E.E. Burke's Best of the West: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

A brutal killing shackles Cayo Bradley more than his captivity by Apaches until his redemption by falling hauntingly in love with Darby McPhee. 
   Darby falls in love with feral, cowboy Cayo Bradley, who tries to settle back into white society after his captivity by Jicarrila Apache in northeastern New Mexico. 
   She is Cayo’s redemption from horrific acts that torment him, while she is torn between her love for him and a deathbed promise to her mother to become educated.
   A stunning tale of love and loss set between New Mexico and Missouri in the late 1870s

Here's an excerpt:
    He knew people saw him as part Apache. Others claimed he was left for dead by bandoleros, and because of his aloof and stealth disposition, and the fact that he was shy and nonconfrontational like the animal, people believed that’s how he came to be named Coyote. Somewhere along the way, Coyote’s nickname became Cayo. He didn’t care what people called him as long as they did, and for sure he knew his name didn’t matter because he’d never fit in anywhere. Once you’ve lived wild and free, it’s near impossible to return wholly capable of fitting into refined society. He knew others like himself, children who had been taken and lived with Kiowa or other tribes, and what he saw in them he knew was the same for him. They were the same outcast breed he was, not a trace of Indian blood, but Indian in the way they thought. He’d never completely forgotten his own language, English, so when he finally decided to go back to living the white folks’ way, he listened to speech, carefully repeated words, and held himself close, like a gambler in a poker game, keeping his cards to his chest. He shouldered these thoughts about himself and that other life he lived before as a yoke on an ox. It weighed on him, but he could do nothing to shirk it.
    Nobody in town knew him by any other name. Whatever his component parts were, it was for certain he was known as a man quick with a Bowie knife, swifter with a whip. That was because nobody had ever seen him shoot a deadly arrow. He wore chaps every day but Saturday when he drove the buckboard. Cayo carried two Colt pistols in his holsters and never rode his horse without a Winchester 30/30 rifle strapped to his saddle. He was a man people respected, a man who kept his mouth shut and eyes peeled, even the eyes they said he had in the back of his head.

Meet Nina
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally by small independents. Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards. Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance, releases February, 2019 from Prairie Rose Publications. You can find her on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.

E.E.: What’s the first book you remember reading?  
Nina" I read many little children’s books, but the two books that have impacted my love of reading and story-telling are Little Women and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The first book I remember reading three times in a row was Gone With the Wind.

E.E.: What’s your favorite “love” word?
Nina: In The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, each of my main characters, Darby and Cayo, use the word: “cherish.” I feel that this word choice resonates completely because it means a person wants to care and protect someone lovingly. These characters each desire specifics that love encompasses. Cherish also implies to adore, to hold dear, to be devoted to, to revere, to esteem and to admire. These characteristics are innate in the love that Darby and Cayo share for each other—it seemed to me to be the perfect love word to use, and it is still hauntingly with me.
One of the most touching experiences that I’ve taken away from writing this novel is watching the unfolding of the romance between Darby and Cayo, and seeing how these two incredibly distinct people fall in love.

E.E.: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Nina: My strongest genre both to write in and to read is historical romance.  I love history, geography and research, learning about different cultures, religions, mores, customs, superstitions, and there’s nothing as forceful as a strong love story to pull one through the pages of a book and times past. I enjoy reading war remembrances, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and other kinds of fiction as well. My least favorites are chic lit, horror, vampire, fantasy, however I do sometimes read them, but if I find I get bogged down with the story or something else, then I tend to listen to them on audio. I have so many wonderful author friends on Facebook and Twitter who adore this kind of writing—horror or vampire stories just don’t do it for me.  I look for worldwide elements even in these less favorite fictions.
For me, no one will ever come close to the magnificent story put forth by Bram Stoker in Dracula, which was not only the epitome of great story-telling, beautifully and timelessly framed, but also completely original—back then!

E.E.:  Can you tell us about a real-life hero you’ve met?
Nina: Absolutely.  My brother Bud.  He is now looking over me from up in the realms of Elysium, saying, Well, you finally did it, little sister, you wrote the novel you were destined to write—a Western.  My brother and I grew up with a father who adored reading Westerns, and seeing cowboy and Indian movies—we caught the obsession.
My brother was the epitome of generosity and kindness wrapped up in a human being, and other than my father, I’ve never met anyone who can fill his shoes. Not only did he possess these beatific qualities and characteristics, but he was also a sage, charismatic philosopher. Do I miss him?  Every day, but I’m blessed to know his spirit remains with me. 

E.E.:  If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
Nina: I’d be a chef—no doubt about it.  I cook every day.  I make American, Italian, French, Chinese, Cuban and Spanish food, and many dishes from other cultures. I’ve been cooking since I was eleven years-old. In fact, I wrote a poetry collection entitled, Cooking Lessons, in which there are poems about food, recipes, wines, people, cultures, landscapes. 
Over the years since I began to cook, I’ve watched and squirreled away numerous recipes from great cooks: grandmother, mother, aunts, mother-in-law, friends, etc.
One of the great things I treasure about cooking is that it’s so utterly natural and second nature to me, that I do it automatically while my head can concentrate on “mind writing” while I do it! 

E.E.:  What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Nina: I write the last words and it’s over. My job as a writer is done.  I, who have created and come to love or hate these characters, who’ve peopled the world of this narrative, have to call it quits. 
I consider the story I’ve written, drifting and looking back over the course of revealing the characters’ plights, seeing their difficulties and joys, and know that I have been closely paired with them in the devising a universal tale. Even though the narrative and the novel will live on in the hearts and the minds of others in various incarnations, for the writer, it’s a double-edged sword of tender happiness for the creation; yet sorrow at the leave-taking and parting. I write the Italian: La fine, which means: The end on the last page of a manuscript. Sometimes I cry. To finish is like a little death to an author.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for this lovely  opportunity to talk about my writing of my first Historical Western Romance! You are most gracious! 

To enter a drawing for a free copy of The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, leave a comment and your email. 

What are some of your favorite Western romances? What elements or characters make them so special?


  1. Nina, I can't say enough how much I loved THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAYO BRADLEY. What a story! I have to admit, I had my doubts throughout the book as to how in the world you were going to make it all come out right in the end, but I was not disappointed--I can't stop thinking about that ending. It will stay with me for a very long time, and with all the reading I do, that is saying something!

    My sisters and my mom were all wonderful cooks, but I didn't get that "gene"--wish I had--I can cook well, but I don't enjoy it like they did. I envy you being able cook without even thinking about it. I really have to keep my mind on it when I do it.

    I have a lot of western romances I love, love, love. Shane is a western romance that is really different and special--I love it because of the way the characters interact and how it's all seen from the young boy's point of view--and how the reader understands the deeper meaning of what's going on, but the little boy doesn't--he sees it through his childish slant.

    I loved Conagher--not a romance like we'd normally think of a romance, but oh, what a love story that was. One of my favorite western romances is Nobody's Darling by Teresa Medieros--it was a story with a different slant both in plot and characters. Golden Nights by Christine Monson is a good one--not at all what you'd expect and what a roller-coaster ride, though the buildups are slow--it's worth it.

    I love Linda Broday's stories, and Tracy Garrett writes excellent western romance stories. Patti Sherry-Crews had a wonderful tale in Margarita and the Hired Gun, and she just released another one, Den of Thieves. She does excellent research! I could go on and on, because I do read so much, but for me, the combination of memorable characters and unconventional plots are what make a western romance special.

    Congratulations on your new release, Nina! We're so glad to have you with us at Prairie Rose Publications!

  2. The blog and interview were great— very
    Although Western literature is not my favorite genre, I recall reading and loving
    Lonesome Dove. I just finished reading
    Nina Romano’s The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. Romano obviously spent a huge amount of time researching the Jicarrila Apaches which are an exciting part of the book.
    The love story between Darby and Cayo is so beautifully written— so touching.
    I loved this novel. It will stay in my memory and I recommend it to all readers.

  3. Oh my goodness I have read all of Sophie Dawson and a lot of Caroline Clemmons plus Lynn Winchester oh goodness and many others due to my father who would take me out of the worst foster home for a weekend and we would walk to the library. He would go to the western section and get a paperback for him and i would just browse the library so happy that i was out and about. We then would watch westerns on tv and then at night he would read. I loved the interview today so good. Peggy Clayton ptclayton2@aol.com

    1. Hi, Peggy--Thanks for commenting! Glad you enjoyed the interview! Elizabeth's questions were wonderful.

  4. Replies
    1. Avril--you must know that is music to this writer's ears! Thank you!

  5. any
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  6. Once more, I'd like to formally thank Elizabeth for the blog and interview--both things are a writer's dream when first releasing a novel!!! I'm looking forward to reading some of these other authors on the website. I'd also like to mention a few of my favorite Western authors. I've read a lot of the classics--Louis L'Amour, Larry McMurty, Zane Grey, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy. His novel, All the Prtetty Horses, inspired a poem I wrote in my poetry collection of poems of the West. But I'm most pleased to say that my cowboy hero, Cayo Bradley, inspired a poem and, thanks to Cheryl Pierson, it's right in the beginning of my novel! I'm so pleased and thankful, Cheryl! I'd also like to say that one of my new favorite writers is C. A. Asbrey. I'm currently reading her2nd book in the series: Innocent as Sin (I love all of her titles!) Thanks to everyone who has left a comment or sent me good wishes! Please share and tweet this great blog! ~Nina

  7. Congratulations, Nina, on the publication of your debut novel. You must be floating on Cloud 9. Next month it'll be a year from my debut novel's publication with PRP and being interviewed by Elisabeth Burke. I love the title of your book and the premise of two unlikely people to fall in love. I look forward to reading it and wish you much success.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth, for leaving this lovely comment and your good wishes!
      Wishing you also much good luck!

  8. The book sounds great Nina! And I loved the interview! It's nice to know more about you. Wishing you the best!!!

  9. Nina, the word cherish suits you. It comes across in everything you do. All the best.

  10. Cherish -- the word, the emotion, a way of seeing others. That which is most prized, most valued, most loved: the word sings. An action of being with a shade of holding or owning: I cherish the old rugged cross becomes a statement of more than Christianity, more of belief. I cherish my mother's photograph when she was seven is a pre-memory but so much more a trigger to a series of living memories from childhood, young adult and of-age stages in our relationship of mother-son. Cherish the time we've spent talking writing, living!

    1. I'm guessing, dear John, that you liked my word choice!!! Thanks for commenting!

  11. Really enjoyed learning about your writing process and journey. Congratulations on your release. Westerns have such fascinating archetypes. darbykarchut@gmail.com

  12. Darby, You might really enjoy reading this booka as my heroine is named DARBY!
    thank for ocmmenting!