A few weeks ago, author Karen Bartell wrote about the inspiration for her new book, Wild Rose Pass. She’s written a follow-up to that piece today, about the hero of her book.
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. It’s a pleasure to be here today!
In my April 8th blog, I’d talked about the inspiration for my latest novel, Wild Rose Pass. Starting with the missed turnoff and unexpected excursion through the Davis Mountains, the west-Texas town of Fort Davis—and its namesake, the historic fort within its city limits—captured my imagination.
When I researched dusty quartermaster reports for historical tidbits, I learned a friend’s great-great-grandfather, José Maria Bill, had not only worked as an Indian scout, guide, and packer for the fort in the 1870s but had been captured as a young child and raised by Comanches.
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?
Voila! Ben Williams was born—Ben from Benjamin Grierson and Williams from the surname Bill.
Though Williams had earned his commission on the battlefield, he had to gain the respect both of his men—from whose ranks he had sprung—and from his fellow officers—all West Point graduates. Considered an uneducated “mustang” brevetted during the war, he was not admitted into their fourth-generation military society.
The commanding officer treated Williams as a scout, tasking him with arranging turkey hunts and fishing expeditions, serving as the guide, riding with the wagon driver instead of with the other officers, and unharnessing the horses, all menial tasks usually assigned to enlisted men. Though his skills were welcomed, Williams was not…socially.
However, the captain’s free-spirited daughter, Cadence, was a nonconformist, who yearned to escape the military society’s rigid code, corsets, and side saddles. She was expected to keep with family tradition and marry the up-and-coming first lieutenant—a West Point graduate. Though strict military protocol excluded any orphaned, Comanche-raised outsider from marrying into its ranks, she found the new lieutenant exhilarating.
Voila! A love triangle emerged of not only two men competing for the same woman, but of the battling social and cultural norms of the 1870s and 1880s. Ben Williams personified the underdog, rising from the ranks of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), which included Negroes and Indians.
The demographics and social order of the West were changing. Known as Buffalo soldiers, ex-slaves were freemen following the Civil War. Pioneers rubbed shoulders with immigrants and Tejanos—the Hispanics that had settled West Texas long before either the Texas or US flag flew over the Lone State. These were the times of the Indian Wars, where Apache raids still occurred, but the Indian Nations were being relocated to reservations.
Wild Rose Pass, Book I of the Trans-Pecos Series is a Frontier, Historic Romance, where two people fall in love—but it represents more. The love triangle embodies the bigotry that existed during the tumultuous period of the 1870s and 1880s. Though replete with luminous crimson sunsets and romantic, starlit evenings, it portrays the Old West’s social upheaval in a rapidly changing society.
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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