Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Okay, can you name this western?

When we first see Will Kane (Gary Cooper), he's getting married. He has decided to give up his gun and his tin star for life tending a store on the prairie with his Quaker wife (Grace Kelly). Significantly, he can't simply settle down in the same town he served. He must leave it. The town's previous marshal, played by Lon Chaney, Jr., has settled down in town, but his marginal status is underscored by the presence of an Indian wife.

Possibly the movie's greatest virtue is this sense of Will Kane's weakened stature. Many actors turned down the role, including Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift, before it was offered to Gary Cooper. And it's not difficult to see why these actors refused: Will Kane is not a typical Western hero. As one character tells us, he has "got soft"--which not coincidentally has happened during the past year when he was courtin' his wife. Before then, when the town was wilder, he had six deputies. They cleaned up the town and made it fit for women and kids. But now, exactly because of his closeness to civilization, the town has lost some faith in his ability to meet the challenge of Frank Miller.

Time after time, people tell him to leave town, but he can't do it. Quite accurately, he says this is the best time to make a stand: "They'll just come after us, four of them, and we'd be all alone on the prairie." He knows he can't run away. Therefore, he can't listen to his wife's pleading. She urges him to not confront his problems, and she practically throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her way.

"Don't try to be a hero," says Amy.
"I'm not trying to be a hero. If you think I like this, you're crazy," says Kane.

The face of Gary Cooper becomes the ideal vehicle for carrying this complex story. He isn't the towering monument suggested by John Wayne. He's more fallible--and thus more human. This untraditional vision of the Western achieves complexities that typically stayed beyond the reach of conventional Westerns.

Can you name this famous western movie?

American audiences have always been attracted to characters with shady pasts who have chosen to reform their ways. Equally attactive is that relationship with the woman who makes them changed their ways. This story depends upon a double act of reformation as represented by the budding relationship between Dallas and the Ringo Kid: in the climatic scene, Dallas waits while the Kid and outlaw Luke Plummer face-off in a showdown. Her entire future rests in the balance: if he doesn't return, she will no doubt return to prostitution, and if he does return, Dallas and the Kid will start their lives anew on his small ranch.

Director Ford expertly plays with our expectations in this scene: as the Ringo Kid approaches Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) and his two sidekicks, the Kid lunges forward into the dust, firing his rifle while the camera captures him at ground level--but Ford cuts away. Instead of showing us the action scene through to its conclusion, Ford takes us back to the darkened street, where Dallas waits, half out of her mind in fear of what might be happening to the Kid. This is also a technique many writers use to create tension and keep pages turning.

Significantly, if the Kid and Dallas ride off into the sunset, they're headed for the wilderness, where in the words of Doc Boone "they'll be saved from the blessings of civilization." As the movie shows us with Platt's snobbish society lady and Churchill's banker who can't be trusted, society can't be depended upon for help. It's outcasts (as represented by Dallas, the Ringo Kid, and Doc Boone) and military force (as represented by the cavalry that rides to the rescue) who save the day and provide flashes of stability and nobility.

Any John Wayne fans out there?
Name this movie!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cheryl St.John: Fred Harvey changed the West

In the 1970s, people traveling west of the Mississippi were still venturing into the wild. Loud, smoke-belching trains may have cut across rough terrains, but hard weather, rigid seats and short breaks for bad food showed the West was by no means won. Not only did entrepreneur Fred Harvey’s ingenuity bring young women to the American West, but also introduced surprisingly high-quality foods served on fine china with silver and Irish linens. French chefs were the most highly paid employees in the entire operation and probably in most of the towns where the hotels and dining halls thrived. This is a Fred Harvey dinner menu from 1888. The price for a meal was seventy-five cents.


Blue points on shell
Filets of Whitefish, Madeira sauce
Potatoes franćaise
Young capon w/ hollandaise sauce
Roast sirloin of beef au jus
Pork with applesauce
Turkey, stuffed
Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes
Boiled sweet potatoes
Elgin sugar corn
Marrowfat peas
Asparagus, cream sauce
Salmi of duck
Queen olives
Baked veal pie, English style
Charlotte of peaches, cognac sauce
Prairie chicken, currant jelly
Sugar cured ham
Pickled lamb’s tongue
Lobster salad au mayonnaise
French slaw
Apple pie, Assorted cakes
Cold custard a la chantilly
Mince pie
Bananas, Oranges, Grapes
New York ice cream
Catawba wine jelly
Edam and Roquefort cheese
Bent’s water crackers
French coffee

My character, Sophie, in The Lawman's Bride works in the Arcade Hotel and serves meals like this to travelers. I imagine most of the young girls who worked there had never seen such fare until they served it to their customers.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

M&B February release: A Scandalous Mistress by Juliet Landon

Ladies of Paradise Road
High Society Scandal and Seduction
A move to Richmond was the fresh start Lady Amelie Chester needed to escape the rumours surrounding her husband’s death. And what better place to launch her niece into the ton?
But scandal followed Amelie, and, unwittingly, she falsely confessed to an intimate relationship with Nicholas, Lord Elyot, heir to the Marquess of Sheen! Enchanted and intrigued, Nicholas was quick to take every advantage of the situation…

M&B February Release: The Wanton Bride by Mary Brendan

One scandal led to another…
Mark Hunter managed to vex her at every opportunity – and seemed to enjoy doing so! Though to prevent a family scandal Emily Beaumont must turn to him for help. Mark was more than happy to be of service to the delectable Miss Beaumont; with her quick wit and determined spirit she always made deliciously diverting company. But Mark soon discovered that Emily truly was in danger… With disgrace just a breath away, Emily ached for Mark’s strong arms to comfort her. Yet she held a secret – one that would surely prevent any gentleman from considering her as a suitable bride…
‘Accomplished talent Mary Brendan is very adept at telling both sides of a love story, which easily doubles the reader’s pleasure.’ – Romantic Times BOOKclub on A Kind and Decent Man

Buy The Wanton Bride

M&B February Release: The Marriage Agreement by Carolyn Davidson

Scams and scoundrels
Were all in a day’s work for undercover government agent Gage Morgan. Songbird Lily Devereaux was not. No soiled dove, she was a lady in need of protection. But, once vows were spoken, would he ever be able to let her go, as their marriage bargain allowed…and her troubled heart might demand?
Songs and secrets
Were Lily’s shield against the world. A desperate act had brought her to dire straits aboard a Mississippi riverboat. Now singing for her supper was the least of her problems, when gambler Gage Morgan tempted her with an unusual way out. But could she wed him and bed him without the promise of love?

Buy The Marriage Agreement

M&B February Release: Falcon's Honour by Denise Lynn

Would duty make him blind to passion?
He was sworn to deliver Lady Rhian of Gervaise to her noble family. But the more perilous their journey became, the deeper grew Sir Gareth’s desire for the cool and aloof beauty.
Dark powers wanted the lady dead. But Gareth would do whatever he could to protect the woman he was forbidden to claim as his bride!
England, 1142 Winner of the 2005 RIO Award (Reviewers International Organisation)

Buy Falcon's Honour

Saturday, February 03, 2007

M&B February Release: A Weathy Widow by Anne Herries

Dangerous to know…
Elegant, beautiful and inordinately rich, Lady Arabella Marshall is used to fending off fortune-hunters’ unwanted flattery – except now such attentions have become deadly!
Lady Arabella is quite alone in the world, so turns to the aloof and enigmatic Charles Hunter for protection. She instinctively trusts this quietly handsome gentleman.
But, for safety’s sake, Arabella cannot let her heart rule her head… The Hellfire Mysteries Three daring gentlemen who’ll brave all for the sake of the women they love!
Anne's first book in the Hellfire Mysteries -- An Improper Compainion is shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Associaiton Romance Prize 2007.

Buy A Wealthy Widow

Friday, February 02, 2007

HH February Release: The Rake's Redemption by Georgina Devon

The Rake's Redemption
As a respectable chaperon, Emma Stockton doesn't welcome the attentions of notorious rake Charles Hawthorne. He is putting her reputation in jeopardy, and for her family's sake, she cannot afford to have this happen!
But there is something about him—and his touch—that makes her shiver with pleasure, especially once a stolen passionate kiss reveals a side she doesn't know she has.… Can she make Charles change his rakish ways and become a man worthy of a lady's hand in marriage?

Read excerpt

The Rake's Redemption

HH February release: The Unknown Wife by Mary Brendan

The Unknown Wife
A single passionate night's encounter, long ago, has come back to haunt Colonel Etienne Hauke. He has a son—by a disgraced Society beauty who demands that Etienne should make an honest woman of her!
Isabel must marry her charming seducer—for the sake of her child. Although, still resenting her years of shame, she determines it will be a marriage in name only.…

Read excerpt

The Unknown Wife

HH February Release: Ashblane's Lady by Sophia James

Ashblane's Lady
Lady Madeleine Randwick was his hostage, and a way to get under her brother's skin. As a player in the murky game of borderland politics, Alexander Ullyot, Laird of Ashblane, should have had no compunction about using her for his own ends. He should ruin her as surely as he wanted to ruin her brother.
And instead…instead he found he was complimenting her. Was it the firelight in her hair, the soft, low tone of her voice or her stubborn streak of independence? Alex saw danger ahead. Was he falling for the woman who was his means of revenge…?

Read excerpt

Ashblane's Lady

HH February Release: A Scandalous Mistress by Juliet Landon

A Scandalous Mistress
A move to Richmond was the fresh start Lady Amelie Chester needed to escape the rumors surrounding her husband's death. And what better place to launch her niece into the ton?
But scandal followed Amelie and, unwittingly, she falsely confessed to an intimate relationship with Nicholas, Lord Elyot, heir to the Marquess of Sheen! Enchanted and intrigued, Nicholas was quick to take every advantage of the situation.…

Read excerpt

A Scandalous Mistress

Thursday, February 01, 2007

HH February Release: Warrior or Wife by Lyn Randal

Warrior or Wife
In the heat and dust of the Roman arena, a woman stands alone. The crowd cheers for Leda, the famed gladiatrix. Watching is the man who loved then left her--Marcus Flavius Donatus.
Leda used to be Lelia, beloved daughter of a Roman senator. Exiled from the riches of her birth, she sold herself into gladiatorial slavery. Donatus is determined to right the wrong he did her and reclaim his bride!
Now Leda faces the ultimate choice--independence and the danger of the arena, or an uncertain future with the man she once adored…

Read Excerpt

Warrior or Wife

HH February Release: The Lawman's Bride by Cheryl St John

The Lawman's Bride
Kidnapped as a child, sold to a con man, she'd fast learned how to sweet-talk her way out of trouble. Now all Sophie wanted was to be left alone to build a new life--one that was honest and decent, based on truth, not trickery.
Clay Connor was the last man she should care about. Upright and honorable, the town's marshal deserved better than a woman with a tainted past. But if only Sophie could learn to trust again, she might find this lawman would make her new life complete.…

Read an excerpt

The Lawman's Bride