The Softer Side of Cowboys by Anne Holly
Please Welcome Anne Holly to my blog! I’m excited to host her and hear about her cowboys!
Cowboy romances. You know the sort, where some single mom finds herself on the run from her ex, hiding out at a ranch with some tall streak of manhood who doesn’t take orders and likes breaking horses and women in his spare time. He tames that filly, and even does it with his hat on. He’s polite to his grandma, but treats his woman like his truck – all his and she better be ready to rev when he is.
Okay, so I admit I do read cowboy romances. In a way, they’re kind of obligatory for romance fans and writers. But, my issue with these stories is that I can’t actually imagine ever living with one of these guys. A few pages of fantasy, fine, but if I were the heroine I’d be clubbing the gorilla with the heel of his own boot two hours after the Epilogue finished.
Now, don’t get me wrong – some writers do well in pairing the Strong Silent Stud with a fiery chick who brings him down a peg or two, and those can be satisfying. But I still don’t always see why she’d bother unless the hero is worth spending time with.
Yes, I know. All that work-hewn body. I guess this is the selling point. It’s just that I can see why the heroine might want to play around with the guy, but marrying him seems to be paying a big price for a good view.
I grew up on a farm, so it isn’t that I lack appreciation for hard work and strong men. Quite the opposite, I think a lot of guys in cushy lines could do with some of that old ethic. It’s just that my attraction to cavemen burned out a long time ago.
I like good looks in my romance heroes, but I also appreciate humour, sensitivity, easy-going natures and, above all, a general positive view of women. I don’t like heroes who think all women are rattle snakes, or need to be dominated, or should be tamed or taught lessons. Far too many romance “heroes” seem to loathe women on general principle, and this upsets me. It certainly doesn’t turn me on, that’s for sure.
This is why I tend to write slightly geeky, funny, cute, creative and/or eccentric men. They suit my style, and that of my heroines. Yet, this past summer, when faced with writing a Thanksgiving themed erotic romance, the only thought that really stuck with me was: Do it a cowboy romance! I fought it. I struggled. I tried other things… But, nothing really suited like a salt-of-the-earth hunk of outdoorsy rancher. So, I bit the bullet and dove on in.
In my Thanksgiving story, Charity, I have an edgy, self-sufficient heroine, Charity Miller, who goes to visit cowboy Joshua, who has contacted her to sell off part of his family’s land to ensure a legacy for his ailing mother’s care. Joshua is a long-legged, rugged, sexy treat, and Charity isn’t made of stone, so you can imagine what ensues. But I wrote it to my tastes – yes, Joshua is rugged, but he’s not hard. He’s tough and strong, but not cruel or cold. He’s decisive, but he’s not filled with arrogance. He’s proud, but willing to work with Charity, rather than just carry her off on his horse. And, yes, he takes what he wants from Charity, but he’s also incredibly giving. Macho is not all there is to masculinity. Sometimes, respect, sweetness and care are also masculine traits, and these are ones I wish we saw more of in mainstream romance. Manners, a lack of pretense, honesty and dedication – these are some of the good qualities to be found in the cowboy hero, ones that are far more appealing than the chauvinism that so many romances focus on.
In a way, Charity redeemed the cowboy subgenre for me. Within it, I pay homage to a few of the sappier or cuter aspects to it, and change around the things I dislike. And I even have a romance fan character who enlightens Charity along the way:
Her assistant, Tara, a devote reader of romance novels, literally squealed at the thought of her determinedly-single boss coming up to spend a few days with some lone cattle rancher.
“Omigosh,” she’d said. “Real cowboys… you’re so lucky. So sexy!”
Charity laughed off the dreamy notion this was anything more than a business trip, which she planned on getting over as efficiently as possible. But now that she was confronted by the real thing, all six-feet of spicy-scented, work-hewn cowboy flesh, she had to hand it to those writers of silly pulp novels – they knew sexy men when they saw them.
Joshua’s economy of motion, his lean slowness and soft, deep voice, along with his responsible family roots and old fashioned manners, made the speedy, pampered men of her acquaintance back in the city suddenly seem hyper, dull and immature.
She darted out a tongue to moisten her lips. She’d already thought him handsome, but now that he’d revealed a glimpse of his attraction to her, it was almost like he’d put out a mating scent. Her eyes strayed to him against her will and she was aware of every move he made. She surreptitiously surveyed his craggy profile and nearly had to tear her eyes away from the pulse in the dip of his neck visible through the gap in his sheep-skin coat. His chest was wide and looked strong, and his hands capable and reliable. The wide spread of his knees as he drove, the loving fit of his faded blue jeans over his narrow hips and between…
Gracious, she thought, what the hell was she doing ogling a client like that, as if he were a slab of prime beef, instead of just a breeder of cattle?
In the end, I’m happy I gave cowboy romance a shot. I think it unlikely this is my calling, but I was pleased to put my experiences as a reader to good use, and I think it might appeal both to those who love cowboy stories and to those who normally shy away from them.
And, of course, it highlights all the love, family loyalty, gratitude and the joy of planting roots that we associate with this time of year.
Happy Thanksgiving, all, and all the best for the holidays!