The Non-Traditional Historical Western

The Heart You OwnOr, How Did that Scottish Lord Get in My Western?

by Diane Jewkes, the author of The Heart You Own (Crimson Romance, June 2012)

When I started writing The Heart You Own, I knew my heroine, Kara Jonston, would be the daughter of a rancher, but my hero, he was a bit of a mystery. I set out to write a traditional story…you know, strong woman, steely-eyed cowboy/lawman/ gunslinger, but it just didn’t feel right with me. While I love Western movies and TV shows, I knew I wanted something different.

One of my favorite movies growing up was Chisum (1970). The John Wayne classic told the story of the Lincoln County, New Mexico range wars. A main player in the history of this conflict was John Tunstall, a young entrepreneur who moved to Lincoln, New Mexico, from England via Canada. Now, the movie has many errors about Mr. Tunstall, but what sparked my curiosity was how an Englishman ended up in the wilds of the New Mexico Territory to begin with.

I was reading a book about saloons for a scene in the book when I saw an entry about remittance men. These were the sons of the European rich (usually) who were sent as far away from home as their families could afford, and then sent a check on a regular basis to keep them away. This tended to happen when that son did something so embarrassing or illegal that the family couldn’t cover it up.

Well, reading that sparked my interest, and I continued looking into the European/Western connection and found that foreign investment in the West was not unusual. This brought me back to John Tunstall. I thought, Why not make the hero an Englishman? Someone so different from Kara’s sphere that conflict would be natural, and why not make him an investor in her father’s ranch…more conflict! I wanted to explore how someone from such a different world might view the American West.

Many years ago my husband and I went to his great-uncle’s ranch near White Oaks, New Mexico and spent several days visiting. To this day I regret I didn’t have a tape recorder with me. His memories and stories were unparalleled and fueled my interest in that part of the state. He fought in WWI and grew up ranching in the very place and time as my book.

His mother emigrated from Scotland to New Mexico with her husband and children in the 1800’s. She is one of the many real people populating The Heart You Own. By all accounts she was a tough, no-nonsense woman, and she makes a statement to the hero and his friend that her son swore she said. Listening to his stories of New Mexico at the turn of the century sent me researching again, and I found that a lot of Scots moved to the area for mining and ranching.

Having one of the Scottish ranchers reach out to a fellow countryman about an investment opportunity made sense. Hawke became a Scotsman. Besides, who doesn’t love a big, lusty Scotsman?

9 thoughts on “The Non-Traditional Historical Western

  1. Sharon Clare

    Can’t imagine who wouldn’t love a big, lusty Scotsman! I love your idea of a badboy exiled from his family and homeland. Isn’t it wonderful to incorporate real life inspirations into your books. Sounds like a fabulous story, Diane!

    1. Diane Jewkes

      Thanks Sharon. The story of the remittance men was interesting, and I did incorporate one or two of them into the story. It’s sad to think that parents paid their children to stay away.

  2. Heather

    Oh wow, I love this concept. As you mentioned this, I do remember studing remittance men in history class. They were also sent on the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

  3. Carol

    Diane, I’ve never heard about remittance men before, maybe because I live in Canada. Sounds like something to think about for another novel someday. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for The Heart You Own!