E.E. Burke's Best of the West: Patti Sherry-Crews Inspired New Western Romance


When his identical twin brother is arrested, the Pinkerton Detective Agency enlists Wynne Palmatier to go undercover and impersonate his outlaw brother, Ennis. His mission is to infiltrate his brother’s gang. 

Ennis tells Wynne everything he needs to know. Except for one thing: there are two women with the outlaws, and one of them is his wife. 

Lucy House is still paying for the day she strayed away from decency. Now the handsome outlaw she ran away with has lost his appeal and she longs to get away from this life. 

As the danger mounts, can Wynne and Lucy escape this den of thieves?

Here's an excerpt:

Texas, 1883

     She experienced the view as an ache. So impossibly blue and bright. She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the blue sky to savor the sweet scent of the flowers without the distraction of the sky, which even now flashed on the backs of her eyelids. The rain lilies perfuming the air, flowering after a heavy rain, would only last a day or two. How fortunate they were to catch them in bloom. The delicate white petals, so easy to miss. She took this as a good omen. With her eyes still closed, she listened to the sound of the buckboard wheels bumping up and down in the ruts of the dirt road and felt the gentle touch of Billy’s coat sleeve brushing against her as his arms moved with the reins.
     He nudged her. “What are you thinking about? You’ve got a smile lighting up your face like rays of sunshine on a summer morning.”
     Her eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice, a deep melody that reverberated in her heart. She turned in his direction to see his dark eyes sparkling with delight.
     “Why, I’m…” She let out a nervous giggle and tugged at her bonnet strings before fixing him with a bold look. “I’m thinking how this time next week I’ll be living a different life. The life of a married lady.”

Meet Patti

Patti Sherry-Crews lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband in their newly empty nest. She studied anthropology and archaeology at Grinnell College in Iowa and University of North Wales in Bangor, UK. When growing up, her favorite toys were her plastic cowboys and Indians she took everywhere with her. Now a full time author she stills plays with cowboys and Indians and is able to share them with others. She also writes medieval romance. Sometimes she stays in her own century and writes contemporary romances. Patti would like to say she loves to cook, but in all honesty has to admit that these days she likes pinning recipes more than working in the kitchen.

Author website: http://pattisherrycrews16.wix.com/author-blog

E.E.: What sound or noise do you love?

Patti: Like most people I love the sound of rain hitting the roof, the wind in the trees, and waves rolling on the beach. But, the sounds I most love I can’t easily share with you because they are the sounds my pets make. We have an old tabby cat who rarely makes a sound and a not as old puggle who is very noisy. 

The puggle, Gracie May, seems incapable of going about her day without making strange noises. Even when she sleeps, she snores. When we sit down to eat, she likes to break bread along with us from her dog dish. She drowns out conversation. It’s like having a herd of asthmatic wild boar tearing into a small car with their teeth. Even when she’s just doing nothing at all, she grunts and groans and stutters. My favorite Gracie May noise is if you rub her tummy she smiles and makes a sound I can only describe as Billy Bob Thorton in the movie Sling Blade.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is our cat, Lucille Bell (Lucy for short). For the last 13 years or so she has managed to have her needs met through eye contact and gestures only. She’s very good at this. But once in a while she is inspired to let out a meow so loud and raw it shakes the house. I love it. When the quiet ones talk, you always listen.

E.E.: What inspires you daily?
Patti: Oh, that’s an easy one! Before I sit down to work I go for an hour long walk. We have a park about 2 miles away with a duck pond surrounded hills planted with all variety of trees. I love to walk down there and back and watch the trees change with the seasons. If I set off in the opposite direction there’s Lake Michigan. The lake always has a new story to tell as it reacts to the weather. Nature inspires me. I need to get out into it to remind myself of the world and my place in it. These walks reset me. I do much of my writing in my head during this time. Plus I see things or hear odd bits of conversation I can use later. Unfortunately, the weather in Chicago isn’t always cooperative. I have a rule that I go for my walk as usual despite the weather unless it’s so slippery I could break a bone, so windy I might get conked by a falling branch, so cold my face freezes off, or raining so hard I can’t see. Even then you might see me out with my balaclava protecting my face and my yaktrax strapped to my shoes.

E.E.: Complete this sentence. When I want to relax, I…
Patti: I have an hour of the day I stop everything and do words puzzles on my phone: 4 o’clock on the dot. I’m strict with myself in that way. It’s not unusual for me to sit down at my desk to start work, notice it’s 4 o’clock, and get up to relax.

I also like to go for walks with my friends, which combines two of my favorite things that help me unwind. I’ve also discovered guided meditation apps and I’m surprised how helpful that activity is to settling my mood.

One of my favorite things for relaxation are jigsaw puzzles. My husband and I often have one going on the coffee table. The only problem is that we have very different work styles. He likes to sort them by color and then further sort them by shape. I like to search through the whole mess of pieces to find the one I’m looking for. It’s like a treasure hunt. Very soothing.
 Recently I got a puzzle and took it to my office to work it all by myself, pieces unsorted (except for the edge pieces—that’s a given you first separate the edge, whatever your puzzle-style). I learned I can never do that ever again. Without a puzzle-partner to control me, I behaved like a crack addict. I. Could. Not. Stop. Until that picture was complete I couldn’t walk away from it. And it took days. After that I’ve put myself in puzzle rehab.

E.E.: Can you tell us about a real-life hero you’ve met?
Patti: I more than met a real-life hero, I lived with one. Both my father and my grandfather were firefighters. I was always aware they were heroes—at least as an adult looking back. But I took my late father’s scrapbook and photos (he was also the company’s photographer) to one of our local fire stations. Looking through the scrapbook, the firefighters were astounded with the number of house fires my father and his peers fought compared to what they face today, which someone guessed averaged out to two fires a week. Thankfully today’s better fire prevention has cut down on the loss of life and property. I can’t imagine going to work and not knowing what the day might bring or if I’d be putting my life on the line.

E.E.: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Patti: While I was doing the research for my first HWR, Margarita and the Hired Gun, I read about the outlaw hideaways such as Hole in the Wall. I came across one mention of how the Pinkerton's attempts to send in undercover agents to infiltrate the hideaways were never successful. I found that intriguing but couldn’t find any accounts. So, I thought what if an outlaw with an identical twin, gets himself arrested, and the Pinkertons recruit his twin to impersonate him?

Before starting this project I wrote a 3 part blog series on the women who were affiliated with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch: Etta Place, Laura Bullion, and the Bassett sisters. I found the women were actually as interesting—if not more so—then the men. I based my female characters on these women. And the true life love story of the Sundance Kid and Etta Place captured my imagination and inspired me as well.

Over the years I’ve read quite a bit of history about the Old West. There are so many awesome stories and bigger than life characters in that time and place. It’s an easy step for me as an author, to lift these people out of the pages of history and incorporate them into my tales.

E.E.: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Patti: I don’t know how they stand up to my adult self, but there were two movies I watched over and over again at a tender age: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Cat Ballou. And so began my lifelong love of the Old West. I wonder if I, a girl from a suburb of Chicago, would ever have picked the genre of historical western romance if it had not been for those movies? I don’t think I would have.

E.E.: How often do you get lost in a story?
Patti: I read every night before bed. Nothing is more frustrating for me than NOT getting lost in a story. I love when I can’t wait to get back to a book. I’ve pondered this because I have a specific genre I especially love and I have my go-to authors. If it’s chic lit set in UK or Ireland and London or Dublin in particular, I’m on it. Not NYC. Not LA or Paris. I can only get lost in the story if it’s set in the British Isles in places I’ve lived and loved and can revisit through the words on a page. Because I plow through these books, I’m always searching for new authors. I find that I can get lost in a story in this genre even if the writing isn’t good. I can be very forgiving of bad writing and predictable plots so long as the story transports me. In conclusion, I’m all about the setting.

My question to the readers: What about a book allows you to get lost in a story?  Do you look for character, storyline, setting, a specific genre, or is it the prose itself?

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