Let’s welcome back a sister Rose (published by The Wild Rose Press), Karen Hulene Bartell! She’s here to tell us about her recent release, Wild Rose Pass, a romantic journey into yesteryear based on a true story. Take it away, Karen!
Wild Rose Pass holds a special place in my heart largely because of its setting, Fort Davis, Texas—or Valhalla, as I call it. Like Denver, the town is a mile high, a sky island, rising steeply from the Trans-Pecos Desert. The area captivated me sixteen years ago, when my husband and I missed a turnoff and ended up driving through the rugged Davis Mountains.
Vertical basalt columns rose like thousands of giant fingers reaching for the sky. The palisades, buttes, and bluffs towered above both sides of Wild Rose Pass with a raw, majestic beauty, and I breathed a contented sigh, sensing a homecoming.
Though remote, the sparsely populated area is rich with history—another reason my Western Romance, Wild Rose Pass, appeals to me. The town takes its name from the nearby garrison, Fort Davis, which is now a National Historic Site. Prior to the Civil War, the fort, Davis Mountains, and Jeff Davis County were all named after Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis.
After the War Between the States, the infamous Buffalo soldiers—the African-American cavalry—manned the fort. Then during the Indian Wars, they protected settlers, mail coaches, and freight wagons from marauding Apaches along the San Antonio-El Paso Road and Chihuahua Trail. Even well into the twentieth century, Fort Davis dispatched soldiers to patrol the Mexican border against Pancho Villa’s raids.
But the main reason Wild Rose Pass is so dear to me is because a friend’s great-great-grandfather, José Maria Bill, was the inspiration for my hero Ben Williams. Captured as a young child and raised by Comanches, he worked as an Indian scout, guide, and packer for Fort Davis in the 1870s. During research, when I touched the handwritten quartermaster reports, I connected with him across a hundred and fifty years…and that link made writing the novel personal.
Buffalo Soldier, 9th Cavalry (Denver Public Library)
More about Wild Rose Pass:
Cadence McShane, free-spirited nonconformist, yearns to escape the rigid code, clothes, and sidesaddles of 1880s military society in Fort Davis, Texas. She finds the daring new lieutenant exhilarating, but as the daughter of the commanding officer, she is expected to keep with family tradition and marry West Point graduate James West.
Orphaned, Comanche-raised, and always the outsider looking in, Ben Williams yearns to belong. Cadence embodies everything he craves, but as a battlefield-commissioned officer with the Buffalo Soldiers instead of a West Point graduate, he is neither accepted into military society nor considered marriageable.
Can two people of different worlds, drawn together by conflicting needs, flout society and forge a life together on the frontier?
A peek between the pages:
Reining his horse between catclaw and prickly-pear cactus, Ben Williams squinted at the late summer sun’s low angle. Though still midafternoon, shadows lengthened in the mountains. He clicked his tongue, urging his mare up the incline. “Show a little enthusiasm, Althea. If we’re not in Fort Davis by sunset, we’ll be bedding down with scorpions and rattlesnakes.”
As his detachment’s horses clambered up Wild Rose Pass, the only gap through west Texas’ rugged Davis Mountains, Ben kept alert for loose rocks or hidden roots, anything that might trip his mount. A thick layer of fallen leaves created a pastiche of color shrouding the trail from view. He glanced up at the lithe cottonwood trees lining the route, their limbs dancing in the breeze. More amber and persimmon leaves loosened, fell, and settled near the Indian pictographs on their tree trunks. When he saw the red- and yellow-ochre drawings, he smiled, recalling the canyon’s name—Painted Comanche Camp.
“How far to Fort Davis, lieutenant?” called McCurry, one of his recruits.
“Three hours.” If we keep a steady pace.
Without warning, the soldier’s horse whinnied. Spooking, it reared on its hind legs, threw its rider, and galloped off.
As he sat up, the man groaned, caught his breath, and stared into the eyes of a coiled rattler, poised to strike. “What the…?”
Flicking its tongue, hissing, tail rattling, the pit viper was inches from the man’s face.
A sheen of sweat appeared above the man’s lip. “Lieutenant—”
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More about Karen:
Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life. She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories that lift the spirit. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Westerns spurred her to write (pun intended). Wanderlust inherent, Karen enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Hill Country with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.
Where to find her:
Thanks for joining me today, Karen. Best of luck with Wild Rose Pass!