Shirleen Davies

The Resurgence of the Historical Western Romance: Why Readers Love Those Cowboys

Last month, Sarah A. Chrisman wrote an article for Vox Media ( in which she details her very Victorian life. If you didn’t read it, I can tell you that she and her husband, Gabriel, are very committed. They wear tailor-made reproductions of period-appropriate clothes, ride copies of antique high-wheel bicycles, and heat their home (built in 1888 in Port Townsend, WA, a Victorian Seaport town) with antique kerosene and gas heaters.
So why do they live like this? Because they were quite taken with a dynamic, fascinating, much-admired and often misunderstood time period. They choose to immerse themselves in it, studying it in the most intimate way.
I can relate to this in small ways, as I am sure a lot of us can. Nostalgia is as American as apple pie, and I’m no exception. The American west is my greatest inspiration, near and dear to my heart. I was raised in the west, and I feel lucky, invigorated, and inspired every time I look out the window in my home and see beautiful Arizona mountain ranges outside. I’m not quite ready to give up my computer and car (let alone my lovely home) to live the life of a frontier woman, but I’m one of many who is wowed and inspired by this period in American history. And my readers agree.
Americans take a lot of pride in their Western frontier ancestors, and they always have, even when it was a fairly recent past. The Western was the most popular genre of Hollywood film from the early 20th century all the way through the 1960s. Though their massive popularity dropped off in the latter half of the century, these films and the time period they represent remain major influences for popular directors like Quentin Tarantino.
What is it we find so fascinating, so compelling, about this time period? For one thing, it was a time of great hardship. The men and women of the frontier were building lives from scratch, with little social, economic, or political support. These were people of discipline, strength, and ingenuity, who when faced with a challenge, had no choice but to work hard and find a solution. Any one of us would have a hard time if we were dropped into even the most advanced and thriving metropolis of the late 19th century. On the Western frontier, people had it even harder.
They were tough, rugged people who endured lives more difficult than what most of us can imagine, and even so, we associate these people with honor, integrity, and deeply held values. These people, for whom survival itself was such a challenge, still had the emotional strength to be good to one another, to keep their word, and to cultivate virtues, not for any kind of reward or recognition, but simply because that is what was done.
These days, a lot of people feel we’ve collectively lost our way, and that we as a society, and as individuals, are suffering a crisis of morals. Our values and virtues are not nearly so clear or strong as they once were, and so we look to other times for inspiration and guidance.
That is the crux of our admiration for the people of the western frontier. Men and women of discipline, honor, and independence are so very appealing to readers, whether they live on the early western frontier or a modern city or town.
Today, virtues are not the cultural cornerstone they once were. However, we can count on our ancestors. We can count on the past to show us examples of good people, surviving and thriving, and doing so with kindness and grace.


I hope my stories provide readers with characters that exemplify these qualities. Dixie Moon, book four in the Redemption Mountain Historical Western Series, weaves a story of romance, adventure, tough choices, and honor.
Gabe Evans is a man of his word with strong convictions and steadfast loyalty. As the sheriff of Splendor, Montana, the ex-Union Colonel and oldest of four boys from an affluent family, Gabe understands the meaning of responsibility. The last thing he wants is another commitment—especially of the female variety.
Until he meets Lena Campanel…
Lena’s past is one she intends to keep buried. Overcoming a childhood of setbacks and obstacles, she and her friend, Nick, have succeeded in creating a life of financial success and devout loyalty to one another. 
When an unexpected death leaves Gabe the sole heir of a considerable estate, partnering with Nick and Lena is a lucrative decision…forcing Gabe and Lena to work together. As their desire grows, Lena refuses to let down her guard, vowing to keep her past hidden—even from a perfect man like Gabe.
But secrets never stay buried…
When revealed, Gabe realizes Lena’s secrets are deeper than he ever imagined. For a man of his character, deception and lies of omission aren’t negotiable. Will he be able to forgive the deceit? Or is the damage too great to ever repair? 
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The author of over seventeen books, Shirleen Davies writes romance—historical, contemporary, and romantic suspense. She grew up in Southern California, attended Oregon State University, and has degrees from San Diego State University and the University of Maryland. During the day she provides consulting services to small and mid-sized businesses. But her real passion is writing emotionally charged stories of flawed people who find redemption through love and acceptance.  She now lives with her husband in a beautiful town in northern Arizona.
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