Last spring, The Wild Rose Press asked me to participate in a multi-author Christmas series based on
I’d set my western historical holiday romance right there! In Honolulu.
What? How was that gonna work?
Despite Hawaii’s great “paniolo” (cowboy and ranching) culture, I went with an American cowboy, from the Lake Tahoe area. Rooney Lind sails the Pacific on a quest to fulfill a deathbed promise. He’s vowed to find the woman his late cousin wronged long ago in California. Well, of course heroine Martita Akala turns out to be who Rooney’s own heart has been looking for all along.
Anyway, on our trip, we visited the Iolani Palace, built by King David Kalakaua in 1883. It’s only royal palace on American soil.
Although King Kalakaua was courtly in demeanor and fashionable in European styles, he returned to the Hawaiian peoples many of the cultural practices forcibly quashed by American missionaries, such as hula, the Hawaiian language, and luau. (Amazingly, lei-making had never been eliminated.)
Highly-educated and modern thinking, he installed flush plumbing and electric lighting in his palace three years before the White House. And he made sure Honolulu had street lights.
These facts helped me set the story in December 1890.
Sadly, Kalakaua died just a month later.
You may have heard of the great Kamehameha line of Hawaiian royalty. Well, it had died out, but David was descended from favored court supporters. Another plus...his mother’s ancestors included great Kona chieftains. After serving in King Kamehamea 1V’s legislature for 13 years, Kalakaua won the election over dowager queen Emma in 1874.
He is the first reigning monarch ever to visit the United States. His 1881 world tour saw him meet many heads of state. In 1887, he sent both his sister and his wife, Queen Kapiolani, to London as his representatives at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
While the sugar business in Hawaii flourished, unfortunately so did corruption. British and American business interests wanted more control, and Kalakaua was forced from power in 1887. He remained nothing but a figurehead after forcibly signing “The Bayonet Constitution.”
He and Kapiolani did not have children, so he named his sister Lili ‘uokalani as his heir and regent. (Her story is powerful and tragic. I’ll tell about her, and more about the Iolani Palace, next time.)
|photo by D. Ramey Logan 2011. Used with permission|
After a devastating legislative session in 1890, King David Kalakaua sailed to San Francisco to regain his health and spirit. However, he died there, on January 1891, ironically at the Palace Hotel. The last reigning king of Hawaii, today he is feted as The Merrie Monarch.
Honestly, the history of the kingdom of Hawaii is as tragic as the mainland's treatment of our First Nations.
“Oh, so cold,” he moaned now. “Blizzard. Oh, the wind So cold...”
“No blizzard. Nothing but the tradewinds, cowboy.” She touched his cheek, reckoning him in shock. Worry pounded through her veins. She could cook him a good meal, but she wasn’t a nurse. She relaxed a little. Nalani would know. Squeezing water from a rag in a nearby bowl, Martita dabbed his cheeks with the cool cloth.
“Cowboy?” Like her gesture was an electric shock, he tossed her hands away. His lids popped open. Staring at her--eyes dark blue as a midnight without stars. “What happened? Where am I?”
“You had... an accident.” She shuddered, recalled his arm hanging from its socket. Like an undone button at the end of a long thread.
“You...you got knocked from your horse in the surf,” she told him. “Getting your beeves to the steamer.” Honolulu had no deep water wharf. Paniolo had to tie cows by the head to the gunwales of small longboats and drag them through the water to load them to larger boats and steam ships.
Confusion wrinkled his brow. “What?
“Your arm got caught in the reins.” She wiped his face gently. “The waves knocked you both about pretty hard. But Doc Howe says he got your arm set back into your shoulder socket correctly."
“Where...where am I?”
“My boarding house. Honolulu,” she added, just in case. “You’ll be sore for a while, and you need rest and quiet. Your foreman paid my rate to have you rest here a few days.”
“A few days?” He paled, groaned, struggled to sit. “I got a job. I got things to do.”