Behind the Scenes: Love, Lies and Redemption (A Historical Western Romance)
This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.
Love, Lies and Redemption is one of my favorite historical romances. Although I have written a lot of historical romances, the time periods are always different. I’ve used Medieval (A Most Unusual Princess), Scottish (The Viking’s Witch) and Colonial (Dangerous Indenture) settings. When I’m writing a historical romance, I never know when (or where) the characters will take me.
Love, Lies and Redemption is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877 and blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger. Here’s the book summary:
Love, Lies and Redemption
Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.
Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.
As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature, but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?
Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store, but find their efforts are thwarted — and their lives endangered — by the locals.
Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?
Cassie has everything invested in the store — can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?
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I had never written a full-fledged western before, but I am a fan of the genre and I’ve seen my share of western movies and tv shows. One thing that always bothered me about westerns is the lack of realism.
In many cases, everyone is too clean and looks too perfect. Life out west was harsh and rugged, and it drives me batty when the women all have perfectly plucked eyebrows, all their body hair has been waxed away, and their clothes never get dirty. The men are all gorgeous and have straight, white, capped teeth and never seem to sweat or smell bad—no matter what chores they’ve been doing or how many horses they’ve been riding.
When I wrote this story, I decided I was going to portray life in the prairie as authentically as I could. I owed it to myself as the author, and I owed it to the characters. Before I started writing, I researched what life was like in the 1870s. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.
People died of infections, diseases, and other ailments all the time. If you broke your leg or got a severe cut, there was a good chance you could die. Need an operation? Good luck. Doctors didn’t know (or understand) anything about using sterile surgical instruments or antibiotics, and there was no anesthesia for the patient. I’ve visited recreations of historical towns from the time period, and I have seen actual doctors’ offices and medical equipment—it’s amazing that anyone survived.
And then there was the threat of violence to consider. The west was known for being “lawless” and some people took advantage of the fact that you practically could do whatever you wanted. Banks, stores, and other businesses were always under threat from outlaws and thieves. People had to protect themselves from strangers who might be riding into town looking for trouble.
Life for anyone in the “wild” west was tough. But combine that with the fact that women were considered the property of their husbands and had no rights, and you have the makings for pretty rough times for women.
I incorporated some of these elements into the book. How could I not? The setting and time period have to be realistically represented in a historical romance. Although readers might take issue with including violence in a romance, it has a place in the story (to a degree). If everything was too perfect or too pretty, the book would lose the richness in details that bring it—and the characters—to life.
Authors are always told to make life difficult for the hero and heroine. If there is no conflict or drama, the story becomes dull, and the characters have nothing to strive for and don’t grow. And boy, did I make life hard for these two. Having Sam face the threat of a potentially lethal infection, Cassie trying to help a woman escape a violent marriage, and Sam admitting the horrific truth of his past, all work together to give the book an authentic feel.
When I started writing, the plot unfolded in front of me, almost like I was watching a movie. Opening Scene: A man limping along the prairie. He’s been shot and left for dead. He’s bleeding and hurt bad. And thirsty. So thirsty. It’s hot and he wants to rest, but he knows he has to push on. If he collapses again, he’s not going to get up and he’ll die here. But maybe he’s already dead and this is hell. Or maybe not...
Cut To: A young woman working in a general store. She’s physically and mentally exhausted. She questions why she even bothers keeping the store open and wonders aloud if this is how the rest of her life is going to be… miserable. Then the mysterious stranger stumbles into the store and collapses at her feet.
That was how I introduced readers to Sam and Cassie. The rest of the book also played out like a movie. The supporting cast of Luke, the sheriff, Cassie’s lady friends, and the troublesome townspeople all moved the plot along and added different levels of drama, humor, suspense, and action to this anything-but-boring historical romance.
I really loved creating the secondary characters and drawing readers into this small town setting I invented. The book was a lot of fun to write, and I enjoyed giving Cassie and Sam their happy ending after all the pain and suffering I put them through. Writing the more violent and darker scenes was tough, but again, for realism, they needed to be part of the book.
In the end, it was all for the best. Sam and Cassie overcame their pasts, learned to love and trust again, and have a brand new start together. Readers loved the book as much as I loved writing it. Here are a few kind words:
“4 Stars! From the first page I was hooked! The plot was clever, engaging, and I was full of anticipation for what would happen next since there were several twists and turns. The plot was believable. The author did a good job securing a happy ending for all involved, leaving me feeling justified, vindicated, and with a sweet closure. It was a nicely wrapped happy ending.” - LAS Reviewer
"Kelli A. Wilkins rustles up a thoughtful frontier romance between a grieving shop owner and a wounded stranger who stumbles into her Nebraska dry goods store in1877. Cassie Wilcox is nearly bankrupt from shoplifters, nonpaying customers, and the reverend's judgmental wife, who has turned the town against her. Cassie's only friends are the sheriff and the women of the brothel until handsome Sam Hixton staggers into her store, shot and near death, and collapses. Cassie nurses him back to health, unaware that his identity is a sham. Wilkins is adept at tackling serious themes of domestic violence, bereavement, and trust.” - Publisher's Weekly
I hope you enjoyed this look at the making of Love, Lies and Redemption. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media. You can read more “Behind the Scenes” blogs here: www.KelliWilkins.com/blog
I also made a Facebook page for my historical romances: https://www.facebook.com/Historical-Romances-by-Kelli-A-Wilkins-1703805359922371/
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.
Her latest novel, In Another World, was released in early 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.
She also released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.
In 2021, Kelli published Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.
Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.