This is an easy question for me. I have to say historical and romance, especially if the setting is in the old west. For those who know my work, it's quite apparent from my backlist that my favorite genre is western historical romance. In fact, my latest release, Odessa, adds to my collection and makes my sixth book published in the genre. Although I am a confessed genre-hopper, I always seem to migrate back to what I love and feel comfortable writing.
Here's a blurb and excerpt from Odessa. I hope you agree that I can blend the genres together naturally and in an entertaining manner:
The wagon carrying Odessa Clay and her father overturns, killing him. Alone and scared in the middle of the desert, she faces finding her way to Phoenix and Aunt Susan. Food and water run out, and Odessa is near death when Zach Johnson finds her. Squinting up into his tanned and handsome face, Dessie believes she’s died and gone to heaven.
Would-be-outlaw, Zach Johnson finds an unconscious woman alone in the middle of nowhere. Where did she come from? First glance: she appears young, but the curves beneath the dusty gingham say otherwise. He didn’t plan to become someone’s hero, but how can he leave her stranded?
Will the promise of Odessa’s sweet lips lure Zach from the secret mission that has his gut twisted into a knot? His father’s ranch isn’t the only thing at stake—now it’s his heart.
Bright sunlight and growing heat woke Odessa. She bolted upright, her heartbeat roaring in her ears. How could morning be here already?
A pain seared along her spine when she moved, and her neck refused to turn. Had she slept in the same position all night and fused all her muscles into a knot? A bit of discomfort was a small price to pay to wake up safe and alive. If a coyote had howled or a snake slithered across her, she’d not been aware of it.
She stretched her arms over her head, shrugged her shoulders and yawned. Her grandmother had always complained about ague and rheumatism. Was this how she’d felt? Despite Odessa’s aching body, a ray of hope broke through her despair, if only for a fleeting moment. She smiled and found hope. Prayer held power; she’d lived to see another day.
After finishing the last biscuit and a bit of salted pork, Odessa took a sip of water. She gathered her belongings inside the blanket, optimistic once again. Even with her stiffened joints and muscles, she’d had a good night’s rest and felt eager to get started before the sun rose higher. After a brief squat behind the rock, she arranged her hair back under Papa’s hat and set off, following a trail that twisted and turned then disappeared from sight. She hadn’t removed her shoes and socks for days for fear she wouldn’t get them back on again. Each step reminded her how far she’d come.
The heat grew fierce. Odessa’s dress clung to her like bark on the old oak tree next to her house—or what used to be her house. Papa sold the home to the bank for very little profit. His desire to leave Tucson was more important than money.
Money! She gasped. She’d left the small amount Papa had packed in his valise. The thought never occurred to her before now. Still, there was no way she’d backtrack to get it. Let whoever found her father reap the reward. Hopefully, they’d earn the few bucks by seeing to his remains. Guilt still gnawed at her for leaving him. She pushed onward, trying to think only of Aunt Susan’s smiling face and welcoming arms.
Odessa’s legs turned leaden. Salty sweat dripped from her brow into her eye and burned like blazes. She knuckled at her closed lid and grimaced. Instead of her usual sip, she whipped the canteen up to her mouth and took a long draw. She felt faint and hoped the water would wash away the feeling.
Ahead, everything blurred but not from rising heat waves. This was different. Dizziness clawed at her, making her unstable on her feet. Her head throbbed, and her neck sagged to her chest like a melting candle. The ground zigzagged beneath her gaze then rose to meet her. Helpless in a heap, her fingers stretched across the gritty dirt, searching for her rifle. She fought against the darkness that sucked her into an endless hole.
Zach Johnson kept his horse at a steady pace along the rutted trail leading towards Charleston. He’d left Phoenix before sunup yesterday. Swiping a sleeve across his sweaty brow, he arched his back away from the saddle cantle. Too much time had passed since he’d made a long trip by horseback.
With no end to the cactus and scrub brush, his mind whirred. Was he a fool getting involved with the outlaws? He had played poker with a friend of Pete Spence, a known fugitive from Texas, when the man passed through Phoenix and stopped at the saloon. He seemed a nice enough fellow, but too much corn whiskey made Zach loose-lipped about needing money to keep the bank from reclaiming his father’s ranch. By day’s end, Zach lost what little money he had in the game, and driven by desperation, accepted the offer to join Pete and his cohorts in a holdup.
The sun raged like a fire in a baker’s oven. Squiggly lines drifted upwards from dirt hardened by lack of rain, then dissipated into the sky. Zach squinted at a strange-looking dot up the trail and shook his head. People frequently lost their belongings that way. Whatever lay in the road most likely had little or no value. He pulled his canteen up and took a swig.
The spot in the road grew larger as he neared. The image resembled a heap of clothing until he closed the distance and realized he’d found a person. He widened his eyes. The red and white gingham wasn’t just discarded rags. The material was a dress worn by a woman—and a very young one it appeared. After reining in his horse, he dismounted and yanked his canteen from the saddle horn.
Zach knelt and cradled her head in the crook of his arm, then removed her oversized hat. Blonde hair spilled out and dusted the ground as he fanned her. She still had color in her face, but didn’t move. He bent and put his head to her chest and listened. Her heart beat slow and steady. Straightening, he released a pent up breath. She was alive. His gaze traveled the length of her.
Scuffed, dusty boots poked out from the tattered hem of her dress and the hands at her sides bore scrapes and cuts. Dirt stained the once-white cuffs at her wrists and smudged her cheeks. A rifle lay close by, along with a half-filled canteen, judging from its weight. Where had she come from? He scanned around for a hint but saw nothing but endless desert.
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