Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Visiting Women of the Wild American West with Liz Harris

Please welcome Choc Lit author Liz Harris as she discusses her new book, A Bargain Struck.

"After writing The Road Back, published last year, in which my heroine was a victim of her family circumstances and her time – the 1950s and 1960s – I had a high time writing a contemporary heroine, Evie Shaw, heroine of my ebook rom com, Evie Undercover. A spunky, go-getting heroine, Evie was great fun to live with.

What next, I asked myself when I’d said goodbye to Evie. The next novel had to follow The Road Back, so I was looking at a historical romance. Into my mind floated a concept I’ve always found very romantic – mail order brides. It was closely followed by a location I’ve always thought the ultimate for rugged outdoor types – The American West in the late 1880s. And A Bargain Struck was born.

I wanted another strong woman, and Ellen O’Sullivan walked into my head. Bingo, I thought.

It was time to start thinking about Ellen and the times into which she was born. I did more than just think, in fact; I went all the way to Wyoming to find out for myself first hand.

My contemporary heroine Evie’s nature was to be strong, and she lived at a time when she could give full rein to that – 21st century women were educated, could pursue almost any career, could have medical problems dealt with surgically, could control their fertility with the pill, could drive cars, and so on – they were more empowered than ever before.

Not so in Wyoming, 1887, when the West was still wild and the options for women were few; when a woman could find herself labouring from dawn to dusk doing ‘a woman’s work’.

Ellen O’Sullivan, recently widowed, with no caring family, no home or job to fall back on, reads an advert from a widower Conn Maguire, a homesteader, who needs a wife to do the woman’s chores, and to look after his eight year old daughter and bear him a son. Ellen applies, is accepted, and a train and stagecoach journey later, marries Conn.

It struck me that a girl couldn’t be much gutsier than that! When Ellen answered Conn’s ad, she’d no idea that he’d turn out to be extremely easy on the eye. She’d omitted an important fact about herself, and he, too, might have done the same. And he might be heavily mustachioed, suffer from halitosis and be badly in need of a few months on the Atkins Diet!

And she wouldn’t just be pulling up potatoes - she’d be alone with him and the daughter, and obliged nightly to fulfil her marital role. No coyness and fluttering for her at the bedroom door – having a child was part of the bargain and there was only one way of going about that in 1887.

True, she made things worse for herself by not being completely open in her initial exchange of letters with Conn; if she had, she’d never have been so paralysed by guilt for what her omission had done to those around her - a guilt that weighed more heavily on her than did her corset and petticoats, a guilt that made her unable to relax from the outset and be the kind of woman she was.

I’ve now reluctantly said goodbye to Ellen, whose life with Conn is captured in the pages of A Bargain Struck, and I’ve returned to the present century. It was fun transporting myself to a period in which a woman’s life was much more determined by her environment than happens today, but I’m so glad I live in the times that I do!" 

A Bargain StruckBlurb:

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew.

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love …

*Come back later today to read my review of this interesting book!*


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both The Road Back and A Bargain Struck. Both of them are very different historicals which focus on reality rather than the stuff of fantasy. It's what I love in an historical - characters whose mindsets are true to the age in which they love.

    I think I'll have to check out Evie Undercover now.

    Thanks for the interview, Liz. It's always nice to get a different slant on your books.

  2. Interesting interview, Liz. Like you I'm now sure the 'good old days' were that way for women in particular. Looking forward to reading A Bargain Struck very soon.
    Angela Britnell

  3. I really liked Ellen, I admired her tenacity and hard work! If ever a heroine deserved to get her man it was Ellen. I loved the way the old West sprang to life in A Bargain Struck too, I could almost feel the heat of the summer and the bitter cold of the snowy winter. A wonderful read!

    Berni x

  4. I love the thought that Connor might have been " heavily mustachioed, suffer from halitosis and be badly in need of a few months on the Atkins Diet " . Not a Liz Harris hero. Well - ,maybe the moustache - but never the halitosis. LOL.

  5. Interesting to hear how A Bargain Struck was born - I wonder how many other ideas you have floating into your head?! If they're half as good as this book, I can't wait to read them!