03 May 2009

Guest Author: Diane Whiteside

This week we're welcoming Kensington author Diane Whiteside as she celebrates the paperback release of THE SOUTHERN DEVIL, one of her delicious "Devil" series. She's going to tell us why she decided to set this action-packed love story in the beautiful state of Colorado. But first, the blurb:

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Even a perfect gentleman has a little devil in him.

Once a starving Confederate war veteran, Morgan Evans is now a wealthy man respected for both his business acumen and his chivalrous Southern manners. He would be the perfect catch for any woman, but only one holds his constant attention. Jessamyn Tyler Evans has been his obsession since the time she derailed one of his spy missions by holding him hostage in her bed for days. Her innocent explorations awakened a fierce hunger inside the young Morgan, and the passion and intimacy they shared frightened them both. Jessamyn spurned Morgan for his cousin, and Morgan vowed that someday he would drive her as wild with desire as she had driven him. Now Jessamyn has returned. The payback has begun...

Jessamyn has an obsession of her own: hunting for a legendary family treasure in the hills of Colorado. To do so, the spirited widow needs a husband, and Morgan Evans is only too happy to join her masquerade…for a price: she must submit to being his, body and soul, surrendering herself to whatever he demands. It's a devil's bargain to be sure. Their union is as treacherous as it is passionate--and the only thing they can trust. Searching for a treasure that may not exist--a treasure others would kill for--two lovers are moving deeper into unmarked territory, where no threat is more perilous than everything they feel...
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Okay, I admit it: I am a huge fan of Louis L'Amour and the Sackett novels. I love his stories set in Colorado's high country and I've always enjoyed my visits there. When Morgan and Jessamyn, my hero and heroine, needed to be chased by dangerous men during a wild race for hidden treasure, I immediately wanted to set THE SOUTHERN DEVIL amid these spectacular vistas.


But why should I write about Colorado and not someplace else? In the summer of 1872, Colorado's mountains were still wild places where the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was barely beginning to make its mark, farmers enjoyed knowing where the closest cavalry post was, and the prospectors had barely started to flood its backcountry.

After all, Colorado is blessed with the Sangre de Cristo range, named for the Blood of Christ thanks to the deep red of its rock. The Spaniards who first mapped it came north from Santa Fe and also found the great Sangre de Cristo Pass through it. That pass later became critical to the mountain men and their fur trade as a rendezvous point, all of them using trails known for millennia to the Native American tribes.

Farther west lies the flat--comparatively speaking--San Luis Valley. In 1872, the upper Rio Grande ran fast and wild there--two hundred fifty wide and more than ten feet deep, even in a dry year. It regularly killed men and animals trying to cross it.

Beyond that rises the spectacular San Juan Mountains, with their abundance of peaks over 14,000 feet. Rosalind and Morgan had been preceded by a few gold miners but Telluride, today's urban center of 2200 souls, wasn't founded until 1878. In 1872, this was true wilderness, full of forests and predators rarely seen today such as lynx.


But even at their gentlest, the San Juan Mountains must be treated with respect. Many of the routes are above the timberline, where people can only truly exert themselves for a limited amount of time every day before they have to make camp and rest for the next day's travel.

Figuring out how my characters traveled here in 1872 was lots of fun. My brain spun when I started calculating how to bivouac horses and mules, build a tent at altitude, make a bed suitable for some romance, provide food... All I can say is thank God for Civil War re-enactors!

Wonderful, just wonderful. A wild, rough-edged place and the perfect challenge for Jessamyn, my Southern belle heroine who insists on riding sidesaddle everywhere, just as Morgan, ex-Civil War guerrilla and infuriating Southern Devil, is to her.

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This sounds like my kind of adventure! Would you like a copy? Just tell me what you think of stories with high adventure content. Do you dig the Romancing the Stone feel? Or would you prefer your history a little more mannerly? Leave a comment and I'll randomly draw a winner next Sunday. Good luck!

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