Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Release Day! New from E.E. Burke A Dangerous Passion

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Today is release day and it feels like my birthday! Except in this case, I'm giving myself a gift. I feel blessed to be writing these stories, and doubly blessed to be able to share them with readers like you.
   A Dangerous Passion, my third book, has been a little like my third child. Unexpected, unique, challenging...and the most amazing blessing. I learned a great deal about myself while writing it.
   Often, we spend so much time striving for achievements that we fail to grasp the true meaning of success. This is something Henry and Lucy must learn, although they have to go through tough times to find their happy ending. Like most of us. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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:
"Get back!" 
The shouted order startled Lucy out of her frozen shock. She jerked her attention to the conductor, who clung to the rail, his mouth twisted in a grimace of pain. Had someone shot him? Her heart raced, as her mind tried to make sense of what seemed incredible. Horrible.
Another loud crack resounded. She instinctively ducked.
“Get back inside the train!” The repeated command came from a bearded man in a bowler hat. He crouched by the depot door, aimed his gun at the dark interior and fired.
Behind Lucy, a woman screamed and dragged her children back into the rail car. Other passengers crowding the exit panicked. They crawled over each other in their haste to retreat
“Lucy, where are you?” Her father’s cries came from behind the frenzied crowd.
“I’m all right, Father.” She craned her neck trying to see him. He’d be frantic with worry. In her eagerness to start her new life, she’d rushed to be the first off the train—which meant she’d be the last to reach safety.
With a groan, the conductor collapsed onto the platform.
Lucy agonized for a moment. No, she couldn’t leave anyone in harm’s way. Dropping her satchel, she leapt down to aid the wounded man.
His face, florid before, was now pasty white. “Miss,” he gasped. “Go…”
“Sir, we have to get back onto the train.” She grasped beneath his arms and tried to help him stand, but he was apparently too weak to get up and too heavy for her to lift.
“What the hell are you doing?” The man who’d barked the order to retreat had backed up. He positioned himself between her and the depot door, hovering like a guardian angel.
 “Jump down and crawl underneath to the other side.” He motioned to the space between the platform and the train.
 Squelching a fierce desire to flee, she shook her head. “This man needs our assistance.”
 Her guardian angel swore an oath. Yet, his glare seemed more anxious than angry. “I’ll help him. You get away.”
He hoisted the conductor’s arm over his shoulder. The wounded man’s knees sagged, his considerable weight pulling the taller man down. He might not be able to move them out of danger quick enough.
 “You need my help.” Lucy wrapped her arm around the conductor’s waist. Her fingers encountered wet, sticky warmth. She pulled her hand back, stared at it. Blood. Her stomach did a slow flip. Aware of the imminent danger, she swallowed her fear and met the gaze of the man who’d come to their rescue. His expression was one of determination, perhaps the slightest bit of fear. She covered the conductor's wound with her palm and pressed hard.
"I can do this," she whispered. She didn't want to. She had to.
Another shot rang out. The frightened faces of passengers disappeared from the windows of the train. The moment felt surrealistic, like stepping into a Ned Buntline tale. All that was missing were the bloodthirsty Indians.
“Hurry,” the tall man urged. “Over there, behind that rain barrel, and keep your head down.”
Together, they dragged the conductor across the platform. The toes of the wounded man’s shoes made a scraping noise that sent shivers racing across her skin. Her rescuer didn’t have on boots like those images of Western luminaries featured on the covers of dime novels. He wore the Congress style shoes popular with businessmen back home. What an odd detail to notice, much less care about in midst of a life-threatening situation.
Light shifted as they carried the wounded man from beneath the bright lamps into the shadows. Groaning, the conductor fell to his knees. He curled up against the clapboard wall. She dropped down beside him and put her hand on his shoulder to let him know he wasn’t alone.
 “Stay here.” The bearded man’s voice rang with authority. He punctuated the order with his forefinger. Maybe he thought she was slow, like that little neighbor boy back home, the one who had a bad habit of wandering into the street in front of carriages.
Her rescuer flattened his back against the side of the building and inched towards the depot door. From inside came the heart-stopping crack of a gun.
Lucy bit down on her lip to stifle a cry. Screaming wouldn’t help. If she had a weapon...but shooting at cans wasn’t like shooting at people. She didn’t think she could kill someone even if she had a gun.
Keeping her fear in check, she dragged her attention to the conductor. “Let me see how badly you’re hurt.” Her hands trembled as she undid the buttons on his vest. The side of his shirt was blood-soaked and stuck to his skin.
Her head grew light. She took a deep breath to clear it. During the war, she’d volunteered at the Union hospital in Boston. The soldiers had already been patched up and she’d read to them. This man was bleeding. He didn’t need to hear a story.
She did the only thing she could think of to do. Took a clean handkerchief from inside her sleeve, folded it and pressed it against the wound in his side.
He grimaced. So did she. Hated hurting him. “I’m sorry.”
“Thank you,” he murmured, covering the makeshift bandage with his hand. His lips thinned in the semblance of a smile. “Not sure what you was thinking to come after me, miss…”
Reality struck with a sickening punch. She hadn’t been thinking. Only reacting. What if she’d been shot, or that brave man? He might’ve been killed when he shielded her with his body.
Lucy eased over and peeked around the barrel to see if she could locate him. He was still by the depot door, single-handedly holding off whoever was firing on them. She couldn’t see his face, yet she was sure he must be scared. Only a crazy person wouldn’t be.
Her brother had written to her after he’d seen the elephant in his first battle. Courage wasn’t the absence of fear he’d told her, it was doing what one had to do in spite of fear. Like that brave man over there. He was behaving with remarkable valor in a frightful situation. She would write a story about him—if she lived long enough.
Three burly men in railroad denims dashed past where she was hiding. Hoisting rifles in their hands, they crouched next to the bearded man. His hat was still visible above their heads. He was tall, even squatted down. He dared a look inside the depot and then yelled, “They went out the other door.”
All four men dashed to the end of the platform and trampled down a set of stairs. Lucy couldn’t see past the corner of the building. In fact, she couldn’t see much of anything beyond where the light shone. But she could hear shouting.
The gunfire stopped. After a moment, so did the loud voices.
Her shaking legs gave out. She sank into a clump of skirts, rested her head against the side of the barrel and exhaled the breath she’d been holding. The conductor remained curled around his wounded side, but his chest moved with comforting regularity.
“I believe the shooting is over.” Her voice sounded calm, surprising given her uncontrollable trembling. “That gentleman who came to our rescue told us to wait here.”
For once, she was content to obey.
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, Parsons, Kansas, 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.
At last, help arrived in the form of an engineer and a soot-stained fireman. They carted the wounded conductor away on a door. Another man in a railroad uniform ushered her into the cramped depot, where she was reunited with her father and instructed to wait with the other passengers. Her newfound hero hadn’t come back. She tried not to be disappointed.
In the small, cold room, men spoke in comforting tones to their wives. Mothers shushed fretful children. Soon, more railroad workers arrived, handing out blankets and shoveling coal into a pot-bellied stove. Lucy watched the proceedings, feeling distant even though she was sitting on a crowded bench.
Her father laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. Thus far, he hadn’t fussed at her about ignoring the command to get back on the train. No doubt he would, at a more opportune moment.
“If you’re recovered,” he said in a low voice, “I’ll go ask where we can find Mr. Stevens.”
Henry Stevens. She’d forgotten all about the man her father had been sent to investigate. Irritation flicked at her raw nerves. “Find him?” Why isn’t he here already? He was supposed to meet us.”
If the Eastern newspapers were to be believed, the Katy’s general manager was an unprincipled scoundrel. Was he also a coward who’d run at the first sign of danger? No wonder the board wanted him replaced.
Shivering, she hunched over and hugged her cloak tighter. Normally, the cold didn’t bother her. With family roots in New England, she came from hearty stock. The shakes were no doubt from the aftermath of fear. She clamped her jaw shut to keep her teeth from rattling and stared at the ground. Capitola, the heroine in her favorite book The Hidden Hand, never fell apart.
A pair of shoes appeared in Lucy’s line of vision. The polished leather uppers were partially covered by the dirtied hems of gray trousers and the edges were caked with mud.
“Miss? Are you all right?” The stranger’s deep voice matched his shoes. Cultured…and familiar. She raised her eyes and a thrill shot through her. Her rescuer. He’d returned. 



A Dangerous Passion, is the third in the series Steam! Romance and Rails. Other books in the series include Her Bodyguard and Passion's Prize.

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

“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


Fun stuff I learned while researching this story:

Robert S. Stevens
Henry Stevens, my main character, is inspired by the first general manager of the Katy Railroad, Colonel Robert S. Stevens, who is described as a handsome man 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 Stevens, who took a “never surrender” approach to just about everything he attempted.

Many of the events in this book are based on exploits written about this fascinating man and the railroad he built. Here's a portrait of the "real" Mr. Stevens.  

There are two towns featured with colorful histories worth sharing:

Parsons is located in the southeastern corner of Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, which at the time was Indian Territory. Prior to the Civil War, a large swath of Kansas was set aside as “Neutral Land” to protect Indian Territory from white encroachment. That didn’t last long, and after the war, squatters moved in. The railroads cut a deal with the government to purchase the land, which sparked settlers’ revolts that went on for several years.

Fast forward to 1871. Parsons was one of the few “planned” communities along the expanding rail line, primarily because it was selected to be the headquarters for the Katy Railroad. General manager Robert S. Stevens located the spot, which sat on a high plateau between two creeks.

After Stevens located his town site, word leaked out and settlers rushed in to lay claim, thinking they could get rich by selling land back to the railroad. Clever Mr. Stevens then posted in newspapers that he was moving the headquarters to another spot. He ended up getting the land he wanted in the first place at bargain basement prices.

Parsons is named after then-Katy president Levi Parsons. Reportedly, Mr. Parsons suggested that the town be named “Stevens” after his second-in-command. Being politically savvy (Col. Stevens wasn’t a particularly humble man), Mr. Stevens turned down the honor and named the town after his boss.

Stevens was a town planner in addition to being the primary architect of the Katy line. Parsons was laid out in a neat pattern, with the railroad depot being its crown jewel. The railroad facilities constructed there were the largest west of Chicago at the time (mid 1870s). 

In contrast, Denison, Texas, sprang up in willy-nilly fashion from the day Mr. Stevens identified it as the first stop for the Katy in the Lone Star State. The first business was a bar, which consisted of a plank nailed between two trees. Soon after, it was a tent city of mostly saloons and gaming halls, ultimately an entire section devoted to “soiled doves.”

Another historical tidbit featured in A Dangerous Passion is a series of mysterious murders that took place near Parsons, Kansas. From a period stretching between 1871 and early 1873, numerous travelers through southeastern Kansas were reported missing. There were theories as to what happened to them, including one rumor that the railroads were to blame. 

When a well-known doctor went missing, his brother, a U.S. Senator (A.M. York) tore through the area on a frantic search. Authorities ultimately discovered nearly a dozen bodies (including the doctor’s) buried in a field behind a cabin that doubled as a wayside inn serving meals to travelers.

The killer family—John Bender and his wife, daughter Kate and a “halfwit” son (possibly Kate’s common law husband rather than her brother)—fled before authorities could arrest them. The father and “son” were never seen again. Two women were arrested years later, but never tried. I posted a lengthier blog about the Benders on Immortal History. If you're interested, you can read about it here.

Do you like reading American historical romance? Any favorites you'd like to share with me?

I'll be giving away two copies of my new release, A Dangerous Passion for those who enter the raffle and leave a comment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

47 comments:

  1. Today's the day! My third baby! I love writing (and reading) American historical romance. If you're a fan of that genre, we've started a new group over on FB called, not surprisingly, American Historical Romance Lovers. Come join us! And thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me.

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  3. Hi
    Why do you prefer writing for this time period? I love the cover of your book!
    Congratulations for the release of your book and wishing lots of success!
    nlaverdure88@videotron.ca

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    1. The era following the Civil War through the turn of the century probably did more to shape the American identity than any other. I find that era fascinating. Thanks for stopping by, Nicole!

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  4. Fascinating history! Congrats on your release.

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    1. I really enjoyed digging into the history of this railroad and weaving the interesting bits throughout my book. Thanks so much for spreading the word!

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  5. I love historical romance novels. Can't wait to read your latest.congratulations.
    willyand5boys@yahoo.com

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    1. Thanks Robin! Appreciate your interest and for taking the time to stop by and comment.

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    1. Thanks, Tanya! It's been a labor of love bringing Henry and Lucy together.

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  7. Congrats! Can't wait to read it.

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    1. Thank you, Jan. Would love to hear from you once you've had a chance to read it.

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  8. Congrats on your new release! I love your stories.

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    1. Wow Shirl, that makes my heart sing! Hope you'll love Henry and Lucy's story, too. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  9. Fantastic cover, and great excerpt. Interesting history, too. Happy birthday!

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    1. We love our Western heroes, don't we? Thanks for coming by and for the well wishes. It's been a great "birthday" so far!

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  10. Knowing a little about the history of a books time period and location can add so much to a story. A do genealogy research and some of the stories I unearth are wild...smile. Congrats on your new book. It sounds great and one I would enjoy reading.

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    1. Being a "history geek," I enjoy researching a book as much as writing one. It's great fun digging into family history. So many wonderful stories just waiting to be told. Thanks for coming by, Brenda!

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  11. Sounds wonderful! Congrats on the release!

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    1. Thanks Alanna, for stopping by and commenting. It's a great feeling to release a new book and share another story.

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  12. Oh, Elizabeth! This story is right up my alley. I love a hero who disguises himself as a villain. Wounded, alpha heroes are my favorites. And that cover is simply stunning. That's enough for me without even reading the excerpt. I'm wishing you tons of success.

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    1. Lucy does a great job unmasking the "real" Henry Stevens! And I do love my cover. When I saw it, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands. Thanks for coming by, Linda. Looking forward to visiting with you on your blog soon!

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  13. Sounds like a good story. I do like historical of any settings. ..

    Maybe31 ay Yahoo. Com

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    1. Thanks, May. I love to read all kinds of historical romance, too. Appreciate you stopping by.

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  14. Congrats on your new release!
    I like any historical as long as it's well written. I read a really good western historical recently; The Bounty by Beth Williamson. Wonderful characters, wonderful writing.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I also love historical romance in all forms. I'll have to check out that book you mentioned. Always looking for new reads!

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  15. Sounds awesome! Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Thanks for coming by! I'm glad you're looking forward to reading Henry and Lucy's story.

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  16. Yes, historical is one of my favorites. Ptfrugal@aol.com

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    1. Are you partial to any specific setting? Mine is (obviously) American set historical periods and locations. In particular, historical places and events right here where I live on the border between Kansas and Missouri. So much rich history. Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. Congrats on your new release.
    I like historicals, mostly those happening in the past (Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Regency) and, lately, Western Era and turn of the century. So long as it's well-written and really has bits of history. I have one book from you, so far (Kate's Outlaw) which I got recently. So I'm looking forward to discover you.

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    1. Thanks, Liette. I love all those settings, too. I've also been seeing some interesting books set at the turn of the century in America. The novella, Kate's Outaw, is part of a trilogy that kicked off this series. You can find out more about the series at my website if you'd like. www.eeburke.com Thanks for coming by and entering the drawing.

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  18. Forgot to leave email: hibouperch@yahoo.ca

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    1. Did you enter the drawing? Please do! And there's a drawing also on my website.

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  19. Congrats on the new release. Sound super interesting. What made you what to be a author? And what's your go to genre when you read?

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    1. Thanks, Ashley! I've wanted to write stories for as long as I remember. However, I didn't get around to following my dream until about six years ago. That's when I stopped dawdling and started seriously writing and finishing manuscripts. My go-to genre to read is historical romance, all kinds, but especially romances set in America. I also read a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction, especially biographies. Honestly, I'll read any type of book if it comes with a good recommendation.

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  20. Congratulations on the release. I think this story is a winner. Best of luck with it. Can't wait to read.

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    1. Thanks Gemma! I loved writing it. And you heard the first chapter...what was that, a year ago? LOL

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  21. Love, love, love your writing! Happy Book Release!

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    1. I'd say the same to you! Thank you for dropping in to help me celebrate.

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  22. Love everything about you and your writing, Elisabeth! The cover, blurb and excerpt for A DANGEROUS PASSION are simply wonderful. And your historical research rock as well :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Jacqui! I can say the same things about you and your wonderful books.

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  23. Great post and I'm sure it is a great book like your others. I look forward to reading it. I also enjoyed your short history on the Katy railroad. I have been interested in the history of the development of rail lines in the West for years, so the blog post alone was a treat.

    Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I've really gotten hooked on the history of the railroads. Those true stories read like the best fiction! Fascinating times and people. This is the first time I've used a historical figure as the foundation for a main character. It was fun! Thanks for stopping by!

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