands away from his sides so the men could see them. “Are you here to meet someone arriving on the train?”
He hoped so. Otherwise, he was in trouble.
 “You Stevens?” one of the men asked.
Big trouble.
The man’s voice wasn’t one Henry recognized. In fact, nothing about the men looked familiar. He hadn’t even heard their spurs. His gaze fell to the heavy brogans on the speaker’s feet. Drifters, outlaws, men who lived in the saddle, wore boots. Awareness reignited Henry’s anger. Blasted sodbusters. Did they think they could scare him into giving in to their demands?
From outside came the hissing of an engine letting off steam. Soon, passengers would come pouring through that door behind him. A chime sounded, the conductor’s cry distracted the men for a second. That was all Henry needed.
He bolted out the back door to the platform. Those farmers wouldn’t take on an armed railroad crew.
Shots rang out. Wood splinters flew off the doorframe. The conductor, standing next to the train, staggered, apparently struck by a bullet.
Henry’s heart convulsed. Those crazy settlers were willing to kill to get what they wanted. He hadn’t expected that.
On the steps leading down from the parlor car, a young woman stood with one foot poised as if she were ready to leap off the train and bound onto the platform in her eagerness to disembark. Henry glimpsed the startled expression on her face.
He yanked his revolver from its holster. Outgunned or not, he couldn’t run. He had to protect that woman, the other passengers, the crew.
“Get back!” he bellowed, and fired into the dark room.


Romancing the railroad

When I set out to write a uniquely American historical romance series, I wanted to focus on themes that are hard-wired into our national identity, like ambition and self-determination. Perhaps the most ambitious era in America’s history is the construction of the railroads. 

This "Railroad Period" (roughly mid to late 19th century) greatly influenced our modern identity and drove rapid cultural changes. The best known story from this era is the building of the two lines that connected our nation East to West. Hell on Wheels (AMC's hit TV series) follows this event. For my series, I chose a lesser known railroad story, but it's one that had an enormous impact on our developing nation. 

My imagination caught fire when I read about a cutthroat railroad race through southeastern Kansas, and the subsequent travails of crossing land owned by the Indian Nations and connecting Texas to the eastern markets. These were the stories I used as a backdrop for the first three books in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. 

In the early 1870s, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, or "the Katy", as it was fondly called, started life as a little branch line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Over the course of a year, the "little railroad that could" bested lines that were better financed and further along. 

After winning a contentious construction race, Katy crews laid track through Indian Territory and reached Texas in some thirty months time. An incredible feat in those days. For years the Katy reigned as the only railroad with through service between Chicago and the Lone Star State. 

For the most part, the Katy owed its improbable success to the passion and ambition of one man--Colonel Robert S. Stevens. Described with “dark flashing eyes and a meticulous style of dress,” he was a larger-than-life persona in the history of this legendary railroad. In 1870, Stevens was brought in by the Katy’s president Judge Levi Parsons to help build a railroad empire that stretched from Chicago all the way down to Mexico City. They didn’t get quite that far, but the Katy’s birth and impressive growth is largely attributable to Colonel Stevens, who took a “never surrender” approach to everything he attempted. 

I became so fascinated by this historical figure that I shaped a character in my first book around him, and then wrote his story in the third book. 

Like the man who inspired him, Henry Stevens, the main character in A Dangerous Passion, has aspects of both hero and villain. He's intensely protective of the "gentler sex" and fiercely loyal to his family and his tribe of railroaders, yet he can be conniving and even cruel to those who oppose him. Driven to succeed, he's unrelenting and unyielding. He has few friends, many enemies, and no one has been able to stop him. No one, that is, until he meets the free-spirited daughter of his rival.

Lucy, an aspiring author, is an intriguing combination of innocence, intelligence and grit. She's equally enamored of Henry, but realizes what love could cost them and fights a dangerous passion for the wrong man.

Passion and ambition are two of the most powerful emotional drivers in human history, and when the two come together an explosion is inevitable. 

A Dangerous Passion is the latest addition to the series Steam! Romance and Rails. There are two preceding books. Here’s a recap:

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Passion's Prize follows three women who must contend with dangerous men caught up in a cutthroat railroad race.

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This trilogy was conceived and written with Jacqui Nelson and Jennifer Jakes. The three of us made the finals of the RWA’s Golden Heart contest in 2010 with American historical romances.

Her Bodyguard features a railroad promoter who hires protection in the midst of settlers’ riots. But her handsome bodyguard may pose the greatest threat.

Her Bodyguard is set in Fort Scott, Kansas. The Lyons Twin Mansions Bed & BreakfastInn is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion that served as inspiration for my heroine’s house. Guests who mention my book get a free bottle of Missouri wine when they check in. 


Praise for E.E. Burke's historical romances

“I thoroughly enjoy E. E. Burke’s historical romances. Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West of old.”
~ Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“E.E. Burke understands the heart of romance, and delivers it!”
~ Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author


Do you love historical romances set in America? If so, join us on Facebook at AmericanHistorical Romance Lovers.

What time period in American history do you enjoy reading about and why?

 E.E. Burke writes romance from the heart, woven with history the way it really happened. Her latest American historical romance series, Steam! Romance and Rails, includes Passion’s PrizeHer Bodyguard and A Dangerous Passion. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®.
     Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing novels. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest inspiration of all. You can find out more at her website, www.eeburke.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

For your chance to win one of five copies of A Dangerous Passion enter the raffle, and don’t forget to leave a comment.

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