Wednesday, April 28, 2021

By Joanne Mengel

Picture it. Miles and miles of open country, horses grazing in a meadow, and the peaceful sound of cattle lowing in the distance. On the horizon appears a man on horseback. Not just any man - a tall , dark and handsome... cowboy. Be still my heart. Romance novels featuring ranch life and a western setting are very popular at the library right now. Many feature a multigenerational family storyline and are just the thing for those of you who enjoy reading books in a series. I put together a list of some of the popular books that fall in this category.

One of the first western romance authors I read was Janet Dailey. Back in 1981 she wrote the first book in her Calder Saga series, This Calder Sky. I loved it, and went on to read all 11 in the series. The library still owns most of the titles in one format or another. She recently started a spin-off to this series with her 2021 release of Calder Brand. I can’t wait to read it.

Calder Brand by Janet Dailey: Set in the late 1800s in the beautiful, unforgiving American West, where the only thing more vital than hard work is the love of an unforgettable woman, Calder Brand follows the experiences of a vengeful cowboy and an aspiring doctor whose respective ambitions are complicated by past demons and an illegitimate child.

Another queen of ranch life romance writing is author Linda Lael Miller. Popular with all ages, she has written multiple series and her Carsons of Mustang Creek series starts with this one.

Once a Rancher by Linda Lael Miller:Slater Carson might be a filmmaker by trade, but he’s still a cowboy at heart. So when he sees troubled teen Ryder heading down a dangerous path, he offers the boy a job on the Wyoming ranch he shares with his two younger brothers . Ryder’s guardian is the gorgeous new Mustang Creek resort manager, Grace Emery, and Slater figures it can’t hurt to keep a closer eye on her, as well…Let the games begin!

A new author on the scene is Rebekah Weatherspoon. Take a look at this first book in the Cowboys of California series.

A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon
: Chef Evie Buchanan is perched on the edge of stardom. But at an industry party, a fall lands Evie in the hospital, with no memory of who she is. Former rodeo champion Zach Pleasant arrives on the scene. Their families had  tried their best to keep them apart years ago, but will a charming cowboy and his sleeping beauty now find their modern day happily ever after?

Another favorite is Diana Palmer. Her first novel was published in 1979, and she has over 115 novels in print. The title of this book fits the storyline perfectly.

Denim and Lace by Diana Palmer: Bess Samson was raised in privilege, but always had a thing for Cade Hollister, the rough-and-tumble cowboy next door, even ignoring her controlling, class-conscious mother's warning to stay away from him. But he turned her down - hard. Humiliated, she grew up and moved on, but never truly gave up hope. Cade has secretly always adored Bess, but is filled with disdain for the Samsons' wealth. Once, the families had been friends, until dark secrets and scandal caused a bitter rift, and now her family won't let him forget his blue-collar roots. But when an accident nearly costs Bess her life, the proud rancher must finally fight for the love he's never forgotten.

For series lovers, Carolyn Brown’s Longhorn Canyon series is just the ticket.

Cowboy Bold by Carolyn Brown: Every summer Cade Maguire looks forward to opening his Longhorn Canyon Ranch to underprivileged city kids. But this year, he's having no luck finding a counselor for the children - until Retta Palmer walks through his door. Both recovering from painful pasts, rancher Cade Maguire and counselor Retta find themselves outmatched by a group of lovable kids determined to play matchmaker.

Most widely known for her historical romance, Julia London also writes ranch fiction. Give this one a try and see what you think.

Charmer in Chaps by Julia London
: Cimarron County knows the youngest son of the fabled Prince family as a womanizing hell-raiser, but Luca has changed and he intends to prove it. There's just one problem - a woman with sparkling eyes and more fight than a barnyard cat. Ella Kendall has exactly three things to her name: A dog, a pig, and the rundown house she just inherited. Luca may not remember her from high school, but she definitely remembers him. He is as seductive as he was then, but Ella isn't about to fall for his flirting. She recognizes a playboy cowboy when she sees one. Luca knows Ella has learned the hard way to trust no one but herself. Yet the closer he gets to Ella, the more he wants to be the only one she leans on. 

Sometimes authors write books that take place in the same geographical area with recurring characters, but the books do not need to be read in any particular order. A good example of this are the Ransom Canyon romance books by Jodi Thomas. See how the saga begins in this one. 

Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas
: In the remote west Texas town of Ransom Canyon, family can be made by blood or by choice. Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendant of Ransom Canyon's founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O'Grady... or that she has her own secret that no one living knows. There is suspense, adventure, cowboys, painful past memories and humor from page one to the end.

One more to try:

Wind River Wrangler by Lindsay McKenna:
Shiloh Gallagher has fled the trauma from her mother's murder in New York City, and the very real threat left in its wake, to escape to a Wyoming ranch worked by ex-Special Forces Roan Taggart; but the two cannot have a future together until they deal with the danger that has followed Shiloh west.

So, to all you romance readers out there, if you haven’t tried the western romance setting, I highly recommend them. This genre is so much more than spurs and wagon trains. Believe it or not - there are still plenty of real life cowboys out there guaranteed to set your heart aflutter. And another plus, the descriptive writing in these books gives you a first hand look at the beauty of the wide open spaces that make up our beautiful western states.

Joanne Mengel is a member of the Information Services team at the Fond du Lac Public Library.