Sept. 11th has rolled around again and it’s a date that is hard to ignore, even on a romance blog site. In the collective memory of mankind, this date is one that is going to stick around for a while and the question, “where were you when--?” just won’t go away. But perhaps if we escape the 21st century for just a little while, we might be able to think of happier times.
I’ve been told that I was born in the wrong century and I do have a certain hankering for life back in the 1800s. I see it as a simpler way of living, a gentler, less stressful life. But was it? In the collective memory of the late 1800s, what events would be lurking? The start of the Civil War—and the peace, too. The death of Abraham Lincoln. The massacre at Little Big Horn and later the murders at Wounded Knee. It was hardly a gentle century, all told. And life was hard. We take so much for granted these days that it is difficult to envisage life without smartphones, washing machines, dishwashers and the like. But since we’re talking romance here, what about relationships in the 1800s?
Courtships, of course, generally started with the man asking permission from the lady’s father to see her. In ‘better’ families, the courtship would have to be chaperoned. Dates might be dances such as the church social or friends’ parties, sleigh or coach rides, or just a plain old visit, sitting in the parlor or out on the porch. In cities there might possibly be an outing to theatre with a few stolen kisses in the coach on the way home. All sounds rather bland but then why were one third of women pregnant at the altar in the early part of the century? That’s right—pre-marital sex is not a modern invention, we’ve just become more open about it. That statistic, by the way, dropped off as the century proceeded due to various inventions of birth control. The re-usable condom was one; it had to be washed out!
This also accounted for the drop in size of families. Early in the 1800s, families had an average of 7-8 children. This had gone down to 4-6 by the end of the century. Remember, however, that women were home-bodies, looking after the children and doing all that washing without machines, hand-stitched sewing, cooking on the stoves with fires that had to be lit, sweeping up and working the pump for the water with which to wash dishes after dinner. Later in the day they might grovel to their husbands for a few extra dollars for something they saw as necessary before he took advantage of the free sex on offer, even when she wasn’t in the mood.
So perhaps it wasn’t a gentler, less stressful life—for women, for the men who had to fight those bloody battles or slog away for their burgeoning families without benefit of a second income. Perhaps when dates like Sept.11th roll around and we look for ways to escape the traumas of the age in which we live, we should sit back and count our lucky stars and forget about ‘where we were when’ and enjoy the here and now.
When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society --and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life...
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control. Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?
The two men looked over at Jesse who was leading his own horse into the stable, anger etched in every muscle of his face. Joe nodded toward the chuck house and they followed the others in to leave Alex alone when Jesse came out.
She was starting back to the main house when Jesse grabbed her arm and turned her around. “You ever do that again,” he said in a voice she had never heard, intense in its anger, rage just below its surface, “I swear to God, Alex, I’ll...I’ll take you over my knee and give you a lickin’ once and for all.”
“How dare you!” She shook him off. “How dare you talk to me like that! How dare you! Who the hell do you think you are?”
Jesse jabbed his finger at her to emphasize he meant what he was saying. “Who do I think I am?”he snarled back. “Who do I think I am? You ever, ever take a gun off me again and point it at someone, you’ll find out who the hell I think I am. You know that coulda gone off? You know you coulda killed someone? I told you—out there yonder—I told you, you never point that thing at anyone less’n you mean bus’ness.”
“I did bloody well mean business! They were destroying that horse. Furthermore, I knew, and you knew, and they both knew, there wasn’t a shot under the hammer. You taught me that, didn’t you? So there was no chance of an accident!”
“That don’t matter none. You coulda pulled the hammer back twice. Way you was, you were nothin’ better’n a loose cannon, Alex. You ever do a thing like that again—”
“You’ll what?” She shook with her rage as tears pooled against her will. “I apologized to them both and they accepted my apologies. It’s none of your concern—”
“None of my concern! You pulled my gun! You ever do that again— Don’t you walk away when I’m talkin’ to you!”
She turned back to him after a few steps. “You’ll what? You’ll what, Jesse? What will you do? I want to hear it! Say it again. What will you do?” And she stood there in the evening darkness, facing him down, wearing him out like she’d faced down the stallion.