by Mary Montague Sikes
Romancing The West welcomes Mary Montague Sikes. She's an award-winning author, freelance writer, photographer, and artist who loves to travel, especially to exotic tropical locations. The settings for her books and articles include Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, and St. Martin. Her most recent research trips carried her to Los Cabos on the western coast of Mexico and to Yellowstone National Park where she took over 500 photographs. Author of award-winning books, she has presented workshops on promotion and marketing to state and national conventions as well as to many local writers groups. Hotels to Remember, a coffee table book, is illustrated with her artwork and photographs. Her paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
RTW: Tell us about your book, A Rainbow for Christmas, please!
Meg, her niece and brother set out on a wagon train headed for Denver where Meg's fiance in an arranged marriage awaits. When a senseless murder claims her brother's life, Meg determines to push on. However, when she meets handsome Cade Russell, the wagon master, her conviction to enter a loveless marriage wavers. Will Meg honor her father's wishes and marry John O'Sullivan, whose dowry will save the family farm from foreclosure?
RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into A Rainbow for Christmas?
|Mary Montague Sikes|
MMS: A Rainbow for Christmas is my first western. Because I loved the old western movies with the cowboy riding off with the pretty girl, I grew captivated by the West and its amazing scenery. I suppose my story is that of the rugged cowboy and the pretty girl out there together on a rustic wagon trail.
RTW: If you lived in 1869 what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?
MMS: I would have visited one of those huge ranches, probably in Texas. I don't think that Yellowstone had been discovered at that time, but that's another place I would have liked to see. I'm thankful for the National Parks System that has managed to save so many of our natural treasures. In A Rainbow for Christmas, I used material I found in diaries of actual women who crossed the prairie by wagon train. I would love to find more of those diaries. They have wonderful information of hardships experienced by those who traveled under difficult and dangerous conditions.
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?
MMS: I would suggest some of the Zane Grey books. He lived during a time when the West was still wild. I think those closely connected to a time write more realistically about it.
RTW: Why must Meg take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How does Cade affect his journey?
MMS: Meg cares deeply about her family. When her father in Ohio can't pay the money he owes the bank, the family and their farm are in danger. He meets a wealthy man from Denver who needs a wife and arranges for Meg to travel there to marry him. After the wedding, her father will receive the money he needs to save their farm. Meg believes it is her duty to help those she loves. She doesn't know that before the journey even begins she will lose both her brother and her sister-in-law and will be forced to travel alone with her little six-year-old niece. She also doesn't realize she will fall in love with Cade, the wagon master.
A Rainbow for Christmas
by Mary Montague Sikes
A deep baritone voice interrupted her dismal thoughts. Meg turned and looked up to discover a giant of a man staring down at her.
"Yes. I'm Meg Smith."
"Cade Russell, wagon master," he announced, tipping his wide-brimmed leather hat.
Even in the gray morning light, Cade Russell cast a shadow. A big one. From his steel gray eyes and rigid jaw to the scuffed toes of his boots, this man was a rugged no-nonsense cowboy. He was a legend on the prairie trails. Once he learned who their leader would be, her brother told her about Cade's rough and ready reputation
Cade Russell. Without thinking, Meg took a step backward. She’d overheard some of the men talking. They claimed the wagon master was downright ornery.
Beneath the wide-brimmed leather hat, Cade's face was in shadow, but still he did not appear quite as intimidating as she expected. In fact, she watched him smile ever so slightly.
Moments later, when Cade looked over at Eliza playing next to the wagon, Meg caught the hint of a twinkle in his eyes. He liked children. She could tell, and a man who liked children could not be all that bad.
But Meg swallowed a gasp when Cade bent and gathered Eliza into his arms. Like her brother used to do, Cade swung the little girl through the air and then he placed her with care on the wagon seat. The child squealed and giggled. Meg’s eyes widened. She had not heard Eliza giggle for weeks.
Cade turned to Meg. "You need to get ready to move out now.” He strode past her to check the yoke of the six oxen that stood ready to pull the bulky covered wagon. "I'll ride next to you for a while once we get underway."
Meg looked at him in astonishment. "That is really not necessary, Mr. Russell," she declared; but her heart did a small wobble of pleasure.
"Cade," she repeated.
"After your brother died, when the others agreed to let you continue on the trail, they decided to take turns riding with you.” Cade shrugged. "I'll take my turn today."
A sense of relief swept over Meg. She knew nothing about driving a team of mules along a wagon trail. But she intended to learn.
Cade climbed onto the back of his sleek brown stallion and smiled down at her. Deep dimples slashed his cheeks, giving him a youthful, carefree appearance, if only for a moment. Meg smiled back.
RTW: What’s next? Is A Rainbow for Christmas a part of a series?
MMS: A contemporary romance, Daddy's Christmas Angel, came out right before Christmas. A Rainbow for Christmas is not part of a series, but I may work on another book with a western setting in the near future. I have one started that has part of the setting during the Civil War. I'm also working on another contemporary story, Necklace in the Rain, which will be part of my Passenger to Paradise series, featuring tales set in exotic destinations.
RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?
MMS: A writer's journey is filled with twists and turns, just like her stories. So many ideas come into my mind. I want to write about all of them. I wonder if there is time.
Thank you so much for having me as your guest.