THE ROMANTIC ALLURE OF THE COWBOY
How romance authors work to bring these sexy western heroes to life
A rugged unknown cowboy holding a piece of wood and surrounded by trees | Alexandria Baldridge
How do I know this, you ask?
Well, visit any romance book blog, book retailer, or publisher website and you’ll find a plethora of cowboy romances from which to choose. All of them written by new and seasoned authors alike. In fact, from January to December, these cowboy romances grace the shelves like clockwork, giving western romance readers plenty of amazing new cowboy reads from which to choose.
But what is it about these marvelous men that continues to pull romance readers in each and every month? And why doesn’t that same allure hold true for film audiences?
Perhaps, the answer lies within the cowboy code, and how well romance authors utilize its guiding principles and emotional entanglements in their books.
“Despite all that has been said of him, the old-time cowboy is the most misunderstood man on earth.”
Over the past few weeks, Okie Dreams has spoken with several contemporary western romance authors to get their opinion on all things cowboys, and we’ll be sharing these interviews throughout the next few months in an ongoing special feature that is, of course, all about cowboys.
Check out below what these five fabulous authors had to say about the cowboy code and how they approach incorporating it into their romance novels to create the cowboy heroes we adore and love. Then keep scrolling for more information about the authors as well as a great video we found on A Day in the Life of a Modern Cowboy!
Exciting times are abound at Okie Dreams, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have you join us on this new cowboy-themed journey!
— Deanna Lynn
From History of the American Cowboy as presented at the Kansas City Public Library on October 5 2017:
“…the Texan cowboy is a big-hearted, hardworking, generous, and brave man, accustomed to hard times, and capable of great physical endurance. Considering their dangerous life and their provocations, there is not another class of citizens in the West more orderly and… more respectable or better behaved than the cowboy.”
John Watts Murray, Crosby County News, quoted in “The State Press,” Dallas Morning News, 28 October 1887.
Source: Brian | pixabay
ALL ABOUT COWBOYS
We often hear about “the cowboy code,” what do you think it is and how do you think it pertains to romance heroes today?
Maisey: I think for me, when I think of a cowboy, he’s always a good man. He might be a bad boy, but at the end of the day he has a good and decent core. He’s a hard worker, he takes care of the land, takes care of his family, and probably even holds the door open for you.
Catherine: The honorability of the cowboy code makes for an appealing hero, whatever the time period. Who wouldn’t be drawn to a strong, hard working man you can trust? The Stetson and boots are a yummy bonus!
Lori: Cowboys do have a code. I’ve grown up around them. They open the car door for their ladies, are loyal to a fault, and protect the ones they love. They believe in hard work and hard play and they don’t suffer fools lightly. Cowboys make wonderful romantic heroes. They are alpha males without the ego and posturing.
Jennifer: Cowboys are work hard, play hard kind of guys. They get the job done. And family is everything. They are men of integrity. Loyalty and respect mean something to them. A handshake is a bond and a promise. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a guy like that? A man who is real and true and dedicated to taking care of the land, animals, and others. A man who is strong and confident and kind.
That’s the kind of man we all want in our lives. That’s a romance hero.
Joanne: Remember the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when we learn that “pirate code” is fairly flexible and doesn’t even necessarily apply if you aren’t a pirate? I think it’s safe to say that the cowboy code is quite the opposite! I tend to think of cowboy code as being hard and fast rules—a clear cut measure of what makes an honorable man. It means working hard, being fair, being mindful of those weaker than you, and being the kind of “stand-up” guy who will work for what he believes in. There is a perennial appeal to this kind of hero because these are qualities we hope for in our mate and in ourselves. The ideals are noble.
What part of that code do you think appeals to romance readers and why do you think it resonates the way it does?
Maisey: I think cowboys are a great way to have your cake and eat it too. They’re rough around the edges, but they’re also solid and dependable.
Lori: Cowboys are independent and define life on their own terms, but they are also loyal and that means in love. They are kind to animals, old people and children. Who wouldn’t fall for them?
Catherine: The cowboy code is – at its core – about strength and integrity. Whatever life throws at us, the cowboy can be counted on.
Jennifer: I think it’s the combination of strength, loyalty, and heart that resonates the most with readers. They want the hero to be strong enough to take on any challenge, stand by the woman he loves, and support her without taking control. Readers respond to a man who has that kind of take control attitude but understands that the woman in his life doesn’t need to always be saved. There’s respect and admiration for her.
Joanne: Maybe the most compelling element of the code for readers today is that a cowboy says what he means and keeps his word. In an era where we are bombarded with tricky clickbait, and the evening news is fact-checked and cross-checked by an even later evening news, there is something incredibly appealing about a hero we can trust to stand behind his word.
How do you think this code of ethics helps you in creating the emotional entanglements the heroes in your stories face?
Catherine: Ahhh…. Great question! The first thing that comes to mind is a surprise pregnancy story. The hero’s code of ethics compels him to be a part of his child’s life and be there for the heroine.
Maisey: I think that true blue core combined with pure hardheadedness creates a lot of great conflict. For example, in One Night Charmer when the heroine Sierra ended up pregnant after a one-night stand with the hero, he absolutely insists on marriage. In my [June 2018] release Untamed Cowboy, that core of honor means that when the hero, Bennett, finds out he has a teenage son he never knew about, he drops everything to make a place in his life for the boy, even when his son doesn’t think he wants anything to do with him.
Lori: They put the needs of others first, but they won’t violate their own values and beliefs. This can cause a lot of conflict with other people who don’t believe the way they do.
Joanne: The code means doing the right thing—and there are so many times in life when that’s not easy to do! So the code is a ready guide to tripping up a hero. It makes it easy to test him when you know he has no choice but to tell the truth, or to help someone in distress.
Jennifer: I write strong women who are usually in the worst possible moment in their life. They may be down, but they’re not out. They will rise again. And the hero that comes into their life recognizes that strength, because he possess it himself. He might help the heroine, but he knows she can stand on her own and allows her to when she’s ready.
Readers fall for the hero because they see these real qualities that are genuine and part of their DNA and their upbringing. It’s their way of life.
These are guys who tell it like it is. When they love, they love hard and deep. Women can’t help but fall for them. Readers love to devour stories about them.
Have you ever intentionally written a hero that went against “the cowboy code” and if so, why did you choose to take that route and what kind of impact did it have on your hero’s emotional journey?
Joanne: Hmm… this is an interesting question! I haven’t had a cowboy hero directly challenge the code, but in my Cheyenne McNeill stories, I have their father make a choice that defies it with an estrangement from his own father (my heroes’ grandfather). This puts my heroes in a tough position within the family. Do they honor their father by sticking by his side? Or honor their grandfather by mending that split?
Maisey: I think I’ve written a lot of heroes who have that part of themselves buried deep. For example, Gage in Last Chance Rebel left his family behind after he caused a terrible accident that injured the heroine, Rebecca. He’s a loner, and he seems to have forgotten those who needed him most. But in reality he’s been making payments secretly to Rebecca for years (even she didn’t know where the money came from) and his journey is really toward figuring out he can still be a good man, even if he’s made mistakes. In Brokedown Cowboy, my hero Connor’s cowboy core is broken, buried in grief. So I’d say the more they appear like they don’t have that cowboy code, the more the book is about a journey back to themselves, their true selves.
Lori: Not that I can recall.
Jennifer: I did write one cowboy who had a truly wild side in Her Lucky Cowboy. Dane never turned down a buckle bunny on the rodeo circuit. But when he meets the right woman, he does everything he can to show her he can be the man she needs, that he wants roots and wings, and that with his love comes the loyalty and devotion she deserves.
Catherine: Nope. I believe a hero has to have a core honorability. Of course he has flaws, sometimes big ones, and he makes mistakes. But he’s a man of integrity. That’s what makes him a hero.
What do you think is the major appeal of the cowboy romance hero?
Joanne: I think it’s two fold—the innate sense of honor a man embraces by calling himself a cowboy, and also the appeal of the American West. Because knights have a noble sense of honor too. And many think of police/military/fire and rescue heroes in this category too. But the cowboy hero also brings the appeal of the West, which gives him a lot of other unique characteristics. He can be a team player, but he can also be a loner. He is honorable, but there is a hint of a rebel in there too.
Catherine: Cowboys are timeless!
Maisey: They’re rugged and hardworking. Alpha, in a very caregiving sense of the word, even if they often express it in a possessive manner. They don’t always say the right words, but their actions show their hearts, and that’s what counts. I think hardworking, self-sufficient, sexy men never go out of style.
Lori: They represent gentlemanly ways and many people yearn for a softer, kinder time in the current environment of upheaval and turmoil.
Jennifer: Aside from the sex appeal of a gorgeous, well-built man in jeans and boots, the fact that these tough guys have hearts of gold.
If you could choose one trait that defines a cowboy romance hero in your mind, what would it be and why?
Jennifer: Dependable. They are there when you need them, whether you’re family, a friend, a lover, or even a stranger in need.
Joanne: He won’t back down from what’s right. For me, that quality of quiet fierceness, a determination to defend what’s important to him, is what makes a great cowboy hero.
Maisey: For me it’s that man who stands apart from the rest of the world. His ranch is his domain. He’s most at home on the back of a horse.
Who is your ultimate cowboy hero and why do you love him?
Lori: Shane. He is so honorable.
Maisey: That’s hard! I’m going to pick one of my heroes, though which one is my favorite changes constantly. I have to go with Luke Hollister from Smooth-Talking Cowboy.
Jennifer: Just like I can’t pick one of the cowboys I’ve written as a favorite because I love them all, I can’t pick one from all the western romances I’ve read. They are all so swoon worthy. I say to some of my favorite romance authors – Lori Wilde, Sara Richardson, and Maisey Yates to name a few – keep them coming!
Catherine: I’m a sucker for a John Wayne movie. He had such a talent for portraying a rugged cowboy, while giving just the right amount of tenderness when needed.
Joanne: Lately, I’m in love with Colin Cade from Tanya Michaels Her Cowboy Hero in the Colorado Cades series. She writes such an amazing romance, and Colin embodies that strong sense of honor we love in a cowboy. He’s gone through devastating loss and he wants to wall himself off from everything, but a cowboy can’t say no to a widow and her young son when he can be of help. A powerful story of how two people overcome obstacles to fall in love.
Do you have a favorite cowboy book or cowboy quote to share? (We’ll take cowboy-themed recipes, too!)
Lori: “Don’t squat with your spurs on.” Hehe.
Catherine: “Courage is being scared to death … and saddling up anyway.” -John Wayne
Joanne: A lot of my favorite western movies feature gunslingers more than cowboys, but things like The Outlaw Josey Wales and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are so very quotable. Josey Wales saying, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy,” is a good example of a simple truth, succinctly expressed, and that’s a very “cowboy” approach to conversation!
Maisey: My favorite cowboy books are Cowboy SEAL Redemption by Nicole Helm, about a wounded veteran turned cowboy whose fiancée cheated while he was deployed and ended up with his brother. He ends up faking an engagement to a VERY unsuitable woman when his family comes to visit him at his ranch, and it’s SO wonderful. (Jack is such a great cowboy hero!)
And another favorite is the upcoming A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews. It’s a fantastic marriage of convenience story set in the fictional town of Cold Water, Colorado. The hero decides to marry his neighbor (who has been in love with him forever) to give his teenage daughter a mother.
Jennifer: A few of my recent reads…
- A.J. Pine – Second Chance Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch)
- Lori Wilde – Million Dollar Cowboy (Cupid, Texas)
- Sara Richardson – Hometown Cowboy (Rocky Mountain Riders)
* * *
Thank you so much for taking part in
this special cowboy interview series, ladies!
Want more cowboys and author interviews?
Well, you’re in luck! Over the next few months, we will be sharing even more author interviews and guest posts with you. All About Cowboys, in particular, will be a special feature at Okie Dreams throughout the rest of this year. So be sure to check back often as we’ll have new content up regularly. And if you aren’t following us on social media just yet, you might want to start. We’ll be posting and chatting about cowboys (and other book and romance related things) a lot in the coming months.
You can find Deanna Lynn and Okie Dreams posting on the following accounts:
A Day in the Life of a Modern Cowboy
More About Today’s Fabulous Contributing Authors
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.
In 2009, at the age of twenty-three Maisey sold her first book. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of sexy alpha males and happily ever afters, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Maisey divides her writing time between dark, passionate category romances set just about everywhere on earth and light sexy contemporary romances set practically in her back yard. She believes that she clearly has the best job in the world.
Maisey’s Upcoming Release
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Lori Wilde has sold seventy-eight works of fiction to four major New York Publishing houses.
Her first NYT bestseller, the third book in her Twilight, Texas series, The First Love Cookie Club has been optioned for a television movie. The town of Granbury, Texas, upon which her fictional town of Twilight, Texas is loosely based, honors Lori with an annual Twilight, Texas weekend each Christmas.
A popular writing instructor, Lori is a two time RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She’s won the Colorado Award of Excellence, the Wisconsin Write Touch Award, The Golden Quill, the Lories, and The More than Magic.
Lori’s Latest Release
USA TODAY bestselling author Catherine Mann has books in print in more than 20 countries with Harlequin Desire, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, HQN and other imprints. A six-time RITA finalist, she has won both a RITA and Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. Mother of four, Catherine lives in South Carolina where she enjoys kayaking, hiking with her dog and volunteering in animal rescue.
Catherine’s Latest Release
Four-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn’t like. The author of over seventy books enjoys writing a wide range of stories, most recently focusing on sexy contemporaries and small town family sagas. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance fits her life outlook perfectly–love is worth fighting for. A frequent speaker at regional and national writing conferences she enjoys giving back to the writing community that nurtured and inspired her early career. She has a Masters degree in Literature from the University of Louisville but credits her fiction writing skills to her intensive study with friend and fellow author Catherine Mann. When she’s not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.
Joanne’s Upcoming Release
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted and McBrides Series, Jennifer Ryan writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances.
Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home, and how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
Jennifer’s Latest Release