Women, Whiskey, and Horse Racing
As an author of mainly historical romance, I often rely on actual people, places, and events for the inspiration for my characters. In my latest release, Lover for Ransom, the Reconstruction Era South served as the backdrop for my setting, Byrne’s End, a fictitious horse farm in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee.
Most Civil War romances center around spoiled belles and cavalier soldiers who live on vast plantations, but although cotton was king in Alabama and Georgia, in reality, Tennessee, especially Middle Tennessee, was known for sour mash whiskey, tobacco farming—and horse breeding.
Prior to the Civil War, horse breeding farms and racetracks dotted the lush landscape of rolling green hills. Almost everyone with means raised horses for either transportation, farming, or sport. In the early 19th century, Middle Tennessee (even more so than Kentucky) was the center of the horse breeding world.
Even personal disputes were often settled on the outcome of horse races and President Andrew Jackson was not immune. In 1806, he raced Truxton against Joseph Erwin’s Ploughboy and when a yet another difference of opinion ensued, so did a duel in which Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickinson, was shot and killed by Jackson.
These frontier-era Tennesseans took their horseracing seriously.
One of Andrew Jackson’s good friends was a man named James Jackson (no relation) who was one of the founding fathers of my hometown, Florence, in North Alabama. Stories of James Jackson and his prized horses of the antebellum Forks of Cypress Plantation are legendary in my area. In fact, many of the winners of the Triple Crown series can trace their lineage back to James Jackson’s prized horse, Glencoe.
In Lover for Ransom, the hero, Ransom Byrne, is a former Confederate cavalry officer who was brought home to his family’s horse farm, Byrne’s End, to convalesce during an illness at the height of the War Between the States. While recovering, Ransom spreads sickness throughout his family and his teenaged sister is rendered blind as a result.
After the war, a guilt-ridden, Ransom resolves to hire a teacher from the famed Perkins School for the Blind to tutor his sister. Once Jenny had come to terms with her handicap, he’s vows to turn his back on horse breeding, leave Byrne’s End, and go West where he won’t be faced daily with the horrors his illness visited upon his beloved family.
When Yankee teacher, Cathleen Ryan, shows up with her suffragist ideas and plainspoken ways, Ransom is forced to keep a watchful eye on the unpredictable Northerner. In doing so, he rediscovers his zest for horse breeding, for life, and even for love.
And the story wouldn’t be complete without a couple of horsey secondary characters, one of which, tries to steal the show.
Their mirth didn’t appear to reach Cathleen, who kept turning anxiously toward the barn. She worried her bottom lip, a little habit Ransom had grown to appreciate.
His fingers itched to tear down that severe chignon and release her inky locks. Her gaze flicked to his. She drew in a quick breath and then looked away.
Charles emerged with String Bean. The gangly animal looked dumbfounded, but enthusiastic to finally be wearing a saddle. With his abundance of buck teeth and two overly large mulish ears, the horse reminded Ransom of one of the Bumpas brood that lived down toward Mt. Pleasant. None of the Bumpases were known for their looks—or their smarts. Neither was String Bean. But the animal was eager to please and had never bucked a rider.
Ransom glanced at Cathleen. There was always a first time for everything. Hopefully, today would not be one of those firsts for String Bean.
“Oh heavens!” Cathleen exclaimed. “He’s beastly!”
“Now, don’t go hurtin’ his feelings,” Ransom drawled.
Jenny frowned. “I hope Andy doesn’t come riding up. I’d be mortified if he were to see me on that nag’s back.”
“Ride him down!” Ransom called to Charles.
With delight, Charles climbed into the saddle and String Bean loped toward them. Ransom forced himself not to sneer at the horse’s ugly gait. He’d been sired by one of their most sought-after trotters, but alas, String Bean had gotten none of his father’s grace or speed. Neither army had wanted the gelding so he’d remained at Byrne’s End to live out a carefree life.
A good-natured beast, String Bean seemed blissfully oblivious to his ungainly appearance. He didn’t stop until he’d reached Jenny, where he nibbled her with his horse lips as if he were reuniting with a long-lost friend.
Jenny’s grimace turned into a smile as she cradled String Bean’s knotty brown head and ran her palms over his face.
Ransom lifted Charles down from the saddle. “Miss Ryan?”
Cathleen eyed the animal and shook her head. “I couldn’t possibly.”
Ransom held out his hands. “I’ll help you.”
Her lips pursed. “No thank you. Besides, I could never ride astride.”
At that, Ransom burst into laughter so hard he sagged against String Bean’s side. “You? Not attempt something forbidden to women? I’m disappointed in you, Cathleen.”
Her eyes widened when he let slip her given name, but she judiciously said nothing as she tilted her chin down to peep at him over the rims of her spectacles. Despite his familiarity, defiance sparked in those black pools. He widened his arms, and failing at suppressing a grin, Cathleen walked toward him.
“See,” he said, putting his hands on either side of her waist. “I told you I’d have you on horseback before long.”
“Oh, just hush up and put me on that infernal thing’s back,” she admonished, though the light never left her eyes.
With ease, he lifted her off the ground, hooked a hand around one leg and tossed her onto the horse’s back. She landed with an “oomph” and an errant lock of hair escaped her bun. She didn’t bother to sweep it back. Instead, she gripped the pommel with both hands.
Ransom slid one of her feet into the stirrup before skirting the horse to find her loose foot toeing blindly for its hold. With a chuckle, he guided her foot in.
“This is indecent,” Cathleen complained, but also refused to let go to adjust her rucked up skirts.
Yards of white-eyelet-trimmed petticoat stood out in vibrant contrast to the dull black of her mourning gown. Ransom warmed at the memory of seeing her bared last night.
“Well, I can’t say as you look like a seasoned horsewoman, but you’ll manage,” he jibed. “Jenny, tell your teacher how to ride like a Byrne.”
Jenny felt her way around the horse and placed a hand on Cathleen’s thigh. “Goodness gracious, Miss Ryan, you’re tense as can be. Relax. String Bean’s not going to hurt you.”
She groped for the reins and then offered them to Cathleen. “Lean back slightly and don’t keep too tight a grip on the reins.”
“This is not for me,” Cathleen protested, trying to hold the reins and the pommel at the same time.
Ransom laughed. “You’re up there. You might as well give it a go.”
Cathleen shot him a nasty look. “How does one maintain one’s balance?”
“One uses these,” he said—and squeezed her thigh.
Ransom Byrne has been ravaged by guilt since an illness rendered his little sister blind. The former Confederate cavalry officer has resolved to make amends by hiring a Yankee tutor who’ll hopefully restore order to his sister’s life. Once that’s accomplished, he’ll be free to leave Byrne’s End.
From the moment she steps off the train in Tennessee, Cathleen Ryan makes a startling first impression. With her feminist ideas, the irrepressible Bostonian quickly outrages everyone—especially Ransom. He deems the bespectacled teacher too uptight and prim for his tastes. Appearances, however, are deceiving. She tenders decadent proposals that shock and intrigue him, and sultry nights spent submitting to his every illicit request offer them both love and redemption.
But when her steadfast convictions attract the attention of dangerous men, Cathleen risks losing her chance of becoming more than just a lover for Ransom.
Inside Scoop: This nineteenth-century tale contains mild violence, spanking, sloppy puppy kisses, more spanking, fiery suffragette speeches and an attitudinal horse named String Bean.
A Romantica® historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
Buy Lover for Ransom by Debra Glass in all ebook formats at Ellora’s Cave – http://www.ellorascave.com/lover-for-ransom.html
About Debra Glass
DEBRA GLASS is the author of over thirty-five books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, young adult romance, and folklore. She holds an MAed with emphasis in history from the University of North Alabama.
She lives in Alabama with her real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and a diabolical black cat.
Visit her website at www.DebraGlass.com