by Ann Leveille, editor
At the 2011 Romanticon©, I had the privilege of helping out with the Bodacious in Boots panel held by Western Romantica authors Regina Carlysle, Desiree Holt, Cerise DeLand and Nicole Austin. They started with a description of what a cowboy is and what a cowboy does (complete with handout!), then discussed movie cowboys and asked attendees for a few cowboy seduction lines. Things got a bit…heated.
As the end of the session neared, this curious group of authors asked their captive group of fellow authors, readers and fans a few questions about their reading preferences. They wanted to know if readers were interested in historical Western stories, or if they only wanted modern Western stars.
The answers they got were enlightening.
Readers were clear that they were interested in historical Western romance but there were some specifics that came up. Current and aspiring authors, take note!
Readers said they want strong historical women – not weak-willed girls rescued by strong men. They want women who could stand up to modern women, women who can rescue themselves. And, one audience member noted, strong women shouldn’t be seen as anachronisms. Women in the Old West may have had different lives but those lives weren’t easy. Women became widows young, lost families, dealt with tragedy and hardship. They weren’t wimps waiting for heroes to come along and save them from their misfortune. (Okay, so there were probably a few of those hanging around but, well, we don’t want to read about that kind of woman!)
The trick is, they don’t just want these women to match their hero – they want them to feel as real and as alive as heroines in contemporary stories, not cardboard “strong women” caricatures slotted into a historical setting.
One audience member called cowboys, and the various trappings that leave readers wanting more (their rough and readiness, their physicality, their heroic qualities, their appreciation for the land and hard work and, of course, their proficiency with ropes and easy access to leather) essentially timeless.
In an interesting twist, some readers commented that the idea of bringing Dominance/submission elements into historical Westerns wasn’t really something of interest to them – but that wasn’t a comment echoed with room-wide agreement. But kudos to those who spoke up and brought the subject to light, as that’s something we do want to know more about!
Discussion turned to the fact that what readers really like, what draws them in and hooks their attention, especially in historical stories where an author has to fit in both a hot, sexy love story and the trappings of a historical world, is a good series.
There were lots of comments about why series were great – because the historical world could be developed over multiple books, and because characters could be introduced and developed and – this seemed key – returned to in future series installments. Some audience members even called out what seemed like wish list read ideas including books with horses, trains or mail-order brides.
Readers were clear though they may not go looking for more “mainstream” Western historical romances, if they could get some hot, sweaty, sexy historical cowboy romances, they’d sit up and take notice.
So, the general consensus was “Go for it!”.
As an editor I loved the panel and I was excited to hear all the comments and questions from the audience during the discussion. I’d also love (and the panel authors likely would too!) to know what Redlines and Deadlines readers think about historical versus modern Western erotica, and cowboys in general. And what about the kinkier stuff? Is that something of interest in your Westerns, be they contemporary, or set in the Old West? Please comment!