E.E. Burke's Best of the West with Golden Girl Jacqui Nelson

For the next two days, I'm delighted to feature Jacqui Nelson as my Best of the West guest author. I've dubbed her "Golden Girl" because she's a three-time Golden Heart® finalist and winner. 

If you love historically rich stories set in the Old West, you won't want to miss Jacqui's newly released novel, Between Heaven & Hell, which takes place on the Oregon Trail and is the first of two Western romances she'll publish this summer.  
On a trail full of danger, will he guide her to heaven or hell?

Hannah knows one thing the moment she enters Fort Leavenworth—she's arrived in Hell. But inside is the means to a new life, a position as a scout on a wagon train bound for the Western Territories. All she has to do is convince the wagon master, Paden Callahan, she's the right person for the job.

After his wife was murdered by the Comanche, Paden let his work as a Texas Ranger consume him. Now he wants nothing more than to disappear into the West. Unfortunately, the one man he can't refuse has asked him to guide a wagon train full of tenderfoots across thousands of miles of Indian land. But Paden's greatest challenge turns out to be Hannah, a woman his heart won't allow him to ignore even though she was raised by an enemy he hates.

Here's an excerpt
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas - 1850
     Paden Callahan lifted his gaze skyward. High above him, the pale blue arc didn’t even come close to rivaling the eyes of the woman standing beside him. How on earth had she made that shot? He knew only a handful of men capable of the feat she’d accomplished. Most of them were seasoned Rangers. Men from a life he’d left far behind. 
     He shook his head. A woman couldn’t be a scout. The job was chockfull of hazards. But the competition had been dangerous as well. Why had he allowed her to stand off against a brute like Dawson? Why had he behaved so impulsively? 
     Dawson looked none too pleased either. He clutched his rifle against his chest in a white-knuckled grip. “If you hire her instead of me, you’ll be sorry.” The scout’s voice was as close to a hiss as any Paden had heard. The man wasn’t going to leave quietly.
     Paden suppressed a growl of impatience. He hadn’t shot anyone in years and meant to keep it that way. He strove for an even tone. “I’ve got a whole saddle bag full of sorrys. Adding another won’t make much difference.”
     Dawson lowered his spent rifle until it hung by his side. His free hand twitched, inching toward the loaded pistol strapped to his hip.
     Paden drew his revolver, cocking it on the upswing and leveling it at Dawson. The feminine gasp close beside him made him freeze. He suppressed the urge to tell her he wasn’t a killer. Why lie? He’d pulled the trigger in the past, and Dawson needed to believe he’d do it again. “Keep the supplies we advanced you. That’s more generous than I have to be. But this is the last time I’ll tell you—leave.”
     Dawson slunk off with his two cronies dogging his heels. Paden released the hammer and shoved his revolver back into its holster. Then he spun to face the woman.
     This time she didn’t retreat, but every bone in her slender body leaned away from him. He shouldn’t have reached for her earlier when she swayed on her feet. Being almost grabbed by a lout like himself had only added to the storm of emotions he sensed in her: caution warred with curiosity…and something more.

Meet Jacqui

I first met Jacqui in 2010 when we both were finalists in the RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® contest. She won the Historical category that year. Guess which manuscript? Yep, Between Heaven and Hell.

Jacqui's love for the Old West came from watching classic Western movies while growing up on a cattle farm. She now lives on the west coast of Canada where she works in a bookstore (lucky girl). 

Besides writing stories set in the American West, she's also working on a romantic suspense series set in Victorian London. 

Learn more about Jacqui by visiting her website or following her on social media. You can also reach her through email at Jacqui@JacquiNelson.com

Now, on to the questions:

E.E. What led you to write Western historical romance?

Jacqui: I grew up on a cattle farm in the middle of nowhere (aka northern Canada). My playground included a barn, a root cellar, a work shed, a forest and many fields. I spent most of my time in that unique playground, because we only had two TV channels with nothing much of interest on either of them.

But occasionally something did come on that captured my attention and kept me inside—Western movies starring many great actors but mostly Clint Eastwood. I loved the gritty feel and the grand adventure at the core of those stories. When I decided to write my own story, I wanted something with that kind of feel. So a Western was the logical choice—either that or a pirate story.

E.E. How do you come up with your characters?

Jacqui: Every character I’ve ever read about or watched in a movie becomes fodder for my own characters. It’s great fun taking snippets of those characters and creating a brand new one who comes alive in my head. Just call me Dr. Frankenstein J

E.E. Fairy Tale or Action Adventure?

Jacqui: Both, actually. One of my favorite movies is LadyHawke where two ill-fated lovers (Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer) have a spell cast over them (very fairytale). They go on a quest with a reluctant sidekick (Matthew Broderick) who stirs up lots of adventure (and action). There’s a reason why this movie is one of the examples in Debra Dixon’s wonderful writing book “GMC – Goal, Motivation, Conflict.” The movie has it all.

E.E. What’s your favorite movie of all time?

Jacqui: Although I love LadyHawke, it’s edged out of being my favorite movie by The Crow. It’s violent. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure, but it’s also a fairytale full of hope and friendship. And of course it stars Brandon Lee.

E.E. What is your biggest vice?

Jacqui: I’m obsessive compulsive with the saying, “Just one more…” In my day job at a bookstore, this sounds something like: “I’ll just shelf this one last book, then I’ll…” In a used bookstore where books are being dropped off every hour, there’s a never-ending supply of books to be shelved.

In my writing life, this goes something like: “I’ll just finish writing this one last sentence, then I’ll…” Once again, when writing a book the sentences are never-ending, or at least they can feel that way until we reach “the end” and then the editing fun begins.

E.E. Is there a “Blooper” in your story?

Jacqui: Not sure if this is a blopper, but in my newest release, Between Heaven & Hell, my hero is from Texas and he’s named his horse Cholla. I always imagined my hero and heroine eventually having a conversation where she asks what Cholla means. He replies, “It’s a cactus. My horse is often as prickly as one.” Then he tells her she can’t judge his name choice, because she, after all, named her horse after a cloud. That conversation never made it into my book, but it did play out in my mind every other day while writing the book.

E.E. Be honest, when reading...do you put yourself in the heroine’s role? 

Jacqui: I always do…doesn’t everyone?

E.E. If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up? 
Jacqui: I’ve always thought I’d enjoy being an art restorer, but I have very shaky hands so I know I’d be terrible at it. So instead I might try studying to be a paleontologist again (and finish the course I quit when I was nineteen). Then I could spend my days surrounded by old bones and history.

E.E.: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book? 

Jacqui: Catch up on my sleep. More than likely I’ll have put in a lot of late nights, and probably one or two all-nighters, in order to meet my deadline. Then I’d clean my house and go to the grocery store to restock my empty cupboards.

E.E.: Which of your characters would you NOT invite to dinner, and why? 

Jacqui: I wouldn’t invite Dawson, the loud-mouthed braggart that my heroine competes with in order to win her role as a scout on the wagon train, and his two cohorts. All three men are despicable in their individual ways, but Dawson’s knife-wielding crony is the worst. He gives me the chills.

E.E. What three things are, at this moment, in your heroine’s purse, satchel, reticule, weapons belt or amulet bag (whatever she carries)? 

Jacqui: The two things my heroine is never far from are her horse, White Cloud, and her shotgun. She’s on the run from a man who’s vowed to kill her, so both the horse and the weapon are essential. But her horse is so much more than a means of escape. As with many people who become isolated when tragedy strikes, my heroine’s horse has become her steadfast companion and her best friend.

E.E.: What is your hero’s “kryptonite” – in other words, what will bring him instantly to his knees? 

Jacqui: My hero’s “kryptonite” is when anyone talks about what happened in San Antonio or when anyone says his dead wife's name. Unfortunately, Jeannie’s father has no qualms talking about his daughter if it will help my hero let go of the past and start living again.


Tomorrow, we'll take a look at Jacqui's debut novella, Adella's Enemy, which also appears in Passion's Prize, a three-part novel we wrote together along with another Golden Heart finalist, Jennifer Jakes. And we'll be talking about how we find inspiration for our Western Heroes.

Today's drawing is for two eBook copies of Jacqui's latest Between Heaven and Hell. Just enter the raffle and leave a comment.

Do you have a favorite Western movie or television show? What is it, and why is it your favorite?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I like Paul Newman and Robert Redford. So good looking.

    Congrats on your books.

    1. Great choices, May! Paul Newman and Robert Redford are timeless actors. Love them together in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

  2. Thank you for sharing with us today! OMGosh I want this book, this is my kind of story that I love to read. I have always loved western, since I was a young girl. I guess I am a huge fan of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, loved Bonanza and Gunsmoke, then Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. I love reading westerns and have a special love for Mail Order Bride stories. I love strong women in these stories. Going to check out your books

    1. You're listing all my favorites as well! Always wonderful to meet a fellow Western fan. So glad you dropped by "Get Lost in a Story" today!

  3. Welcome back to GLIAS! I'm so excited to be able to host you today, Jacqui. I remember when I first read some of this story when we both were GH finalists in 2010. It took my breath away. You are such a talented writer and I'm delighted to see you putting your wonderful stories out there where people can discover and enjoy them.

    1. I feel the same about your stories, Elisabeth. I remember reading excerpts on your website and saying, "Wow! I want to read more!" Now we're both published and I can do just that. Being a Golden Heart finalist is wonderful for so many reasons, but most of all for connecting pre-published writers. I can't imagine my journey to becoming a published writer without you Elisabeth!

  4. Jacqui, I just finished reading Between Heaven and Hell and loved it!!! It's always fascinating to read stories on the history of my country. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and sometimes I look at one of those mountains and imagine a wagon train crossing it. What brave and courageous souls they were.

    1. Thanks for reading Between Heaven & Hell, Sandra,and for saying you loved it! History is a very inspiring thing, so I'll never run out stories to write :)

  5. So excited for another Jacqui Nelson book !!
    WOO HOO !

    1. Thanks, Angi! Just got back from walking around Victoria's inner harbor with a friend who's visiting. Made me think of your visit to Victoria. That was a lovely day!

  6. Yay!!! Another Jacqui Nelson book! I loved Adella's Enemy and since I just came upon a slightly less overscheduled block of time, can hardly wait to dig into Between Heaven and Hell. I know the stolen moments will be wonderful!

    1. I love how you say "slightly less overscheduled," Leslie, because I know the feeling of being overscheduled well. So much to do! But what a treat to hear that you want to use some of your precious downtime reading Between Heaven and Hell!

  7. I'm loving this series, Jacqui!
    Imagine - we met in Washington DC and our paths just keep crossing! (I'll always remember you as the beautiful red head from Canada!
    Congratulations - And I loved Between Heaven and Hell!
    What's next??

    1. I love how we met at a RWA conference then the year later became Golden Heart finalists together! And now we will be published authors together. Can't wait to read your books, Nan! Thanks for saying you loved Between Heaven and Hell! What's next? I aiming to release another Westernhistorical (my 2013 GH nominated manuscript) Between Love and Lies in August.

  8. Replies
    1. If you don't have a favorite Western movie or television show, then I hope you'll join us tomorrow when we delve a bit further into our love of Western films and shows. We'll have lots of photos! Both Elisabeth and myself have fallen in love with Pinterest :)

  9. Congratulations Jacqui on your success! It is well-deserved. This is a fantastic book and I hope readers find it.

    1. Thanks, Jodie! And thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

  10. Congrats on the book, Jacqui! Since I love humor I have a soft spot for F-Troop. LOL

    Marcy Shuler

    1. I hadn't heard of F-Troop, Marcy, so I just went and Google it. I always enjoy learning something new and F-Troop does sound like a fun series! Thanks for your comment, Marcy!

  11. Thanks for having me as your guest on Get Lost in a Story, Elisabeth. And thank you everyone who visited, commented or entered the Rafflecopter draw. I've just emailed the two winners of the e-copies of Between Heaven & Hell. Hope you enjoy Hannah and Paden's story!