What's a woman living in the rough and tumble American frontier of the 19th century to do when she finds herself suddenly without a home? How can she forgive the man she thought she loved, changed from the visionary pioneer she married, and the very person responsible for their financial downfall? HarperImpulse author Lori Connelly, my guest today, spins a tale of heartbreak, romantic redemption, and one hot cowboy in The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge.
Join me below for an interview and excerpt with HarperImpulse's debut novelist. Then scroll down for my review.
The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge: HarperImpulse Historical Romance (The Men of Fir Mountain, Book 1)
The day Evie met Benjamin Rolfe, a man with unbridled enthusiasm and grandiose plans, she knew they’d marry and live happily ever after…
Five years later, the charming rancher is now a bitter, cynical stranger with a shaky moral compass. She no longer believes in fairy tales, too many shattered dreams.
When they lose the homestead, it’s already strained to breaking point. Can their love survive this second chance?
A Few Minutes with Lori Connelly
You've just sold a novel to Harper Impulse, and contracted other works with them. Congratulations on your multiple first sales!
Thank you, I’m still amazed by it.
The first thing I notice when I visit your blog is the mood…rain and what look like blurry, snow covered mountains. The phrase "Jumping off the rock" also appears under your name. The combination strikes me as a very personal choice. What do these images and the phrase mean to you?
A fresh, new smell fills the air after it rains a while here as if the world is now clean. I love that. It reminds me that no matter what you can start again.
I’ve allowed fear of what might happen stop me far too many times. It seized me once by the river, kept me from doing something again I’d done moments before. (I wrote about it here.) Jumping off the rock means I will no longer stand frozen. I may be so scared I shake but I’ll leap anyway.
You're a lifelong resident of Oregon. City or rural? How does where you live inform or inspire your writing? What makes your home special to you?
I live not rural enough in the Willamette Valley and dream of moving out of town, having acres to roam. Oregon’s a diverse state with mountains, dense forests, tons of water and even flat, dusty desert sections. I’ve walked the old Barlow Road (part of the Oregon Trail) where wagon ruts from pioneers remained, wandered through the forest and found an old rotting cabin more than once and camped by a small, unnamed lake, listened to a chorus of frogs as night fell. My home provides fodder for my way too active imagination and inspires the settings for all my stories.
You mention how important family has been to your formation as a writer. What effect has family had specifically on the way you approach writing and how you feel about your work?
My family is my heart. Writing is my passion.
I’m blessed with a story telling, rolemaster gamemaster husband and sons who inherited both our vivid imaginations and love of a good tale. They think nothing of me asking odd questions. For example, how would you sit with a rifle if you felt scared, worried about a threat outside? In answer, my husband stood up, got out his hunting rifle and demonstrated then I wrote the opening scene in The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge.
Who do you write for? Yourself? Some imaginary reader? Editors? One specific person?
Myself. It’s a compulsion. I see endless possibilities with life and I write to answer the question, what if?
I see you started writing in earnest in 2006, which to me sounds like a pretty speedy evolution from aspiring to published author.
I’ve been writing forever it seems, always talked about being published, filled notebooks for years yet made zero progress. Self-doubt and fear, held me fast, forever it seemed then we moved to the Valley in 2006. With this fresh start I figured it was time to fish or cut bait.
How many rejections would you say you received before this first sale? If printed out, would there be enough to paper the inside of a blanket chest? A closet? A bathroom?
I’ve had eight rejections. I owe a lot of that low number to the lessons I learned as a member of an online writing community. I revised A LOT before I submitted the first time. Support from that community, family, friend and sheer stubbornness kept me trying after rejections.
Only eight? That's amazing. Personally, I could probably paper a family room with mine.
Now, the excerpt from The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge, which appears on your blog, ends with a huge challenge for the heroine, trying to see the attraction in a man who has fallen down in her eyes, metaphorically speaking. I'm guessing the hero has become an alcoholic?
Ben’s become convinced his life is a bitter failure, whiskey numbs him, is his escape. At his introduction he’s a drunk certainly, an alcoholic, perhaps, I’ll let the readers draw their own conclusions.
Where does your interest in Western historical romance come from?
My grandmother interested me in genealogy. I acquired copies of some letters written by a couple ancestors. One was standard communication between a husband and wife but it set my imagination off. I wondered what their love story was and since there is no way to find out for real, I started creating possibilities.
Think fast. You've just heard you have your first review. What's your reaction? Play ostrich and bury your head in the sand, rush to find the review online, or not want to look but find yourself helplessly sucked into reading it?
I’d not want to look but would find myself helplessly sucked into reading it.
If you could be anyone else or anywhere else in the world, something that was a complete 180 of your current life, what/who/where would it be?
A back up singer for P!nk. For lacking the slightest ability to carry a note, I’d be fired but it’d be an amazing few minutes.
Please tell readers what they have to look forward to from you after The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge.
The series, The Men of Fir Mountain, continues with a novella and I’m currently writing the third story.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Lori. And congratulations again on your debut!
Thanks again, Aileen.
An Excerpt from The Outlaw of Cedar Ridge
Her body went rigid with indignation. “I was not fine.” She spoke slow, precise, each word distinct. “You should have been home. I needed you.”
“I can’t be here to baby you, all the time.”
“I don’t expect that.” Anger as bitter cold as the snowmelt fed creek she stood beside knotted her insides. “But when you kick up a hornet’s nest, you should face the consequences.”
“Fine.” The cold, hard word shook her to the core, no trace of regret in his voice. “I’m leaving, have work to do.”
“Like you did last night? And what sort of horse training is done after dark?” Bitterness, sharp and painful, seasoned her words, crafted to provoke him.
“Don’t start in again.” His gaze locked on hers. “I have to support us.”
“There are other ways.”
“Which I tried and they earned me a tiny cabin and an almost empty barn. There’s no reward for being good doll.”
“How about honor and self respect?”
“I’d rather have the coin.”
“If you’re so pleased with this way of life why do you need to soak yourself in whiskey?”
I need a drink or two to unwind.”
“You were full as a tick when you finally came home.”
“That’s my business.”
Her jaw clenched. Evie looked down, brushed a bit of dust off her skirt. A breeze caressed her face, brought the scents of moss and recent rain. “I don’t want to argue.”
“Evie for the love of–”
“But,” Her tone unyielding, she paused, looked up, met his gaze squarely then continued. “Things have to change.”
“Like?” His voice sounded dangerous, a confrontation itself.
“No more lying, cheating and–”
“That’s the way of the world sweetheart.”
His sarcasm stung. “It’s wrong.”
“I do what I need to do and I will again,” He growled with conviction.
The day after Evie married, her brother and only living relative, Henry, had taken off in search of gold and she’d never heard from him again. Ben was all she had. It took no small measure of courage to stand firm.
“I won’t stand by and watch it anymore, you’re hurting these people.”
“Well you don’t have to.”
“You’ll stop?” Hope laced her voice.
His voice, silky smooth, disturbed her. “That’s a sudden change of heart.”
“Maybe.” Ben moved close. “I only want,” His hand reached out, played with a loose strand of her hair, “To make you happy.”
The gesture reminiscent of their early days, when simple, affectionate touches were common, made her heart ache. Evie blinked back tears. The back of his fingers left a trail of tingling nerves across her cheek. She allowed it, savored the moment then stepped back.
“I get the feeling you don’t believe that,” His voice sounded hoarse, shaded with mockery. She shook her head, unable to speak. He’d traded on her love too many times before and her trust was frail.
“Fine, you won’t have to worry about our poor neighbors any longer because we won’t be here. It’s time to move on.”
Anxiety made it hard to breathe. The thought of starting all over yet again was almost unbearable. “No.”
“I’m not moving.”
“Don’t be foolish.”
His head tilted slightly to one side, he studied her. “Do you want to see me arrested?”
“The sheriff has something on you?”
“Don’t think so, but I can feel him closing in.”
“What did you do?” Disappointment tasted like ashes.
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”
His tone set her teeth on edge, “Of course not.”
“If this is how you want to live then it’ll be without me. I want no part of it.”
“But I’m your husband,” His expression incredulous, he stared at her as if she’d grown horns.
“Yes I know.”
“Do you know what would happen if I abandoned you? Do you really want to find out how vulnerable a woman alone is?”
“I already have,” The dreadful pressure around her chest increased. She crossed her arms over her stomach, “last night.”
Silence stretched between them. For a long moment, the only sound came from a squirrel who chattered from the branches of a straggly oak tree near her. Despite the warm spring day, she shivered.
“Look, Evie I... I’m sorry about that.”
Though his words felt sincere when he stepped toward her she put one hand in front of her, palm out. “Please don’t.”
“All right,” Ben stilled. “Just hear me out. We’ll start fresh. We’ll–”
“Own land as far as the eye can see and you’ll build us a grand home. I’ve heard this before.”
“It’ll be different this time.”
Evie fought the urge to cry. “Like it was supposed to be when we lost the saw mill in Montana, the boarding house in Salmon or the little farm right outside Cedar Ridge?”
“I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
“You were passed out in the barn a few hours ago.”
“What do you want me to do?” His hands clenched at his sides and his voice sounded edgy.
“Stop drinking, deceiving, breaking the law and make amends. Remember your dreams? To ride your own range? To build a herd and good reputation. You could make that happen. We have good land. We could have a good life here if you’d just–”
“I can’t do what you want.”
“You won’t know unless you try,” her tone fierce, Evie scowled at him.
“We have to move.”
“Don’t give up, please Ben.”
“We don’t have a choice.”
“Yes we do,” Tired and cranky, Evie snapped. “I do.”
“I sold it.”
Her vision blurred. A headache pulsed to life, pounded behind her eyes. “You did what?”
About Lori Connelly
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