by Andrea Downing
Romancing The West welcomes Andrea Downing. Ms. Downing has spent most of her life in the UK where she received an M.A. from the University of Keele in Staffordshire. She married and raised a beautiful daughter, and stayed on to teach and write, living in the Derbyshire Peak District, the English Lake District and the Chiltern Hills before finally moving into London. During this time, family vacations were often on guest ranches in the American West, where she and her daughter have clocked up some 17 ranches to date. In addition, she has traveled widely throughout Europe, South America, and Africa, living briefly in Nigeria. In 2008 she returned to the city of her birth, NYC, but frequently exchanges the canyons of city streets for the wide open spaces of the West. Her love of horses, ranches, rodeo and just about anything else western is reflected in her writing. Loveland, a western historical romance published by The Wild Rose Press, is her first book. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
RTW: Good to have you here, Andrea! We'd love to know more about your book.
AD: Returning to her father's Colorado ranch, headstrong and willful Lady Alexandra Calthorpe learns more than to lasso the corral fence post. She begins to emulate the lives of the cowpunchers around her and cross the divide from the strictures of Victorian English society to the freedom of the American west. With a burgeoning art career in New York, she tries to reconcile her desire for independence with her love for top hand Jesse Makepeace. But when the brutal winter of 1886/7 blows in killing most of the ranch herd, the life she sought on the open range is changed forever.
Details at the end of the article
RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Loveland?
AD: First off, Jacquie, thanks so much for having me here today. It's wonderful to be among folks who are really interested in the west and reading westerns. You know, I've never actually been asked this before, strangely enough, so I'm really pleased for you to be throwing that question at me! But the answer, quite frankly, is pretty straight forward: I just love the west, I love everything about western culture and so those are the stories that come into my mind. Even when I write contemporary stories they tend to have a western background. But as to what intrigues me the most about the Old West, I guess you'd have to say I'm pretty caught up in the British involvement. Having lived most of my life in the U.K. I was fascinated to learn of how many Brits came over to make their fortunes here--or even just to use the west as a hunting ground! They weren't the poor coming to make a life for themselves; they simply saw the riches here and left great comforts at home to come for adventure. This is quite a part of Loveland, really; the ranch at the center of the book is owned by a company headed by a duke.
RTW: What a unique perspective you have, Andrea! If you lived in 1886, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?
|Andrea Downing, author|
AD: There wasn't much in my research that I didn't find that I wanted to know, but the research certainly made me highly curious about life in the west at that time. Moreton Frewen, who ranched on the Powder River and was Winston Churchill's uncle, had a ranch house called by the punchers 'Castle Frewen' because of its comforts. I would have liked to go see some of these manor houses built by the British in the middle of nowhere, complete with bathrooms and beautifully carved woodwork and stained glass windows, and I would have liked to talk to the builders about how these works were accomplished and how difficult it was to bring in these items to the middle of nowhere.
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?
AD: I am a huge Maggie Osborne fan so I would be recommending one of her books, perhaps Foxfire Bride, if they were looking for a western historical romance. Her characters are beautifully drawn and the books are definitely page-turners.
RTW: I love Maggie Osborne's books, too! Why must Lady Alex take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How does Jesse affect her journey?
AD: I hope I'm not giving too much away when I tell you Alex has had an unhappy childhood and the only happy time of those years was when she was originally sent to the Faringdon Ranch by her father, when she was aged 8 to 12. I think all her life after that, she has been trying to get back to the comfort of having those people at the ranch around her, her surrogate parents, and the cowpunchers she has always thought of as being better 'uncles' than the one person who bears that relationship to her. Jesse has always been there for her, when she was little and now when she returns. He has made his own journey learning to fit in with the men from a very young age and I think he understands her better than anyone. As Alex sets out to prove she is independent and can stand on her own feet, he knows exactly what she is going through and can love her just the way she is!
RTW: Would you treat us to a little sample?
AD: In this excerpt, they are trying to get back to each other after a huge argument and, I hope, you can feel the building sexual tension:
by Andrea Downing
As the round-up wound down, the Reps took their stock back to their outfits, and soon the men were back at headquarters or at the camps. Alex knew word had more or less got out and found the punchers were gentler now around her, had a sort of quiet respect for her, and she hated it. She tried to bully them a bit to show them she was still the same girl, jolly them into joshing with her as they had before. It was slow work. At the same time, she yearned to see Jesse, to speak with him, to try to get life back to the way it was before the argument at the corral, and before he saw the scars. The opportunity didn’t present itself.
She would see him from a distance some days, riding with the herd, sitting his horse with that peculiar grace he had, throwing his lariat out with an ease that reminded her of people on a dock waving their hankies in farewell. Hoping to just be near him, she slid into one of the corrals one evening to practice her roping.
The light was failing and the birds were settling with their evening calls. Somewhere in the pasture a horse nickered. She sensed Jesse was there, watching, but she never turned as he stood at the fence. She heard him climb over and ease up behind her. He took the coiled rope from her in his left hand and slid his right hand over hers on the swing end, almost forcing her backward into his arms.
She thought of paintings and statues she had seen, imagining his naked arms now, how the muscles would form them into long oblique curves, how he probably had soft downy fair hair on his forearms, how his muscle would slightly bulge as he bent his arm. His voice was soft in her ear, and she could feel his breath on her neck like a whispered secret.
“Gentle-like, right to left, right to left to widen the noose, keep your eye on the post—are you watchin’ where we’re goin’?”
He made the throw and pulled in the rope to tighten the noose. Alex stood there, his hand still entwined with hers and, for a moment, she wished they could stand like that forever. Then she took her hand away and faced him. For a second he rested his chin on the top of her head, then straightened again and went to get the noose off the post while coiling in the rope. She looked up at him in the fading light and saw nothing but kindness in his face, simplicity and gentleness that was most inviting. A smile spread across her face as he handed her the coiled rope and sauntered away, turning once to look back at her before he opened the gate. Emptiness filled her like a poisoned vapor seeking every corner of her being, and she stood with the rope in her hand listening to the ring of his spurs as his footsteps retreated.
RTW: Nice excerpt! What’s next, Andrea? Is Loveland a part of a series?
AD: Well, it wasn't meant to be part of a series but so many people have been asking me about Cal, Jesse's best friend who plays a pretty important role in the book, that I'm beginning to think he better have his own story told. In the meantime, I'm polishing a contemporary romance and am about halfway through an historical novella. Stay tuned!
RTW: Yep, Cal does need his own story! Anything else you’d like to add?
AD: Just my sincere thanks, Jacquie. I do appreciate being here today. It's been great.
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by Andrea Downing
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Be sure to drop by Thursday for Andrea Downing's Old West article: British Colonies in America.