The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I love to write rich, deep stories about complex characters that have both inner and outer struggles. Living in the new frontier in Colorado in the 1870s presented so many difficult challenges. In my research into the founding of Union Colony (the name given to the town of Greeley by the first colonists), I learned that the decade of the ’70s was brutal. Some of the worst blizzards took place during that time, and nearly every year plagues of locusts destroyed every plant within miles.

Greeley’s early residents relied heavily on their plots of land that they farmed, and they stepped up in faith to do something many people around them said would be impossible: turn the desert into productive farmland. 

To do this, they had to build ditches (water flumes) to transport water from the Platte river uphill twenty miles! And, needless to say, they didn’t have the tech we have today.

There is so much to admire and learn from those who left the comfort of their homes back east to venture into the unknown and dangerous. In all the novels I write in this series, I’m ever mindful of the courage and determination my characters must show to carve out a life on the Front Range.

I hope, as you read these novels, that you will get a glimpse of that life and be in awe of the spirit those early settlers showed. At the same time, I try to bring out some of the dark side of that time, for my characters live in a place that once was occupied by thousands of Native Americans who were either wiped out by the diseases the settlers brought or were killed or relocated to reservations, essentially ripping them from their way of life.

While I don’t intend to use my novels as a political platform, I think we all, being one human family on earth, need to be aware of our tainted past and the cruelties humans have committed, in order to learn from them, gain compassion, and ensure we don’t repeat the injustices done to others. I believe reading novels that show both the good and bad, the admirable and the shameful, of humans helps us stop and think about our own place in our world and in our time.

In Colorado Promise, readers are made aware of the lingering tensions and racism the whites had toward the “Red Man.” By making Sarah Banks and her two half-breed sons prominent characters in my novels, I made a way to explore these issues and challenges. Sadly, we stiff face these same issues in our world today.

So, it’s always a challenge to write a great romance set in a time long past and capture the feel of the times. An author writing historicals has to put herself in her characters’ shoes (or moccasins) and imagine just what a day in that life might feel like.

While we may tend to romanticize living in a past era, I for one am grateful for them many comforts and technological and medical advances that make life enjoyable. I hope that by reading of the difficulties my characters have to face without all these modern comforts, you’ll garner some deep respect and admiration for those who faced their circumstances with dignity and courage–and be inspired by them!

If you haven’t had a chance to get Colorado Promise yet, you can buy it in print or as a Kindle ebook HERE.

And I would be super grateful if you would post a review on Amazon for any and all the books you read in my series.

Here is the link to leave a review for Colorado Promise.

I’d love to hear from you! What did you like best in Colorado Promise?  Do you have a favorite scene? A favorite character? Which character would you like to see in future novels?

Getting to the Heart of a Story

I love to talk with fans about Colorado Promise!

This story is so close to my heart, and I’ll explain why.

When thinking hard what story to tell to launch the first full-length novel of the series, I had foremost in my mind the heart of the story.

Believe it or not, I’d come up with the first three titles—Colorado Promise, Colorado Hope, and Colorado Dream—long before I had any characters or plot in mind.

That may seem strange, but I knew I wanted my themes to be at the heart of all my books. Theme is what separates a good book from a great book, and as a reader, I love novels that have rich themes that get me thinking.

With each novel I wrote, my theme informed the plot. And that challenged me to draw out each theme in a big, wide way.

So how would promise be at the heart of this novel?

In so many ways!

Emma promised herself she would pursue her love for drawing and botany. She promised she would never marry someone she didn’t love. 

Lucas embraced all that Colorado promised to him, but when his wife and baby died, those promises were broken, and the promise of love reaching his heart again was an impossible dream. 

The rough, rugged land itself held a promise—to those who embraced it, it provided sustenance and a worthwhile life. But more than that—it promised a deep and abiding meaning and purpose in life.

There’s something else at the heart of Colorado Promise.When Emma is reunited with Randall, her close childhood friend, and learns he’s living in Greeley too, it only makes sense she should marry him. He’s sweet and considerate, and he respects her dreams and aspirations. Yet . . . she just doesn’t love him in the way she knows she should.

Which begs the question: Is it right to long for more, to expect more? Emma longs for love, but more than that. She yearns for someone whose heart resonates with hers.

Or as Sarah Banks, the Cheyenne medicine woman tells her: “When two people are meant for each other, their hearts will sing together. The sky will embrace them, and the stars will shine ever brighter.”

Randall is a man any woman would love and cherish. But he just isn’t for Emma. Despite so many doubts and her parents’ disapproval, she can’t stay away from Lucas. He seems to be able to look deep into her soul and mirror back the truths she needs to know.

When Emma is amazed at how Lucas can live so comfortably in such a wild and frightening place as the Colorado desert, he explains.

“The folks that come out here, out west—they’re all running from something. Just like I was.” He suddenly turned to her and snagged her with his intense gaze. “They think they’ll find something out here that will heal them, that will make them forget the pain of the past. But the open range doesn’t do that for you. The wide open land only mirrors back to you what you’re afraid to see, what’s inside yourself. The trick is to run to something. To accept what you’re shown, and embrace it no matter how wild, how uncomfortable. Only then can you finally find peace. Find your place in this big, wide world.” 

Emma desperately wants to find her place in the world, and as she sees how Lucas and Sarah and others live in harmony with the land, she realizes this is exactly the place—and the man—she could come to love.

The heart of Colorado Promise beats hard. I hope you’ll immerse yourself in the world of Emma and Lucas. And share your thoughts with me! Let me know how you like the story. I believe it will bring tears to your eyes—not just once but many times—and will move you in a powerful way.

There are many dangers to be faced by both hero and heroine, and many obstacles that keep the two from their destined love. But, as we know, true love will prevail, despite all odds. 

Enjoy the journey—and I hope you don’t bite off all your nails!

You can buy Colorado Promise here!

What We Love in a Hero

We all love heroes, and readers of romance especially love heroes.

Every genre has its own type of hero, and while heroes will have a lot in common across genre, sweet romance has a special kind of hero.

Just the kind I love—and I hope you love too.

What makes a sweet Western hero different from other heroes you might find in, say, a suspense story or a mystery?

I’d say the biggest difference lies in the heart.

Heroes in other genres may share many qualities with our sweet Western hero. He may be brave, strong, handsome, smart, skilled, funny. In general, heroes are men who are willing to risk, stand up for what they believe, sacrifice.

But some heroes are tough and insensitive. They may be crass, egotistical, have short tempers. They may have to win at all costs. Think about some of the superheroes portrayed in today’s movies.

But a romantic hero has to have some special qualities that are often lacking in non-romantic stories.

He is sensitive, kind, moral, vulnerable. Sure, he needs to have all those strong characteristics too. But we love our sweet Western romance heroes because they struggle with their faults. They want to prove worthy of love, and they aren’t seeking their own pleasure and happiness first and foremost. Integrity is essential, as is honesty.

Our Western hero isn’t perfect, and he knows that. He wants to be a good man, maybe even a great man, even if he often fails in his attempts.

Lucas Rawlings, in Colorado Promise, embodies everything I love in a sweet Western hero. He’s kind, funny, gentle, smart, and he loves horses (so important!). 

And what makes him so compelling, to me, is that he’s been greatly wounded, yet doesn’t wallow in self-pity. He carries his pain and loss every day in his heart—as we all would if we suffered the kind of tragedy he has—but he has faith and determination to help him move past the grief and find purpose in life.

Lucas wants to love again—someday. But he isn’t going to just settle for anyone in order to quell the loneliness he feels. He believes in love—he’s experienced that true love that is so hard to find. So when he meets Emma and gets to know her, he is wary and worried whether he should open up his heart to love again. 

A great hero won’t compromise his standards. And these aren’t standards of beauty. They are moral standards, and they’re things of the heart. He isn’t going to allow himself to fall in love with a woman he knows isn’t right for him. But it’s not about him. He wants to give his heart to someone who will cherish it and who will love him for who he is, faults and all.

We look for that perfect match. That person who will complete us in every way. Who brings out the best in us. This makes me think of the line in the movie The Accidental Tourist: “It’s not how much you love someone; it’s who you are when you’re with them.”

We might love someone with all our heart, but when we’re with them, it seems all our bad qualities come out. We’re unhappy, we’re angry and frustrated. We’re just not who we want to be when we’re around that person.

So with Lucas, he sees what Emma brings out in him. He realizes how much he truly loves her because of who he becomes when he’s with her.

I hope you’ll spend time getting to know Lucas Rawlings. I’d like to hear what you think about him—if he’s the perfect sweet Western hero, to you.

If you haven’t purchased Colorado Promise yet, you can get your copy HERE!

What qualities do you love best about a sweet Western romance hero? Email me back and share some of your thoughts!

Sweet Romance in Colorado Promise

Colorado Promise is a long, deep, and detailed story about a young wealthy woman from New York and a wounded cowboy who served in the War between the States and became an veterinarian in Colorado, if you’re interested in love stories or getting love yourself you could use resources as this to find someone for you.

I love stories that show opposites attract—not just because such stories provide wonderful tension and conflict but for the challenge that comes with finding common ground.

In fact, all my sweet romance stories are about the most unlikely characters falling in love. the challenge? To come up with a truly believable story. Because romance—real love—doesn’t happen suddenly and without basis. Sure, characters, like real people, might fall for someone in a second. But that doesn’t mean they have grown to love each other.

This is the big challenge for romance writers who want to create lasting, moving stories. The romance must be believable, and so when you have two people who seem the least suited fall in love, a writer has to create common ground.

What might two opposites have in common? This is the question I ask myself every time I start plotting out a new novel in the Front Range series.

And so, with Emma Bradshaw and Lucas Rawlings, I needed to showcase both their differences and their similarities.

What could a vet from Kentucky, who’d lost a wife and baby, have in common with a woman that longed to go to college to be a botanist and hated the thought of living in the West?

You’ll just have to read Colorado Promise to find out! 

Here are just a few reviews out of the hundreds posted on Amazon:

“A fresh new voice in Historical Romance, Charlene Whitman captured me from the beginning with characters I won’t soon forget, a sizzling-sweet romance, a love triangle, spiteful villains, heart-throbbing heroes, and a plot full of intrigue that kept me guessing. Ms. Whitman’s magnificent research transported me to the Colorado plains and left me longing to join the characters amid the wildflower-dotted fields, rushing rivers, and panoramic Rocky Mountains. Fans of Historical Western Romance will not soon forget Colorado Promise.”  
—romance author Marylu Tyndall

“Ms. Whitman’s writing on the page pleases the senses and the mind. Words roll on the tongue and fill the reader with wonders of the countryside and olden times of living wild on the frontier. You can feel and smell the scents of wild grass, the warm ranch fires in the evenings, and cattle mooing in the background. A most enjoyable book that merits five stars! I didn’t know I could fall in love with Western Romance, but I did. This beautifully written story is a breath of fresh air.” —historical romance author Lilian Gafni

And The Examiner says this about Colorado Promise:

“An adequate writer of historical fiction will include minor bits and pieces about the setting of their story. A good writer will do a bit of research to make sure there are historical facts included in the pages of their novel. A superb writer will create characters that could have actually lived during the time in which the story takes place and allows them to act as people in that time period would have really acted. Charlene Whitman is a superb writer.”

You can purchase Colorado Promise in paperback or as an ebook on Amazon HERE.