Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ride 'Em, Pardner

By Lisabet Sarai

"Get out of my room, you filthy varmint!" Mirabelle Hawkins stood her ground, hands on her hips, facing the stranger who had just crawled in the window of the Black Bluffs Hotel and Saloon. The fire in her voice matched her coppery hair.

"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am. But I'm runnin' for my life." The man was long, tall, and dark, with a rugged, handsome face and twinkling blue eyes. Aside from a distinct horsy odor and a masculine five-o'clock shadow, he wasn't nearly as disreputable as Mirabelle's ephithet implied. His dusty clothing belonged to a gentleman rather than a ruffian, although Mirabelle couldn't help notice the distinct bulge distorting his waistcoat. He was carrying a gun. That made him dangerous.

"That doesn't concern me. Find some other defenseless young thing to impose upon. Just because my pa died and I've got to travel on my own all the way from Fort Wayne to Deadwood to fight the crooks trying to snatch his land doesn't mean you can take advantage of me."

"Darlin', I never considered such a thing." The stranger scanned her from head to toe, his crystal eyes brazen. "Though now that you mention it..." He took a step towards her. His nearness, his power, his scent (or that of his mount) nearly over-powered her.

Mirabelle stepped back, narrowly missing the chamber pot. Her cheeks burned as bright as her curly locks. She remembered all at once that she was wearing only her chemise and petticoat. In any case, this man's gaze made her feel completely naked.

Her nipples tightened into sensitive peaks that rasped against the linen covering them. She felt hot and damp and flustered. Damn it, she hadn't put off all those suitors back in Indiana just to fall prey to some feckless gambler. She made her voice hard, though inside her everything seemed to melt.

"Back off. I've a knife, and I won't hesitate to use it to defend my honor."

The stranger smiled and held up his hands in mock surrender. "Sweetheart, I'd never threaten your honor. All I want is a place to hide out for an hour or so, until Dirty Jim Jenks and his boys give up their search."

"Dirty Jim!" Maribelle had been in town only twenty four hours, but she'd already heard about the Jenks gang. Apparently they galloped into Black Bluffs every couple of weeks, drank up every bottle in the hamlet's two saloons, shot up a few stores, kidnapped a child or raped someone's sister, then thundered back to their camp up in the hills. Everyone was terrified of them, including the sheriff. Hiding did seem to be the only option when they set out on one of their sprees.

"Yessiree, Jim really wants my balls this time." The stranger sank into the chair by the window, his long, muscular legs splayed out in front of him. Mirabelle realized that he was exhausted, even as she admired the other bulge revealed by his position. A twinge of sympathy wove its way among the tendrils of her growing lust.

"What did you do to him?" Mirabelle seated herself opposite him, on the stool by the dressing table, and tried to look demure, even as the hot bead at the apex of her sex throbbed and her taut nipples screamed for attention.

"Well, beat him at five card stud, to start. Polished off his twelve-year old bottle of whiskey. And stole his gal." The interloper grinned at her, and her anger flared. The cocky bastard thinks he's the good Lord's gift to womanhood, she thought. The only trouble was that he was attractive--devilishly so. And he knew it.

"And what happened to her?" she asked, though she didn't really care. Maintaining some sort of conversation seemed to be the only way stop herself from throwing herself into his arms.

"Oh, I sold her to the Sioux." His voice was casual. When he saw the shock on Mirabelle's face, though, he laughed. "I'm kidding, darlin'. She got tired of me after a week or so. They all do."

Behind his blustering humor, Maribelle caught a hint of the man's inner pain. She leaned toward him. "I'm sorry," she murmured. He sat up in his chair and inclined his lean, rugged body in her direction. Their lips were inches apart.

"Never mind about that, sweetheart." His breath warmed her cheek. "I think I may have found myself a new gal."

His mouth claimed hers as though he owned her. He tasted like beer and beans. He rose, pulling her up with him, clasping her to his chest with powerful arms. She trembled in that embrace. The strength that had brought her half way across the continent alone vanished like morning mist. His tongue snaked between her lips, exploring her, urging her to surrender completely.

A hand slid up Maribelle's thigh, under her petticoat. His palm was hot against her bare skin, moving higher by the moment toward the seething cauldron of desire at her center. She knew she should stop him. Yet she couldn't move, didn't want to move. She was paralyzed by his raw confidence, by his taste and his scent and his heat. This is wrong, she told herself. This is what you've been fighting against all these years. Yet it felt so right. She wanted to stop fighting.

"Darlin'," he whispered in her ear as his fingertips brushed the curly thatch protecting her sex. "I've been waiting for someone like you a long time..."

Crash! A boot slammed against the flimsy door of the two-bit room. "Dillon! Curse you, Jack Dillon! I got you now!" someone roared. The crack of a pistol and the squeal of splintering wood drove Maribelle and her companion apart. "Under the bed!" Jack Dillon whispered. "Quick now! I'll handle this."

Maribelle wormed her way under the iron bedstead, but not before she'd grabbed her pa's bowie knife from where she kept it, under her pillow. Despite the danger, she felt as though she was in a dream. Jack. His name was Jack.

This week, Devon asked us all to talk about the genre we'd least like to write. In fact, she challenged us to try penning a snippet in that genre. It didn't take me even five minutes to realize that Western romance is my Waterloo (assuming that we rule out slasher novels).

I know that this genre is popular, but I just don't get it--not as a reader or as a writer. I don't find mud and horse manure, a bath every few months and a head-full of lice, at all appealing. Cowboys just don't do it for me. I like feisty heroines (who proliferate in Western sagas) but I get annoyed when they fall apart and depend on the heroes to save them.

Meanwhile, from the writing side, I'm hopeless at dialect. Furthermore, if you worry about historical accuracy (which as a writer you really should), you start to realize that the period of the Wild West stretched for some hundred years and lots of things changed during that time. You've got to fix your narrative in time (especially, before or after the Civil War) in order to get the details right. You can't depend on stereotypes or your vague memories of watching "Rawhide".

However, dutiful blogger that I am, I made an effort and came up with the piece above.

Now you can see why I don't write Western romance.

Enough said.


  1. Lis - I have to admit I got quite a lot of fun out of your "challenge" and I think you may have been hiding your light under the proverbvial bushel, darlin'!

    My problem is not which genre I hate, but which genre I DON'T like! I write in far too many, thus spreading myself way too thin. I even like the wild west cowboy genre!

    The only genre I don't write, actually, is inspirational or Christian romance and I wouldn't even attempt them because it's too far out of my zone of understanding.

    SO you took the bull by the horns, and you rode that bronc all the way! Loved it, love this blog and good luck to the others who step up ...

  2. Hi Lisabet!

    Actually i kind of agree with Lise. Erotica is mostly fantasy anyway, and even though you were trying to be funny at it, actually i thought it was very readable. I wouldn't try my hand at writing traditional Zane Gray type "Riders of the Purple Sage" westerns, but if you're up for a writer-of-the-purple-prose type western i think you could do it.


  3. Not bad, Lisabet:) I think you've got the stereotype down pat! I'd be interested in reading the rest of it, no matter how bad you think it is:)

    After all, I devoured Dana Fuller Ross's Wagons West, even though two of the books had almost the exact same storyline!

  4. Oh Lisabet, this is exactly what I was hoping for when I thought up this challenge...watching a writer's talent shine through even when he/she is not captivated by the story being penned.

    I agree with Garce, still very readable even though it was obviously tongue-in-tobacco-laden-cheek. ;)

    I also agree with your take on Westerns, the fiesty frontier heroine who still will need saving (more than once) drives me batty. It's a bit more palatable when it's done as m/m, altho you don't see many m/m western historicals ...maybe an opportunity there!

  5. Hello, Lise,

    Thank you, sweetheart!

    Actually, I've been considering (in my crazier moments) trying my hand at inspirational romance. Why shouldn't a nice Jewish bisexual like me be able to pen a yarn about spiritual yearning and fulfillment? I'm serious. I actually "get" the Christian romance notion far better than the Western genre.


  6. Hello, Garce,

    I tend too much to purple prose and stereotypes anyway. The last thing I need is a genre that encourages them!

    But thanks! I'm glad you liked it.


  7. Hi, Molly,

    The whole problem with the genre is that it suffers even more from stereotypes than "regular" romance.

    I'd like to see a Western romance where the hero was--well, let's see--the middle-aged keeper of the general store. And the heroine was an "old maid" responsible for the one room schoolhouse.

    Hmm. There's an idea there. But would it sell?


  8. Thanks, Maggie,

    I worry when it's so easy to poke fun at a genre...!

    Thanks for joining in the conversation.


  9. Hey, Devon,

    "tongue-in-tobacco-laden-cheek"! Exactly!

    Actually, this was fun. But if I really wanted to write a Western, I'd have to do a lot more work on research and stuff. Playing on stereotypes is cheap thrills.


  10. Why not? Lavryl Spencer has a heartwarming story about a teacher who falls in love with her 'old bachelor' housemate. She boards with him, his mother and his young son.

    One of my favorite Little House episodes was when the cousin of the Olsons came to visit and fell in love with Doc Baker:)

  11. I dunno, Lisabet. Based on that one sample, I think you could do it. You just need to do a little reading, is all.

    As for why Westerns appeal, I suppose it has to do with the sense of lawlessness from that time period in American history. That and the spirit of survival on the frontier. Westerns aren't all that different from science fiction, in my eyes, so I do see how they could be fun.

    Love that sample, BTW. Jack Dillon is a true character. You could run with that bad boy!

  12. Lisabet,

    I'm coming in late here but I just wanted to tip my stetson in your direction to acknowledge some purty good writing ;-)