Why do I write western romances? Even more telling—why do I read western romances? There are many reasons, but the most compelling one is simple. I do it for the cowboys. Those rugged, hard-working men, so capable, so honorable, so devoted to the women who capture their hearts—they draw me in and make me sigh. The cowboy hero feeds into the feminine fantasy. We want a strong man to claim as our own, strong of body and of character. One who lives by an ethical code he'll never compromise. One who will provide for us by the sweat of his brow and will stand between us and danger no matter what comes. Shoot – the cowboy hero can keep us alive in a blizzard, save us from snakebite, and feed us off the land. No regency duke or contemporary billionaire can do that.
If I see the silhouette of a man on horseback, my heart starts fluttering before I even see his face. Crazy. But the face doesn't matter. It's the idea that stirs the romantic in me. After all, if you're going to ride off into the sunset with a hunky hero, he needs to have a horse.
It probably started back in my early teen years. I'd outgrown Saturday morning cartoons, so I turned instead to the Saturday westerns. It was the 1980's, the decade that introduced MTV and video games. Westerns were the last thing on anyone's mind. Well, except for me. I found channels that aired re-runs of shows like Bonanza, Wagon Train, and The Big Valley. I couldn't get enough. I started daydreaming my own episodes, writing myself into the script so that I could win the heart of the cowboys I fancied. I had desperate crushes on Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts) from Bonanza and Cooper Smith (Robert Fuller) from Wagon Train. I guess I have a thing for dark-haired men in black hats.
That theme continued into the 90's when the western made a slight comeback in the television world with shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Young Riders, and The Magnificent Seven. Then there are the cowboys from down under. Tom Selleck is now a western icon, but I first discovered him in chaps and hat in Quigley Down Under. I had never been that impressed with him when he was driving around Hawaii in a red sports car, but give him a western makeover and stick him atop a horse, and he became one of my favorites. A man that impresses me in any setting is Hugh Jackman, and he made me sigh mightily when he donned western garb for the movie Australia. Hugh proved that I wasn't too old for a new cowboy crush.
So why do cowboys make such compelling romance heroes? It's the cowboy mystique. They project a tough exterior—masculine, skilled, able to handle whatever situation arises—and epitomize the strong, silent type. Yet they have an honorable core that makes them good men, worthy of our attention. And there's nothing a woman loves more than penetrating a rugged, loner's exterior and finding the soft heart underneath. The heart that will love her so completely, her happily-ever-after is guaranteed. For sigh-inducing cowboy romances, visit Karen's website at www.karenwitemeyer.com.
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