Today, I feature fellow author Karen Bartell on my blog. I love hosting other authors and sharing their books and writing journeys. Karen writes about her inspiration for her new book, Wild Rose Pass. I love history and so dove into her book with pleasure. This is a unique story, inspired by true events. I rate this well-written book five stars!
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. It’s especially a pleasure to be here today because this is Wild Rose Pass’ release!
The inspiration for my latest novel started with the geography of West Texas sixteen years ago, when my husband and I spent Christmas week hiking in the Big Bend National Park. Driving home that New Year’s morning, we missed our turnoff in Alpine and followed TX-118 to the snow-covered Davis Mountains. As we passed through the rustic town of Fort Davis—named for the historic fort at its city limits—I breathed a contented sigh, sensing I’d come home.
That missed turn cost only a half hour’s delay, but the area’s geology and history captured my imagination, and I vowed I’d return. When I learned a friend of a friend’s great-great-grandfather had not only worked as an Indian scout for Fort Davis’ cavalry in the 1870s but had been captured as a young child and raised by Comanches, an idea was born.
I pressed my friend for any family stories, records, or resources she could recall. Several newspaper articles and a book surfaced, mentioning her forefather, José Maria Bill. This was a beginning, but I needed more, so I gladly drove the four-hundred miles / six hours to the town and garrison of Fort Davis. Restored as a National Historic Site, the fort housed a research library, where I pored over dusty quartermaster reports dating from October 1868.
Bill made his living as an Indian scout, guide, and packer for the fort. I also came across the records of a Colonel Benjamin Grierson, who began Army life as an enlisted man, was field promoted during the Civil War, and became the commanding officer at Fort Davis in the 1880s. What if I combined Bill’s Comanche experiences with Grier’s field promotion to create my fictional hero?
What social challenges would a battlefield-commissioned officer encounter with his peers—who were all West Point graduates? Would the uneducated “mustang” be respected or admitted into fourth-generation military society? Would strict military protocol prohibit an orphaned, Comanche-raised outsider to marry into its ranks?
What would a free-spirited daughter of the commanding officer think of him? If she were a nonconformist, who yearned to escape the rigid code, corsets, and side saddles of 1880s military society, how would she relate to the new lieutenant? Would she find him refreshing or uncouth? Exhilarating or shocking?
What if the heroine were expected to keep with family tradition and marry the up-and-coming lieutenant—a West Point graduate? Could these be the makings of a love triangle?
What about the Buffalo soldiers of Fort Davis? How did they fit into the fort’s social order? And what about the Tejanos—the Hispanics that had settled West Texas before either the Texas or US flag flew over the Lone State? What about the Apache raids or the land grabs and bigotry that proliferated in the 1870s and 1880s?
Every question led to several potential paths, each deviating and diverging until they ultimately steered me on an unforgettable excursion into yesteryear, where the Old West’s luminous crimson sunsets morph into romantic, starlit evenings: Wild Rose Pass, Book I of the Trans-Pecos Series.
Cadence McShane, free-spirited nonconformist, yearns to escape the rigid code, clothes, and sidesaddles of 1880s military society in Fort Davis, Texas. She finds the daring new lieutenant exhilarating, but as the daughter of the commanding officer, she is expected to keep with family tradition and marry West Point graduate James West.
Orphaned, Comanche-raised, and always the outsider looking in, Ben Williams yearns to belong. Cadence embodies everything he craves, but as a battlefield-commissioned officer with the Buffalo Soldiers instead of a West Point graduate, he is neither accepted into military society nor considered marriageable.
Can two people of different worlds, drawn together by conflicting needs, flout society and forge a life together on the frontier?
Reining his horse between catclaw and prickly-pear cactus, Ben Williams squinted at the late summer sun’s low angle. Though still midafternoon, shadows lengthened in the mountains. He clicked his tongue, urging his mare up the incline. “Show a little enthusiasm, Althea. If we’re not in Fort Davis by sunset, we’ll be bedding down with scorpions and rattlesnakes.”
As his detachment’s horses clambered up Wild Rose Pass, the only gap through west Texas’ rugged Davis Mountains, Ben kept alert for loose rocks or hidden roots, anything that might trip his mount. A thick layer of fallen leaves created a pastiche of color shrouding the trail from view. He glanced up at the lithe cottonwood trees lining the route, their limbs dancing in the breeze. More amber and persimmon leaves loosened, fell, and settled near the Indian pictographs on their tree trunks. When he saw the red- and yellow-ochre drawings, he smiled, recalling the canyon’s name—Painted Comanche Camp.
“How far to Fort Davis, lieutenant?” called McCurry, one of his recruits.
“Three hours.” If we keep a steady pace.
Without warning, the soldier’s horse whinnied. Spooking, it reared on its hind legs, threw its rider, and galloped off.
As he sat up, the man groaned, caught his breath, and stared into the eyes of a coiled rattler, poised to strike. “What the…?”
Flicking its tongue, hissing, tail rattling, the pit viper was inches from the man’s face.
A sheen of sweat appeared above the man’s lip. “Lieutenant—”
About the Author:
Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life. She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories that lift the spirit. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Westerns spurred her to write (pun intended). Wanderlust inherent, Karen enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Hill Country with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.
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