Stagecoach Rules for Readers

  1. Do not disturb the other passengers by laughing or weeping out loud.

  2. Never applaud, sigh or swoon while reading love scenes.

  3. Refrain from making verbal comparisons between male passengers and the hero in the book.  It will only make passengers feel inferior.

  4. Provocative book covers must be kept hidden beneath a plain buckskin wrapper.

  5. If you must show disapproval spit only on the leeward side of the coach.

  6. In the event of a robbery, do not insist upon finishing a chapter before raising your hands. Outlaws are not known for patience.

  7. Do not ask the driver to guard your book while you sleep.

  8. In the event of a runaway stage, avoid such comments as “Here comes the good part.”

  9. It’s best not to read by the window during an Indian attack.

  10. Anyone causing hysteria among passengers by revealing the end of a book will be tossed from the coach.

A Quilt for the New Year

I’m all thumbs when it comes to making quilts.  I once took a quilting class and did fine until the teacher said okay reverse this for the next block.  I don’t do reverse. If you give me directions to your house, you better give me directions back to mine or you’ll have a new live-in guest.  So this paper quilt is about the only one I can manage and even this gave me fits.  Happy 2016 everyone!


Smile, Pardner—It’s Christmas!

12 Brides ECPA Bestseller Graphic (00000002)If you’re like me, you’ve probably had your full of Christmas cheer and gift wrappings about now, and are longing for a little bit of that “peace on earth” we keep hearing about.

Still, no matter how hectic our lives might seem at the moment, nothing compares to Christmas in the old west. Instead of forging their way through crowded malls and reams of wrapping paper, early pioneer women living in canvas homes, soddies and log cabins battled blizzards, bitter cold and driving winds. In 1849, Catherine Haun wrote in her diary that her family’s Christmas present was the rising of the Sacramento River that flooded the whole town.

Those of you planning to travel this holiday season might empathize with the passengers who spent the Christmas of 1870 on the Kansas-Pacific train stuck in snow. Fortunately, soldiers from a nearby fort provided fresh buffalo meat, which is a whole lot more than you get today if stuck at the airport.

We don’t generally associate fireworks with Christmas, but for some early settlers it was the only way to celebrate. In 1895, a riot broke out and animals stampeded in Austin on Christmas Day when revelers shot off Roman candles. Fortunately, law and order was soon restored, but other parts of Texas weren’t so lucky. The Fort Worth Gazette reported several incidences of people being shot and stabbed on Christmas Day over the use of Roman candles. In some places, fireworks were encouraged as this piece in a 1880s newspaper attests: “Firecrackers are in evidence creating the genuine Christmas atmosphere of gunpowder smoke.”

While most pioneers decorated their Christmas trees with strung popcorn, berries and pictures from Arbuckle’s coffee, McCade, Texas takes the prize for the most unusual ornaments. On Christmas morning in 1883, three men were found hanging from a tree. If that wasn’t festive enough, the shootout that followed provided “genuine atmosphere” a-plenty.

What is Christmas without a feast? Even the poorest of families managed to splurge a little. Oysters were considered a luxury and one bride in Montana proudly served them to her guests on Christmas Day, unaware that the oysters had spoiled during transport.
Crime never takes a holiday and that was as true back then as it is now.

On Christmas day in 1873, a group of Indians stole five army horses near the Concho River resulting in a shootout. In 1877 Sam Bass robbed a Fort Worth stagecoach of $11.25, and in 1889 Butch Cassidy pulled his first bank holdup on Christmas Eve at a Telluride, Colorado bank.

In case you were wondering, Christmas wasn’t all gunfire and fireworks. In 1881, Tombstone in Arizona Territory made news for having a “quiet” holiday. Not to worry, they made up for it the following year.

Come to think of it, maybe those crowded malls aren’t so bad, after all, even without the “genuine Christmas atmosphere.”

Glossary of Mail Order Bride Advertising Terms (And What They Really Mean)

My June release Undercover Bride is a mail-order bride story with a twist.  Some of the advertisements that appeared in the mail order bride catalogs were a hoot and it took a clever man to know how to decipher them.  Here’s a key that might have helped :

* Eager to learn—can’t cook; can’t sew; can’t clean

* Accomplished—can ride, shoot and spit like a man

* Modest dowry—poor as a church mouse

*Loving nature—keep her away from the ranch hands

*Traditionally built—you may wish to reinforce the floors

*Matrimonially inclined—working on husband number three

*Maternal—has six children and one on the way

*Possesses natural beauty—don’t be fooled by the false hair, cosmetic paints or bolstered bosom

*Industrious—give her a dollar and she’ll figure out how to spend ten

*Young looking—doesn’t look a day over sixty.

*And they lived happily ever after—AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Here’s a Peek at My June Release: Undercover Bride

Pinkerton detective Maggie Cartwright has no intention of walking down the aisle. But her current case has Maggie posing as a mail-order bride for widower Garrett Thomas, the prime suspected in the Whistle-Stop Bandit robbery.

No sooner does Maggie arrive in Arizona Territory when she’s confronted with his meddlesome aunt who insists the two set an early wedding date. With the clock ticking Maggie sets to work to uncover the truth.

Maggie is nothing like the widower Garrett Thomas expected from her letters. But he’s immediately smitten with the blue-eyed beauty and feels the need to protect her, not only from his aunt, but also from the ugliness of his past.

As the day of the wedding draws near, Maggie begins to panic. The investigation may be progressing but the real problem is that the more she gets to know Garrett and his two adorable children, the harder it is to keep up the deception.

Can a man as kind and gentle as Garrett really be the Whistle-Stop Bandit? Or has the possibility of a home, family and a handsome husband blinded Maggie from seeing the truth?

How to Solve a Crime 19th Century Style

Come Hades or high water,

Jennifer Layne always gets her man.

                                                                  – Petticoat Detective


Have you ever wondered what Sherlock Holmes would think about today’s modern crime labs?

Crime-solving in his day was no walk in the park. Can you imagine having to track down criminals without benefit of DNA, fingerprints, security cameras, Facebook, cell phones or computers? But that’s exactly what those early gumshoes had to do.

This posed an interesting problem when I set out to write Petticoat Detective, book one of my Undercover Ladies series.

It seems that years of watching Castle, CSI and Rizzoli and Isles had taught me a lot about modern day forensics (and how to solve a crime in an hour), but left me clueless when it came to plotting my own story. After much research I now have only the greatest admiration for those early sleuthhounds. With little more than wits and determination they almost always got their man—and in some cases, their woman. How did they do it?

Detectives Worked Undercover:
Some like real-life Pinkerton detective Kate Warne were masters of disguise. Kate was hired by Allan Pinkerton in 1852 and could change her accent as readily as she could change her clothes. You’ll never guess how the heroine in Petticoat Detective disguises herself. Let’s just say that a certain handsome Texas Ranger finds her disguise shocking—to say the least.

Detectives Shadowed Suspects (aka Surveillance)
Shadowing was a tiring but necessary part of crime-fighting. The best color to wear for shadowing at night? Blue. Black is not natural in nature and will stand out.

Detectives Resorted to Trickery:
It’s hard to believe but the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t get its first forensic crime lab until 1932. It’s no wonder that Pinkerton operatives resorted to some interesting (and probably illegal by today’s standards) tricks to solve crimes.

The heroine of Petticoat Detective resorts to a few tricks of her own. Does she get her man?  That depends what man you’re talking about; the outlaw or the gorgeous hunk…uh hero.

Detectives Pounded the Pavement:
Questioning witnesses was and still is an important part of solving any crime. But then as now witness testimony wasn’t always that reliable. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Detective Were Experts at Body Language (even before anyone knew what body language was):
Detectives of yesteryear were only as good as their observation skills and the best ones could read a person’s personality at a glance. You think social media raises privacy concerns? Just be glad that you never had to walk past Sherlock Holmes.

A Bicycle Built For Two

BicycleBuiltForTwo“What was it about yesterday that made you think I was a gentleman, Miss Blackwell?” 

                                    -A Bicycle Built for Two

When you think of the old west, bicycles probably don’t come to mind. I mean can you honestly picture John Wayne chasing down bad guys on a tricycle  or boneshaker? Yet, the bicycle craze that hit the country in the 1890s was just as prevalent in the west as it was in the east.

The new craze not only changed the way people got around, but also the economy. An editorial in the Fort Macleod Gazette in the early 1890s stated, “If this craze for bicycle riding continues much longer our livery stable men will have to close down.” The same lament could be heard from hatters, dressmakers and carriage workers.

Not only did cowboys, sheriffs and outlaws join the wheeling club, but so did women

One Texas newspaper in 1895 issued this warning regarding female bicycle riders: “We have been watching the course of events with breathless anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar himself never saw the handwriting on the wall more distinctly than we see it now. The bloomer is coming sure enough.”

One Kansas newspaper lamented that “Women wear their trowserettes even when their machines are left at home.”  While some were criticizing women’s attire others like Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles “Have done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.”

Head over Handlebars

Bloomers aside, muddy dirt roads and wooden sidewalks made for a wild ride. Newspapers regularly reported people taking a “scorcher” and “being knocked senseless” or “carrying an arm in a sling.”

One Texas town responded by adopting the following regulations:

 1.Anyone riding a tricycle or relocopede must be supplied with a bell or horn that must be rung at all crossings.          

2.Any persons riding a tricycle at night must have a suitable lantern.          

3. It is especially prohibited for three or more riders to ride abreast          

4. No person or persons shall rest their bicycle, velocipede, or tricycle against a building (including saloons) where the vehicle will be on sidewalks

Some cities imposed a speed limit in town, usually four miles an hour. Fines could be as high as twenty-five dollars. The ordinances created as many problems as they prevented. Not only was there suddenly a shortage of cowbells but the noise created by them posed another problem.

It wasn’t just riders that gave sheriffs and marshals a headache, but a new kind of outlaw—a bicycle thief. Bicycles were also used as getaways and one thief led his pursuers on a merry chase through Sacramento.

Hold on to Your Stetsons

An Arizona Territory newspaper reported that cowboys in Three Rivers, Michigan “have discarded their horses for bicycles in herding cattle. Cowboys in Arizona would have a happy time herding cattle on bicycles.”

Cattle didn’t always take kindly to bicycles as one doctor found out when he unexpectedly ran into a herd of cattle. He ended up with a broken shoulder blade and his $100 bike in ruins. Things got so bad that some insurance companies announced they would charge double for bikers.

Some lawmen like Arizona Sheriff Donahue decided to fight fire with fire and announced that he was the proud owner of a “handsome nickel-plated bicycle” and was in negotiations to purchase a Ferris wheel bike for his under-sheriff.  John Wayne will never know what he missed.

To order click cover

A Bicycle Built for Two

Everything goes to hades in a handbasket when Damian Newcastle rides into Amanda’s life.

No one can pedal a bicycle around turn-of-the-century New York without a license, so Amanda Blackwell’s cycling school has become all the rage. The innovative establishment provides an income for the independent miss and her brother Donny, a special child. But in one afternoon, everything goes to hade in a handbasket. Amanda’s uncle is suing to put Donny into an institution and Damian Newcastle, the man she has every reason to hate, rides into her life to ruin everything.