I’d like to think that in my stories you get the best of both worlds. Strong female characters who have just a hint of a feminine side. And each of these women have a journey to find themselves and along the way they learn something about themselves that sets them onto a different path. They learn that life tosses you a lemon and you’re forced to make lemonade so to speak.
And characters are what make any story memorable. We want to see life through their eyes, love what they love, hate what they hate and learn from their mistakes. It’s those three dimensional characters that make or break a story.
One of my favorite characters is one of my very first written characters. Blaze Marie Austin. She’s flawed in many, many, many ways. Life hasn’t been kind to her in the least, but she’s learned to endure and keep moving forward. But by the end of the story she’s also learned that in order to find true happiness she must first learn to trust in others as well as herself. She must let go because asking for help is something we must all do at one time or another.
I think we as women, mothers, and wives can all relate to having to feel as if we must do it all ourselves. So it’s easy to empathize with Blaze. So I’ve created a little interview with her after the first book The Devil’s Daughter. I hope you enjoy meeting Blaze.
Eden, Texas 1874
Hammers clanged and the consistent whir of a saw filled the air I climbed the steps of the boardwalk to newly rebuilt Whiskey Spades Saloon. I couldn’t believe that I was meeting my client in a saloon, especially a woman, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
I straightened my skirts and tugged at the pale yellow high collared blouse before entering the establishment. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and immediately found the bright red-head. She stood at the bar, one booted foot propped on the brass foot rail. Downing the shot of whiskey in her hand, she turned toward me, and wiped her mouth on her sleeve.
Grave, dark blue eyes studied me. “Eden’s first paper,” she whispered and leaned one elbow on the bar. “Interesting turn of events for this little town, don’t you think?”
“Exciting to say the least,” I exclaimed. “Along with our brand new sheriff and now our newest saloon owner who is a woman.”
Blaze Ryder gave a ghost of a smile. “Who would have believed I would marry a bounty hunter turned sheriff? Funny how life’s little turns takes us down trails we never would’ve considered.”
I smiled. Indeed, life had taken many turns for Mrs. Ryder. After spending most of her young life with her picture posted on a wanted poster her marriage to a man like Gade Ryder had surprised many people, including herself, I’m sure.
“I’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind?”
I cleared my throat at the unintended pun and my hands shook as I drew forth my notes. “How exactly did you and Gade Ryder meet?”
Blaze chuckled. “His father found me in an alley with a bullet in my back and brought me back to his ranch.”
My eyes widened. I hadn’t really expected that. “Who injured you?”
She sighed. “Someone from my past wanted me dead and we’ll leave it at that.”
I nodded, not wishing to press the ex-gunslinger further.
“But I will tell you this, he wasn’t what I expected,” Blaze whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“The town painted him a very dark man, selfish and uncaring of anyone. I found someone completely different from the stories they told.”
“Can you explain?”
Blaze swallowed her whiskey and set the glass down on the bar. “Gade returned home to a father he’d been estranged from for twelve years simply because his father requested his presence. Does that sound like a selfish man to you?”
I shook my head but didn’t speak.
“No, it doesn’t. In fact I learned that he unwittingly played the hero quite often in his life, not because he was forced to but because of the injustice of it all. He was a man who couldn’t sit back and just pretend he didn’t see what was happening around him. He was a man who stood up for what was right, even when he had to stand alone. That’s a good man. That was a man I wanted to know.”
Indeed. It wasn’t often you found anyone standing up for what was right anymore. Not in this day and age. Not in the west.
“Speaking of doing the right thing, Mrs. Ryder, I’m certain you’re aware of the women’s rights movement taking place in New York City. Do you have any thoughts on this?”
Blaze chuckled and tapped the bar for another drink. “No. I wasn’t aware of any kind of movement to tell the truth but women aren’t cattle. We do what we must in order to survive and I’m certain you’ll find many untold stories of heroic women who aren’t looking for publicity. Instead, they simply want to live their lives as they fit, make decisions based on their beliefs, and take care of their families. Women have been doing it for years why is this suddenly considered news?”
“Well, you do realize women don’t have the right to vote yet.”
“You don’t need a man’s acknowledgment or the government to give you the right to vote to be a strong woman. All you need is a belief in yourself.”
“Spoken like a true activist.”
Blaze shook her head. “Oh no, I’m not an activist. I’m just a woman trying to live my life the best way I know how. And finally, I have something to show for it after all these years.”
“And what’s that?”
She smiled wistfully. “A wonderful husband and we hope a child on the way.”
“Where do you see the future of women’s rights headed?”
“The same direction they’ve always been headed. Forward.”
Well said, Mrs. Ryder. The Wild West wasn’t built by just cowboys. Oh no, many of the greatest tales are the ones that you don’t find in a book. Over time, women have fought and paved the way for other women in this man’s world. And the road here hasn’t been an easy one. But the one thing you can always count on is that a woman, no matter the time period or the place, will do what she must in order to get the job done. That’s always been the case.
And the same is true with the western romance genre. Looking back through our genre’s history may bring us together but looking ahead into our future, you can rest assured knowing that the historical romance genre will endure both time and trends.
I hope you'll join me on the next release in The Devil Ryder series The Devil's Defiance coming soon!
Blurb for The Devil's Daughter
A bounty hunter facing his past
Gade Ryder returns to Eden, Texas, after twelve years to investigate a gang of rustlers on the family ranch. Had he accepted the job out of misplaced family loyalty or was it the compelling mystery of the devil’s daughter keeping him in the one place he didn’t want to be? Confronted by the memory of his mother’s suicide and the father he blames for her death, Gade finds himself seeking comfort from the one woman he couldn’t trust.
A criminal on the run
Blaze Marie Austin, once a little girl forced to be an outlaw, finds a chance at redemption by repaying the man who’d saved her life. Only her savior’s estranged son accuses her of betrayal and ignites a passion she can’t deny.
When the little criminal is accused of murder, Gade’s growing attraction for her could not only cost him his freedom, it may well cost him his life.