Maggie Rutherford jilts her too-perfect society groom at the altar and flees to the American West, where she turns her travels into dime novels that she writes under the pen name Lud Madison.
Civil War veteran Ben Morgan marries his childhood sweetheart and takes her to homestead on the Great Plains. Losing her in an Indian attack, Ben becomes a roaming gambler. When he kills a cheating opponent in self-defense, the man’s gunslinger brother swears revenge.
After Ben joins a cattle drive and brings in a herd to Abilene, a waiting Maggie interviews him for her next story. Sparks fly as they wind up living in the same household, running a general store east of Abilene. But with Black Tex Lonnegan on his trail, will Ben run from his growing attraction to Maggie and the gunfighter’s promise of death–or will he make a stand for his life–and love?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’m a writer, and I decided I would like to make my heroine a writer, as well. Dime novels were very popular during the 1870s, so I had Maggie writing dime novels under a man’s pen name so they would sell better. Many female authors did this exact thing during the 19th century. From there, I decided she would interview my hero Ben for her next book–and I sat back and let the sparks fly!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I raised my daughter to think for herself and be just a bit feisty. She’s the model for Maggie. Ben needed to be handsome, caring, and a little distant–so I gave him a tragic past. He had the idea that he would never fall in love again after his wife died–but he hadn’t met Maggie. She definitely changes his mind!
Ben stepped up on the wooden planks that ran along the outside of the saloon and stopped. Standing next to the swinging doors was the copper-haired beauty from earlier. She spoke to a cowboy and then waved him off, sending him into the bar with a laugh.
Without thinking, he rushed over to her. “What on earth are you doing standing in front of a saloon? Do you realize how rough and rowdy –”
“Oh, there you are.” Her hazel eyes twinkled, as she looked at him from head to toe. “My, you certainly clean up well.”
Ben stood dumbfounded at the beautiful stranger assessing him like a buyer would a Longhorn steer.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere. You’d left the stockyards by the time I headed back your way. I checked the bathhouse, but you hadn’t been there yet. I went to the biggest mercantile, but they said I’d just missed you.”
She shook her head. “I figured sooner or later you’d make your way to this street, so I thought I’d simply wait for you to turn up.”
She smiled at him as if waiting for a strange man in front of a cow-town bar was the most natural thing on earth for a pretty woman to do.
“You are some crazy lady,” he blurted out.
The woman chuckled, deep and throaty. Ben swallowed at the way the sound made him tingle. “You have no idea, sir. My aunt Harriet thinks I went off the rails years ago. But that’s another story. I’m here to hear yours.”
He frowned. “Beg pardon?”
“Oh, I’m making a mess of this, aren’t I? Usually I display better manners.”
She held out a gloved hand to him. “I’m Maggie Rutherford, formerly from New York City. And you just came off the cattle drive. The Chisholm Trail, I presume?”
He nodded, unsure of where their conversation headed.
Perfect!” she declared. “You are exactly the man I’d like to interview.”
“Interview?” He viewed her with suspicion. “Why me?”
She laid a hand on his sleeve. Electricity crackled between them. She pulled her hand away, a puzzled look on her face.
“I, sir, am a dime novelist. Have you read any Lud Madison books?”
“Yes,” he said, still wondering about the brief contact between them. “Madison’s actually my favorite of the dime novel authors.”
Her hazel eyes sparkled. “You are talking to Lud Madison in the flesh. And whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
Ben sputtered his name. This heavenly creature wrote dime novels?
Maggie smiled, and his heart did a flip-flop. “I see I’ve given you a bit of a start. It’s true, though. I am Lud Madison. I simply write under a pen name because there are those who deem it unlikely that a woman could write such adventurous tales of the West. I not only write my novels, but I illustrate them.” Pride was evident in her voice.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
“I’m doing research for my next novel, and I need to talk with someone who’s familiar with cattle drives. You caught my eye, Mr. Morgan. I feel you have a story to tell, and I’d love to incorporate some of it into my next book. I am happy to pay you for your time.”
Ben had no intention of sharing any of his life’s story with Maggie Rutherford, no matter how interesting the fiery redhead seemed.
“I’m sorry, ma’am –”
“Please, call me Maggie.”
“What I mean to say is –”
“You don’t have to tell me, Mr. Morgan. I’ve waylaid you from your mission. You intended to have a drink and unwind after long weeks on the trail. Well, I know with your fancy new clothes and those rather expensive boots, plus the bath and haircut, you probably have very little of your trail pay left.”
She turned and started to push open one of the swinging doors.
He grabbed her elbow, ignoring the heat in the contact. “You can’t go in there! It’s not respectable.”
Maggie’s brows rose. “You need a bottle of whiskey, sir, something you sorely can’t afford at this point. I aim to remedy that situation. We’ll sit. You’ll have your drinks. I’ll ask you some questions about being a cowboy on a cattle drive, and I’ll even pay for a night’s rest at a decent hotel.”
She tugged and pulled away from him, entering the bar full steam ahead.
A bemused Ben followed her inside. Under his breath, he muttered, “The little spitfire sure has gumption.”
Lauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grow into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.
Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.
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