Monday, November 30, 2015


By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

The year is winding down. Hard to believe the first of December is a day away. With Christmas rapidly approaching, many of us are preoccupied with work, family, gift shopping, and preparing for holiday festivities. I think we can all safely say that life can be quite an adventure, especially during the holidays.

Being a writer, especially of historical fiction, can be quite an adventure, too. You never know where (or when) a story will take you. Where will that hypothetical compass controlling your imagination point? And so, although we celebrate western fiction (and sometimes history) here at Sweethearts of the West, I ask your indulgence as I share with you my exciting news about my latest book, Between the Shadows.

Much as I love the American West and western literature, I have been occupied for quite some time with another time and another place. Namely, England and Scotland in the year 1813. The Regency period, especially in 1813, was a tumultuous period in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. King George III was mentally ill and unable to fulfill his obligations as monarch. His Royal Highness Prince George Augustus Frederick, was named Prince Regent in 1811. In addition to the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, Britain was also engaged in the War of 1812 with the United States of America.

So, what better time to add another threat into the mix?

When an ancient evil rises to threaten the world of the living and the realm of the dead, 19-year old Patience Sinclair is recruited by The Legion of Mithras to help save mankind.

Patience Sinclair has lost everything—her family, her freedom, and the young man she loves. Yet three years exile in the highlands of Scotland has made her more determined than ever to prove she deserves to be free. The time has come to embrace what she is, and the gift she has kept hidden from the world.

Returning to London is not without danger. Each step Patience takes puts her in the terrifying path of a serial killer, and an evil unlike anything she has ever known.

When fate reunites her with Viscount Leighton, Patience discovers there are others with mysterious abilities they have closely guarded. Can she and the Viscount move beyond the pain of their past, learn to trust love, and work together with the covert Legion to conquer evil? Or, will darkness win?

Between the Shadows is a haunting historical paranormal thriller set in 1813 England and Scotland. A stand-alone novel, it is the first book in THE LEGION OF MITHRAS series.


Ceòthar Innis, Scotland ~ 17 March 1813

Like a grave being opened, a surging, teeth-chattering gust of wind rose off the loch. An eerie sensation lifted from the soles of Patience Sinclair’s feet to the crown of her head. And she knew the reason why.
Someone was watching her.
At once, an unrelenting, crippling pain seized the back of her head—twisting, building, as if a thousand stars were about to burst inside her skull. She pressed her right hand hard against the pain, praying the torment would soon subside.
One, two, three, four…
After eight measured counts her stilted breathing eased, and the wave of stabbing, burning daggers slowly ebbed.
It had been years since she’d felt the same heart-stopping, thought-crippling spasm. The fact it returned today filled her with foreboding.
A low growl sounded to her right. She glanced at her dog, noting the alert angle of Henrietta’s head. As her beloved Irish Wolfhound stared at someone behind them, its warning grew more menacing.
Patience set aside her book, stood, and turned about. An icy wave of stunned surprise washed over her. She stared at her unexpected visitor, a treacherous fair-haired young woman from her past. Much as she’d wanted someone to visit with her, the one person she’d never hoped to see again was Anne Melville.
“Please, do not turn me away!” Anne’s voice sounded panicked, shrill, like the tormented cry of an inmate at Bedlam.
Patience took a few tentative steps forward. Henrietta followed, a quiet reminder her dog was wary and ready to protect if need be. She gently stroked the coarse black hairs on Henrietta’s broad head, and continued to study her unexpected guest.
“Why are you here, Anne?”
“We were friends…once.”
A jagged jolt of pain ripped through Patience’s body with Anne’s knife-twisting reminder. Resentment and outrage ignited—a seething fury that if unleashed could catapult her up to the tower’s medieval battlements. Her breath rushed forth hard and fast from her lungs. Muscles in her throat—raw and taut with tumultuous emotion—contracted.
“You must help me, Patience.”
“Help you? I am a prisoner here because of you.” Patience’s heart pounded. Each beat echoed in her ears like the rhythmic stride of soldiers advancing toward their enemy.
“I know I hurt you—”
“Hah. You destroyed my life. Three years exiled by my family. Not to mention the cruel taunts and endless, malicious gossip—all because of what you said and did in London.”
Patience trembled with the intensity of her hurt, humiliation, and hatred.
At nineteen years of age, she should be accustomed to being unwanted, unacceptable, and unloved. But every scar that once pierced her soul had been ripped open again by Anne’s presence, tearing tender flesh anew like a blade drawing fresh blood.
“Tell me, Anne, have you ever thought about the devastation you caused me? In your world of beauty, popularity, and exciting social engagements, did you ever consider what it might feel like waiting for a visit by one’s family? Or, a letter saying all was forgiven and to please come home?”
“I understand now.” Anne’s voice broke into heartrending sobs. “I am grievously sorry for my actions, but I beg you, do not punish me. I have traveled so far. You are the only one who can help me. Please, you must return with me to London.”
Refusing to be influenced by quivering desperation and the frail, pitiful sight of her nemesis, Patience ignored the sharp tug on her conscience. Still, no one knew better than she how frightening the world could be when one felt lost and alone.
“I do not seek to punish you,”—Patience paused to steady her temper— “but neither can I help you. I don’t live here by choice, Anne. My stepfather made it quite clear what he would do with me if I disobeyed him or returned to England. I am a pariah. I can help no one—not even myself.”
Never before had Patience witnessed such hopeless anguish and devastation in someone’s expression. Guilt prompted a defensive tone. “If you must know, I’ve changed. Put simply, people do not like me and…well…now, I do not like people.”
“Do not say that.” Anne’s luminous eyes widened as if a curse had been spoken. “Even as a small child, you were compassionate and good to everyone.”
Patience looked toward the 14th century tower.
Hewn from granite, its existence had been forgotten, abandoned. Her gaze drifted to what remained of the curtain walls, great hall, and holy chapel. Once proudly anchored to the ancient MacGregor keep, they were now nothing more than crumbled stone and mortar skeletal remains. Ironically, the tower’s lonely fate had become a daily reminder how much her family had forgotten and abandoned her.
If only I had the courage to leave.
If only I could prove myself sane.
If only my family loved me.
A lock of her auburn hair, tugged free by the wind, danced before Patience’s eyes. She swept it aside and noted the sky’s mirror image reflected on the loch; its clarity drew her gaze toward the heavens.
Sun and clouds played a game of chase on the wind, conjuring changes of light and shadow in their wake. She watched the swiftly moving clouds cross the sky, racing toward the distant horizon. There, majestic mountains stood sentinel, their rocky peaks capped with lingering snow.
Much as Patience loved Scotland and the beauty of its nature, three years of banishment at Ceòthar Innis had all but severed kinship to the land. Like the brutal blade of an executioner’s ax, her ancestral home had become a private prison.
Days lengthened into weeks.
Weeks yawned into months.
Months eclipsed into years.
And still she caught herself thinking—if only.
Once she dreamed of someone coming for her.
Now, she didn’t.
And suddenly Patience realized if she refused to help Anne, she’d never leave Scotland. She’d never be loved, marry, or have a family of her own. Most of all, she’d never have another chance to prove she deserved to be free.

Between the Shadows is now available for pre-order at a limited price of $3.99 (Kindle format). The book’s release date for both e-book and print is December 5, 2015.

Thank you for taking the time to let me share my news with you. And if you are looking for a new release for yourself or a friend, I hope you will consider Between the Shadows. [Buy link below.] The romance level is sweet, and the book is appropriate for ages 15 to adult.

Happy Holidays! ~ AKB

Buy Link:

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been enthralled by mail-order brides. No, I’ve not been “studying” them, or “researching” them—yet. I’ve just been wondering why this became such a practice—and a successful one—among women of all walks of life, or so it seems.

What would make a woman leave everything familiar to her and travel to “parts unknown” to marry a man she knew nothing about? What’s scarier than online dating? Being a mail-order bride! Once they’d made the commitment to leave their homes behind—much to the consternation of many family members and friends, in some cases, I would imagine—the die was cast.

A woman would have to be certain in her own mind that what she was going to was better than what she was leaving behind. She would have to be resourceful enough to plan some kind of “exit strategy” if things didn’t work out. And I suppose, many times, women resigned themselves to the fact that they would become a soiled dove—the lowest of the low—in order to survive.

In spite of all the scenarios we might come up with for a mail-order bride to leave the life she has known behind her for something completely foreign to her, there are, I’m sure, many that we never could have even contemplated. For each story is personal, intimate, and heart-rending in its own right.
One of the most unusual books about mail-order brides is Jim Fergus’s story, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN—which is not about “mail-order brides” as we think of them, but in a totally different way—a trade by the U.S. Government of 1000 white women to the Indians in order to achieve assimilation into white culture. Interestingly enough, this premise WAS discussed in reality, but not carried through. In the book, however, Fergus shows how the government emptied insane asylums of women and sent them to the Indians…only most of the women were not insane, but had been “put away” by their families for one thing or another.

Would you have what it takes to be a mail-order bride in the old west? I’m not sure I would, but it’s fun to think about.

This is a collection of Christmas mail-order bride stories that Prairie Rose Publications just released with some wonderful tales of how some women with pasts they needed to leave behind find new beginnings at the most joyous time of the year. These eight stories by Livia J. Washburn, Kathleen Rice Adams, Cheryl Pierson, Patti Sherry-Crews, Jesse J Elliot, Meg Mims, Tanya Hanson, and Jacquie Rogers will provide you many hours of reading pleasure during this holiday season!

I’m giving away a copy of A MAIL-ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE to one commenter! The question is, would you leave your familiar surroundings and go west to be a mail-order bride? Be sure to leave your contact information in your comment!

Thanks for stopping by today! Drawing will be held on November 29 after 9:00 p.m. Central.


Thursday, November 26, 2015



A novelist and a poet, Helen Jackson's remarkable A CENTURY OF DISHONOR stirred public outrage over the U.S. government's mistreatment of Native Americans. Her book centered on seven tribes, among them: Cheyennes, Nez Perce, Sioux, Cherokees and detailed four massacres in particular.

She was born Helen Maria Fiske in Amherst, Massachusetts, probably on October 18, 1830 (her monument says 1831).  She had two brothers, both of whom died shortly after birth, and a sister named Anne. Her father was a minister, author, and professor of Latin, Greek, and philosophy at Amherst College.  Her mother died in 1844, and her father died three years later, leaving her in the care of an aunt.

She had a good education, having attended Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute, a boarding school in New York City. She was a classmate of the poet Emily Dickinson, also from Amherst. The two carried on a correspondence for all of their lives, but few of their letters have survived.

Helen Maria Fiske Hunt Jackson

In 1852, Helen Fiske married United States Army Captain Edward Bissell Hunt, who died in a military accident in 1863. Her son Murray Hunt died in 1854 of a brain disease and her other son, Rennie Hunt, died of diphtheria in 1865.  Helen began traveling and writing after these deaths.
In the winter of 1873-1874 she was in Colorado Springs, Colorado in search of a cure for tuberculosis. There she met William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker and railroad executive. They married in 1875, together just ten years before she died of cancer in 1885.

Scholars know her as Helen Hunt Jackson, but she never used that name herself—she only used one married name at a time: Helen Hunt or Helen Jackson.

In 1879, her interests turned to the plight of the Native Americans after attending a lecture in Boston by Ponca Chief Standing Bear, who described the forcible removal of the Ponca Indians from their Nebraska reservation. Jackson was angered by what she heard regarding the unfair treatment at the hands of government agents and became an activist. She started investigating and publicizing the wrongdoing, circulating petitions, raising money, and writing letters to The New York Times on behalf of the Poncas.

She also started writing a book condemning the Indian policy of the government and the history of broken treaties.  Her book, A CENTURY OF DISHONOR, called for drastic changes to be made; it was published in 1881.  Jackson then sent a copy to every member of Congress with an admonishment printed in red on the cover, "Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations." But, to her disappointment, the book had little impact.

She then went to southern California to take a much needed rest. She had become interested in the area's missions and the Mission Indians on an earlier visit, and now she began an in-depth study. While in Los Angeles, California, she met Don Antonio Coronel, a former mayor and city councilman who had also served as State Treasurer. He was a well-known authority on early life in the area and was also a former inspector of missions for the Mexican government. Don Antonio described to Jackson the plight of the Mission Indians after 1833, when secularization policies led to the sale of mission lands and the dispersal of their residents.

Many of the original Mexican land grants had clauses protecting the Indians on the lands they occupied. But when Americans assumed control of the southwest after the Mexican-American War, they ignored Indian claims to these lands, which led to mass dispossessions. In 1852, there were an estimated fifteen thousand Mission Indians in Southern California. But, because of the adverse impact of dispossessions by Americans, by the time of Jackson's visit they numbered less than four thousand.

The stories told by Don Antonio spurred Jackson into action. Her efforts soon came to the attention of the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Hiram Price, who recommended she be appointed an Interior Department agent. Jackson's assignment was to visit the Mission Indians and ascertain the location and condition of various bands, and determine what lands, if any, should be purchased for their use. With the help of Indian agent Abbot Kinney, Jackson criss-crossed Southern California and documented the appalling conditions she saw. At one point, she hired a law firm to protect the rights of a family of Soboba Indians facing dispossession of their land at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains.

During this time, Jackson read an account in a Los Angeles newspaper about a Cahuilla Indian who had been shot and killed. His wife, it turned out, was named Ramona. In 1883, she completed her fifty-six page report, which called for a massive government relief efforts, and while a bill embodying her recommendations passed the U.S. Senate, it died in the House of Representatives.

Not discouraged, Jackson decided to write a novel that would depict the Indian experience "in a way to move people's hearts." An inspiration for the undertaking, Jackson admitted, was Uncle Tom's Cabin written years earlier by her friend, Harriet Beecher Stowe.  "If I can do one-hundredth part for the Indian that Mrs. Stowe did for the Negro, I will be thankful," she told a friend.

Jackson was particularly drawn to the fate of her Indian friends in the Temecula area of Riverside County, California and used the story of what happened to them in her novel which was begun in December 1883, with an original title of IN THE NAME OF THE LAW.  The manuscript was completed in slightly over three months and it became her classic novel, RAMONA, about a part-Indian orphan raised in Spanish California society and her Indian husband, Alessandro.  Published in November 1884, it achieved almost instant success.

Jackson then intended to write a children's story on the Indian issue but her health  was deteriorating rapidly and she died of cancer in San Francisco, California in August 12, 1885.

Helen Jackson in later years

Her last letter was written to President Grover Cleveland, urging him to read her early work A CENTURY OF DISHONOR. Speaking to a friend, Jackson said, "My A CENTURY OF DISHONOR and RAMONA are the only things I have done of which I am glad. They will live and bear fruit."

Oh, write of me, not "Died in bitter pains,"
But "Emigrated to another star!"
~Helen Hunt Jackson

Each year, the city of Hemet stages "The Ramona Pageant", an outdoor play based on Jackson's novel RAMONA.

At her request, Jackson was buried October 31, 1885, at Inspiration Point in scenic South Cheyenne Canyon, southwest of Colorado Springs. According to GPS-derived geolocation (accurate to within 10 meters), the memorial's coordinates are latitude 38°46'51.9"N and longitude 104°52'36.7"W. Because the scores of people flocking to her gravesite were threatening the natural beauty of the canyon, her remains were moved to the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, on November 7, 1891. The land is now part of Seven Falls, a privately owned recreation area that charges an entrance fee. The plaque on the large mound of rocks that was her original burial site reads:



Caroline Clemmons is the bestselling and award winning author of western contemporary and historical novels. Her latest is #42 in the American Mail-Order Brides series, PATIENCE, BRIDE OF WASHINGTON. Release date is December 30 and the novel is now available for preorder at

To keep in touch with all her news, contests, and upcoming releases, sign up for her newsletter here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


A stampede can be two things…the mad rush to the Thanksgiving table, or a wild run cattle suddenly embark in for no apparent reason.

First, Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for so many things, as I know you all are, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday. 

Second, there are several things that can start a cattle stampede, and cowboys tried to prevent them whenever possible. (Many animals beside cattle stampede, horses, sheep, buffalo, elephants, zebras, etc.)

After writing a Roaring Twenties mini-series, a Salem Witch Trial story, a Cheyenne Indian story, and a lumber baron story, I am finally back to my first love—the cowboy! 

The hero of my current story is a trail boss. Driving 2,500 head of beef 600 miles from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas was fraught with dangers. And it was said that a stampede was a cowboy’s worst nightmare!

 "Stampede," Chromolithograph from painting by Gean Smith, 1895.

For no reason an entire herd could mysteriously take off running. Most of the cattle would run in the same direction, but others would scatter. Although they could happen at any time, for during the cattle drives of the 1800’s, most stampedes happened at night. Pairs of men took turns on night watch, keeping the cows calm and quiet by singing to them or reciting them poetry. When/if a stampede happened, those two men had their hands full. The rest of the cowboys were in camp, usually at least a mile away.

Cattle drives had ‘lead’ cows, those the others naturally followed.  During a stampede the cowboys would focus on getting those lead cows stopped and heading in the right directions, but during a long drive, those cows could be thirsty, hungry, or frightened and could be difficult to get under control. A common practice was to shoot a bullet into the ground near the lead cow’s hooves to get their attention. Once cowboys got those cows calmed down, the others followed suit. 

In preventing stampedes, if a cow was identified as one wild enough to instigate a stampede, the cowboys would sew its eyelids shut. Unable to see, it wouldn’t stampede, and the thread would rot off their eyes within two weeks. By then the cow was so used to following the others, it was usually not a problem.

Rustlers were common starters of stampedes. They would rile up the cattle, get them running in all directions, and while the night watchmen were trying to get the herd under control, the rustlers would drive off as many cattle as possible.

Water was another cause of stampedes. A thirsty cow can smell water ten miles away. When that was the case, the trail boss would double or triple the number of night watchmen overseeing the cattle at night. 

Lightning was another cause. During a lightning storm, the first thing a cowboy would get rid of was his gun. A chunk of metal hanging on his hip was a magnet for lightning. 

I’ve never seen a cattle stampede, but I raised three boys, so I’ve most certainly witnessed a stampede to the dinner table.How about you?

Again, I wish you a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Yellowstone Thanksgiving

Here's a glimpse at what Thanksgiving was like for a solider stationed at Fort Yellowstone in 1898. Thanksgiving, 100 years ago, still meant a menu of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pie! This letter was written by Private Edwin Kelsey,  to his niece in California. 
soldier stationed at Ft Yellowstone 1890's

Riverside Station, Dec. 3 1898
My Dear "G"-
. . . Left here for the Post [Fort Yellowstone] the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful day when we started .It had snowed hard the day and night before and everything was covered with several inches of the "beautiful". I think that I've never seen anything look as beautiful as did the trees, most which are "Jack Pines", the same as that one in the yard at home. With their covering of snow they assumed all manner of grotesque shapes, some of them so lifelike that it required no very severe strain of the imagination to believe that they were really alive and that one was in Heaven and that they were angels, or in Hell and that they were imps.
I made 26 miles the first day, staying all night at Norris Station. The next morning it was 22 below zero, but I pulled out for the Post, which I reached about two PM after a cold hard ride of 20 miles. It is not much sport riding when the snow is so deep that your horse has to walk all the time.
Stayed at the Post for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a beaut. The cook more than threw himself. Had turkey, roast pork, sweet spuds, cranberry sauce, oyster stew, chocolate, three kinds of cake, pie, pickles, nuts and apples-how's that for soldiers?
I left soon after dinner and when I reached Norris-a little after 8 that night found no one there so was obliged to rustle around and make a fire and get my own supper .I was thinking, as I was riding along in the moonlight-there was a swell moon-how differently you were putting in the day. Am very anxious to learn the result of the game.
And so you don't see how I can find any enjoyment in such a place as this. Well I do. Of course I would like muchly to see you all and I think of Santa Cruz and the pleasant times I used to have there often. And at night when the "orchestra" plays some familiar air, it makes me wish that I could hear Flora sing. But despite your doubts to the contrary, there is something about this life in the wilderness that fascinates me. . . .

Love to all the family and Mable, and regards to friends. Edwin

Historic Fort Yellowstone
Happy Thanksgiving!

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series