Welcome to the Wild West! In our releases this month, Tracie Peterson takes us to the real-life history of the Oregon Trail, and Mary Connealy brings us the second Boden sibling to find love. I asked Mary and Tracie to share a few inside details with readers so you can look forward to adding both of these to your TBR pile.
Amy: Describe your main characters for me.
Mary: Justin is the rancher. He’s especially in conflict with Cole, the older, more citified brother. For Justin, I wanted a heroine who really clashed with him. So I brought in a very dainty woman who’d been raised in elite, moneyed circles in Omaha, Nebraska. A rich father, a rich husband, and none of them kind and loving people. Justin is drawn to Angelique DuPree, but sees her as a woman who needs “civilization.” And who has no ranching skills, no kitchen skills. She is the worst possible choice to be a rancher’s wife in the rugged West. Angelique is driven by the notion that she has been a weakling all her life. She let her mother rule her, then later her husband, and it all led to poverty and hardship and a life without love. She is determined to stop obeying blindly and find the courage God expects of her.
Tracie: Grace is a healer who has learned the art from her mother and grandmother. She’s also rather prejudiced and opinionated. Her love interest, Alex Armistead, is running from the past and God. He’s determined to remain lost in the Oregon Country wilderness, but his heart has other ideas. As he and Grace clash, both come to learn that they have changes to face and that real love is there for them—if they are brave enough to accept it.
Amy: How did you pick your setting?
Mary: I took a trip to Chama, New Mexico, several years ago for a writers’ retreat, where we all rode a train on a narrow-gauge railroad. That train took us through the area I’m writing about. What amazed me were the desert-like conditions, and yet the grasslands, all brown and dead-looking, the tour guide said was lush and cattle got fat on it. It helped me to see that rocky soil for its real value—with the mountains rising up around us, covered in Aspen trees that seemed to grow right out of the rock. In fact, this has helped me see past the reputation of many places and understand how people can live, often comfortably, in what seems like a forbidding land, if they can just learn to live with the land instead of imposing the life they came from on a place that won’t support that.
Tracie: When I planned Treasured Grace, I wanted it to incorporate several actual historical events. The attack on the Whitman Mission was a fascinating one that played a big role in the way the government dealt with the Indians of the west for years to come. Frustrated and dealing with the deaths of loved ones, the Cayuse Indians of the area had reached their limit of cooperating with the whites—Dr. Marcus Whitman in particular. There were quite a few diary accounts of all that happened at the mission, making it nice for me as a writer to create as accurate a fiction novel as possible.
Amy: What themes come up in your novel?
Mary: The Boden family began for me with Jacob and Esau and this notion of how badly Jacob and Esau were treated by their parents, Isaac and Rebecca. The mom loved and favored Jacob. The father favored Esau. Deep differences in character between Jacob and Esau also put them naturally in conflict. That has always bothered me. I’ve known parents who had their favorites, bragged on one child and disparaged another, left more money to the favored child, things like that. So the seed of my story was: What if instead of spurring on the conflict between their sons, Isaac and Rebecca had done everything in their power to bring their sons together? Chance Boden is determined that his children will be close, will realize they love each other, and that the conflict between them is nothing compared to their loyalty to each other, as well as the connection they share as future owners of the ranch. Chance goes to some extreme measures to get his children to be friends. The conflict and the love between them continue to clash and grow in Long Time Gone.
Tracie: As with all of my books there was a desire to speak to the matter of forgiveness, but in this story there was also the element of trusting God when all seems lost—trusting Him even when bad and undeserved things happen. I also wanted to create a story where there were serious consequences for my characters—consequences for actions put upon them and not actions they chose for themselves. People so often struggle with the pain and life-changing situations that are thrust upon them because of things done to them. I wanted to present a story that would show the reader that even when those things are done, we can trust God to bring beauty from ashes.
Just for fun, let’s have a giveaway! I’ll pick one winner to receive Mary and Tracie’s new books on Monday, April 3. To enter, just respond to this question: Why do you think people are drawn to stories about the American frontier?