I don't usually read Western historical romances, BUT I've been watching a lot of western TV series lately and are enjoying the shows immensely! Here's a few authors
Digging into the Old West for a Historical Western Romance
It’s no surprise that historical western authors love the history of the old west. But when beginning a new story, where do they start? Historical western authors E.E. Burke, Jacqui Nelson, Jo Goodman, Kaki Warner, Linda Broday, and Rosanne Bittner share the research they’ve done for their historical western novels!
A Dangerous Passion by E.E. Burke
Goodreads | Amazon | www.eeburke.com
People often ask me where I get my inspiration. Honestly, I couldn’t make up more exciting scenarios or colorful characters than those I come across in historical research—in this case, railroad history.
Fortunate for me, I had to look no further than my backyard (southeastern Kansas). I came across a thesis written by a Kansas historian about a railroad race in 1870 that had all the makings of an epic Western: crooked politics, underhanded landlords, angry mobs, liars, cheats, and mysterious killers. The characters and events surrounding that race set my series in motion and inspired Passion’s Prize and Her Bodyguard.
The hero in my latest novel, A Dangerous Passion, is loosely based on the first general manager of the Katy Railroad, Robert S. Stevens. He was the brains behind the Katy, as well as the driving force, and is credited for the railroad’s survival and growth at a time when railroads failed faster than banks.
Between Love and Lies by Jacqui Nelson
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jacquinelson.com
An author cannot visit every location she writes about, so I turn to books for some serious armchair travel to both distant settings and time periods. It helps that I work in a used bookstore where the perfect resource might arrive at any time, but more often than not I’m rewarded by the pages of an old favorite I’ve had since my teenage years—the 26 volume Time-Life Old West series.
The spark for my upcoming release, Between Love & Lies, came from this series and the following lines. “The longhorns were carriers of a microscopic tick. The Texas animals were immune to the parasite, but the same tick produced deadly splenic fever in local cattle.”
I imagined a small farm, held together only by the grit and hard work of its owner, might not survive such an event. I wondered what might happen next, both on that unlucky farm and in the nearest town: Dodge City, the Queen of Cattle Towns—where life would be challenging for a woman who luck had deserted.
This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman
Goodreads | Amazon | www.jogoodman.com
I have books (yes, books) on lots of subjects that I reference frequently, but I also use the Internet for some specifics. I’ve researched clothes, of course, trains and train travel and train routes, dynamite, guns and more guns, mail express, safe cracking, dime novels, saloons, brothels, branding, barbed wire, outlaws, the marshal service, forts, maps and maps and maps, recipes, how to start and clean an iron cook stove, vocabulary, and how to saddle a horse. That’s still probably a short list.
Home by Morning by Kaki Warner
Goodreads | Amazon | www.kakiwarner.com
The list is endless. In addition to 1870s clothing, mining and ranching, weapons, horse training, railroads, transoceanic steamers, historical events (Great Epizootic, Underground Railroad, Irish migration, Transcontinental RR, Chinese labor, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, currency issues, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and so on), I also had to research medical practices, breast pumps, condoms, rabies, water witching, photography, blindness, and of course, cool new ways to kill bad guys. It was fun. And exhausting.
Twice a Texas Bride by Linda Broday
Goodreads | Amazon | www.lindabroday.com
Research is so important in any story, but even more so for historicals. I‘ve research modes of travel and how fast they could go by horseback, wagon, and train. In Twice a Texas Bride I had to research canned milk to make sure it could’ve been in my story after the baby ran out while the outlaw had them under siege and there was nothing else. In that story I also found that canned peaches were available so I put them in. I’ve researched gunshots, leg injuries, plants, medicines—you name it and I’ve just about researched it. In the book I’m writing now, I’ve had to learn how broken legs were treated back then and if a doctor had the expertise to put someone in a cast.
Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner
Goodreads | Amazon | www.rosannebittner.com
I have been studying America’s western history for over 30 years. I grew up on westerns on TV, loved books and movies about pioneers and Native Americans. I have a huge personal library of research books – hundreds of them. I strive for complete historical accuracy in my novels – events, locations, tools and utensils, clothing – all of it. I don’t “invent” forts or cities or a gold discovery if gold wasn’t actually discovered there, things like that. I LOVE America’s “Old West!”
There you have it! A great historical romance is only as good as the research put into it. There's so many nuances that some people miss from the clothes, landmarks, events, down to food and dialogue. Any book should have the ability to transport you, past, present, or future (or another world), and the ones above looks like it'll be worth the trip.