Most of us are pretty good at dishing out advice to our family members and friends, but we aren't very good at following our own advice. Author Leah Braemel is an exception to the rule, as after encouraging her eldest son to follow his dreams she decided to follow her sage advice and pursue her own dream of becoming a writer. Leah's first book,Private Property, was published in 2009, and she has gone on to write numerous erotic, contemporary and historical romances, many of which have met with high accolades. Leah's latest Carina Press publication, Slow Ride Home, is the first in a trilogy of Western contemporary romances called The Grady Legacy. Leah is going to tell us about the Gradys today, and we are going to dish about the appeal of sexy cowboys and Western romance.
Lea: Welcome to HEA, Leah. Thank you for joining us today.
Leah: Thanks for inviting me - I'm thrilled to be back on HEA again. I'm chuckling as I'm seeing the questions from Lea being answered by Leah. I hope your readers don't find it too confusing, but it's such a great name, isn't it?
Lea: Lol! Thankfully you have an "h" on the end of the Lea so readers should be OK. ;)
Slow Ride Home centers around Bull's Hollow Ranch, and your story reflects a good concept of a rancher's love of the land and the hard work and commitment that ranching requires. You grew up in rural Ontario, Canada. Did you live or spend time on a farm, enabling you to use firsthand knowledge to instill the passion these folks have for ranching into your narratives?
Leah: While my parents owned what was classified as a 10-acre hobby farm, we weren't farmers. But it meant I grew up in the country, surrounded by farms - a horse ranch on one side and on the other, corn and hay fields where the farmer cut the hay by old-fashioned horse-drawn combine. Most of my classmates were farmers' kids who talked about the chores they had to do before they climbed on the bus or when they got home.
Nowadays, I'm lucky enough to have friends who own farms, or who have put me in touch with real Texas ranchers who have very patiently answered my numerous questions about life on a ranch, chores, crops and cattle. (Probably providing them a good chuckle or six.) I also follow dozens of ranching blogs - though few of the ranches are as large as Bull's Hollow. The one thing that is clear in each of their conversations is their love of their land, how they may get tired of having to get up at 4 a.m., but they still find time to stop to watch the sun come up and appreciate the beauty surrounding them.
Lea: Western romances were few and far between for a while. Now there seems to be renewed enthusiasm these stories. Would you say the genre is experiencing a revival? If so, what has increased their popularity and expanded the readership base of Westerns?
Leah: I'm not sure why others are drawn to it, but for me, I like immersing myself in a world away from all the technology we are drowning in these days. Even though farmers may have GPS units on their tractors, and apps on their phones to keep notes about crops or heifers' mothering abilities, there's something romantic about the different pace of country life vs. the city rat race. Westerns remind me of how I loved being able to walk out the back door and hear cattle lowing in the distance, or the way leaves sounded like water flowing in a brook when the wind blew, or watching the rhythmic patterns as the wind swirled through the long grasses. It's very relaxing to visualize as I lie in bed late at night harried from a busy and stressful day. The other big draw for me is the ranchers themselves ... but I'm getting ahead of you here. : )
Lea: Bull's Hollow is a Texas ranch, and when readers hear "Texas" and "ranch," sexy cowboys come to mind. You gotta love a cowboy! ; ) Why is it when we think of a cowboy, we think masculine and sexy? What is it that makes them so yummy in romance, Leah?
Leah: The farmers/ranchers I've met in real life are very plainspoken, hardworking people who can bench press a Buick. (Even the women.) OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but a guy who can lift a 90-pound bale of hay in one hand without breaking a sweat? Have you seen the shoulders and forearms on these guys? Whoa, momma.
I love a hero who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, who can haul those bales and do the tough work, yet isn't worried about anyone questioning his masculinity when he cradles a sick calf or worries about the limp his horse has developed. That blend of tough and tender is very sexy. They aren't men who spend a lot of time talking, they take action. He is a quiet, honorable alpha hero who knows how to take care of his responsibilities with the minimum of drama.
And the ones I've met in real life usually have my type of twisted (read: dirty) sense of humor. And a guy who knows when to crack a joke and not take life so seriously all the time - that's sexy too.
Lea: A twisted (dirty) sense of humor does add fun and spice to the mix doesn't it? Lol
In Slow Ride Home, heroine Allie O'Keefe describes hero Ben Grady as a "quintessential cowboy." What is it about Ben that causes Allie to describe him in that context?
Leah: Since Allie grew up on ranches, around cowboys like Ben, she's seen him out in the fields, working hard alongside the other hands. Whether it's 105 degrees with 90% humidity or the wind is blowing a gale as ice pellets whip him in the face, he knows he has to "get 'er done" despite any personal discomfort, because if he doesn't do his chores the cattle or horses might suffer. A fifth-generation rancher, it takes a lot to rile him up. Ben's not one for long speeches; he prefers to do the work with a minimum of fuss. To me, and Allie, that's the mark of a quintessential cowboy.
Lea: Please tell us more about Slow Ride Home. Who are the Gradys?
Leah: The Gradys have been on Bull's Hollow since the Angus "Bull" Grady found "The Hollow" - the water hole that features in Ben and Allie's past and decided he liked and settled back in 1870. They're a hard-headed, stubborn bunch, proud of their family as well as their ranch. They're fiercely protective of both, sometimes to the detriment of others they see as encroachers.
Ben's grandfather George Grady would do anything (even if it meant hurting one of his kin) to make sure his offspring kept Bull's Hollow intact - that's what the Grady Legacy is, that they will protect their land with their lives if necessary. Which meant that Ben's father and, of course, Ben and his brother Jake were driven hard, but they were raised with an appreciation for a good day's work, and the long-term benefits it could reap not only for themselves but for their future generations.
With his father's untimely death, and the fate of the ranch dependent upon his decisions, Ben shoulders the responsibility and does what he has to to keep the family's legacy thriving.
Lea: There is significant conflict between Allie and Ben, and I don't want to give away any spoilers, but part of the angst between them involves a past ménage. I thought your use of ménage in this story was unique. Would you be willing to share why their exploration of a little sexual kink as teens has affected them so significantly as adults?
Leah: Wow, it's tough to talk about without giving away details.
In case your readers are thinking Slow Ride Home is an erotic romance, the ménage happened 15 years before, at a time when Ben and Allie were still experimenting with their sexuality and exploring the boundaries of their relationship. I don't think I'm giving much away to say that, unfortunately, it didn't end up well for them. Which is why I couldn't see either of them ever wanting to put themselves, or each other, into that sort of situation again, so there is no modern-day ménage.
Old wounds, especially ones suffered where you are at such a pivotal point in your development, can be tough to overcome. From the outside you might look like you're fine, you might be coping and able to convince others that you've gotten past the pain of betrayal and loss, but that scar is still nagging away inside, especially when you come face-to-face with that memory the way Ben and Allie do in Slow Ride Home. And that makes great fodder for internal conflict for both characters.
Lea: No spoilers in that answer! Thanks, Leah, and I think readers will be all the more intrigued! ; )
I liked Ben's friend Logan; I know he isn't a Grady, but will we be treated to his story?
Leah: You're not the only one to ask if he's going to get his own story, but at this time I don't have any plans for him, though he may make an appearance in book three,Wrangling the Past. But you never know. Maybe he'll stomp into my head some day in the future and demand I write him his Happy-Ever-After.
Lea: I hope Logan does eventually get his well-deserved HEA.
When can we look forward to the next book in The Grady Legacy becoming available? Does the book have a title and whose story will be told? (Ben's brother Jake maybe?)
Leah: The next book, No Accounting for Cowboys, will come out in May 2014. Yes, it's Jake's story. Poor Jake - I'm putting him through the wringer, adding several unexpected revelations to his burden, and not just because Ben expects him to explain how the ranch works to the family's new accountant as she sorts out the finances.
Lea: Thank you again for joining us today, Leah, it's been a pleasure to chat with you. Good luck with Slow Ride Home. It's a great read! : )
Find out more about Leah and her books at leahbraemel.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@LeahBraemel).
Lea Franczak cannot remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. She's read and enjoyed multiple genres but is especially partial to contemporary and erotic romance, dark gritty romantic suspense, paranormal romance and has recently become a New Adult junkie. Lea has been blogging and reviewing since 2008 and is active on Goodreads. Lea is also HEA's Tweeter Extraordinaire. Follow HEA on Twitter (@HEAusatoday).