Horses and Romance
Some folks know that for a very long time, horses were my world. I lived, breathed, and made my living with horses. I was an exercise rider for racehorses, I have trained and taught, competed and groomed. Judged and stewarded.
Cue adult life, and I am no longer a professional in the equine industry. I love horses still, and swing a leg over to ride when I can, but I no longer own horses of my own. I miss it, but my reality doesn’t allow for the expense of a horse right now. Someday again, maybe!
It stands to reason a lot of the ways I interpret the world are influenced by what I learned around horses. They have a huge impact on your personality and self-identification. More often than not, I reach back for those skills of patience, determination, and methodical thought learned from horses, when working through a problem.
The Book Cowboy
When I started writing romance, it was a foregone conclusion that horses would be integral to the storylines I imagined, in some way. True to that, all but one of my current romance titles on Wattpad have horses in them, in some way.
Most of the time, we see horses come into romance ridden by The Cowboy. The allure of the gruff working man who lives by the land, loves passionately, and protects fiercely is a time-honoured trope. A man’s man who can understand a horse, wrangle a heifer, has morals grounded in their roots, and respects a woman?
Sign me up! I love those kinds of heroes.
A huge influence on my soft spot for country romance is the book Montana Sky by the amazing Nora Roberts. I believe it was also a RITA finalist in 1997, and has been reprinted oodles of times. I’ll forgive you (maybe) if you’ve not heard of the book, but everyone knows who she is, right? Right??
The premise of the book is about three sisters who have to come together when their father dies, and there are stipulations in the will for them to live together to inherit the ranch. Each sister is very different, and their journeys and development over the course of the book are unforgettable. Throw romance, intrigue, and Nora’s patented hook-you writing in the mix, and you have an instant classic romance!
Sound familiar now? John Corbett, Nathaniel Arcand, Charlotte Ross, and Diane Ladd are just some of the names from the movie made in 2007, that was filmed in Alberta. I have the DVD somewhere...
I’ve read many, many Nora Roberts books. She is an indelible inspiration for my writing. I hope someday to be as evocative a writer as she can be. She makes it look easy!
The influence of Montana Sky can be seen in the series I am currently writing. It has long been a trope I love, a character learning to run a ranch, with difficulty and roadblocks along the way. Definitely not one that is new, I’ve read countless other novels with much the same idea. Nora’s stands out for me, the way she writes the relationships is captivating and realistic.
I had a thought one night of “What if it were brothers? What if it was one brother, a fish out of water, that inherited?” “What if there were all these secrets and history in the family?”
That “what if” question is how most of my romance novel ideas start, by the way.
A Series is Born
So, I started writing a book called “How to Properly Cook Beef”, got three chapters in, and forgot about it for a couple of years. I picked it back up in 2019 when I was nearing the end of writing Two Cream, No Sugar - as my next book - and was hoping to keep the momentum I had actually getting writing done.
It began simply enough; a New York City chef, the long lost son of a rancher, is called home when that rancher dies. He inherits the ranch lock, stock and barrel. The other two brothers, who didn’t know about him, well, let’s just say they aren’t happy about it. Shenanigans happen, romance blooms, and I won’t spoil it more, but there is a happily-ever-after for that New York City chef by the end.
I finished writing that book in early 2020, and now, it is part of the Paid Stories program with a new name - Western Heat.
I pivoted, and decided each brother needed required their own book, and started in on the second book with a clearer idea of what I wanted to do! I renamed the second book when the first one went into the Paid Stories program, because I wanted to keep them together, even if they never all go into Paid.
Book two was originally titled “How to Mend Fences”. I renamed it to Western Connection. I’m currently writing that book, and I’m somewhere close to the end of the second act. The first act is currently posting on Wattpad.
The third book is tentatively titled Western Memories, but I’m not sold on that title yet. I may use Western Flame instead. First there is heat, then connection, then flame! Get it?
But, in all this are the horses.
They influence the characters, they are characters in themselves. They are part of the every day at the ranch, and perform both the role of comedic relief and bonding McGuffin. I try to be as accurate as possible. Just like any author, research and accuracy are important. Horses are a way of life that is engulfing, and would dictate the every day of anyone who rides or cares for them, and that is important for me to get right.
Maybe in a way I am living vicariously through my characters, because if I can’t be on a ranch with horses right now, they can! More likely it is about writing what I know, writing the stories I want to read. And, the other truth is that when a writer creates a character, it is from their own experiences and life lived.
That influence is strong in my creative work. I’m glad for it.