Smart Girls Read Romance

Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog. Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Ghosts of Christmas Past by Suzanne Rossi

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas even if you don't celebrate the holiday. Christmas can represent a wonderful spirit of giving and love, so why not spread it around? I can't see that it hurts anyone.

We had a very quiet Christmas this year. It gave me the opportunity to remember some of those Christmas's past that will stick in my mind until I'm no more.

My first recall is when I was two or three years old. (Okay, I don't actually remember this, but my mother swore it was true and my dad would just laugh when she told the story, so I have to believe it.) One of my gifts was a train set. It ran around the Christmas tree complete with a puffing engine and a whistle. A strange gift for a girl until you realize that my father sat on the floor next to me handling the controls because he didn't want his princess to hurt herself. I think I was five before he let me do the honors. By then the train had grown in size and been mounted on a hunk of plywood between two sawhorses in our basement. The plywood is long gone, but I still have that Lionel train set in my garage. I haven't had it out in twenty-five or so years and I'm sure the Florida climate has rusted some of the track, but when we move to Memphis next year, you can be sure I'll try to get it up and running for my grandsons.

My mother made sure that I received my fair share of dolls over the years. My favorite is still with me. She sits in a chair in our bedroom. Her honey blonde hair is a little worse for wear--I played hairdresser a bit too often--but a huge white bow I bestowed upon the back of her head is also in place to this day. The ruffled, pink, full-length, circle skirted dress is almost intact. Unfortunately, the matching pink shoes and wrist corsage she wore disintegrated over time.

By the time I turned eight, I was heavily into reading, so imagine my delight when I opened a present containing ten--count them, ten!!!--Nancy Drew mysteries. I was in heaven and within two weeks had read them all, barely able to contain my excitement until I could afford the next book in the series. I eventually gave them all to my niece, since I was not blessed with a daughter.

At twelve, my interests in toys had faded and clothes took center stage. I was born and raised in Indianapolis and going downtown to see the Christmas display windows at the L. S. Ayres and Wm. H. Block department stores was a must. I can remember seeing this gorgeous pink angora sweater on display in the Ayres Junior Miss department. It was so beautiful. I could see me wearing it to school and being the envy of all the other girls. I begged my mother for it, but the price tag was $15, a small fortune for the late '50s. We walked away. And yet, there it was under the tree on Christmas morning. I was ecstatic and couldn't wait for the first day of school after winter break. The irony was the wool made me itch and the angora made me sneeze. I think I wore it the grand total of three times.

And before I forget, giving was just as  important as receiving. I can recall with sharp clarity, the time Mother and I somehow squeezed a huge box into the car, wrapped it, and shoved it next to the tree for Daddy. It was a bar and fit into the corner of our den perfectly. He was delighted even though he had to assemble it and buy the bar stools later.

Mother also benefited from my gifts. She smiled and immediately wore all the bracelets and necklaces from G. C. Murphy's Five and Dime I could afford, declaring them exactly what she wanted. After her death, I found all those items in boxes in her dresser drawer. My mother was not a particularly sentimental person, so this touched me deeply. I still have them in my vanity

As time passed, my gift requests turned more practical. Now, most women would smack their husbands up along side the head with a two-by-four for getting them a washer and dryer for Christmas. But since I had two small boys and hated going to the laundromat, I did a happy dance across the living room floor.

Christmas gradually turned into watching my sons and later my grandchildren opening gifts. Seeing the surprise and joy on their faces was all the presents I wanted. Which now makes me understand my father playing with a train and my mother spending a fortune on a sweater. And that's what counts in the long run.

So hang onto those memories. They can never be taken away and as I get older, I've discovered they return sharp and clear.

Wishing you all the best.

Suzanne

Monday, December 28, 2015

Funny You Should Ask


Yes, my diabolically curious kitten/cats, Peaches and Cream, had a fabulous Christmas and drove me nearly mad trying to keep them out of presents. I failed. And the tree has only lights this year, no ornaments, as they would have been batted all over the house, Ditto for wisemen, camels, sheep, shepherds, etc, so no creche displays either. I gloried in cheery lights and the angels crammed on a high narrow mantel. The after Christmas blues are settling in, not only with me, but the cats searching in vain for those fun gifties they so enjoyed leaping in and chewing on.

Is there life after Christmas? Certainly. We found evidence of a mouse nest in the corner of the roll top desk--rarely unrolled. So hope springs eternal for some micelette playmates. None have turned up yet, fortunately. Or not. And my DH received a brightly colored drone, two actually, that Peaches bravely stalks. Cream is more guarded. When worried, he snuggles beside me on the couch and kneads and sucks his favorite blanket. He also purrs in my ear and nibbles my hair. Peaches is more of a lap cat, as is our curmudgeonly older tabby, Percy. My tiny pom-poo Sadie Sue, stays by my side when not patrolling cats, and rescue dog Jilly lolls companionably nearby.







(Beth and friends zoning above)

Onward ho with writing projects. I'm at work on The Panther Moon, book 3 in my new Young Adult Fantasy Romance series, Secret Warrior. It would speed the process if I'd actually make headway, but Christmas took its toll. Book 1, The Hunter's Moon came out on Dec. 15th, not a great time for a non-holiday release, I add with a sigh. I'm open to assistance, as in please spread the word to adults and teens who might enjoy the story.  Happily, Book 2, Curse of the Moon, is in the publishing process at the Wild Rose Press (Release date TBD).

Blurb from The Hunter's Moon:

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Daniel has been in the witness protection program most of her life. But The Panteras have caught up with her and her younger brother. Her car is totaled, she's hurt, and the street gang is closing in when wolves with glowing eyes appear out of nowhere and chase away the killers. 

Then a very cute guy who handles a bow like Robin Hood emerges from the woods and takes them to safety at his fortress-like home. 

And that's just the first sign that Morgan and her brother have entered a hidden world filled with secrets...


The Hunter's Moon is available from ALL online booksellers. Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Hunters.../dp/B017OCROM8/ref=sr_1_1

AND I created a Face Book Page for my Secret Warrior Series that could use likes and shares.
Thanks in advance for any exertions on my/our behalf. For more on me please visit my blog: https://bethtrissel.wordpress.com.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Did You Survive the Big Day? by Vonnie Davis

Shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, making travel plans, coordinating plans to accommodate everyone, mailing cards, shipping gifts...phew! Is it any wonder we all feel like this?

 
 
Calvin and I stayed home this year. We had a very low-key Christmas. Calvin fell at the movies and is still sore. We'd gone to see "The Letters," a movie on the life of Mother Theresa. It was very moving. Afterward, we both hoofing it to the restrooms and he blacked out for a minute. I nearly died when I saw him on the floor. I'm pampering him as I muddle through edits. He's been taken off one of his blood pressure medicines. Evidently, something in his system changed and suddenly the two blood pressure pills he's taken for years are just too much.
 
Even so, the excitement in our family continues--life doesn't stop because you feel bad, does it? Since Thanksgiving, our oldest granddaughter got engaged to a young man she's been dating for three years. Wedding plans are for June, the month after she graduates from college. Even with all her excitement and shopping for the "perfect" gown, she still got all A's in her double major of Psychology and Criminal Justice.
 
Our grandson was accepted into MIT, no small feat since they only accept eight out of every hundred applicants. Ryan's had his heart set on MIT since he was in middle school, so we were greatly relieved when the good word arrived. He got perfect scores in both science and math in his ACT's. Four hours of his school day are spent in the lab of the Cancer Institute, splitting cancer cells and working with DNA. He's wrestling again this year and is undefeated. He also tutors six students in math and physics. He'll tell you his favorite book is one Calvin and I sent him, The Universe and Dr. Einstein. He's read it four times.
 
Speaking of books, I'm finishing up edits on HER SURVIVOR, book one of my Black Eagle Ops series for Random House Loveswept. No cover to show you yet. A group of authors and I have combined 5 romance novels into a bundle for 99 cents. It's available for pre-order now, but will release February 1st. All proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project.
 

 

As you rest up from Christmas, grab a good book to read, a cup of hot chocolate to sip and rest. My best to you all. Hugs!
 
 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I acquired a small volume called The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway. The drawings are exquisite. I became interested in this aspect of Victorian culture after reading a book (probably a Gothic mystery) where the heroine attended a ball and noticed the flower arrangements told a story of betrayal and revenge.

Who knew. Victorians were so creative in subtly revealing their true thoughts in a non-verbal way. Only someone versed in the meaning behind plants and flowers  would know the truth. Queen Victoria's world was viewed as obeying society rules, even when they didn't make sense. Clever lovers still managed to communicate their feelings without saying a word.

Today, we all associate certain flowers with feelings. A red rose for love or a pink one for a young woman. I went through the little book and discovered a red tulip is actually a declaration of love and a white rose for a young girl.

Orange blossoms are associated with a wedding bouquet. The message in those flowers was "your purity equals your loveliness."  Hmm, well, it's a good thought, but I doubt the youth of the 1800's were much different than today's.


Sometimes, we get it wrong. In Texas, we love our yellow rose
.According to the book, it is associated with jealously.Oh dear. Our yellow rose is based on a young woman who acted as a spy and seduced a Mexican general during the war for independence from Mexico.

So, next time you plan a bouquet or order flowers, be careful what you say. Here are a few to avoid.

Yellow lily - falsehood

Full blown rose placed over two buds means secrecy

Tall sunflower - haughtiness

In closing, I wish you a happy Christmas and prosperity, joy and good health for 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Love Waits-- Oregon historical romance



Love Waits follows the Stevens family through the tumultuous aftermath of the Civil War and into a new love story.


The blurb for Love Waits:

As a Pinkerton agent, Belle Stevens Morgan has led an adventurous life, far from her beloved family. On assignment in Oregon to investigate counterfeiting, she is posing as a governess in the employ of a wealthy and ruthless man. Lies are her stock in trade. To her regret, she has never forgotten the young cavalry officer, who rejected her love when she was seventeen. Meeting him again, in the midst of an Indian attack, she fears she still loves him and to no more avail than ten years earlier. 

Captain Rand Phillips is asked to take on one of his most dangerous assignments regarding an attempt to start a new rebellion, with the Civil War barely over and the country still in turmoil. The biggest danger of all, however, may be to his heart as he sees the woman Belle has grown to be. He pushed her away when she was little more than a girl. It won’t be so easy this time—especially since she may be his one hope for survival. 

When two warriors meet, with secrets between them, danger is bound to be in the mix. Sometimes to win, one must risk it all. Book Four in the Oregon Historical series, with characters from the earlier romances, Love Waits is about a love that is strong enough to wait for its time—and fight for its fulfillment.

Snippet:
   The shots increased. The Indians whirled to meet the new charge before they headed their ponies north and out of the small valley. It was then that Belle realized the new arrivals were wearing uniforms. The cavalry had arrived.
   Pa Jamison opened the front door with a big grin as the soldiers hauled their mounts to a halt. “You got here in the nick of time,” Pa said with a laugh.
   A tall man, covered with dust and looking totally worn stepped from his saddle, took off his hat and hit it on his thigh to knock the dust from it as he walked toward Pa. Belle knew his rugged features even with the bearded stubble on his square jaw. Rand Phillips.
 Book available at these sites:





 





Sunday, December 20, 2015

Junk Drawer Inspiration

By Sandra Nachlinger


For writers, inspiration can come from just about anywhere. When I lived in Miami, my writing teacher, Dennis Ross, had plenty of ideas for his students. At the end of each class, he’d give us a selection of prompts to use in creating our stories for the following week. But as class ended one evening he asked each of us to bring three objects to our next session. Why? He smiled and said we’d just have to wait and see.

People showed up at the next class with a variety of things: a plastic spoon, whistle, small flashlight, bottle cap, piece of chalk, key, photos, books of matches. Obviously, junk drawers everywhere had been raided. When we arrived with our treasures, Dennis put them in a cardboard box, mixed them up, and instructed us to close our eyes and take out three things. The purpose of this exercise? We had to include those three items in our next story.


In my case, I picked a dried-up tube of lipstick, a key, and a cardboard coaster from The Hog’s Breath Saloon. The guy who brought the key said he thought it belonged to a Harley he once had.


The next day I went online and looked up The Hog’s Breath Saloon. The bar is one of many in Key West, Florida. I had my setting! Lipstick and a Harley key? My brain went in four different directions, inspired by all the possibilities. The short story I wrote started with this line:

Heads turned at the click of Maggie’s four-inch heels on the wooden barroom floor.

She's wearing bright red lipstick, and her boyfriend roars into the parking lot on a Harley.

Maybe all of us should excavate our junk drawers. Just close our eyes and grab something. Who knows what inspiration might lie within our grasp?





(FYI: This is a recycled post from my participation with other authors on the now-defunct Boomers & Books blog, originally published in September, 2013. My first novel, I.O.U. SEX, was inspired by my high school diary.)

Friday, December 18, 2015

NEW RELEASE: LAUREL: BRIDE OF ARKANSAS, AMERICAN MAIL-ORDER BRIDES SERIES



Mail Order Brides is a very popular subject for romance novels these days. If you're a fan and can't find a story to read, then you're not looking very hard. Surprisingly, many readers don't know that mail order brides are grounded in history and fact.



Men on the Western frontier found their success in many different enterprises but lacked the company of a wife and family. With very few to no women in the remote areas of the West the ways to get those women to them was challenging. The best way was to advertise.






Image result for american mail order brides

Either a woman would list herself in a catalog and was selected by a man for marriage or a man would do the reverse. The Brides came from well developed areas in the East to marry and were single, widows, divorcees, or runaways.Women agreed to marry men they didn't know to escape their present life, to gain financial security, or to seek adventure.






It's interesting to learn that a woman by the name of Eliza Farnham started the Mail Order Bride movement around the time of the California Gold Rush. She was shocked by the way the men lived their lives and horrified by their living conditions. Eliza developed a process to bring women out West for these men. The women applied by way of an application so Eliza could ensure only the best and most lady like applicants would be selected. Sadly, Eliza failed in her attempt as only three women came.












In 1864, Asa Mercer succeeded where Eliza failed. He brought hundreds of women to Seattle and they even paid for the privilege mostly because of the War. The imbalance of the women in the East and South to the men in the West spiked the interest of both genders.














Enter a groundbreaking idea by Kirsten Osbourne, that became a project, and finally publishing history. 50 Brides, 50 States, 50 Days in a row, the American Mail-Order Brides series tells the stories of 50 women all losing their jobs to a tragedy and how they try to make their way in their new world.




This 1500 word prequel is what ties together the ground-breaking American Mail Order Brides books. The project includes fifty mail order bride books, one for each state, which will be released one per day from November 19th, 2015-January 7th, 2016.
Roberta, Manager of a garment factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, finds a very large discrepancy between the amount of money on hand and the amount her books say she should have on hand. When she calls in the owner to talk to him about it, she knows immediately the discrepancy is caused by him. After the factory burnes to the ground a short time later, she feels responsible for the women who are now jobless. Can she find a solution that won't leave all the women unemployed?







My contribution to this wonderful project is my new release, LAUREL: BRIDE OF ARKANSAS, American Mail-Order Brides, #25


Laurel Weidner desires a life of her own away from Philadelphia society and a dull, boring marriage. She is sent to live with her aunt in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When her Aunt dies in a tornado, she gets a job at the Brown Textile Mill to avoid going back home. Two months later the mill burns down, and her father threatens to bring her back to Philadelphia.

When the mill and her livelihood perish with the fire, she has no other choice but to answer an ad in the Grooms’ Gazette and become a Mail Order Bride. Will she find peace and long lasting love in the arms of a stranger?

Griffin Benning needs a mother for his children. When his wife died, he lost his two children to his in-laws who claimed to have a better environment for raising his children. He misses his family and is coerced into advertising in the Grooms’ Gazette for a wife to raise his children and work the farm in order to get them back.

Will his ad for a Mail Order Bride provide what he needs? Can he find love and happiness with a stranger? Can these two strangers find a common ground to reach their goals along with a happy-ever-after?


Thanks for visiting and Merry Christmas to you all!

Carra



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pink Stuff and Christmas

When I was a kid, there was a popular saying: "You're as slow as Christmas."

I understood that to mean someone worked or moved slowly. Back then, it seemed Christmas was excruciatingly slow in arriving each year so the adage made sense.

Not So Much Now

I've stopped saying: "Slow as Christmas." It no longer seems to apply. *LOL* I don't know what happened, it often seems as if I'm sharing black-eye peas on New Year's Day then, bam! Christmas is here again.

My first batch of company arrives this weekend so I'm in full-out chef mode. Of course, my chef mode would probably make Gordon Ramsey cringe because my favorite recipes are family favorites that are easy to do. A perfect example of this is Pink Stuff. My mom and my sister-in-law always make Pink Stuff at Christmas.

Delicious Dessert With Weird Name

Whoever originally created Pink Stuff must have named it that because it's a lovely shade of pink, and it's not a cake, pie, cobbler, or cookie. It's this stuff that's all mixed together then chilled. Another plus: no baking required. It's the easiest dessert recipe I've ever seen, and it's delicious.

Pink Stuff (My Sister-in-Law Judy's Recipe)

1 can (21 1/2 ounces) of Comstock Cherry Pie Filling
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) of pineapple chunks or crushed, chilled and drained
1 can (14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (like Eagle brand)
8 ounces of whipped cream or a container of whipped topping, defrosted
1 cup miniature markshmallows

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Be sure and serve yourself some because there won't be any leftovers.

Christmas Romance

With all the time you save by not having to prepare a complicated dessert and bake it, you'll have time to read some of the wonderful Christmas romance novels you've grabbed. So many are free or reduced to only 99cents just like my 2 that are available at all ebook sellers.

LuvU4Ever, a holiday short story romance, is free!

Nobody's Cinderella is reduced to only 99 cents.

LuvU4Ever (Free)

This Christmas, Noelle faces the biggest decision of her life.

LuvU4Ever. That's what was engraved on the gold heart David gave her when he proposed. They've shared 10 years of joy in what she thought was a forever love.

I told you never to call me at home.

Can nine little words destroy her forever love? What will Noelle do? Will she walk away? Or dish out some payback? Or will she choose love?

Available at All Romance Ebooks * Amazon Kindle (Amazon has NOT price matched so it's still showing 99cents there.) * iBooks * Kobo * Nook (Nook has NOT price matched either so it's still showing 99cents.) *  Smashwords and other ebook sellers.

Nobody's Cinderella (only 99cents)

Darcy Benton is the oldest cliche in the world—a woman in love with her boss. Other than that, she's no-nonsense, practical, mature, and sober. She's just the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. She's definitely not the kind of woman he wants in his bed.

Enter Darcy's meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase's interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies...and a wish on a Christmas star. Darcy should have heeded that old advice: be careful what you wish for.

Available at All Romance Ebooks * Amazon Kindle * iBooks * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords and other ebook sellers.

Wishing you all the happiest of Holidays and a glorious New Year!

Post Script

Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. Available as ebooks and audiobooks, her romance novels all have the same underlying theme: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan lives her happily ever after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Sign up for WordPlay, Joan's email list/newsletter for readers and receive a free book.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas can be an Adventure by Paty Jager

Most people think of the holidays- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and New Years as a time to connect and make memories with family and friends.

My character, Dr. Isabella Mumphrey, has had a dysfunctional life with Christmas alone in boarding schools or with the housekeeper at her family's home. This year she wants a real Christmas with her new boyfriend, Tino Constantine, a DEA Agent.

Isabella is a female MacGyver/Indiana Jones character. She is an anthropologist specializing in Native American cultures and has recently joined the World Intelligence Agency (WIA) where her parents work.

Isabella and Tino met in the Guatemala Jungle in Secrets of a Mayan Moon. They found their missions intersecting in Secrets of an Aztec Temple. This Christmas story takes place before Isabella meets with her aunt at the Hopi Reservation and becomes entangled in Hopi myths and human slavery in Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star.

 Secrets of a Christmas Box

Isabella’s plans of a wonderful Christmas are thwarted when her 
father hands her a World Intelligence Agency mission. He allows Tino to help her with the mission, so they can be together. As the days hasten to Christmas can she decipher the wooden cube she’s been handed or will her first Christmas with Tino be a bust?


You can pick up this short story for FREE!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide for Writers

Writers tend to be like black sheep. Everyone knows a writer: in the family, a friend, a quirky coworker…we’re everywhere. :)
With the holidays around the corner, here’s a simple guide of various gifts that writers would greatly appreciate, including a few items to avoid.

~ Printer paper - Reams of it. Because most writers go through them like water. Or wine. Or chocolate.

~ Ink - See paper.

~ Coffee, or Starbucks gift cards – Most writers could probably use this best in an IV, but unless you’re a doctor and can write a prescription for the needles, best stick with the gift cards or beans.

~ Pens – Something cool, unique, different. Even a different color than the usual blue or black.

~ Coffee mugs - Just like pens. Be unique (and dishwasher safe!)

~ Books – Duh! Bonus points for knowing their favorite genre. But a safe bet would be a gift card to their favorite bookstore.

~ Comfy Clothes – Bonus points for writing related shirts/sweaters, such as “I’m the PsycHOTic
Writer Everyone Warned You About,” or “Grammar Snob,” or a personal favorite “Don’t Piss Me Off, Or I’ll Kill You In My Novel.”

~ Subscription to Writer’s Digest or Writer’s Journal – precious jewels in the mailbox, that many budget-conscious writers are forced to consider luxuries.

~ Massage or Spa Day gift card – This forces us out of the house to relax our writing muscles.

Don’t Bother With These:

X Thesaurus – Every writer already has one, and every good writer knows not to use it.

X Digital Voice Recorder – Every phone has something already on it that works. My phone came with 3 different apps.

X Journals – Unless specifically requested, stay away from these! Every writer has a billion of these shoved somewhere in drawers. Plus, it’s a cliché. Writers are supposed to hate clichés.

Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas and starts you off in the right direction. Have a fantastic holiday!


Susan Sheehey writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. Follow Susan at http://www.SusanSheehey.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and Amazon. Be sure to check out her upcoming release, Jewel of Solana!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Life....in Shambles!

Is it the 6th again already? Happy December. 

Ah let’s see… what has been going on? Well, my book was released (yay)… and then the cover was mocked on a snarky blog I follow… sooooo that happened.
What can ya do?

Last month I finished writing a slightly short erotic novel for a friend’s publishing company. Keep your fingers crossed. It took me a wee bit out of my element.







Last month was also NaNoWiMo… and did I meet my goal? NO! Why? Because I now eight people in my house instead of four and I’m realizing with school age children there are a lot more responsibilities and obligations.

What do I have? I have 5 boys all school at various ages.

Two are in 5th grade (ages 10 and 11), two are in 7th grade (ages 13 and 12) but at 2 different schools and then one is 15 and in 9th grade at the high school. Then there’s my 19 year old daughter and of course my husband.
If I’m not cooking dinner, I am cleaning something. Baking, studying and quizzing, oh my! I missed two deadlines trying to help one kiddo by reading his books along side of him and then quizzing him. We’re realizing the problem lies deeper than reading comprehension. What’s that saying…


All this family drama makes me understand why/how these family saga books are so successful.



 Reading? Writing?
I hope once again to have more to report next year!


In the meantime


XOXO




Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas in the Old West #NewRelease @JacquieRogers #HeartsOfOwyhee





by Jacquie Rogers

The snow blows nearly sideways as it blankets the range. Ranch hands hunker down in their saddles, scarves over their ears and their Stetsons protecting them from the fierce wind. They dream of a warm fire and hot buttered rum. But they have livestock to save from freezing and starvation, so they ride on.

Yes, I know these
cattle are a modern
breed and very fat
That was Christmas on the rugged open range. Miserable for man and beast. But it wasn't just another day at the office, so to speak. They whittled gifts for one another, sang a few carols as they sat around the campfire warming their hands and feet. Cook had given them a hot meal--the finest beans with maybe some meat thrown in. And with a little luck, Cook would've baked an apple pie. Life couldn't be better and they thanked their lucky stars for a sound horse and solid tack.


Christmas on the farm

Everyone has chores to do every day, then and now. Whether holiday or not, farmers have to milk the cows, feed and water the livestock, gather the eggs, and tidy the barnyard (to use a polite term), making such repairs as required. 

So after the chores were done, the family could then gather together and celebrate Christmas with what meager resources they had. If they didn't have evergreen trees to spare, they might decorate a sagebrush with popcorn and berries. They made ornaments with precious bits of paper and scraps of cloth. Peach tins made nice ornaments, too, and they shine in the firelight.

1876 Christmas, Harper's Weekly

Their celebration might be more humble than those in the eastern cities, but they had a grand time, nevertheless. The women cooked for days. They were resourceful and whatever they had available would do for a fine pie or stew. The Christmas feast could consist of chicken, venison, or maybe a ham, along with homemade rolls, freshly churned butter, potatoes and gravy, and pies--maybe one made with dried apples, and a vinegar pie. 

Each family member made modest gifts for the others and even the smallest child labored over precious gifts--maybe a drawing or a doll made of sticks. They sang carols, maybe read the Bible, and if they were close enough to town, maybe even went to church.

For most Christian families, Christmas was a day for family togetherness and to show their love and appreciation for one another, as well as celebrating the religious aspect of the holy day.

Christmas for Outlaws, Gunslingers, and Cyprians

The saloon owner brought small gifts for the working ladies, the bartender, the resident gambler, and a few of the regulars. A few cowpunchers bestowed gifts upon their favorite girls. They might have had a nice meal together before the saloon (or brothel) opened for business, and even then, the customers were few. It's one night they could relax.

Bringing Fact Into Fiction

When I was researching for my Hearts of Owyhee series, I ran across this item from the December 21, 1872 issue of The Owyhee Avalanche (the oldest newspaper in Idaho, still operating out of my hometown, Homedale, Idaho):

THE CHRISTMAS TREE. The Christmas Tree Festival will be held in Jones & Bonney’s Hall. We will stake in addition to what was said in our last issue, that the Brass Band, composed at present of Messrs. Charles Leonard, Joe Gross, Benj. Davis, Rufus King, Ferd. W. Frost and E. Douglas, will perform some of their best pieces, which will add greatly to the pleasure of the occasion.
     The singing, accompanied by the organ, will be done principally by young girls who have learned all the music they know in Silver City, and who by virtue of talent, industry and a good teaching have acquired, in our judgment, wonderful proficiency in the beautiful art over which the Muses preside. They are our little folks, and not imported singers, which will make it all the more interesting; that they will do their part in first-class style for their ages, we have not the least doubt, in fact, we know they will.
     The tree will be a prolific one no doubt. The Argosy of Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, & Co. arrived at the port of San Francisco four days ago, as we are informed per telegram, and a large cargo of its merchandise is on its way up here, and will not fail to arrive in time. ~~

I could just see the hustle and bustle of Silver City.  

Brass bands were wildly popular all over the West then.  Yes, they decorated and put up Christmas trees.  They had dances and concerts.  And Santa was on his way! 

So why not have a Secret Christmas Angel event for all the single men and women in town?  Seems like something they'd do.  And that's what How the Texan Stole Christmas (a Hearts of Owyhee single read) is all about.  Here's the blurb:

Winnifred Spangler has thrown herself into community work to ward off the pangs of her lonely heart. Fairview, Idaho Territory, is snowed in—and cabin fever has set in with a vengeance. Winnie organizes a gift exchange for the town’s single young adults. Her hope is that a few of them will find the loves of their lives.

Judd Shaw, a Texas cowhand, hates the ice and cold. As soon as the roads are passable, he’s headed back to Texas. But thanks to his childhood friend, he’s caught up in the Secret Christmas Angel game, and the name he draws is the prettiest widow in all of Idaho—Winnie.

Can Winnie’s smile melt his hardened Texas heart?

How the Texan Stole Christmas
a Hearts of Owyhee single read

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Winner will be picked at random Dec. 6, 2015, at 8pm Pacific Time.  
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