Where is his shiny gun
Where is my lonely ranger
Where have all the cowboys gone
Paula Cole isn’t lamenting the disappearance of range riders. She’s talking legend. Some call him the cowboy hero. A better term might be Western hero.
In my books, the Western hero is as likely to wear a black hat as a white one. He’s too complex to reduce to one characteristic. However, there is a common thread shared by these sexy alpha males. Earthy and natural or suave and sophisticated, they’re all driven by a personal code of honor.
Don’t confuse honor with being “good.” In fact, my Western hero can rationalize all sorts of bad behavior as a necessity. But deep down, he’s loyal to a fault and committed to the protection of those in his care--his “tribe” as I like to call them--which includes his ladylove, family, friends, even people who work for him. He may start out a loner, but he can’t stay that way for long because his nature is to lead and protect.
In Fugitive Hearts, Frank Garrity is the quintessential Western hero. But the sheriff is also a tortured man who believes his failure to protect a loved one has condemned him to a life without love. Here's a blurb and sneak peek excerpt.
“Sheriff…I just killed my husband.”
|Available for preorder|
Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman. Is she a murderer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?
For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.
Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.
After Claire rushes into a saloon in obvious shock and makes a startling confession, the sheriff takes her back to the hotel where she and her husband live on the second floor. He discovers her husband's body and determines the man died from a gunshot wound to the chest, fired at close range.
“Where’s the gun?”
“Gun?” She said it like she’d never heard the word before.
“Pistol, revolver. What you used to shoot him.”
“I don’t…remember where I left it.”
A terrible shock could do that to a person. Make them forget. He hadn’t felt anything like a gun when he’d carried her over here. He crossed his arms over his chest so he wouldn’t be tempted to check. “What do you remember?”
His question was met with a blank look.
Perhaps a more direct approach would dislodge a memory. “How did he get shot?”
She frowned as if thinking hard. “He…tried to take the gun away from me.”
Frank assembled a mental picture. “With the barrel pointed at his chest?”
“No…yes….” Confusion, then distress flickered across her features. “I don’t remember.”
Unease tiptoed up Frank’s spine. If they’d fought, she might’ve gotten scared and picked up a gun, could’ve pulled the trigger without meaning to. “Don’t remember…or don’t want to incriminate yourself?”
In the dim room, her wide eyes appeared almost black. He’d looked into them enough times to know they were warm brown flecked with gold. Normally, they snapped with keen intelligence or flashed with dry wit. Tonight they were dark with fear.
“Here, now, didn’t mean to scare you…” Unable to resist the protective urge, he cupped his hands on her shoulders. The physical contact seemed to shake her out of whatever state she’d slipped into and she twitched in response. He dropped his arms to his sides with a sharp reminder that he was supposed to interview her, not hug her. To keep his hands out of trouble, he hooked his thumbs over his gun belt. “Just tell me why you pointed a gun at your husband.”
Her throat worked convulsively, a moist sheen appeared on her upper lip. She raised her hand to her forehead, swaying.
Seeing what was coming, Frank caught her as her limbs gave way. He cradled the limp woman in his arms, cursing himself up one side and down the other for causing her to swoon by interrogating her with her dead husband lying there, barely cold.
He held her closer, protectively. The movement pressed her soft breasts against his chest. His body’s reaction was sharp and immediate—and inappropriate as hell.
He cast a frantic look around to find a place to put her. A door presumably led into a bedroom. He’d take her in there. Then he’d fetch the doc before he woke up the undertaker.
The bedroom was dark, but he could see enough to spot a bed and he settled her on top of the spread. She hardly made a dent in the mattress. After slipping his overcoat from beneath her, he snatched a quilt off a rack near the foot of the bed and draped it over her. “Mrs. Daines?”
Her long lashes fluttered. “Where’s Billy?” she asked in a fearful tone.
“Take it easy. He’s around here somewhere, I’m sure.” The orphaned boy she'd taken in wandered like a stray cat, but his whereabouts was the least of her worries right now. Frank tucked the quilt up to her chin. When she tried to push the covers away, he caught her hands.
Her hold on his fingers was surprisingly tight. That was fine if she needed to cling to him for a while longer. He understood better than she could know, the disbelief and denial, followed by useless remorse and unending guilt. He hadn’t pulled the trigger on the gun that had killed his wife, but he might as well have, and self-condemnation ate at his soul like an insidious disease.
She screwed her eyes shut, indicating she was awake, but perhaps hoping he’d go away. He wouldn’t get much useful out of her tonight, and wasn’t so hardhearted as to try. As it was, she would suffer nightmares, the kind he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy much less a sweet lady like Claire.
“Don’t worry about anything. I’ll send for the undertaker, and tell Doc to give you something to help you rest. We’ll talk more tomorrow.” He closed his calloused palms over Claire’s smooth hands. He couldn’t picture her holding a gun, much less firing one. Yet, she’d admitted to shooting…
No. She hadn’t only said she shot her husband, as in, by accident. She had said she killed him. That implied something different. Intent.
Frank shook his head at his suspicious nature. He was too used to dealing with liars and murderers. Claire was neither. She was a fine, upstanding lady and a respected woman in the community. What did it matter how she worded her confession, considering her fragile state? If she said it was an accident, there was no reason to doubt her.
About the Author
Weave together rich historical detail, passionate romance, add a dash of suspense and you have books by E.E. Burke. Her chosen settings are in the old American West, and her current series takes place during the early steam railroad era.
Her latest novel, Fugitive Hearts is the latest in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. The series also includes Passion's Prize, Her Bodyguard and A Dangerous Passion.
#BestOfTheWest Heroes and Book Release Party
We'll be talking more about Western heroes at an upcoming Facebook Party on July 29. A stellar line-up of best-selling Western romance authors--all of them #BestOfTheWest guests--will join me to talk about their favorite Western heroes and help me celebrate the release of my new book. And, they'll be bringing presents! Free books, gift cards totaling over $100. There's even an steam train pocket watch up for grabs!
Join me and co-host Angi Morgan, along with Kirsten Osbourne, B.J. Daniels, Becky Lower, Linda Broday, Cindy Nord, Kaki Warner, Beth Williamson, Kathleen Rice Adams and Rosanne Bittner.
Let's kick off the celebration a little early today. I'll give away an Advance Reader Copy of Fugitive Hearts (eBook only). Just comment and enter the drawing.
What are the must-have characteristics of a "Western hero?"