At any rate, it’s out. Generally, announcing a book here on the Vic’s blog I would like to give you the piece of history that called me to a book, since history of the era is mostly what we’re about here. For Wicked Woman it was a fascination with the Boston Brahmins. With The Wild One, it was a continuation of that fascination, along with that of San Franciscan society and acting in the Victorian era. I suppose The Wild Half was a fascination of cowboys in general, but because the book was such a launch point for my historical research, there is really no one thing to talk about. Sure, there’s a lot of ranching history. But there’s also research on cholera in the Victorian era and research on tuberculosis (which is only a few lines, but many hours of work). There’s the research on laudanum, and research on Custer’s last stand and Colorado’s statehood. There’s treasure in the Sangre De Cristo’s, lots and lots of slang, and quite a bit of psychology as well. In the end, this book encompasses most of the posts I’ve made here at Slip Into Something Victorian over the years, some my fellow Vic’s have written, and some I’ve yet to write up.
So really, historically, it’s a mishmash. What I did with this book was try to put the characters not in the Wild West so much as put them in the Victorian era. It wasn’t on purpose; what I’ve learned over the years just bled into this book. In the end though, I’m happier with that. If there’s anything I would like to accomplish, it’s to write books that integrate the history of Victorian America, and maybe eventually the rest of the Victorian world. Sure, The Wild Half is a Western, in that most of it takes place on a ranch, but these characters are part of Victorian America, not just Colorado, 1876. It’s 11 years past the Civil War, 13 years past slavery, but it’s still in their minds, it’s still part of their lives. They’re excited about the invention of the telephone and Colorado’s statehood, and are emotionally and mentally affected by Custer’s last stand.
Sometimes I feel like we view history in a kind of vacuum. As if, for example, the Civil War ended in 1865 and that was it, no more thoughts on it. Sometimes it feels like we look at the history of the West like it was a separate country. Neither is true. Today, in 2013 we still, on a subtle level, feel the effects of the Civil War. It’s only realistic to consider that the people of the West also felt it, especially since the history of the Civil War was the history of the West. A lot of the cowboys were displaced southerners, and part of the need for beef back East was due to the destruction of that war.
And so. . .I hope that’s what I did with this book. I hope when you read it, that’s what you read, that’s what you feel–all the history of the era, and the characters living it just as we today live the triumphs and tragedies of our parents and the other parts of our country and our world. Let me know!
Blub: The Wild Half
Chasing her was his first mistake. . . .
Lilah Martin is a hunted woman who has roamed the West for three years, staying one step ahead of men who are trying to kill her. Fear is her only friend; staying alive is her only goal. Then she lands a job at the Bar M, a prosperous and well-protected ranch in Colorado, where she finds friendship, sanctuary and a life that is almost normal. Or so it seems until she falls prey to the wildly seductive and dangerously inquisitive Rick Winchester. . .
A former outlaw, Rick has spent five years searching for distraction from guilt over his wife’s death. He finally finds it in the simmering sexual attraction between Lilah and him, and the dark intrigue surrounding her. But the more he delves into her secrets, the more of a mystery she becomes, until, frightened, she flees the Bar M. Determined not to lose this woman, Rick races after her, catapulting them into a clash of wills, which can only end in the discovery of a deadly secret locked away in Lilah’s mind. A secret that could make them both rich. Or get them both killed. . . .
Excerpt: The Wild Half
In the mirror, Lilah watched Rick settle into a sagging, blue upholstered chair that she’d shoved into the opposite corner. The room was plain, with bare plaster walls and scratched floors, and so small Rick could sit in the chair and prop his feet up on the rope bed.
She tightened her grip on her glass. “Why are you here?”
“For you, naturally.” His honeyed voice glided over her body like a caress, promising hours of illicit—possibly deadly—pleasure.
As his eyes drilled into her back, she took another gulp of whiskey. “For what? What do you want?” Her voice sounded tight, nervous, not cold and repelling like she wanted.
“So suspicious, darlin’. Can’t a man visit an old friend without having ulterior motives?”
“We’re not old friends.”
He paused a minute. “New friends, then.”
“We’re not new friends, either.”
“All right,” he said slowly. “What are we? You tell me.”
She opened her mouth, then shut it abruptly. “Lovers” was not the right answer. Damn, but she had to get rid of him. Three weeks away from him, and she’d yet to regain control of her senses. Worse still was the fact that he’d followed her here, all the way from the Bar M, proving that he didn’t want her to regain that control.
But, a tiny voice asked, wasn’t that a little flattering?
As flattering as a mountain lion stalking an elk.
“I came to help you,” Rick interrupted her thoughts
“I don’t want your help.”
A movement in the mirror. He rose and approached the dresser, where he poured himself a drink. He brushed against her and her skin heated, anticipating a more erotic touch. Clenching her jaw, she stepped over to peer out the dirty windowpane to the dark alley below and waited for him to settle in the chair again. The bed creaked.
He’d seated himself on it, to her left. The dresser was behind her, to the right. To reach the door, she’d have to push past him. He’d trapped her. Her breath caught in her throat.
He peered at her. “A few weeks back I met a man who was looking for you.”
She froze as blood rushed to her head. Grabbing the windowpane to steady herself, she worked her features into blankness, then turned. “What did he look like? What did he want?”
His eyes were intense, penetrating. “Dark hair, medium height, thirty or so, with a mustache. He said his name was John Carpenter, from New Orleans. He claimed he was trying to help your brother find you, that you’d run off with some fella after quarrelling with your father.”
Lilah looked to the floor, combing her memory. Thirty with a mustache? That description could match many men. Had she heard the name before, though? She rubbed her temple. “I don’t remember.”
The words slipped out, more pieces to a puzzle she wanted to hide. With a harsh thump of her heart, she lifted her head. Their gazes locked. The tamped-down anger she’d seen when Rick first entered the saloon flickered to life. “You don’t remember what? Carpenter? Your family? Or the man you ran off with?”
“It’s none of your business!” she snapped. “How many times must I tell you that before you leave me alone!” He was too near—to the truth, to her. The air between them grew heavy and thick. If he’d just move back. . .
“And how many times do I have to tell you it is my business?” he growled. “I’m here to help you, whether you want it or not. Get that straight.”
It didn’t make sense. Unless Carpenter had told him about the price on her head. Had they’d joined forces? Rick had had a lot of money at that card game, more than she could attribute to a forty-dollar-a-month cowhand. Betrayal. . .
Her heart shook and then rose to clog her throat. “I don’t want your help,” she said, digging in her pocket for her derringer. “And I don’t have to take it.” She stepped toward the door.
He rose, blocking her exit with his large body as he grabbed her arm to prevent her from lifting her weapon. The smell of leather and dust and stale cigarette smoke enveloped her, making breathing even harder. “Give me the gun, Lilah.”
She swallowed. “No.”
A muscle jumped in his cheek and his eyes flashed angry blue lightning. “God damn it, woman,” he ground out as he slid his hand down to her wrist. “I spent three weeks traveling through this god-forsaken country looking for you. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you shoot me, now.” His fingers grasped her wrist so tightly her hand went numb. She loosened her grip, and he pulled the gun free. Stepping backward, he emptied the two barrels and pocketed the bullets. He slapped the gun down on the dresser. “You’re taking my help.