Get Lost in American Historical Romance from E.E. Burke

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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. 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:
A brisk reminder of winter sent snowflakes swirling out over the muddy street, into the encroaching darkness. Taking a firm hold on the brim of his favorite hat, Henry leaned into the wind as he strode down the sidewalk toward the newly completed depot. The impressive brick and stone structure ought to convince anyone, even a railroad investigator, that the Katy was financially sound.
The train let loose with another long whistle. Out in the darkness, its headlamp flickered. Henry searched for a red signal light that would guide the engineer to the new depot. Why wasn’t it lit? He’d given explicit instructions for this train to be the first to arrive there.
Breathing fire, he shot across the street. Did he have to be a signal operator, too? One more blasted ball to juggle, as if he didn’t have enough.
The whistle shrieked, twice more and much louder this time. Then the roar of the engine became deafening as it charged past the new depot, heading for a weathered shack another fifty yards away. Next to it, a signal had been lit.
Henry released a stream of profanity. The fools had directed the train to the old depot.
He veered off across a field between the two buildings, lost his footing in the slippery mud and barely righted himself. By the time he neared the ramshackle building, he was panting hard and seething with fury.
A lantern mounted atop a pole illuminated the weather-beaten walls of a squat frame structure that had served as the train station since the town’s inception two years ago. As Henry reached the steps, he noticed four men on horseback, lingering in the shadows. The oddness of their behavior struck him, but those thoughts were swept away by anger as he raced past them and tromped through the door.
Henry jerked to a halt in the dark room. What the hell? He fumbled in his pocket for a pack of matches. Striking one, he peered through the small window separating the waiting room from the office. Not only was the station agent not here, no one was here. This was beyond strange. Floyd must’ve told everyone to leave, thinking the train wouldn’t be in until morning. That was the only explanation that made any sense.
A loud squeal signaled the slow down of the train.
Henry shook out the match and lit another. He turned up the wick in a kerosene lamp and hung it on a hook attached to a ceiling beam. Better get the stove going or the passengers would freeze while they waited. Squatting down, he opened the grate.
The door struck the wall with a loud bang. A cold gust swirled into the room as four men in dripping ponchos filed inside…the same ones he’d passed outside. Their hat brims were pulled low and heavy scarves concealed their faces.
Fear shot through Henry. He came to his feet, unbuttoning his coat to get to his gun. At the sound of a hammer being cocked, he froze. Despite being a fairly good shot, he was no quick draw. Whoever cocked that gun could kill him before he cleared leather. Worst case, they were here to rob him. Best case, they’d reacted after seeing him go for his gun.
“Sorry, you startled me.” He held his hands away from his sides so the men could see them. “Are you here to meet someone arriving on the train?”
He hoped so. Otherwise, he was in trouble.
 “You Stevens?” one of the men asked.
Big trouble.
The man’s voice wasn’t one Henry recognized. In fact, nothing about the men looked familiar. He hadn’t even heard their spurs. His gaze fell to the heavy brogans on the speaker’s feet. Drifters, outlaws, men who lived in the saddle, wore boots. Awareness reignited Henry’s anger. Blasted sodbusters. Did they think they could scare him into giving in to their demands?
From outside came the hissing of an engine letting off steam. Soon, passengers would come pouring through that door behind him. A chime sounded, the conductor’s cry distracted the men for a second. That was all Henry needed.
He bolted out the back door to the platform. Those farmers wouldn’t take on an armed railroad crew.
Shots rang out. Wood splinters flew off the doorframe. The conductor, standing next to the train, staggered, apparently struck by a bullet.
Henry’s heart convulsed. Those crazy settlers were willing to kill to get what they wanted. He hadn’t expected that.
On the steps leading down from the parlor car, a young woman stood with one foot poised as if she were ready to leap off the train and bound onto the platform in her eagerness to disembark. Henry glimpsed the startled expression on her face.
He yanked his revolver from its holster. Outgunned or not, he couldn’t run. He had to protect that woman, the other passengers, the crew.
“Get back!” he bellowed, and fired into the dark room.

Romancing the railroad

When I set out to write a uniquely American historical romance series, I wanted to focus on themes that are hard-wired into our national identity, like ambition and self-determination. Perhaps the most ambitious era in America’s history is the construction of the railroads. 

This "Railroad Period" (roughly mid to late 19th century) greatly influenced our modern identity and drove rapid cultural changes. The best known story from this era is the building of the two lines that connected our nation East to West. Hell on Wheels (AMC's hit TV series) follows this event. For my series, I chose a lesser known railroad story, but it's one that had an enormous impact on our developing nation. 

My imagination caught fire when I read about a cutthroat railroad race through southeastern Kansas, and the subsequent travails of crossing land owned by the Indian Nations and connecting Texas to the eastern markets. These were the stories I used as a backdrop for the first three books in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. 

In the early 1870s, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, or "the Katy", as it was fondly called, started life as a little branch line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Over the course of a year, the "little railroad that could" bested lines that were better financed and further along. 

After winning a contentious construction race, Katy crews laid track through Indian Territory and reached Texas in some thirty months time. An incredible feat in those days. For years the Katy reigned as the only railroad with through service between Chicago and the Lone Star State. 

For the most part, the Katy owed its improbable success to the passion and ambition of one man--Colonel Robert S. Stevens. Described 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 Colonel Stevens, who took a “never surrender” approach to everything he attempted. 

I became so fascinated by this historical figure that I shaped a character in my first book around him, and then wrote his story in the third book. 

Like the man who inspired him, Henry Stevens, the main character in A Dangerous Passion, has aspects of both hero and villain. He's intensely protective of the "gentler sex" and fiercely loyal to his family and his tribe of railroaders, yet he can be conniving and even cruel to those who oppose him. Driven to succeed, he's unrelenting and unyielding. He has few friends, many enemies, and no one has been able to stop him. No one, that is, until he meets the free-spirited daughter of his rival.

Lucy, an aspiring author, is an intriguing combination of innocence, intelligence and grit. She's equally enamored of Henry, but realizes what love could cost them and fights a dangerous passion for the wrong man.

Passion and ambition are two of the most powerful emotional drivers in human history, and when the two come together an explosion is inevitable. 

A Dangerous Passion is the latest addition to the series Steam! Romance and Rails. There are two preceding books. Here’s a recap:

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Passion's Prize follows three women who must contend with dangerous men caught up in a cutthroat railroad race.

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This trilogy was conceived and written with Jacqui Nelson and Jennifer Jakes. The three of us made the finals of the RWA’s Golden Heart contest in 2010 with American historical romances.

Her Bodyguard features a railroad promoter who hires protection in the midst of settlers’ riots. But her handsome bodyguard may pose the greatest threat.

Her Bodyguard is set in Fort Scott, Kansas. The Lyons Twin Mansions Bed & BreakfastInn is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion that served as inspiration for my heroine’s house. Guests who mention my book get a free bottle of Missouri wine when they check in. 

Praise for E.E. Burke's historical romances

“I thoroughly enjoy E. E. Burke’s historical romances. 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

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

Do you love historical romances set in America? If so, join us on Facebook at AmericanHistorical Romance Lovers.

What time period in American history do you enjoy reading about and why?

 E.E. Burke writes romance from the heart, woven with history the way it really happened. Her latest American historical romance series, Steam! Romance and Rails, includes Passion’s PrizeHer Bodyguard and A Dangerous Passion. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®.
     Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing novels. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest inspiration of all. You can find out more at her website, www.eeburke.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

For your chance to win one of five copies of A Dangerous Passion enter the raffle, and don’t forget to leave a comment.

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  1. Thanks for joining today. Don't forget to leave a comment!

  2. Best of luck to you with the new release! Steam, Romance and Rails is such a wonderful series - I can't wait to read the latest!

    1. Thanks for coming by, Julie! I'd love for you to read it. I'm planning on diving into your new book over the holidays.

  3. Elisabeth, I love the history you presented in this post. Texas railroads don't get a lot of attention in either fiction or nonfiction. Based on your previous STEAM! books, I know your research is meticulous, so I'm really looking forward to reading A DANGEROUS PASSION. Your heroes are always to die for. :-)

    (Don't put me in the drawing. I've already got a copy waiting on my Kindle. :-) )

    1. Hi Kathleen! You're right. Lots of attention gets paid to the transcontinental construction (i.e., Hell On Wheels). I was surprised to find so little out there about the Katy. Had to buy a really old book. So many wonderful stories! I may have to keep writing. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks so much for purchasing my book!

  4. This is so fascinating! I think I like whatever time period I'm reading!

  5. Hi Leigh!
    Sounds like a fun book.Lovely cover, too.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen. I like my cover, too. Kim Killion designed it. I found the couple (among her many lovely shots), then I found wonderful steam train images from an amateur photographer. Matthew and I have become buds. I plan on using his images for all my RR romances. He take gorgeous photos. Check it out: www.losttracksoftime.com