Are There Taboos in Writing Western Romance


Lynn C. Willis

Winner of an autographed copy of an Agnes Alexander Book

(Lynn chose Fiona’s Journey as her free autographed book)


camillaCOVER          edwina1            Valissa's Home - WEB              Quinn2

People may think writing a western historical romance is easy. Some even think all you have to do is think up a handsome cowboy and a pretty maiden, thrown in a few gunfights and a rustler or two and have the couple fight and make up and all will end well. Of course, in the western historical romance you expect it to be set in the west and there is a romance. Otherwise, it would not be a book in this genre. But rest assured there is more in the western romance than gunfights, rustlers, (though they may be there) and romance, which we’ve already said has to be there.

When I started writing western romance it never occurred to me the number of topics I’d end up including in my novels. My first book, Fiona’s Journey touched on the horrible subject of child molestation and rape. Though I never graphically described either of these in my writing, it left no doubt in the reader’s mind what was being referred to.

In Valissa’s Home I discussed gambling. Not the regular kind of  gambling that takes place in a saloon as happens in most westerns, but I had one of my characters suffer a gambling addiction so bad that he not only lost all his fortune, but also that of his sister.

Prejudice was one of the topics in the book Amelia’s Marriage. A lot of people, including her father, were ready to fight when Amelia fell in love with, not only a bounty-hunter, but a bounty-hunter who happened to be half Lakota Indian. (Scheduled to come out this year.

In Quinn’s Promise I wrote about three sisters – city women from Philadelphia who travel west to find a long lost relative and with only their skills and instincts manage to survive in a part of the country that was strange and hostile to them.

Drina’s Choice addressed the mail-order-bride issue. Though many men in the west wanted a wife to ease their loneliness and to give them children as heirs, there were other reasons for using this service. In my book, the mail-order-bride was arranged to keep a cowboy from losing the ranch he’d worked hard to build into a profitable enterprise. (To come out this year from Prairie Rose Publishers)

Dealing with a heroine who was born with a withered foot and could never walk, but who had dreams and hopes of one day having a man to love and to love her was the premise of Hannah’s Wishes. Also I touched on how an unscrupulous relative could take advantage of someone with a disability. (Just finished and going though edits.)

The one time-travel I’ve written explores how an accomplished, savvy woman of today’s would cope if thrown back into the primitive way people had to live in the 1800’s. It also showed that men of that place and time could learn that women were strong and could hold their own in most any situation. This tale took place in Rena’s Cowboy.

Edwina’s Husband deals with a woman who has been raised by her not-so-religious preacher uncle who has a bible verse for everything that happens, though he sees everything in the world as evil, including his wife and his niece. Of course, he sees no wrong in himself.

Child abandonment is the first problem that crops up in Camilla’s Daughters. There is also the problem of child slavery and how a woman who never wanted children contends with having two girls thrust upon her – one an infant and the other an eight-year-old.

In some of the books I have sketched out I will tackle such things as: Remorse and loneliness in Zenia’s Guilt; Unwanted pregnancy and responsibility in Isabel’s Baby; Hate and acceptance in Belinda’s Battle; Family loyalty and revenge in Opal’s Agreement; and infidelity and forgiveness in Nelda’s Return.

After these books are finished, I’m not sure what, but I will come up with something else for my main characters to face. I hope it will be something I won’t be afraid to tackle or something that I’ll shy away from. I have learned that no subject is taboo when you write a western romance as long as it is written with tact and in a non-offensive way.

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16 Responses to Are There Taboos in Writing Western Romance

  1. Sandy Bruney says:

    I like a book that tackles issues other than the underlying romance. Gives the book more layers or depth. And makes the characters more interesting.

    • Agnes says:

      I agree, Sandy. I think books would be boring if they didn’t dig deep into character development. Your books are always thought provoking. I’m looking forward to your new one.

  2. Kristy McCaffrey says:

    Hi Agnes,
    In my own western romances, I’ve approached topics such as sexual abuse and even strange aspects of shamanism. I guess we go where the story leads us. Great blog post!

    • Agnes says:

      Thanks, Kristy. I’m looking forward to reading your westerns. I appreciate you sharing my post.

  3. Alisa Boisclair says:

    Thanks to Kristy McCaffrey’s post on FB, I’ve discovered an author who’s subjects intrigue me. Let the reading begin!

    • Agnes says:

      I’m glad you are intrigued by my subject, Alisa. I look forward to having a new reader for my work. I hope you like it. Thanks for posting and good luck. Your first book may be a free one.

  4. Agnes,

    I’m almost finished editing Drina’s Choice, and I’m turning the pages as fast as I can and still do my job. LOL You’ve spun a wonderful tale, and I am enjoying it so much! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

  5. Agnes says:

    Of course I’m excited about Drina’s Choice and am working hard on the sequel. (About her crippled sister.) I hope you’ll be interested in it, too. Your books are all so petty and have such intriguing covers. I’m anxious to see what Liva comes up with for Drina.

  6. Kristin Betthauser says:

    Your books sound great and I will be adding them to my wishlist.

    • Agnes says:

      Thank you, Kristin. I hope you enjoy them. Maybe you’ll win one here. Thanks for posting.

  7. Karen says:

    Westerns speak of real life and for the most part average Americans. Adding in issues makes them more real and easy for the ready to empathize with the characters. I love the way you talk about taboo issues without being gross.

    • Agnes says:

      Thank you, Karen. I agree that westerns speak to real life. I love writing them and I think you can talk about a lot of subjects without giving offensive detail. Thanks for posting.

  8. Jeannine says:

    I like it when the books I read address issues in real life. The lack of offensive details is also great. Looking forward to reading your books.

    • Agnes says:

      Thank you, Jeannine. I hope you enjoy my books. I admit, I enjoyed writing each one of them.

  9. Great post! Makes me want to read all of them!

  10. Agnes says:

    Thanks, Lynn.
    I’ve read Unholy Covenant and I’m looking forward to the rest of them.