Happy Book Birthday to Julia Donner’s DROVER’S LANE, released June 22! I was lucky enough to get to read it early. I enjoy her historical Western romances as much as I enjoy her Regency romances.
I invited her to my blog to tell you a little about the book, her third in the Westward Bound series. Some of the history interested me, so I asked her about that, too.
1. In each book in this series, a woman goes west to start a new life. What prompted Lillian Flowers to settle in Drover’s Lane?
Pioneers left their homes for many reasons. In Lillian’s case, it wasn’t for adventure but for a complete change in her life. She’d been pushed into marriage by her father to an unfeeling man whose behaviors and personality revolted her profoundly. All she felt when her husband died was relief. A conversation overheard at his funeral about a cattle town in what was described as the middle of nowhere spurred her yearning for freedom and a way to put distance between herself and her late husband’s family. With her portion of her husband’s inheritance, she heads west. (In the past, widows couldn’t receive a spouse’s property unless he had no living relatives. There were state-by-state decisions as to how much a widow could inherit.)
2. How did she meet and hook up with Millie to start a bakery and small restaurant?
Lillian knew her money wouldn’t last long and decided to make the little house she buys on the edge of town into a bakery and restaurant. Millie, aka Wang Mei Lí, showed up at the restaurant and sort of squatted. She’s come to the cattle town to escape a past that requires her to start a new life. Everyone in town thinks that Millie works for Lillian, but Millie is hiding the fact she’s wealthy. Everybody’s hiding something in this story.
3. What was a cattle town like when Lillian lived there?
Not much, a few stores and taverns, one church, a bank and a single, wide. dirt road. A few residences on the right side–opposite the train tracks—of town. Everything revolves around the train depot where cattle can be driven to and corralled until shipped out for sale.
4. Lillian makes a lot of townspeople angry when she gives food to hungry Indians who knock on her back door, asking for food. Why?
There was little to no sympathy for any of the Plains tribes, certainly no guilt for the theft of stealing everything they had. The Native Americans have reason for calling whites “the takers” and had to be desperate to ask for help. The drive to destroy everything about their culture went beyond rounding up children to brainwash. When it came to the Nez Perse, they either slaughtered or bred inferior horses to the Appaloosa breed.
Now getting down from the soapbox, but you asked.
5. She also helps a Negro family who stop, offering to work for food. Stanton Lamoreaux hires them to work in his hotel, but when he leaves town for a while, they’re almost lynched. Why?
Same as above. Working not to sound preachy but racism is a subtext and how Lillian, who has no understanding of racial hatred, gets into trouble. Especially in Millie’s case, who is careful not to raise the ire of the locals. Miscegenation was particularly enforced in the west when it came to Asians, especially if an Asian got involved with a Caucasian female. Western lore rarely typifies how Asians helped to “build” the West.
6. Stanton is a man who’s used to getting what he wants. Why does he decide to settle in a small town like Drover’s Lane?
Mainly because of Lillian. His fascination with her begets ideas on how to keep the town she has chosen alive and prospering. And he’s immensely rich. Plenty of cash to play with and put to good use.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about this book or series?
The answers sound a bit preachy, but this is basically a romance with a little mystery thrown in to keep the story moving forward. It took so much courage to do what these characters do in the story, as it must have been so for people to migrate to places so different from where they lived. There must have been a lot of courage and grit going around back then. It’s time to celebrate that and how our ancestors, whether they were in the right or wrong, made the USA what it is today. We can be ashamed, admiring, or proud but should always look at our past with truth.
Thanks again, Judy, for this and all the support you give to other writers!
Here’s the link to Drover’s Lane: