Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jacquie Rogers: Much Ado About Madams

Much Ado About Madams
by Jacquie Rogers

People have emailed and nudged me with a little reminder that I have never answered my own questions on Romancing The West, so now, in a dual role, here goes. First, my bio:

There’s nothing quite like growing up in Owyhee County, Idaho, to fuel a young girl’s imagination. I lived on a dairy farm six miles southwest of Homedale. Stories popped into my head while I was feeding calves, or hoeing beets, or shucking corn. These stories placed me in another time, wild and exciting, full of adventure, handsome heroes, and heinous villains.

At no point did I ever want to be a writer, though. Instead, my fondest dream was to be a baseball announcer in TV. Obviously, that didn't work out, nor did my second dream of becoming an interpreter at the United Nations. Instead, I've milked cows, ran a deli, managed political campaigns, managed offices, and owned a software consulting company, among other things. Nothing holds my interest for long.

Writing came as a fluke after I'd been sick and did nothing but read for a couple months. I dreamed a book, so I wrote it. Now I have several published novels in a couple sub-genres. Who knew?

RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Much Ado About Madams?

JR: The lives of real people fascinate me more than the mythos of the Old West. Women like Malinda Jenkins, hard-working women who weren't the typical East Coast Victiorian woman transplanted to the West are most fascinating. The common thought is if a woman wasn't a schoolteacher or a cook, she was a prostitute. This simply wasn't so. Malinda owned businesses everywhere she went, and she moved from the mid-west to Texas, to several places on the West Coast and Alaska, finally ending up in Idaho. She spent her retirement years betting on horseraces.

I like to look at family history to get a glimpse into the real history of the United States and westward expansion. Often, our families didn't conform to what we were taught in history class. I want to know how they really lived, thought, did, and who they loved. To me, this is far more interesting than the shoot-out at the OK Corral or Billy the Kid. On my mother's side of the family, there was the Alsup-Fleetwood Feud, which lasted longer and was much bloodier than the Hatfield-McCoy Feud we all know about. (We're from the Alsups, by the way.)

As for Much Ado About Madams, well, I confess I have no experience with prostitution other than I once served on a jury in a pimp trial. Actually, the book was supposed to be about suffragists, and when formulating a suffragist heroine I got to thinking what if she accepted a teaching position but upon arrival out West, found out she'd been hired by soiled doves? The Comfort Palace was born and along with the brothel came Fannie, Sadie, Chrissie, Petunia, Trinket, Holly, and Felicia.

Jacquie Rogers, author

RTW: If you lived in 1882, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

JR: Mundane details of day-to-day life are glossed over. Most of us don't really know what it would be like to bake bread and fix a meal using a wood stove, crockery bowls, and cast iron utensils, pots, and pans. These ladies must have had biceps that any male romance cover model would covet. Men's jobs, especially on the ranch, are far better documented.

But I have to admit, I'm curious about how a mid-class brothel would actually operate. We know what they looked like because there are extant brothels, many made into museums, to visit. But how does the whole thing work, exactly? When a gent comes in door, how is he treated? Does he drink and play faro before and after the main reason for his visit? Is the brothel as much of a social club as a sexual outlet? My guess is that every brothel was different in operating methods, and ran the gamut from social club to establishments who catered to men's baser natures.

RTW: If a person who had never read a Western (any sub-genre) asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?

JR: Why not start with my books? Hahaha. Really, my books are light, contain elements of a little bit of all Westerns, and they're purely entertainment.

Louis L'Amour
 That said, my favorite Western author is Louis L'Amour, mainly because he was a master craftsman at weaving romance and sexual tension into his stories. Any Louis L'Amour book is good. I adored The Sacketts, and then of course there's the made-for-TV Sacketts with Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot. That'll get any red-blooded woman's heart pumping. Ahem. But scenery aside, those stories are compelling, the kind you think about for a week after you view or read them. My one grievance is he only included 80% of the romance arc, which is probably why I ended up writing romances.

RTW: Why must Reese McAdams take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does Lucinda Sharpe affect his journey?

JR: Let's face it--Reese doesn't know what to do with a houseful of soiled doves. He feels an extra responsibility toward them because of his father's ill deeds, but running a brothel just isn't in his career plan. Until he figures out that his father's failings are not his own, he can never be truly happy. Then Lucinda bursts upon the scene. Her character arc is very similar, but different in that she truly loved her mother, just not the circumstances of her life. Still, she's chosen the suffragist path in part to help other women who find themselves in the same position as her mother. Put together, there's lots of opportunity for internal conflict. And they turn each other's carefully crafted worlds upside-down in the craziest ways. :)

RTW: Tell us about your excerpt.

JR: This is the opening scene where the madam of the Comfort Palace, Fannie, is working hard to write a letter to their lone applicant to tell she's been hired. Fannie's been through third grade but still, spelling is not her forte.

Copyright © 2012 Jacquie Rogers

Dickshooter, Owyhee County, Idaho Territory
June, 1882

Dere Miss Sharpe,
The skool bord of Dickshooter, Idaho, dooly invits you . . .
Fannie clenched the pen with a death grip and pursed her lips as she drew her letters. The five scantily clad women standing around her watching every mark she made, didn’t help matters a bit.

“Fer hell’s sake, woman, quit thinking so hard and write the damn letter,” grumbled Trinket. But then, Trinket always grumbled about something.

The frustrated madam blew a stray lock of dye-pot red hair out of her eyes. “You girls don’t have to stand there like chickens ready to pounce on a snake. You’re making me nervous.”

“You said you knew your letters,” accused Chrissy.

“Leave me alone. I went all the way to third grade, and I writ the ad fer the newspaper, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but the newspaper man probably fixed it up some.”

“Can I make the letters on the envelope?” whispered Holly, who’d nearly been strangled by a no-good drifter the week before. She still couldn’t talk right. The bouncer had run the worm out at gunpoint and told him never to come back. Fannie had taken a liking to Holly, a young girl who, even though she served drinks in a whorehouse, was ignorant about the ways of the world—a lot like Fannie had been when her old man threw her out of his house so many years ago.

Fannie tapped the spare piece of precious paper lying on the desk. “You can practice on this once I’ve finished here.” That is, if she didn’t mess up this paper, she thought, and she probably would if she didn’t get some peace and quiet.

“This ain’t gonna work, anyway,” Trinket walked across the room, swaying her hips seductively out of years of habit. “What decent schoolmarm would teach a bunch of whores their letters? And how do you know she’ll marry Reese? Hell, he owns a whorehouse!”

Fannie couldn’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t want him. “Reese is a fine, upstanding man, and handsome as sin. She won’t be able to resist, and she’ll force him to close up shop so we can be on our way to new lives.”

“What if she’s some pinch-nosed Bible-thumper?” argued Trinket.

“If she’s ugly, Reese might not want her, but even if she tries to save our souls, at least we’ll all learn reading and writing to help get ourselves a respectable living. We can’t lose.”

Felicia sniffed. “Ha! We’re already losers, or we wouldn’t be stuck in this hellhole.” She’d whored in the best brothels in New Orleans until a crazy man had cut her face up.

Fannie tried to sympathize, but damn, why’d Felicia have to be so uppity? Fannie ignored her remark, like she always did. She’d have thrown Felicia out on her nose a long time ago, but knew no place else would take her.

“Once the mines up in Silver City bring in more customers, no decent businessman would shut this place down,” Felicia added.

Fannie thunked the pen down on the desk, ink splattering clear to the wall. She had to get these women out of the office or she’d never get this letter written. They had a plan, and it was up to her to make it work, but she sure as hell couldn’t do it with all these women pecking at her like a bunch of vultures. “Fer gawd’s sake, Petunia, take a bath! You stink like a bucket of last week’s slop.”

“Aw, Fannie, I just had a bath last Sunday.”

“Like I said, last week’s slop. Now, go!” Petunia left the office, mumbling all the way out the door.

Fannie turned to Felicia. “Go get your room ready before the gents come a calling. It always looks like a pigsty. I want the sheets changed and your butter dish cleaned.”

“Humph! Sadie should do that.”

“Honey, you’re not in some fancy New Orleans whorehouse any more. You have to do fer yourself.”

Two gone, three to go. “Chrissy, help Sadie with dinner.”

Chrissy jammed one hand on her hip and patted her tousled auburn hair with the other. “I ain’t no cook.”

“You are today.”

“It ain’t my turn. Besides, it’ll roughen my hands.”

“Your hands have been through worse.” Fannie waved toward the door. “Go on, now.”

She pulled a bottle of black dye from her desk drawer. “Trinket, your blonde roots are showing something fierce. Take care of it.”

“But the men will be coming in a few hours, and my hair won’t be dry.”

“Go stand in the sun. If you ever went outside, you’d know the sun’s shining today.” She handed Trinket the bottle. “If any of your callers come early, I’ll hold ‘em off for an hour.”

Holly whispered, “Do you want to get rid of me, too?”

Fannie didn’t, but the other girls would throw a fit if she let Holly stay. “Do some mending or something. Come back here in half an hour and I’ll let you make some letters.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She paused at the door. “Will I be serving drinks tonight?”

“It’s time. You’ve had a week off.” Fannie didn’t have the heart to make Holly take gents to her bed. The other girls grew more resentful all the time, but she doubted that Holly had ever had a man—and once she did, there was no going back.

The last of the girls finally gone, Fannie finished the letter.

Dere Miss Sharpe,
The skool bord of Dikshooter, Idaho Terr., dooly invits you as to be our noo skoolmarm, startin Septimbr 1, 1882.
Mr. Reese McAdams
♥ ♥ ♥
Available on Kindle

RTW: What’s next? Is Much Ado About Madams a part of a series?

JR: The third book in the Hearts of Owyhee series will be Much Ado About Mavericks. It's nearly ready to go right now, so will be published soon. It's set in northern Owyhee County and features a rather unique heroine and a downright sexy hero. Definitely an "opposites attract" story. The fourth book, Much Ado About Miners, is in the early writing stages and the heroine is Iris, the sister of Much Ado About Marshals' heroine, Daisy. It will be a while before that book is published since I only have one scene written, and it might change.

Also, I'm planning to write a mini-series of novellas called The Soiled Doves. These will be the fallen ladies of the Comfort Palace and their paths to Happily Ever After. Those are still in the planning stage since they're a true series, with an overall arc, but a full story in each one, as well. I'm not one for cliffhanger endings, as you've probably guessed.

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

JR: If you'd like to enter another contest besides the one here today, I'm also running a contest at Martha's Bookshelf. Comment to win either a print copy of the first ♥ Hearts of Owyhee book ♥, Much Ado About Marshals, or a Kindle copy and a $10 Amazon gift certificate. Martha wrote up a really nice review, too: Book Review: Much Ado About Marshals.

I'd also like to thank the readers and contributors of Romancing The West. In less than a year, RTW has hosted over fifty authors and we have over a thousand hits every week. Who knew? I thought it would be a long shot for a western blog to survive, let alone thrive. So I'm very grateful to all those who have helped make RTW such a success. The authors have contributed some fantastic articles and I've learned a lot for them. I hope you have, too! And what talented writers we've had.

You could win
Three Kindle copies of
Hearts of Owyhee  #2

All you have to do is tell me which actor you think should play Reese McAdams, and who you'd cast as Lucinda Sharpe.

Small print:
All comments must have your email address to be eligible.
Drawing will be held May 26, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time.


  1. I'd cast Hugh Jackman as Reese and then who cares who Lucinda is? LOL Seriously, I can't think of someone to play Lucinda. Maybe Kathryn Hiegl. No, she might be too old. No, I'm too old. LOL This was a wonderful book, though Cole is still my fave. I'm happy you're writing Ivy's story. I'm sure Daisy and Cole will appear in Ivy's book. Write faster. Really.

    1. Hahaha! I'm the same way--nearly always have a vivid hero's picture in the book I'm raading, but don't leave any brain cells for the heroine. Yes, I'm writing Iris's book now. I wish I'd named her Ivy, though, because that S at the end of her name gives me fits with possessive. There are two camps, bitterly opposed. I'm going with those who say if you ad an "es" sound at the end, then you use 's instead of just an apostrophe. But never again will I have a major character whose name ends in S!!!

  2. Does Reese have blue eyes> How about Michael Fassbender? I see a suffragist in Emma Stone. She could work as Lucinda.

    Say, Jacquie, if you are starting a subgenre with Much Ado about Madams and The Soiled Doves, could I list West of Heaven in its ranks?

    1. Michael Fassbender is definitely a good choice. I can't remember what color Reese's eyes are--have written several books since then so let's just not worry about it. LOL. And sure, we can have our own sub-sub-genre! :)

  3. I do not watch a lot of tv anymore.... but I would have to say a young Johnny Depp as Reese (think 21 jump street) and Drew Barrymoore as Lucinda

    1. Johnny Depp has the right personality and is easy on the eyes, for sure. We'd have to beef him up some, though. Drew Barrymoore would work very well, too. Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Birthday!

  4. Hmm... How about Chris Hemsworth
    The latest Aussie import. He played'Thor.' He's young but nice on the eyes. or Brandon Routh (superman)also starred in the TV show 'Chuck'.
    Though Hugh Jackman always looks good to me. And he looks fantastic in a hat. lol

    Lucinda-- How about Rachel McAdams?

    1. Chris Hernsworth (his brother, too!) is definitely drool-worthy. We'd have to dye his hair. Ah, the sacrifices we nake. I never thought about Rachel McAdams but she'd be great as Lucinda. It would take an actress who can turn emotions on a dime, and she does fit the bill.

  5. I don't know why, but when I read MAAM I pictured Reese (hmm, maybe it was the name that got me onto this pair) Witherspoon as Lucinda and Josh whatever-his-name-is for Reese - the guy who played opposite her in Sweet Home Alabama. :-D

    1. As a matter of fact, Reese Witherspoon was who I had in mind for Lucinda when I wrote Lucinda's character. The hero, Reese McAdams, was originlally Rhys, but no one got his name right, so I changed the spelling. That caused a lot of confusion in my poor widdle brain, believe me.


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