Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Wild West: Women Were There Too, Guest Post by Carolyn E. Cook, Author of The Life and Times of Lilly Quinn

Please join me in welcoming Carolyn E. Cook to Let Them Read Books! Carolyn is celebrating the release of her newest historical novel, The Life and Times of Lilly Quinn! I had the pleasure of helping Carolyn design the cover, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about the women who helped shape the Wild West. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of The Life and Times of Lilly Quinn!

Fleeing hazardous circumstances in New Orleans, Lilly Quinn arrives in hardscrabble Minden Springs, a thrown-together town on the dry prairie of 1870s Kansas. She plans to continue her journey onward to San Francisco, but her chance sighting of Barnett Swan, the only lawman for miles around, gives her pause. She chooses to remain, at least for the time being. As Lilly says, “It was only the shortest of encounters, perhaps a minute, but on that much alone, I made the rash decision to retrieve my carpet bag from the stage and extend my stay in this dismal place. That marshal seemed worth investigating.” 

Little does she know that the choice will determine the entire future course of her days.

Told in the voice of feisty and independent Lilly, the story flows through decades and introduces numerous colorful characters. It’s full of life and love, heroes and villains, a page-turning saga. Lilly reveals the western myths, its sometimes brutal realities, and how the landscape captures the imaginations and hopes of those who settle there. 

Set in those legendary, rough and tumble days, The Life and Times of Lilly Quinn presents two strong-willed people who, in spite of their differences, embrace a lasting love that stands the test of time.

The Wild West: Women Were There, Too
by Carolyn E. Cook

Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Pat Garrett. The history of the West seems filled with tales of famous men and their exploits. Except for a few respectable women, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and some rather notorious ones, Belle Starr, Calamity Jane Canary, Etta Place, western stories appear to be quite lacking in females, as if women on the frontier hardly existed. 

That concept is yet another of the Wild West mythologies and, of course, is far from accurate. Women were definitely on the scene. They were homesteaders, living in isolation, raising children, and determined to survive. They resided in newly established towns, working as seamstresses, shop clerks, and laundresses. Others were bandits, “soiled doves,” and generally disreputable figures. And there were the women of color, the Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics, who also struggled and endured.

My character of Lilly Quinn is a composite of actual women who achieved a measure of success in the western man’s world. One was Julia Bulette, known in Virginia City, Nevada, as a soiled dove with a tender heart. Among her plentiful good deeds, she nursed the sick through a smallpox epidemic, continually fed the poor, and donated to charitable causes. 

Molly, Annette, Lottie. Some only used first names, but many more frontier “girls of the night” were known by the same traits of compassion and thoughtfulness, while being tough against those who deserved it.
Josephine Airey dubbed herself “Chicago Joe.” She shrewdly saved her money, became the madam in charge, and ran her own establishment in Helena, Montana. She ruled her business with an iron hand, but most in the community gave her respect, as people recognized her generosity and ever-present willingness to help any in need. 

In the 19th century, madams were often considered enterprising ladies and part of the fabric of frontier towns. As a group, they employed the largest number of females in the western territories. They supplied homes for thousands of young women who had no husbands or families to care for them and, especially if those girls were illiterate, no other means to earn an income. Many were grateful for the opportunity. Some even saved enough to relocate far away, arrived as “widows,” and found husbands.

Lilly Quinn would have fit right in with those historical women.

About the Author:

Carolyn E. Cook was born in Maryland and spent a few years in Ohio, but has resided long enough in Texas to be classified as an almost-native. Her four adult children live in distant and diverse places, so she does not lack for interesting locales to visit.

In 1st grade when Carolyn learned to put pencil to paper, she found an outlet for her imagination and began to fill notebooks with stories. This exercise continued through the years and eventually, she decided to take her love of writing and wordsmithing to a new level. With money borrowed from a friend, she invested in a creative writing class at Southern Methodist University. Novel classes followed. Carolyn also became a member of a bi-monthly writers' group, in which participants dished merciless criticism of each other's work, but balanced with encouragement to keep striving. Through this group, Carolyn's skills developed in the most essential technique of good writing: revision, revision, revision.

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  1. Thanks for this fascinating and captivating novel which interests me greatly. The era and the story are wonderful.

  2. Sounds great -- I'm a sucker for madams!

    1. They do make such good characters, don't they?

  3. Watching "Harlots" and reading about this books makes me believe that the true original feminists were our soiled sisters!

    1. I think you could make a very strong case for it!

  4. I read it, I loved it. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me keep turning those pages. I have read several Carolyn Cook novels and this is definitely one of her best. Highly recommended.


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