Louise M. Gouge here. With the upcoming closing of Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. My final LIH book, released last month (October 2017), is Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion. For those not familiar with series romance novels, you may think that’s quite a mouthful for a title, but such titles tell our readers just what to expect from our always happily-ever-after stories.
Another reason for my feeling nostalgic about this particular book is that it’s the sixth and final book in my Four Stones Ranch series set in the beautiful San Luis Valley of Colorado. Although it’s been thirty-eight years since I lived in the Valley, I always wanted to write stories set there. I’m so grateful to my editor, Shana Asaro, for buying my series. Of course with a Colorado setting, these books had to be westerns. No problem. I grew up on John Wayne and Roy Rogers movies, as well as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Maverick, and other television westerns. Some of my classmates in high school were real life cowboys and cowgirls.
So let me tell you a little bit about the San Luis Valley, a high mountain valley that sprawls across central-southern Colorado between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges.
First and most obvious is the spectacular beauty of the landscape. Presided over by queenly Mount Blanca, which reaches a majestic 14,345 feet high, the Valley has an area or 8000 square miles. According to Wikipedia, “Blanca Peak is the fourth highest peak in Colorado, and the eighth highest peak in the contiguous United States.” Travelers across this wide, flat valley never have to feel lost in the SLV as long as Blanca is in sight.
Another important landmark is the famous Rio Grande Del Norte, or as most of us know it, the Rio Grande, whose headwaters flow from the San Juan Mountains on the western side of the Valley. From there, the water takes an eastern, then southern path, winding down to New Mexico and finally Texas, where it forms a natural border between the United States and Mexico.
Another reason I love the San Luis Valley is its rich history. Before the coming of Europeans in the 1600s, Native Americans used this area for hunting but didn’t make permanent settlements due to the extremely cold weather in the winter. When my family moved to the SLV in 1960, we could still find arrow heads left by those long-ago hunters.
After the arrival of Spanish settlers, Ute tribes settled in the southwest corner of the Valley. For a time, Mexico owned what later became Colorado Territory, but the land became the property of the United States with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. People of Spanish and Mexican descent were forced from the land granted to them by the Spanish crown, and Americans began to move to the Valley….slowly. Then, after the Civil War, easterners moved to this area, lured by promises of rich farmland and mineral wealth in the form of gold and silver. Any time you have the conflicts inherent in these situations, the history is ripe for plucking as settings for exciting western adventures.
My third reason for wanting to set my stories in the San Luis Valley is my own personal connection to the place. As mentioned before, I used to live there. In June 1960, my family moved to Alamosa, the Valley’s largest town, where I later graduated from high school and attended Adams State College. Later my husband and I settled in nearby Monte Vista where our four children were born. During all of that time, I loved the history that permeated every square foot of the area. Old buildings, leftover sections of railroad tracks, early architecture, legends and lore, the bluest sky you’ll ever see any place in the United States, even the below-zero-degree winter weather, all call out to me to tell their stories.
Although I wasn’t actively writing back while I lived there, my imagination was already creating exciting adventures. Among my twenty-five published novels, fifteen of which are Love Inspired Historicals, my six western novels set in my old, cold, much-loved home state of Colorado rank among my favorites. I hope my readers feel the same way.
If you love Christmas stories, take a look at Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion. Here’s the story:
Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children. The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love.
Above ad copy: Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises. ® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.