My buttons are about burstin’, folks! It took a bit to get things back in order after Cookie’s big shindig last week, but the boys sure made it up by roundin’ up Ellen O’Connell and her slew of swoon worthy heroes! Why I’m about fixed to have a fit of apoplexy with Cord Bennett, Matt Slade and Gaetan all takin’ up room ‘round the fire! Either these men are hot, or I’m gonna have to switch to a cold drink! Ms. O’Connell sure does know how to pick ‘em to ride the river with.
To add sugar to yer coffee, Ellen is offerin’ up a giveaway of one ebook (either Kindle, ePub, or pdf format) of each of her releases!! Slap me and call me Aunt Mable that means three of y’all will be sashaying off with one of these fine heroes, though just a bit of friendly advice don’t get too close they’re each attached to a woman who knows how to hold onto her man. Just leave a comment and I’ll put yer name in the hat!
Let me introduce y’all, ‘cause these are men with stories ya definitely want to hear! Ellen kindly provided a bit of what inspired her to write, so don’t miss that after the book list! It’s always a treat to hear what drove others to put their stories and heart onto paper.
In 1885 Colorado, Anne Wells, unmarried at 28, is the disgrace of her rigidly proper family. Cord Bennett is the feared black sheep of the Bennett clan. When these two misfits are found alone together, her father’s fury leads to violence, and Cord’s family is quick to blame him. Can Anne and Cord use the freedom of being condemned for sins they didn’t commit to make a life together? Or will their disapproving, interfering families tear them apart?
KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS: So I bought EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD because Amazon recommended it in July 2010, and then it sat in my Kindle for months as I finished a manuscript of my own. Then with a few days off my day job for Thanksgiving I was determined to get through some of my TBR pile. I grabbed a cup of coffee, settled on the couch, and opened the Kindle to EYES, and promptly forgot the coffee, the lumpy couch and everything else but Cord and Anne and their amazing story. I read EYES straight through only stopping for a few necessities, and at times just to take a break from the strong emotions this story of two people from two different worlds who the world doesn’t understand, yet they completely understand the other stirred.
Cord is stoic and resigned to what he believes is his place in the world, and to the negative attitudes and fear he constantly endures. That is until Anne enters his life. Watching him not only come to the place where he accepts Anne’s love, but accepts that he deserves her love was both heart rendering and heartwarming. He’s not the romantic hero who quotes sonnets (thank goodness), but his love and respect for Anne shines through every time he turns to her for her opinion or protects her from any threat, or simply kisses the daylights out of her.
Anne is a heroine I really compare all other heroines (including my own) to since reading EYES. She is smart and strong, but she listens to Cord and accepts he knows more about some situations than she does. She doesn’t cower under his sometimes harsh personality, but works beside him, learns and grows under the pride and respect he shows her. And Anne will fight just as hard to protect Cord in her determination to make others see the man she knows.
Their families…well most of the time I just wanted to go down the line and shake, slap or both each member of their family and don’t even get me started on Anne’s father.
But I don’t want you to think this is just one long drama. There are plenty of lighthearted moments just like in any life to keep hope alive in the dark moments.
Sarah Hammond is the overprotected daughter of passionate Massachusetts abolitionists. Matt Slade is the orphaned son of hardscrabble Texas settlers. Sarah knows about every Civil War battle from studying newspaper accounts. Matt fought in the bloodiest of them under Generals Longstreet and Lee. If Matt and Sarah ever crossed paths, it should have been for an unremarkable moment. He would tip his hat. She would nod and pass on by.
Except as survivors of a Comanche attack, Matt and Sarah spend far more than a moment together. They come to know each other, depend on each other, and love each other. The vicious revenge of Sarah’s humiliated, jilted fiancé allows him to say, “I destroyed them.” Did he? Or when Matt and Sarah meet again years later, can they put their lives and their love back together?
KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS: After I finished EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD, I was determined to read whatever Ellen O’Connell published. I didn’t have to wait too long because in December that year, SING MY NAME was released. I instantly bought it, and then let it sit in my Kindle. Mainly because after reading EYES I knew I wanted to read this when I’d have recovery time, because the blurb even warned of years of separation. I knew heartache was on the horizon and if I got half as attached to these characters as Cord and Anne…well I didn’t want to have to explain to my boss why I was crying over fictional characters.
While on vacation over Christmas, I opened up the book, met Matt and Sarah, and it’s a good thing my family didn’t have plans for that day because I was knee deep in trouble in Texas, and the tide was rising fast. Goodness this is such a great story; I don’t even know where to begin. The blurb really tells the story, but it’s the deep emotion and struggles these characters go through that transforms it from a great story you enjoy, into a great story that stays in your heart.
When we first meet Sarah and Matt both are in very different circumstances, and both are looking for a lot better than the circumstances they’re in. After the Comanche attack and as they struggle to survive they both mature and in the desert find what they’ve been looking for in each other.
I won’t give away the circumstances that lead to their separation, but I will say I absolutely LOVED Sarah’s grit and determination and her steadfastness to the man she loved no matter what others said. She is a heroine worth admiring on so many levels.
And Matt is definitely a hero worthy of Sarah’s steadfast heart. If you don’t walk away half in love with this hero than you need to check for a pulse. He’s been through more than any man should before the Comanche’s attack and then things just get worse. But he is so honorable and there is such a sweetness about him you so want Sarah to hold on tight, and I think that’s why I like her so much because she does.
Like, EYES, SING MY NAME is so well balanced between the laughter and the tears it’s what makes it so real.
After escaping robbers intent on murder, Katherine Grant says, “I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Before long I’ll be dancing on the coals.” The highwaymen were the frying pan; the handsome young Apache who saved her from them was the fire; and the coals? Gaetan.
Rage against the enemies of his people has consumed Gaetan from boyhood. The only use he ever found for any white was to test the sharpness of his knife. Forced by his brother to endure Katherine’s company, Gaetan tries to deny what he sees — the white woman has a man’s temper and a lion’s courage. She has an Apache heart.
In spite of hate, distrust and fear, surviving in the rugged country of southern Arizona and northern Mexico forges a strange bond between Katherine and Gaetan. When the bond turns to love, can they admit it? Can they bear the consequences?
KIRSTEN’S THOUGHTS: Keeping right on track Ellen O’Connell’s most recent release DANCING ON COALS gives us another great pairing between a hero and heroine who shouldn’t even be in the same region let alone together, but by the end of the story you can’t imagine one without the other.
This story was a bit different in that the hero, Gaetan, doesn’t speak for a good many pages. I mean nothing folks. Until, like Katherine you don’t know whether to thank him or shoot him. But, like Katherine, you know exactly what Gaetan is feeling, which is mainly frustration at being stuck with a white woman. And it was a great way of pulling us into Katherine’s point of view, because I found myself going through her emotions of needing Gaetan, and her attraction to him, but at the same time the irritation of being treated like a nuisance and having to blindly follow.
Katherine is an interesting heroine. She’s very capable, in fact extremely capable, but smart enough to know she needs Gaetan to survive, so we don’t have any of those annoying attempted escapes that can occur in stories, only to have a heroine run blindly into a situation endangering everyone. Not to say Katherine doesn’t have troubles, but they’re believable and sympathetic. She’s also smart enough to learn about those around her, and to accept friendship when it is offered. And her internal struggles against Gaetan are hilarious as she goes between gratefulness and attraction to really wanting to slap him upside the head with the skillet. Again, Ellen O’Connell, gives us a heroine we can not only root for, but one we wished we actually knew and could sit down and visit with.
It’d take a strong man to capture Katherine’s heart, so it’s a good thing she visits the West so she could meet Gaetan. Gaetan seems to do everything possible to get rid of the unwanted white woman, even as he does everything possible to keep her safe and with him. I enjoyed his journey as love became stronger than hate in his heart. It was also sweet to watch as a man who seemed to take care of everyone else finally found a woman to take care of him.
The bond these two form connects them whether they want to be, or not, and eventually binds their hearts. I think that’s what made this story special is to watch Gaetan and Katherine’s relationship grow from needing each other to survive a desperate situation, to acknowledging their mutual respect for the other and eventually their love it was truly a realistic and captivating progression.
I have always found the history of the Apache extremely interesting and DANCING ON COALS breathed life into this time period by dropping two characters we can care about into the sad events of this history.
There are some stories you read and love and read again, but in between times you might forget certain scenes or the emotions stirred by the story and characters fade. This is not the case with any of Ellen O’Connell’s books. Just reading or hearing the title slams all those feelings right to the heart and the scenes play before me like I just read “the end.” Her characters are real to the point I hate calling them characters, but they live and breathe every time I enter their world. Really folks Ellen should have warning labels on these books “May cause spontaneous throat tightening or smiling (as you think of a certain scene) and spontaneous sighing (every time one of the heroes crosses your mid). Symptoms last years after finishing story.”
I love how Ellen takes two people from completely different worlds, who should never end up together, and the world tells them they shouldn’t be together, but they fight together and for each other and prove just how right their love is. Her heroes are rugged and real and her heroines are determined to hold onto them against all odds. And I love that with each story you can walk away feeling good about both the hero and heroine and thrilled that each got their HEA, because doggonit they sure do have to fight for it. )
I asked Ellen what inspired her to write. Please read her answer below.
Ellen O’Connell: As to what inspired me to write my romances:
A writer’s blog I follow has the following quote from Toni Morrison in its banner:
“If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Long before I read that quote, I knew the feeling. I like to read romance. There are many romances on my (now digital) keeper shelf. But the fact is I often found myself wishing for more romances in general and westerns in particular that skipped the domineering, manipulative and sexually expert hero on the great black stallion and featured a strong, quiet guy on a chestnut gelding. Eventually my longing for a book like that evolved to the point I decided to write it. I wanted my story to be realistic, not just as to setting and level of knowledge and attitudes of the time, but as to human emotions and character. I wanted a hero and heroine who got to know each other over time and who developed a strong relationship in spite of, or maybe with the help of, adversity. I wanted to be able to believe those two people suited each other so well they would love each other through children, hard times, good times and when hair turned gray and wrinkles appeared. So I wrote Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold for myself, because I wanted a story like that, and because I could see two misfits like Cord Bennett and Anne Wells Bennett coming to that kind of love.
In April of 2010 when Eyes was released, I didn’t believe there was much of an audience for a western historical romance, much less one reviewers often describe as “gritty.” Readers proved me wrong, and the success of Eyes inspired me to write Sing My Name and Dancing on Coals, stories I hope readers will find quite different from Eyes but equally believable.
This is Kirsten again: I can hardly wait to see what Ellen O’Connell has in her hat for us next! If she keeps churin’ out stories and people like those in EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD, SING MY NAME, and DANCING ON COALS y’all can bet the ranch I’ll be snatchin’ my copy right off the get go!