E.E. Burke's Best of the West: My new release Lawless Hearts ends the Steam! series with a bang!

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The Pinkerton & the Outlaw

In my new release, Lawless Hearts, a female Pinkerton detective and an Irish-Cherokee outlaw work together to find a missing agent and become entangled in a net of corruption, crime...and murder. It’s a tale of daring deception, pulse-pounding suspense, and sizzling romance, all in a Western setting that is as authentic as it is wild. 

The entire series is rooted in historical events that follow the expansion of the railroad across the American West and features numerous secondary characters from the pages of history. For my heroine, I took inspiration from the history of the Pinkerton Agency and the country’s first female detective.

A woman who made history

In 1856, a young 20-something woman named Kate Warne answered an advertisement for detectives posted by Allan Pinkerton to fill his fledgling agency. According to Pinkerton’s records, she convinced its progressive founder that women could be “most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective.” Her arguments and determination impressed Pinkerton and he hired her over the objection of his brother Robert, who was also a partner in the business. Thus Warne became the first female private detective in the United States. 

Warne was an excellent private investigator and acted undercover, infiltrating social gatherings and events. During the Civil War, she was instrumental in saving Lincoln from the first assassination attempt. She wore disguises and changed her accent at will and became a huge asset for the agency. Later, Pinkerton hired other females and appointed Warne as Supervisor of Female Detectives. 

Two opposites defy historical norms

In Lawless Hearts, Brigit Stevens is modeled after the young female detectives mentored by Kate Warne. These were women who defied cultural norms and broke down societal barriers. In that sense, they were truly “lawless” in their pursuit of justice. 

The outlaw Brigit chooses as a temporary partner is one of my favorite characters in this series. Over the course of three books, readers have seen him evolve into a complex, contradictory character whose conscience undergoes intense reconstruction. He isn’t the devil presented on the Wanted posters, but he doesn’t perceive himself as a hero. In fact, he’s confused when Brigit treats him like one. But her determination to reform him inspires Jasper to consider changing his ways. 

After spending most of his life on the wrong side of the law, he takes Brigit up on her offer to join her on the right side. Unfortunately, there are some who have the law on their side and are using it for nefarious purposes, and they have Brigit and Jasper in the crosshairs.

Here's a short book trailer:


Have you read the Steam! series? Do you have a favorite character? Who is it, and why? If not, who is your favorite literary detective?

If you haven’t read the series, you can get started with Her Bodyguard for free if you sign up now for my newsletter on my website: www.eeburke.com

As a special offer, I’ll also give away a copy of Fugitive Hearts, which sets the stage for Lawless Hearts. Leave a comment below and enter the Rafflecopter. I’ll draw a winner Friday.

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Romancing Mark Twain with E.E. Burke

Livy and Sam 

The author Mark Twain is best remembered for his satire and his scathing observations about human nature. But there was another side to the man, Samuel Clemens--a romantic one. 

At age 32, Sam returned from a successful trip abroad with a new friend, Charles Langdon, who invited Sam to an outing with his family. It was late December 1867 when Sam joined the Langdons at Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield. The reading didn’t impress Sam, but the young woman he met certainly did. He says of his official “first meeting” with Olivia Langdon: “It made the fortune of my life--not in dollar, I am not thinking in dollars; it made the real fortune of my life in that it made the happiness of my life.”

At first, happiness wasn’t certain. With typical spontaneity, Sam popped the question soon after the first date. Livy turned him down. Crushed, though not defeated, he penned a respectful, yet ardent, letter, the first of many in their two-year courtship. Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in which he claims to accept her refusal and addresses her as “honored sister.” 

For once, at least, in the idle years that have drifted over me, I have seen the world all beautiful, & known what it was to hope. For once I have known what it was to feel my sluggish pulses stir with a living ambition. The world that was so beautiful, is dark again; the hope that shone as the sun, is gone; the brave ambition is dead. Yet I say again, it is better for me that I have loved & do love you; that with more than Eastern devotion I worship you; that I lay down all of my life that is worth the living, upon this hopeless altar where no fires of love shall descend to consume it. If you could but—

He goes on to profess friendship, but he more or less begs her to open her heart and give him a chance. She does, and after two years and many more letters, finally admits to loving him, but adds that she hopes it will pass!

Sam, undaunted, redoubles his efforts until his determination pays off. Triumphant, he writes to share the news in a letter to his friend, Joseph Twichell. Here's a brief excerpt:

Refused three times—warned to quit, once—accepted at last!—& beloved!—Great Caesar's Ghost, if there were a church in town with a steeple high enough to make an object of it, I would go out and & jump over it. And I persecuted her parents for 48 hours & at last they couldn’t stand the siege any longer & so they made a conditional surrender:—which is to say, if she makes up her mind thoroughly & eternally, & I prove that I have done nothing criminal or particularly shameful in the past, & establish a good character in the future & settle down, I may take the sun out of their domestic firmament, the angel out of their fireside heaven...
Oh, no—there isn’t any persistence about me—certainly not. But I am so happy I want to scalp somebody.

Mark Twain House, Hartford CT
Sam and Livy spent their happiest years in their romantic home in Hartford, CT.  Four years into marriage, Sam pens an endearing letter to his wife from London that ends with him imagining his return. I love to write about arriving—it seems as if it were to be tomorrow. And I love to picture myself ringing the bell, at midnight—then a pause of a second or two—then the turning of the bolt, & “Who is it?”—then ever so many kisses—then you & I in the bath-room, I drinking my cock-tail & undressing, & you standing by—then to bed, and — —everything happy & jolly as it should be. 
I do love & honor you, my darling.

Photos and letters courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum. Home photos by John Groo.


A "shelfie" with Mark and me 
Be my guest at Romancing Mark Twain

Join me for an exclusive online Valentine's event Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Eastern.  I'll be appearing with Rebecca Floyd, the Director of Interpretation at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn., to talk about how Mark Twain inspired me to write love stories featuring his beloved characters. You'll also hear more about the true love story between Sam and Livy.

Through the technological wonder of Crowdcast, you can join us for this LIVE online discussion from the comfort of your home. Watch the program online, and, if you’d like, participate in the Q&A.

FREE digital tickets are waiting for you to claim them. All you have to do is sign up at the Mark Twain House & Museum's online event page. Select 1 "digital connection" to order your front row seat. Don't worry, you will not be charged. If you wish to make a donation to this worthy institution, you can do so, though it is not required. 

I hope you'll be there on the evening of Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. EST. (6 p.m. Central Time). 

Have you read one or both of my New Adventures books? If so, I'd love to hear what you thought about these "grown up" characters. If not, tell me which character--Tom or Huck--you think would be your favorite. 

Happy Valentine's Day!