Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
Welcome to Book Blather, Shanna.
The Bravery of Women
I’ve always admired strong, brave women.
Trying to image how hard, challenging, utterly soul-wrenching life was for some of our pioneer grandmothers, it is almost beyond my ability to fathom.
Believe me when I say I would not have been a good pioneer. I like electricity and an endless supply of steamy hot water, and really good dark chocolate too much to try it.
Leaving behind the familiar existence they knew, these women ventured into the west following their husbands, fulfilling requests as mail-order brides, or making their own way as enterprising entrepreneurs.
Because they have won my admiration and respect, I like to write about those types of women in my stories. The Pendleton Petticoats series is set in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon, right at the turn of the 20th Century. Each book bears the name of the heroine, all brave yet very different.
During the period of 1900 through 1910, Pendleton experienced a boom in both population and modernization. Although many thought it was a Wild West town (which it was), it was also a very progressive town with a theater, opera house, French restaurant, and tearoom. Pendleton opened a telephone office in 1902 and was the second city in the state to install paved streets in 1904.
The people who inhabited the town were an eclectic mix from every background imaginable. In addition to the sheep growers, wheat farmers, and cattle ranchers who lived in the area, there was a substantial Chinese population. Miners, railroad workers, teamsters, harness makers, Indians from the nearby Umatilla Reservation, and business professionals could be seen walking down the streets of the town that billed itself “the queen of a golden empire - an empire of golden wheat.”
During the early 1900s, Pendleton also boasted 32 saloons and 18 bordellos, making it the “entertainment hub” of Eastern Oregon. The city had an enviable railroad station, designed to handle the burst of growth and export goods from the region including wheat, wool, cattle, and produce.
As I began writing the first book in this series, I envisioned a mail-order bride stepping off the train, completely unprepared for what awaited her. She expected the town to be quiet, dusty, and backward. What she found was something so entirely different than she anticipated, being a girl from Chicago who’d never set foot in a rural area.
She had to be strong and resilient, brave and determined (and maybe a little desperate) to get on that train in the first place.
I’ve often wondered, as a mail-order bride, what was harder - getting on the train and saying goodbye to what they knew or getting off the train to pledge their life to a man they’d never met.
Aundy, the heroine from the first book in the series, knows she is physically strong and capable to work on her soon-to-be husband’s farm, but she has no idea of the depths of inner strength and fortitude she possesses until it is tested.
The second book in the series, Caterina, features a feisty Italian girl on the run from the mafia in New York City. Have you ever wondered how many women journeyed out west because they jumped on a train with nowhere else to go? Unlike Aundy who arrived in town as a mail-order bride, Caterina is free and unfettered - or as free as she can be, hunted by powerful men bent on vengeance.
Ilsa, shines a light on one girl’s struggle to toss off the fetters of expectations placed upon her and learns to believe in herself.
The fourth book in the series, Marnie, was the most fun and challenging to write, since Miss Marnie makes her living as a soiled dove in the town’s most popular house of ill repute.
Although these are all fictional stories pulled out of my overactive imagination, I like to think that they represent some of the challenges and hardships women faced as they helped shape communities, cities, the west, and our great nation through their determination and strength. They truly were stronger than they knew and braver than they believed.
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