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Could Western Romances Make a Comeback?
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Anne Marble



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 606

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 11:02 am    Post subject: Could Western Romances Make a Comeback? Reply with quote

I've read "murmurings" of publishers being more interested in Western romances. Do you think that's a possibilty in the near future? Will you be looking for the new Western romances? We know what the Western romances of the past were like (both good and bad). But what do you think *tomorrow's* Western romance will be like? Which writers do you wish would start writing Westerns again? Which do you wish had never written Westerns? Wink And are there any writers who don't write Westerns but you think should write Westerns, even if they're currently
writing Regencies or paranormals or contemps?

How do you think publishers should attract readers to newer Westerns? In the past, there was a built-in audience for Western romances, but for the most part, people got sick of them. How can publishers lure people back? Will they rely on fresh new authors? Try to lure established authors back? Or try to capitalize on the popularity of TV shows like Deadwood to create readers who want to read Western settings again?

And what about the covers (a big part of the marketing)? Will they emphasize the setting without showing people? (Those covers can be pretty, but they can also be dull.) Will they show realistic costumes and realistic settings? Or will they resort to traditional romance covers like hunk covers and clinches? In the past, Western romance covers often used traditional clinches, "captive Indian bride" motifs, and "hunk" covers to attract readers. But except for some older, established authors, most of the newer Western romances I've seen have covers that emphasize the people within a more realistic setting. Sure, the cover for Maureen McKade's "Reason to Believe" shows just the hero. But it's different from a "hunk" cover because 1) he's wearing clothes <g> and 2) it shows him in a distinctly Western setting.
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TWhCDLggL._SS500_.jpg

Compare that to a cover from her 2000 book "Mail-Order Bride"
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0380802856/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

Also, even when most publishers were avoiding Westerns, Western settings were showing up in erotic romance. Do you think that's because most of those authors were published by ebook companies at first, and that gave them more freedom? Or was it a combination of authors who liked the setting becoming popular because they were good? Or is there just something hot about cowboys that publishers missed for a while? Smile Or a combination of the above?
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's only one "western" romance from which I remember anything (unless you count The Revolt of Sarah Perkins, which was by no means a traditional romance, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which I only know as a movie).

Unfortunately, I can't remember the author or title. It was set on the Santa Fe trail, so wasn't the standard cowboys/Indians or ranchers/farmers fare. The heroine, when without funds and without support except for an elderly man who had been a friend of her grandfather, set up a business in baking pies for the travelers and teamsters moving along the trail.

The scene I remember is the elderly man's expressing concern that at the rate things were going, she was getting rather old to marry (in her mid-twenties). She replied by stretching her arms above her head and saying something along the lines of, "It won't be too late for me. Not if I wait until I'm forty."

This was a paperback, published in the late 1960s or early 1970s, probably.

Otherwise, I've tried westerns that various people recommended -- Pamela Morsi, etc. They just don't appeal. Mostly, it's because the books are not sufficiently realistic to be "historical," but not sufficiently remote in time and place that I can mentally consign them to the "exotic" and ignore the inconsistencies. After all, my grandfather (born in 1864) was making cattle buying trips through the west in the 1880s, and I knew him well.

He died in 1963, of an unexpected stroke, after chopping kindling Smile I have the portable chess set he carried in his pocket so he could set up games with men he met on the trains. My brother has his portable assayer's kit. It's just too -- immediate.
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Sandlynn



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1809
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Otherwise, I've tried westerns that various people recommended -- Pamela Morsi, etc. They just don't appeal. Mostly, it's because the books are not sufficiently realistic to be "historical," but not sufficiently remote in time and place that I can mentally consign them to the "exotic" and ignore the inconsistencies. After all, my grandfather (born in 1864) was making cattle buying trips through the west in the 1880s, and I knew him well.

He died in 1963, of an unexpected stroke, after chopping kindling Smile I have the portable chess set he carried in his pocket so he could set up games with men he met on the trains. My brother has his portable assayer's kit. It's just too -- immediate.


This is a point I immediately thought of when I saw this topic. Of course, we can't speak for all the romance readership that is spread across the globe, but I do wonder if American romance readers give American historicals a harder time and are more willing to accept the fantasy of historicals set in other countries. Just think of the huge regency subgenre. Every so often we hear grumblings about all the "Dukes" unrealistically running around, but that hasn't seemed to put a big dent on the readership.

I know I was raised on unrealistic, rose-colored western movies and TV shows, which honestly, I very much enjoyed. However, lately, there has been a mini-renaissance of western-themed films as well as Deadwood on television. I take my hat off to those trying to bring back the western, but I must admit some of these newer, grittier stories tend to take the romance out of the west. It's portrayed as dirtier, more violent, more precarious, tougher. I'm not sure how this new type of western would go over in romance novel form, if it were to take the same tact.

Leaving that aside, American historicals aren't only about the western. Several times, I've said on this board -- and heard others say -- that we'd like to see other historical periods or settings used by romance writers. I think we burned out on the western which dominated American historicals, along with the civil war genre and some revolutionary period romances. I've looked for gilded age-themed romances and was surprised at how many I found. So, my interest would be in seeing authors and publishers become a little more adventurous -- and history detective-like -- in ferreting out interesting American periods or events to focus upon, like -- for instance Patricia Gaffney did with "Wild at Heart," "Sweet Everlasting," or "Crooked Hearts." (Now that latter one is an interesting "western".) Brenda Joyce's "After Innocence," set in Newport society as well as Paris. Elizabeth Grayson's "Painted by the Sun" -- another different western focusing on the orphan trains. Or, LaVyrle Spencer's "November of the Heart" and "The Gamble."
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, I really think I prefer westerns to Regencies, but there doesn't seem to be anyone writing them now whom I consistently like. I loved Jodi Thomas’s and Lorraine Heath's earlier westerns ("Always to Remember" about the romance between a conscientious objector after the Civil War and the woman who is determined to punish him, "Texas Destiny" about a man who is so intent on building an empire that he marries a woman he believes has no nose, and "Texas Glory" about the very scarred veteran who falls in love with his brother’s mail-order bride). Unfortunately, neither Thomas nor Heath has been able to write a romance that appeals to me for a long time now, so I’ve given up on them. I love Lavyrle Spencer's "Hummingbird" and "The Gamble" and I wish she were still writing, but alas, she's retired. Both of these books are about a good and dutiful spinster who colloids into the "bad boy," (a wounded train robber in "Hummingbird" and a bar owner in "The Gamble"). I've torn through most of Maggie Osborne's great westerns, but I've forgotten the titles of the ones I loved the most. Please forgive my inability to remember titles. Osborne’s books are outstanding in their portrait of the extreme hardships experienced by westerners, and often have the theme of the partial transformation of the tomboy. Catherine Anderson used to write a great western, usually with the sexually abused heroine and the very tender, yet masculine, hero who is steadfast in his pursuit. I particularly love "Comanche Moon," "Simply Love," and "Keagan's Lady." Unfortunately, I find her books written in the last ten years to be flat. I just reread "Rainbow Season" by Lisa Gregory, which was one of my all- time favorite romances, but maybe because I've read it too often, it has descended in my estimate, but it's still a good one about-- again--the "on the shelf" woman and young man, psychologically wounded from his extremely negligent and abusive family. Sarah McCarty writes a very erotic western, also, about a sexually abused heroine and a very committed hero.

I like westerns more than Regencies because I find the endless Almacs' information, the extraneous plotting on the thousands of brothers and sisters, and the strict and limiting sexual roles to be generally boring. I’ve read “he cannot ask her for a second dance, for fear of compromising her,” etc. too often, I fear. The best of Loretta Chase are the outstanding exceptions, along with those by Carla Kelly. Westerns usually emphasize the main couple, and plots generally support the unfolding of their story. It also helps that usually, these romances stick to the western stereotype of strong men, but allow women a much greater latitude in behavior. The shortage of and the extreme respect toward women, along with the intense stigma against “bad” women, lends itself to the creation of interesting romances. The portrait of a close community, with its advantages and drawbacks, along with the dangers common to the west makes these books generally exciting. So, I hope these rumors do forecast the revival of the western romance.
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WandaSue



Joined: 29 Mar 2007
Posts: 277

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would LOVE to see Western/Americana romances make a big comeback. And because what "goes 'round, comes 'round" never fails to happen, they'll be "coming 'round" soon, IMO. Just the law of physics. Or something like that.

I know I'm not alone when I say I am heartily SICK of really bad, really badly-written Regency-set historicals where the hero (or heroine) is a spy. Puh-leeze, already!

Now, on the other hand, I'd love to see a return of the "trad" regency -- the intelligent, witty, crisply-written, character-driven romance such as Signet published for so many years.

But yeah -- I'd love to see the Western/Americana romance make a HUGE comeback.

And in a couple of years, I think it'll happen.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the setting and hope for it's comeback. Pamela Morsi, Penelope Williamson, Lorraine Heath, Cheryl St. John all are exceptional writers in this setting. My favorite settings are Medieval and Western/American Historical. I figured out almost right away when I discovered the genre that I prefer the gritty settings above the pretty dresses and balls of the regency settings, although there are some wonderful writers doing those as well. I would be dancing in the romance aisle if the western/american historical made a comeback. Over the years of posting on this board, I know there are many that feel the same way. Not all, but some readers love it as I do.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: America

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want them. American settings can take risks British settings cannot regarding characters and plots.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
I want them. American settings can take risks British settings cannot regarding characters and plots.


True -- though I doubt that most romance readers are willing to consider the option of a frontier heroine who smokes a corncob pipe (although many of them did in the real world).

I suspect that's why authors were so fond of the New England schoolteacher just come west. They could make her more "traditionally feminine" than the chopper of firewood and milker of cows who had grown up in a one-room log cabin and wouldn't have recognized the concept of "privacy" if she met it.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

True -- though I doubt that most romance readers are willing to consider the option of a frontier heroine who smokes a corncob pipe (although many of them did in the real world).


.[/quote]


Well, I've read my share of american historical/western romance novels and I haven't come across that corn cob smoking heroine....yet. As for lack of realistic situations, any setting you choose isn't going to be brimming with reality, because it's romance fiction, not a textbook.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4223
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
As for lack of realistic situations, any setting you choose isn't going to be brimming with reality, because it's romance fiction, not a textbook.

Funny, but I was thinking the same thing this morning when I was reading the latest posts, xina. What have many people been complaining about only about the last five years here? Wallpaper historicals and the lack of authenticity in them. Certainly not everyone has those concerns, but many do. So the same with romantic westerns, I'm sure. Many of them don't cater to total realism; and if they always did, the stories would probably not appeal to everyone. Describing the nitty-gritty of living during those times in a romance book could sour the romantic mood very easily.

In fact, I think we had quite a long discussion thread on Maggie Osborne's books some time ago and how she tried to do her best to show reality at times.


Last edited by Tee on Mon Sep 01, 2008 12:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

? Wallpaper historicals and the lack of authenticity in them. Certainly not everyone has those concerns, but many do. So the same with romantic westerns, I'm sure. Many of them don't cater to total realism; and if they always did, the stories would probably not appeal to everyone. Describing the nitty-gritty of living during those times in a romance book could sour the romantic mood very easily.

In fact, I think we had quite a long discussion thread on Maggie Osborne's books some time ago and how she tried to do her best to show reality at times.[/quote]


Well, I think the whole genre can be accused of avoiding realism. How romantic would it be to read about the person with a case of syphilis or dying before the age of 27? And what about all the vampire romantic fiction. There's a realistic setting for you! (hee...) Anyway, I still love the setting and have read quite a number of books outside the genre. Two that come to mind are These Are My Words by Nancy E. Turner and the sequel...Sarah's Quilt. Lovely, heart-warming books where the heroine didn't spend her entire day slogging through mud, smoking a corn cob pipe or sweeping out her dirt floor in her one room house. Yes, there was more reality than the romance novel, but she had an interesting life and a wonderful man in her life too that made it such a joy to read. I think that can be done with romance fiction too in this setting. At least I would read those books.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Carla Kelly, if you are reading this thread, is there any chance of another offering similar to "Here's to the Ladies"? I am not a huge fan of the western (with some exceptions such as Heath, Williamson, Bristow) but HTTL was exceptional in that it was the only "romance" my husband has ever read (and he enjoyed it!). A brilliant collection of stories.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:

Well, I've read my share of american historical/western romance novels and I haven't come across that corn cob smoking heroine....yet. As for lack of realistic situations, any setting you choose isn't going to be brimming with reality, because it's romance fiction, not a textbook.


I love your phrasing here and I thank you for the laugh! I share your love for medievals and I can't recall many romantic medievals detailing the lack of personal hygiene either. For that matter how many European historicals go on about sewage in the streets of London or snuff-snorting dukes or heavily perfumed earls? So I think we can count on authors writing American westerns to spare our delicate sensibilities as well. Cool HBO's series Deadwood was extremely gritty and I believe I did see the very sexy hero Seth with a corncob pipe.

I'd love to see westerns make a comeback. Sarah McCarty is another author whose westerns I've really enjoyed.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+IHS+

Diana wrote:
For that matter how many European historicals go on about sewage in the streets of London or snuff-snorting dukes or heavily perfumed earls?


It's a bit off-topic, but, hey, you asked! Wink The hero of Jo Beverley's Trad Regency Dierdre and Don Juan enjoys snuff, offers the heroine some, and even a pinch off her wrist in one scene. Smile
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love your phrasing here and I thank you for the laugh! I share your love for medievals and I can't recall many romantic medievals detailing the lack of personal hygiene either. For that matter how many European historicals go on about sewage in the streets of London or snuff-snorting dukes or heavily perfumed earls? So I think we can count on authors writing American westerns to spare our delicate sensibilities as well. Cool HBO's series Deadwood was extremely gritty and I believe I did see the very sexy hero Seth with a corncob pipe.

I'd love to see westerns make a comeback. Sarah McCarty is another author whose westerns I've really enjoyed.[/quote]



Yes, I've really enjoyed Sarah McCarty's westerns. I haven't read them all, but what I have read is memorable. I think I have one on my pile of books to read in the very near future. Haven't seen any of the Deadwood series (we dropped out HBO when my daughter went to college), but I've been sooo tempted to buy the entire series just to own it and watch and my leisure. I actually did watch The Last of the Mohicans last night and while it's not precisely a western (I sometimes lump westerns and american historical together) it has the grit and excitement of exactly why I like this setting, and hey...Daniel Day Lewis is quite the hero running into the middle of the fight to rescue his Cora! It reminded me of the Sarah Donte novels...Into The Wilderness and Dawn On A Distant Shore.
As for realism in medieval settings, I think Elizabeth Chadwick does a good job of putting the reader smack dab in the middle of those smelly streets. That is one of the reasons I love her writing. Also, Ken Follett does a good job of it in Pillars and World Without End. I'll never forget the description of a man who was flayed alive because of robbing a church. Not a romance writer, but he doesn't pull any punches in setting up a realistic setting and also featuring a romantic relationship in the center of it all.
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