Friday, February 22, 2013

Sweethearts of the West-Guest: Vonnie Davis

Thank you for allowing me to visit Sweethearts of the West, especially during February when you are discussing true love stories from the Old West. Historical love stories, whether real or fictional, warms our hearts and reminds us this powerful emotion knows no generation or century.
Vonnie will give away two copies of Tumbleweed Letters
one copy of A Man for Annalee--new release today!
About a year ago, The Wild Rose Press started a series called “Love Letters.” Every entry had to be historical, between 20-25,000 words with the arrival of a letter within the first three pages that changes a character’s life. Something about that appealed to my creative spirit. I mean, think of the possibilities…

 What kind of love story could I write?

 Could I, someone who typically writes contemporary romance, pen an honest and engaging historical love story? It would take a lot of research, deep research. I smiled because I dearly love digging and delving into old books and articles.

 Still, the big question remained: What era would I write about?

 Then, one night when I was in that fragile, fluttery state between wakefulness and sleep, a man rode a dark stallion into our bedroom. In front of him on his saddle, the man had a small boy tucked against his stomach. A tumbleweed rolled across our tan carpet, spooking the man’s horse. The horse spun and the rider glanced my way. “I need a wife to raise my son and warm my bed.” Then the vision or dream faded.

 The sight made me wonder how would a widower raise a child on his own? Pioneers led such isolated lives. We’ve read many stories about women left alone to care for the land and her children, but what of men? How did they do it by themselves?

I began researching with energy and excitement, gaining a wealth of information. Tumbleweeds, for example, originated in the Ukraine. Their seeds were brought over to America by mistake mixed in with flax seeds.

The settlement of Deadwood, the location of my story, began in the 1870’s and had been described as illegal since it lay within the Black Hills territory granted to the Lakota People in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie.

In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter led a wagon train to Deadwood containing needed commodities, gamblers and prostitutes. With demand high for women, the business of prostitution proved a thriving business. Madam Dora DuFran eventually became the most profitable brothel owner in Deadwood. I dug and dug until I finally found the name of her brothel—The Green Front Hotel and Theater. Madame Dora, who coined the term “cat house”, became a friend and occasional employer to Calamity Jane, who sometimes worked as a prostitute. This Madame was also said to have a “heart of gold” and often provided nursing services to those who were ill.

 I read about a smallpox epidemic that went through the area in 1878 and knew that was how my hero’s first wife died.

 During this same time, in the mining regions of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, the Molly Maguires were wreaking havoc on owners of mines and railroads. Pinkerton agents were hired to restore calm and to return some very valuable stolen jewels and bonds to railroad owners. Now I knew why my heroine had run from her home back East to the Wild West to start a new life.

 Slowly facts coalesced with fictional ideas—and Tumbleweed Letters set in 1879 was born. So was a romance; a romance between three people—a lonely widower, a woman on the run and a little boy who needed a mother’s love.


When rancher and single father Cam McBride finds a letter tucked in a strip of cloth tied to a tumbleweed, he is captivated by the mysterious author. Finding a second tumbleweed letter further pulls him under the lonely writer's spell. He needs a mother for his little boy and a wife to warm his bed. Could this mysterious woman fill his needs?

Sophie Flannigan is alone, scared, and on the run from a rogue Pinkerton agent. She spends her days as a scrub lady at Madame Dora's brothel and her nights writing notes to the four winds. Her life holds little hope until a small boy lays claim to her and his handsome father proposes an advantageous arrangement.

Can these three benefit from a marriage of convenience, or will a determined Pinkerton agent destroy their fragile, newly formed bond?


           Fingers touched Sophie’s arm. “My name is Cam McBride, ma’am. I’ll gladly buy you a new dress or pay for a bolt of calico.” His deep voice raised gooseflesh on her arms.

She could not, would not look at up him. He was so tall and broad shouldered, he was downright intimidating.  “That really won’t be necessary, Mr. McBride. Good day.”

“Will you at least accept my apology?”

Sophie nodded and made a beeline for the door. For some reason, she wanted to get away from this man.

“Ma’am?” Footsteps echoed behind her. “Your name?” His hand wrapped around her wrist, feather light, yet firm.

Her stomach fluttered and her mouth went dry.

The child leaned forward in his father’s arms and grabbed her collar. “Mine.”

Saints preserve me, this child will tear apart me clothes yet. “Sophie…Sophie Flannigan.”

“Won’t you look at me when you talk?”

She shook her head and tried to move away.

“Where do you live?” His grasp on her tightened.

Goodness, but his voice was spellbinding. Something about it made her body react in strange ways that disturbed her. “I live where I work. Madam Dora’s brothel.”

His hand fell away, and she hurried out.

Behind her, a child wailed, “Mine. Mine, Daddy…mine.”

Jethro Rhinehardt leaned against the pillar when she stepped out onto the porch. Although she couldn’t see the man’s face, she recognized his build and mud-splattered canvas duster. If she hurried, she might sneak past without his noticing her. She’d have made it, too, if a nail poking out of the porch hadn’t snagged the twine on the bottom of one of her shoes and ripped it, causing her to stumble.

“Well, well, little Miss Scrub Lady.” He turned and side-stepped, blocking her path. For a heavy man, he slithered quickly, just like the snake he was.

Sophie tried going around him, and he stepped to the left, stopping her again. “Can’t you say good morning? Or are you too high and mighty?” He spit tobacco juice on the porch, and it splattered against her skirt.

“Good morning, Jethro. Now please let me by. I have errands to run for Dora. I can’t afford to lose my job.” She stepped to her right this time.

Once more he slid in front of her. To her surprise, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her so they were eyeball to eyeball. Tobacco juice stained his scruffy beard that reeked of something foul. Her stomach lurched and she fought to swallow the bile. She still clutched the folds of material over her petticoat, determined this man would not see her undergarments.

“How’s about a kiss for ol’ Jethro? Or do I have to pay first?”

Her slap cracked in the morning air. “I’ll not be spoken to like that.”

Jethro’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. First the bear of a man shook her and then he had the audacity to slide his paw over her rump.

In response, she fought like a barn cat—hissing, kicking and scratching. She scratched his eye and tore a pocket off his shirt. “Get your filthy hands off me, you heathen.”

Men—miscreants, really—circled them. A few called out obscene suggestions for Jethro. There were hoots and hollers. A few men laughed and pounded Jethro on the back.

She fisted her hand and punched him in the nose. Blood splattered onto her bodice.

“How about you unhand the lady and put her down before she kills you?”

Jethro shook her again.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. I said put the lady down.”

Sophie’s head whipped around to locate the man who’d spoken in her defense. Cam’s face was a dark mask of fury. He slowly set his son on the porch and laid his purchases at the child’s feet, his gaze never once leaving Jethro’s face. When he straightened and stepped toward the dirty man, her captor set her down.


Vonnie Davis is a retired technical writer who has traded in her tailored clothes for the feathered boa of a romance writer. Retired, she and her husband, who is also a published author, live in south-central Virginia. She pens most sub-genres of romance and has a new historical release this week, A Man for Annalee set in Wyoming in 1871. She’ll be giving away two copies of Tumbleweed Letters and also one copy of A Man for Annalee to three commenters drawn from her husband’s hat. So make sure you leave a comment.

** All photos were bought from


  1. Love the concept. It is similar to a story by Louis L'Amour. I loved his writing.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. Me, me! Pick me, pick me!! Oh pretty please, pick me to be the winner! Geesh, I LOVE that excerpt. I hope I win. LOL CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR RELEASE, VONNIE! You just got 'em popping left and right! Whoot! Here's to many sales, my friend!!

  3. Debby, I'd never read Louis L'Amour until I started doing research. Then I devoured several of his books, loving each one more than the last. His writing style bespoke the era quite well and taught me several things in the process.

  4. Thanks AJ. Little Eli is quite the charmer and he worms his way into Sophie's heart. They need each other and theirs is a love story, too.

  5. very cool excerpt, Vonnie, and eye catching imagery. I enjoyed the history of the area as well. I had no idea tumbleweeds weren't homegrown. Who knew, right? That was a good eye opener for today.

    Wishing you the best with your releases.

  6. I was surprised, too, Maggie, when I read tumblweeds were indigenous to the States. They were also called "wind witches" and "Russian thistle."

  7. Hi Vonnie, I do believe that picture of you was taken in Bandera! I've also gotten book ideas from a dream but mine wasn't that vivid. I loved the excerpt and the child grabbed my heart. Well, Cam did too, but I love children in stories.

    Love Louis L"Amour and Elmer Kelton, especially Elmer's The Pumpkin Rollers. I didn't know that's what cattlemen called famers who became wranglers.

    Congratulations on your new release and Happy Sales.

  8. Welcome to Sweethearts, Vonnie. Congratulations on your release...I also can't wait to read your Honky Tonk story. I started one but it never got done.

    Everytime I see a tumbleweed blowing down a highway, I want to take it home but hubby says no LOL. xo

  9. Hi Linda. We were in Bandera in October. I fell in love with little Eli, too. In fact, he's fashioned after my memories of my oldest granson at that age. Whew, could he throw a tantrum. Tim's 24 now which is a wonderment since I'm only 29. ;-)

    Pumpkin rollers? Oh, I'm off to do more research. I have to know why they used that term. How interesting! Thanks for sharing that tidbit.

  10. Oh, Tanya, in doing my online research I found two websites that use tumbleweeds in craft items. Is that wild, or what? I nearly ordered a tumbleweed with a ceramic bird holding a "welcome" sign.

    As for the Honky Tonk Hearts series, my THOSE VIOLET EYES is about a wounded vet who wants to start a ranch for amputee children. I have a second story in the series that will be out in April with a handsome bull rider raising his daughter alone with a secondary plot of school bullying. It's entitled BACK WHERE YOU BELONG.

  11. Waving, Vonnie. So happy to see you visiting here with us today. I always look forward to the next night visitor to your bedroom during the night. It's amazing how your hubby sleeps thru these nightly visitors. :)

    Your story sounds great. I have a copy and now need the time to do more reading. Hugs!

  12. Congrats on release day for Annalee - lots of good wishes coming your way, Vonnie! We lived in AZ for a while, north of Phoenix, and had tons of tumbleweeds. Fun when you hit them with the car and they explode - ker-ploof!

  13. Hi Vonnie, welcome to Sweethearts! Love the excerpt from your historical. Sounds like a keeper!

  14. Congrats on your release! I love the sound of this story, would love to read it. I love reading western's they are my favorite read. The old west is the best but I read all kinds. Thanks for sharing your books with us today.

    quiltlady110 AT gmail DOT com

  15. Vonnie, so glad you're here at Sweethearts of the West. Terrific excerpt. Wishing you continued success.

  16. Paisley, thanks for commenting. My husband writes, too. He recites lines from his book in his sleep, so he accepts characters visiting me. Often he'll say, "Angel, I have to get up and rewrite a couple paragraphs in chapter eight." I usually get up with him, too. We fire up the coffee pot and our computers and write until one of us falls asleep. Writers are a strange lot, don't you think? LOL

  17. Thanks, Melissa. I appreciate your kind words. Thanks for sharing about the tumbleweeds.

  18. Quilt Lady, do you make quilts? I have a friend in another state who makes quilts. She finds it very relaxing. Do you? I'm thrilled you enjoy Westerns. So do I.

  19. Thanks for your well wishes, Caroline. I love your Westerns; you take me there--and that's the best compliment I can pay you.

  20. Oh my, was I ever "struck" by the dream you had about the man saying he needed a wife for his boy! I was hooked on the rest of your interview response because of that dream. I am also a HUGE fan of western romances and I'm so glad I "met" you today on Sweethearts of the West. Can't wait to read your stories!

  21. Hi Vonnie!! You are a new to me author which I love finding. Your books sound awesome, I do love a good western. Thanks for the chance to win.

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  22. I've read several of the stories from The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series. They're out as individual stories now. I've liked the ones I read so far.
    Tumbleweed Letters has a wonderful premise and the cover is awesome.
    I wish you every success.
    starcriter at yahoo dot com

  23. Vonnie, I use to make quilts all the time and then ran out of room to store them. I need to get back in it because I am running low on baby quilts and I give them away a lot for gifts. Husband seems to want to use my sewing machine to store his computer junk on and I need to make him clean it off so I can make my baby quilts.

  24. Janice, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. All of my heroes come to me like that. The essence of my heroines are harder to capture, but not my heroes. Maybe I'm more intuitive to the men because I raised sons. Who knows?

  25. Martha, I love Westerns, too. Historical and contemporary, and I write both.

  26. Sarah, one of my favorite Love Letter stories is by Beth Trissel. She has a lovely writing style. I hope you'll give Tumbleweed Letters a try.

  27. Quilt Lady, I imagine the baby quilts you give are cherished not merely for the workmanship, but also because they came from you. I sense you have a very giving heart.

  28. If I could make the time I'd love to research the west, too, Vonnie. I know it was a life of hardship and toil, but so different from how the same toil was going on in some European places.

  29. I really love to read love stories about the West. I love all of the western shows, too. Deb


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