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Category: Historical Romance (Page 1 of 2)

Historical romance novels set in the American West.

Mark Twain…a hopeful romantic?

The author Mark Twain is best remembered for his satire and his scathing observations on human nature.  But there was another side to the man, Samuel Clemens…a romantic one.

At age 32, Sam returned from a successful trip abroad with a new friend, Charles Langdon, who invited Sam to an outing with his family. It was late December 1867 when Sam joined the Langdons at Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield. The reading didn’t impress Sam, but the young woman he met certainly did.

“It made the fortune of my life–not in dollar, I am not thinking in dollars; it made the real fortune of my life in that it made the happiness of my life.”

samuel clemens
Photos courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum

At first, happiness wasn’t certain. With typical spontaneity, Sam popped the question soon after the first date. Livy turned him down. Crushed, though not defeated, he penned a respectful, yet ardent, letter, the first of many in their two-year courtship. Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in which he claims to accept her refusal and addresses her as “honored sister.”

For once, at least, in the idle years that have drifted over me, I have seen the world all beautiful, & known what it was to hope. For once I have known what it was to feel my sluggish pulses stir with a living ambition. The world that was so beautiful, is dark again; the hope that shone as the sun, is gone; the brave ambition is dead. Yet I say again, it is better for me that I have loved & do love you; that with more than Eastern devotion I worship you; that I lay down all of my life that is worth the living, upon this hopeless altar where no fires of love shall descend to consume it. If you could but—

from Samuel Clemens early Letter to Olivia Langdon

He goes on to profess friendship, but he more or less begs her to open her heart and give him a chance. She does, and after two years and many more letters, finally admits to loving him, but adds that she hopes it will pass! Sam, undaunted, redoubles his efforts until his determination pays off. Triumphant, he writes to share the news in a letter to his friend.

Refused three times—warned to quit, once—accepted at last!—& beloved!— … Oh, no—there isn’t any persistence about me—certainly not. But I am so happy I want to scalp somebody.

from Samuel Clemens letter to Joseph Twichell

By all accounts, Livy adored her husband until the day of her death in 1904. This poignant recollection from Twain’s autobiography gives some insight into one of the reasons Sam loved his Livy so faithfully and passionately.

She poured out her prodigal affection in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me.

Mark Twain Autobiography

Romance & Mark Twain

Recently, I was featured on a virtual spotlight program at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Museum Director of Interpretation Rebecca Floyd spoke with me about my fascination with Mark Twain and his iconic characters, and the inspiration behind two historical novels that explore what might have happened to Tom and Huck after they grew up.

You can access a link to watch the interview here

Tom Sawyer Returns also recently advanced as a Finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs).

Next month, I’ll be sharing fun historical facts behind my new release, Lawless Hearts, the final and most exciting installment in the Steam! Romance & Rails series.

E.E. Burke

*Photos and letters courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum. Special thanks to Rebecca Floyd, Director of Interpretation, for her assistance with these articles.

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Romancing Mark Twain

 

When I first sat down to write Tom Sawyer Returns and Taming Huck Finn, I didn’t imagine I would one day be invited to share these stories in the home where Mark Twain penned his original tales.

On Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Eastern, the Mark Twain House & Museum will present a virtual Valentine’s program, Romancing Mark Twain, and they’ll be featuring my novels. Folks, I am seriously on Cloud Nine!

Through the technological wonder of Crowdcast, I’ll join Director of Interpretation Rebecca Lloyd in a LIVE online discussion about my lifetime love for America’s greatest storyteller, and what drew me to the idea of giving Tom and Huck their own love stories, as well thrilling new adventures.

Better yet…you, dear reader, can join me from the comfort of your own home. You can watch the program online, and, if you’d like, participate in the Q&A.

I can hardly wait! Hope to see you there.

Get your FREE digital tickets at the Mark Twain House & Museum’s online event page: https://bit.ly/RomancingMarkTwain

Chanticleer Reviews gives Tom Sawyer Returns 5 stars/Best Book rating

“Tom Sawyer Returns delivers a Civil War era thriller worthy of its leading characters. Highly recommended!” – Chanticleer Reviews

Full Review

Tom Sawyer Returns is the second book in The New Adventures series by author E.E. Burke.

Readers join a now grown up and far more independent Becky Thatcher as she maneuvers her complicated life in Civil War era Mississippi. Tom has long since left, and Becky is engaged to Union Captain Alfred Temple, who offers her all the safety and security she needs in such uncertain times. But does she love him? Actually love him?

Becky soon discovers that her heart may have other plans.

When an injured Tom Sawyer bursts through her door and collapses onto the kitchen floor, Becky and her father – Judge Thatcher – take him in, care for him, and find out that he may have stumbled into the house for reasons more than the simple rekindling of a lost flame. With Judge Thatcher caught up in a twisted ploy posed by the rebels, Becky must partner up with Tom in order to save her father. But with Tom’s memories nowhere to be found, and his aptitude for ending up smack dab in the middle of trouble, the two find themselves venturing down a twisting road of discovery, mystery, and uncertainty.

Set in a divided world rife with danger and history, E.E. Burke takes characters so close to the heart of Americana and gives them new life.

Fans of Mark Twain’s original work will appreciate the attention to detail and the care in which the story is crafted, paying homage to the original tales of Tom Sawyer and his wild adventures. But this continuation sees a deeper, more intimate portrait of Becky Thatcher – a girl grown into a woman, who’s come into her own confidence and whose sharp mind sees her through many perilous situations.

While the title of the book may be Tom Sawyer Returns, don’t let that fool you – Becky Thatcher is the heart of this book, the backbone, the brains.

Both her and Tom have grown significantly since their childhood days, and Burke expertly takes two kids written nearly 150 years ago and turns them into adults whose life experiences have been shaped by the Civil War; two individuals who are fiercely independent, yet whose attitudes and opinions have been molded by the world they live in. They jump off the page as not simply characters, but as fully realized people. People with complexities, fears, and failures.

Not only does Tom Sawyer Returns take the reader on an adventurous ride filled with plots and ploys, but it also provides a beautiful romance that blooms amidst the thorns of trouble.

E.E. Burke writes with a balance of delicacy and sharpness, showing the true nature of love – that it is something tangled and complicated. As the reader follows Becky and Tom, they’re never made to doubt the pair’s attraction, but to instead find comfort knowing that while their combined history may complicate their feelings for each other, love will still prevail in end. As it always does, and as it always will continue to do.

Tom Sawyer Returns comes in as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite

Tom Sawyer Returns by E.E. Burke was a wonderful reuniting of Tom and Becky Thatcher. I was hooked from the first word until the very last. There were so many things going on at once and I kept changing my mind about who was the good guy and who was bad, though I have to admit I couldn’t help but root for Tom. I love the style in which E.E. Burke told the story of a grown-up Tom and Becky. The story brought back happy hours of my youthful reading and presented a new Tom and Becky for me to enjoy in my older years. Tom Sawyer Returns is a wonderful book for young and old, male and female. This is a top-notch book that deserves lots of praise. ~ Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite

 

As we roll into a new year, I want to say “thank you!”  I think all of you deserve a 5-star rating for being the best readers in the world.

E.E. Burke

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Myths, legends and inspiration

In my novel Redbird, elements from Cherokee myths are woven into the love story, which is set during a historical event in the 1870s involving the Cherokee Nation and the Katy Railroad. Read on to find out more about these fascinating legends that inspired me.

Uk-ten-a

Jake crept next to the dark side of the locomotive. Tonight, Uk-te-na didn’t hiss or spew its dark breath. The smoking dragon crouched on metal rails with its nose pointed south, directly at the heart of the Tsa-la-gi nation, silent and still like a predator anticipating a kill.

Most cultures have legends about supernatural serpents. In Cherokee lore, they call this mythical creature Uk-te-na.  Described as a monstrous beast with horns, similar to a dragon, Uk-te-na is originally created at the behest of men to destroy their enemy. Instead, it wreaks havoc on the people of the earth. It makes sense, then, that Native Americans would liken locomotives to this fearsome beast.

This powerful imagery fit beautifully within the framework of my story about a Cherokee hero who sets out to stop a powerful railroad from devastating his homeland. His quest takes an unexpected turn when he abducts a railroad heiress who it seems might be the personification of a legendary goddess.

Wa-ya and the little bird

How did the cardinal get its beautiful coloring? In this Cherokee tale, Raccoon (gv-li) loves to tease Wolf (wa-ya). One day Wolf is chasing Raccoon so long he becomes exhausted. While he sleeps, Raccoon covers Wolf’s eyes with mud, which hardens. After Wolf awakens, he can’t get the mud off and he can’t see. He begs for help, but Raccoon just runs off.

At long last, a little bird hears Wolf and she flies over. “What’s the matter Brother Wolf? Can I help you?”

Wa-ya cries: “I can’t open my eyes, Please help me to see again!”

“I’m just a plain little brown bird. but I will help you if I can.”

“U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua (little brown bird), if you can help me to see again, I will take you to a magic rock that oozes red paint. We will paint your feathers red.”

The little bird pecks away the mud until Wolf can see. True to his word, Wa-ya takes U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua to the magic rock and uses a chewed stick as a paint brush to paint right red over the little bird’s plain, brown feathers. She becomes to-tsu-wa--the beautiful Red Bird.

Similarly, in the novel Redbird, the heroine Kate is instrumental in saving the hero, Jake (whose Cherokee name is Wa-ya). In turn, Jake’s gift to the woman he calls Redbird is a new awareness of her beauty and strength.

The Sun and her daughter

This traditional Cherokee legend contributes a core element in my love story and the hero’s journey. As a boy, Jake is enthralled by the story about the Sun’s daughter. He forms an image in his mind about what she might look like, and even sees her in a vision, which later directs his path in ways he could never have predicted. The original legend is rather long, so I’m going to paraphrase most of it.

The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west she stopped at her daughter’s house for dinner. Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. But the people of the earth smiled at her brother, the Moon. The Sun was jealous and decided to kill the people, so when she came to her daughter’s house, she sent rays down that created a great fever and many people died.

The people went for help to the Little Men (supernatural beings), who changed two people into snakes (Copperhead and Spreading-adder), but they were unsuccessful at killing the Sun. Then the Little Men created a monster, the great Uk-te-na and the Rattlesnake. They surprised the daughter of the Sun when she came outside, thinking it was her mother who was knocking.

After the Sun finds her daughter dead, she goes away and the world is plunged into darkness. Representatives of the people go to the land of the dead to retrieve the Sun’s daughter and bring her back alive, but along the way, they mistakenly let her out of a box she’s being kept in and she flies off,. A moment later, they hear the song of a red bird. The daughter of the Sun can’t return to her mother in her previous form, but she is brought back to life as the beautiful Redbird.

In my novel, Jake associates Kate with the Sun’s beautiful daughter and nicknames her Redbird. His fascination with her allows him to lower his defenses and open his mind and heart to new possibilities.

As far as Kate is concerned, Jake is the only man who accepts her on equal terms. With him, she feels beautiful and strong. She also comes to believe she is uniquely suited to help Wa-ya and his people. In the end, she is transformed, like her namesake.

Redbird, Book 2 in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails

A rich, white heiress. A Cherokee outlaw. They have nothing in common except a desire for peace…and each other.

Railroad heiress Kate Parsons has spent a lifetime trying to win her father’s respect. Her heart isn’t in the marriage he demands for her, but she is eager to help him peacefully resolve a land dispute between his railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Instead, her life–and her future–take a sharp turn when she is abducted by outlaws.

Jake Colston longs for peace, but not at the price the railroad wants his people to pay. Rather than fight a war against the smoking dragon, he devises a scheme to stop it. But a split-second decision to abduct Kate pitches his plans into chaos and creates havoc in his heart. Like the legendary goddess Redbird, his captive is brave and quick-witted, curious and compassionate. Is she the incarnation of a vision? Or does she portend the end of his dreams?

A captivating, cross-cultural love story, which unfolds during a fast-paced race through historic events. Redbird was originally released as a novella under the title Kate’s Outlaw. This new edition has been expanded into a novel with exciting new scenes and renamed after the Native American legend that inspired it. 

Read Redbird

Have you read the series yet? If not, get started on the first book, Her Bodyguard.  Right now, if you sign up as a new subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll receive a link to a free download. Sign up today!

Steam On!

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A new edition, a new book and a brand new look

My bestselling series is better than ever.

 

The Steam! Romance and Rails series was inspired by my love for Western movies and TV shows that deliver exceptional drama, passion and suspense in authentic historical settings. I’ll give a nod to Hell On Wheels as one of those inspirational shows. And you can really see the influence in these new covers for the latest edition of the series. I’ve tweaked and polished the stories, given them new covers that are closer to my original vision, and expanded the second book into a full-length novel.

The series begins with Her BodyguardAn 1870 railroad race plagued by crooked politics, angry mobs, liars, cheats and killers sets the stage for a story about betrayal, love and redemption.  A wanted man with dark secrets falls in love with the woman who hires him to protect her.  Packed with passion and suspense, it’s a thrilling ride with twists and turns right up to the end.  Buck O’Connor is one of my favorite heroes. I think this new cover fits the book and this character perfectly! Her Bodyguard is a BookBub Featured Deal on Aug. 19 and you can pick it up for 99 cents through Aug. 23. Buy it now!

Redbird was originally released as a short novella under the title, Kate’s Outlaw. I’ve expanded the storyline, added new scenes to extend it into a novel, and renamed it after the Cherokee legend that inspired it. This cross-cultural love story is set against the historical backdrop of a bitter battle between the Katy Railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Through this story, I strive to present a perspective that often gets lost in our glorification of Western expansion. Its central theme is hope–for peace, understanding, respect, and, ultimately, a sense of unity despite our differences.

At the end of Redbird, we leave Indian Territory and return to Kansas, where the Katy Railroad has a new headquarters in Parsons, and a new general manager. Henry Stevens is charismatic, courageous and ambitious. Could he also be a murderer? A clever young woman, who has more to lose than her heart, sets out to discover the truth about the fascinating man the loyal railroaders call Chief.

In A Dangerous Passion, the character of Henry Stevens was inspired by bigger-than-life stories about the real “Colonel Stevens,” the man who led the Katy Railroad to victory. I do a lot of research when planning a series. This one, in particular, follows the historical journey of the Katy Railroad as the underpinning for both settings and plot lines.

Oh, and this cover! When I first starting working on A Dangerous Passion, I pinned some “inspirational” images to my Pinterest board.

To the left is how I envisioned Henry Stevens might look. The cover model is a dead ringer, right?

No, I didn’t pay Richard Armitage to pose for the cover, but if this book ever gets made into a movie, I know who I want to play the lead role!

In Fugitive Hearts, two runaways take a wild ride through Indian Territory where outlaws and train robbers plague the new Katy Railway line.

A hotel owner confesses to accidentally killing her husband, which sets off a scandal and an investigation. When the widow sets out to find her missing foster child, what follows is a passionate, suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse between Claire and the sheriff, who is determined to uncover the truth. When he does, it will challenge his preconceived notions about justice—and love.

I’m currently writing Book Five in the series, Lawless Hearts, which will be released in early 2022. Get a sneak peek at the cover and read the blurb here.

Another word about the covers. I owe a special thanks to photographer Matthew Malkiewicz for his inspiring images of the old steam locomotives that grace my book covers. His photography really captures the mood and drama of this series. (You can see more of his amazing work at www.losttracksoftime.com.)

What other authors say about Steam! Romance and Rails

“Gripping, realistic western writing at its best! E.E. Burke is an exceptional storyteller!” ~ Rosanne Bittner, USA Today bestselling author

“I thoroughly enjoy E.E. Burke’s historical romances. Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West of old.”  ~ Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“Pure passion and romance that will steal your breath.” ~ Linda Broday, New York Times bestselling author

“E.E. Burke understands the heart of romance…and delivers it!” ~ Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author

Give me your take on this series if you’ve read it. I’d love to know which hero was your favorite.

Steam On!

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E.E. Burke: On The Journey

The New Adventures novels feature original paintings by Missouri artist Gary R. Lucy (you can find his work at https://garylucy.com)

From an early age, I’ve been afflicted with a fondness for two precocious Missouri-bred boys introduced to me by Mark Twain. As I read (and reread) Tom and Huck’s adventures, I hated to bid them farewell at a point where their stories were just taking off. I wanted to know what happened to them when they grew up. Did they find new adventures? Did they embark on the greatest adventure of all—falling in love? No one (not even the author of their stories) provided sufficient answers to my questions.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote at the end of Tom Sawyer:  Some day it may seem worthwhile to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be… The great author never did revisit his characters as adults. But I could not be satisfied until I had explored what might have been.

Mark Twain in front of the house where he grew up in Hannibal, MO

Tom Sawyer Returns picks up more than a decade after we left him as a carefree lad in a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. It made sense that Tom would eventually leave to seek adventures. History provided a desperate event that would bring him home, determined to be a hero.

This story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was the setting in Twain’s original story (a thinly veiled fictional rendering of Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent much of his boyhood).

Numerous incidents in this book are based on historic reports, one of which alludes to a shadowy conspiracy by Confederate sympathizers to seize control of Mississippi River. Put Tom in the middle of a deadly scheme, having to solve a mystery without crucial memories, and you have an exciting plot. But a love story requires more.

Becky ignites Tom’s jealousy with Alfred Temple

In Twain’s book, the character of Becky Thatcher fits the traditional stereotype of the Victorian female: beautiful, helpless,  idealized–quite frankly, boring. I wondered what a girl like that might do when faced with adversity if she were made of more than fluff? The Becky Thatcher who sprang to life on these pages surprised me with her cleverness, compassion, courage and sense of adventure. She’d shown something of her spunk in choosing Tom in the first place. Seeing her develop into a multi-faceted, independent woman, was pure delight.

You’ll meet other characters featured in Twain’s original story, such as Tom’s obsessively rule-bound half-brother Sid, Becky’s elusive cousin Jeff, a beleaguered Judge Thatcher, Tom’s secretive former girlfriend Amy Lawrence, and Alfred Temple, who has risen to great heights and is still competing with Tom for Becky’s affections. They all had bit parts in Twain’s original tale. I thoroughly enjoyed expanding on these secondary characters, delving into backstories, and exploring their relationships with Tom and Becky.

Here is a book trailer I put together as a teaser. I wonder if you can guess who the shadowy character at the end represents?

After you finish Tom Sawyer Returns, be sure to pick up Taming Huck Finn.

Where Tom’s story is an action-adventure, Huck’s story is a journey. Throw in one young orphan who idolizes his famous uncle and a spinster who is determined to civilize them, and you have a recipe for Huck’s greatest challenge.

I humbly offer these historical tales with profound gratitude to the man who inspired it. Perhaps more than any other author, Mark Twain influenced my love of the written word and my belief in the power of a well-told story.

Enjoy my New Adventures!
E.E. Burke

Of the two–Tom and Huck–do you have a favorite? Which one and why? Leave a comment and enter my raffle for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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10th Anniversary Celebration: Passion and Photography

Steam train image by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

One of the greatest challenges and pleasures in self-publishing is partnering with other artists to conceive the book cover. It’s the physical representation of your story, and so it has to be right. For the Steam! Romance and Rails series, I didn’t just want pictures of trains, I wanted images that would capture the passion and drama of a long-ago time and bring it alive.

When I came across a website featuring the photographic art of Matthew Malkiewicz, I knew I’d found perfect fit. His photography visibly defines the era and captures the mood I want to evoke. His trains are featured on eight of my books, and his iconic images are also featured in the banner of my website and on my newsletter.

Contrary to what some might say, authors can’t launch and sustain careers without great partners, such as critique buddies, editors, illustrators, and designers, photographers, to name a few.  In this post, I wanted to extend a special thanks to someone who has been a valued partner and friend on the journey, Matthew Malkiewicz.

I’ll let him tell his story in his own words:

How did you get started “shooting” trains?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

It was more an awakening than an idea, it all started at the age of 4 months. I have a photo of myself watching a toy train run around the Christmas tree as a baby, it must have hooked me well. As a kid I had a model train layout on a piece of plywood in the basement, and in my teens I received my first camera, which I aimed at every train I saw. After a long period in my life without cameras or trains a job assignment in Colorado (a train mecca) during 2005 rekindled both hobbies, driving me to buy my first digital camera. At the same time I discovered the power of Photoshop, soon after I created my website to showcase my rapidly growing collection of photographs. It’s been a snowball effect ever since.

What are some of your favorite locations or settings?

I concentrate on vintage steam locomotives from all across the United States. Now they have second lives as tourist operations, the fortunate trains that survived the scrapping after the fleet was retired in the middle of the last century. Modern day railroading, both passenger and freight revenue, are pulled by either diesel or electric engines. My passion gravitates to the machines of yesteryear, fire-breathing monsters that seem to be alive whether you have your hand against the polished steel or you are two bluffs away looking across acres of prairie grass. I envision how it must have been back in the day and try to create photographs as timeless as possible to depict what I consider a vibrantly better and sadly vanished time.

What drew you to photographing old steam engines?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

The allure of capturing images that stimulate one’s senses is what drew me to photograph steam-powered locomotives. I wanted to bring to life the smells of the coal fueling the engine, the sound of the steam hissing, and the earth rattling as these magnificent machines sit idling or are in motion. These machines of steam are alive. Each is unique, its own personality, which changes from day to day. At a state of rest the locomotive is groaning, sweating, simmering, creaking, spitting. At speed it’s controlled madness – the ground shakes, sound deafening.

What’s the coolest train you’ve ever photographed and why?

Halloween weekend 2011 at the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. Nothing, and I mean nothing; can keep me away from capturing that awe-inspiring shot of a majestic steam locomotive.  However, the Halloween nor’easter would certainly test my fortitude. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. As the morning passed on, the snow intensified. By the time the train made its way out of town for its first run of the day, we had experienced near whiteout conditions and things got real quiet. With a typical steam train, you would expect to hear wheels clacking against the rails and steam puffing from the stack. But to my surprise, the snow seemed to envelop and muffle the familiar sound of the locomotive. As the train bellowed down the snowy rails, it was visible that the pine trees struggled to support the weight of the fresh snow, and the cornfields became covered in a white blanket. The autumn-colored leaves indicated that perhaps the trees were also caught off-guard by the storm. An image from the day, aptly named “Train on a Snow Day”, placed second in the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s 2014 Awards Program.

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

Do you enjoy seeing your work interpreted on book covers? Is it how you might have imagined, or completely different?

Yes I do. We all interpret a scene differently, it’s what makes us individuals. I enjoy seeing how others, such as the graphic artist of a book cover, takes my photograph and add their own style, flair, and techniques to enhance. The final results have been beyond my expectations; very pleasantly surprised every time.

Here are some of Matthew’s images on book covers designed by the very talented Erin Dameron-Hill.

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

What dreams have been realized as a result of your photography?

Throughout life, we all seek our own way in the pursuit of happiness, to find something that’s going to set us apart from the pack, mold our life into something special, and discover the sense in it all.  We test different things to determine what will help us in our quest, push us beyond our own limits, and achieve our dreams. My galleries capture my travels and experiences across our countryside.  Some near home, others far away and remote, all uniquely memorable.  It’s a passion that has taken me to where I am in life today.  My hope is that someday my portfolio will be an inspiration to others interested in this hobby I truly love.  I’m confident that one day I will capture my most spectacular image.  Until then, each photo tells the story of lost time, remembered.

While Matthew continues to pursue his dream of capturing soul-stirring images of an era long past, I continue to pursue my dream to write stories that will transport readers to the past and connect them to the hopes and dreams of others and themselves.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share them with you, dear reader.

Enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

With fondness and gratitude,

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On the Journey with an award-winning photographer

Seven years ago, I launched my first novel in the Steam! Romance and Rails series. The covers of several books in this series, and in the subsequent Bride Train collection, feature the work of award-winning photographer Matthew Malkiewicz. His breath-taking photos of authentic steam engines captured my fancy and provided a perfect backdrop for book covers that looked as lush and evocative as the time period they represented. (In fact, the header for On The Journey features one of my favorite images!) I asked Matthew to share a memory about each of the photographs featured on my books. Come with us on the journey to visit the last of America’s steam railroads.

E.E. Burke

“Opening a window to the past”

Matthew Malkiewicz is a widely recognized photographer specializing in steam railroad history, “keeping a window to the past open for us to see.” His work has appeared in print and online. He is the recipient of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s prestigious John E. Gruber Creative Photography Award, and is a Hasselblad Masters of Photography 2016 finalist, and has been published on CNN International, The Weather Channel, DPReview and PetaPixel websites. He earned honorable mention in the 2017 Monochrome Awards in both the professional fine art and landscape categories. His entire portfolio can be viewed at his “Lost Tracks of Time” website.

Take a journey with Matthew:

Photos used in Steam! Romance and Rails series

A Dangerous Passion cover: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama, New Mexico, March 16, 2014 

A long day of plowing the line after a recent winter storm, #489 catches its breath with snow still on the front pilot. Living at sea level, this day winded me from being in the upper elevations of the Rocky Mountains. I was at the rear of the train and hustled getting into position to capture this image while daylight was quickly turning to night. The things we do for fun.

Fugitive Hearts cover: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Cumberland, Maryland, December 10, 2009

Sunrise as the train pulls into the station to pick up its passengers. I remember well capturing this image. The dramatic smoke and steam combined with gorgeous morning light spoke to me.

Photos used in American Mail-Order Bride Series

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride cover: Steam Into History, New Freedom, Pennsylvania December 8, 2013

This location is only a few hours from my house. I knew of an oncoming snowstorm and arrived extra early in the morning. My 4×4 kept me safe, and the train crew put on a great show in the falling snow. The Christmas garland, ribbons, and illuminated lanterns on the locomotive add to the festivities.

Photos used in The Bride Train novella collection

Valentine’s Rose cover: Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, Yacolt, Washington, October 13, 2014

One of the all-time favorites in my portfolio – a foggy morning in the Pacific Northwest. Two minutes earlier there were horses grazing in the field. The train scared them away. The ground fog would soon burn off, taking with it a lot of the mood and atmosphere.

Patrick’s Charm cover: Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Alamosa, Colorado, August 22, 2011

Sadly, this steam excursion railroad is no loner in operation. The locomotive sits locked up in a dark engine house. But on this summer day it was in all its glory. I don’t know why the smoke plume goes from black to gray to almost white to black and then gray again; but it draws my eye as much as the train in the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

 

Tempting Prudence cover: Cass Scenic Railroad, Cass, West Virginia, May 17, 2008

A workhorse from the days of a thriving logging industry in the West Virginia Mountains. A shay locomotive, its cylinders and drive train on one side with the boiler offset to the other for balance. A timeless reproduction on a foggy rainy day.

Seducing Susannah cover: Cass Scenic Railroad Cass, West Virginia, May 17, 2008

The same locomotive used on the Tempting Prudence cover. The three vertical steam cylinders in front of the engineer, connecting to the horizontal drive shaft are much different than a traditional steam engine with rods on both sides. One of the few times it was not raining on this day.

Born too late…

My hobby of photographing steam trains across our country has taken me well off the beaten path – without it I doubt to have ever visited any of these locations. I truly believe that life is about the journey and not the destination–the people met along the way and the stories they share, or that moment that takes you back to a better, vanished time. E.E. Burke and I have collaborated quite a bit over the years. I am thankful for her vision in selecting these images for her stories. Her choices were perfect.

Thank you, Matthew! You and I share a love for the grand old age of steam. My historical romance novels set during this period feature many characters and events straight from pages of America’s railroad history. If you are interested in reading the Steam! Romance and Rails series or The Bride Train collection, I’ve provided a handy guide for the reading order here.

You can see Matthew’s full gallery at www.losttracksoftime.com.

Steam on! 

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Take a journey with Huck Finn

“When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.” ~ Mark Twain

Embark on a new adventure with an old friend

TAMING HUCK FINN, inspired by Mark Twain’s iconic adventurer, begins in the summer of 1870 in Atchison, Kansas, which served as a bustling port along the Missouri River.

In those days, steamboats transported goods to settlements and army forts up and down the river, as well as hauling miners traveling to and from the Montana gold fields. Freedom-loving Huck Finn works as a part-time steamboat pilot when he’s not off searching for gold.

The sprawling, unpredictable Missouri River provides the perfect landscape for my story about a restless man whose goal is to stay one step ahead of civilization.

In those days, it took nerves of steel to pilot a steamboat on the wild, untamed Missouri River. A few of the things steamboat pilots encountered: elusive, ill-defined and ever-changing channels, getting stranded in low water, innumerable and often invisible snags, whirlpools, Indian attacks–to name but a few.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, close to 300 steamboats went down in the river between 1830 and 1902.  Historians estimate almost half of all the boats that plied the Missouri were lost to various accidents, with snags taking most of them to their watery grave. The “Muddy Mo” had a voracious appetite for steamboats!

Near Kansas City, a construction company dug up a steamboat from the 1850s out of a farm field (the river had long since changed course). While there were no human casualties, the boat went down with its entire load of supplies. The Steamboat Arabia exhibit at the Kansas City riverfront is filled with some of the most well preserved displays of 19th century goods you’ll find anywhere.

Far West pilothouse replica
 courtesy Dave Thomson Gallery

The type of boat Huck pilots is a “mountain boat.” These sternwheelers were smaller and lighter, equipped with spars, which were a bit like stilts to help the boat “walk” over obstacles. One of the best-known mountain boats was the Far West, piloted by Captain Grant Marsh.

A replica of the Far West pilothouse shows a pair of antelope antlers mounted in front to indicate it was a “fast boat” — Grant made a record-breaking run down the Missouri River in 1876 after he picked up the wounded from the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Packet steamboating on the Missouri River lasted from the 1820s to the 1880s, with the greatest period of activity between 1840 and 1860. The railroads contributed primarily to the demise of steamboat business by siphoning off long-haul passenger and freight business. In 1867, there were 71 steamers regularly plying the Missouri River. Three years later there were only 9. (Wild River, Wooden Boats, Michael Gillespie, Heritage Press).

Some of the landing points mentioned in Taming Huck Finn were busy ports in the 1870s: Weston, Missouri, Sioux City, Iowa, Fort Sully in the Dakota Territory, Kansas City, and eventually St. Louis, where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers converge.

His greatest adventure is about to catch up with him.

Steamboat pilot Huck Finn lives life on his own terms and steers clear of messy entanglements that might tie him down—until he takes charge of an orphaned boy that needs rescuing.

Starched and proper, Miss Hallie MacBride is determined to atone for past sins by raising her estranged sister’s son. She doesn’t expect footloose Mr. Finn to challenge her, much less up and run off with her nephew.

On a wild journey fraught with danger, a freedom-loving adventurer and an avowed spinster battle over the destiny of a young boy, who is doing his level best to convince them they belong together.

Excerpt:

June 2, 1870, Atchison, Kansas

“What you layin’ in there for, mister?”

A childish voice disturbed Huck’s sleep. He screwed his eyes tightly shut, willing his mind to return to dreams of pleasanter things than inquisitive children.

Something struck the bottom of his boot. He jerked awake, his head connecting with a crack against the inside of the hogshead barrel. “Ow! Blame it.”

Gingerly, he touched a rising lump and grimaced at the painful reminder of where he’d ended up. After celebrating into the wee hours, it appeared a convenient place to await the next packet chugging up the Missouri River. Sobriety declared it a bad idea. Only halfwits and drunks slept in discarded barrels. Not men who commanded steamboats.

Curling around, he squinted at the opening where his legs were exposed. Daylight outlined the figure of a child. Hopeful it was just a dream Huck shut his eyes. When he opened them again, the boy had bent to peer inside the barrel.

Gap-toothed smile, snub nose, merry eyes that held the promise of mischief… “Tom?” Huck rasped.

The boy giggled.

No, he couldn’t possibly be. Tom had been nearly full-grown fifteen years ago.

Huck rubbed his stinging eyes. He must’ve gotten ahold of some bad brew like the Fire Rod his old man used to swig by the jug full; that stuff made Pap see crazier things than a boy that wasn’t there.

The spitting image of Tom laughed again. “Uncle Huck?”

Uncle? Huck shook his head to clear it. By God, he’d swear off whiskey forever if it brought on these strange imaginings, and it had to be his imagination. Huck Finn weren’t nobody’s uncle.

Pick up your copy of Taming Huck Finn at the following retailers:

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love for all seasons with 99c Brides of Noelle sale

Get four bestselling romances for less than the price of a box of chocolates! 

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JOLIE by E.E. Burke

On sale for 99 cents this week only

Jolie LaFemme has been a working girl at La Maison for four long years…ever since being betrayed and left penniless, grieving and adrift. She’s jaded, distrustful and blind to the possibility of love. As far as she’s concerned, being the madam of a popular sporting house is the best she can hope for, and nothing will convince her to give up the coveted and lucrative position. 

Hank Donavan arrives in Noelle with a plan to ensure his sister’s financial security, and regain his pride. He’s a man in his prime, handsome by any measure, but an accident ruined his vision, and his future. Now, he travels with his dog, Bear, and sells beautiful handmade Valentine’s cards. His big opportunity comes when he gets a chance to invest in the town’s richest silver mine. There’s only one catch: he has to be married first. 

Who would marry a blind man with little to recommend him when there are plenty of hale and hearty men to go around?

OPHELIA by Kit Morgan

On sale for 99 cents this week only!

Clint Jones comes to Noelle for one purpose and one purpose only. Get in, assess the town and get out. Then he’d report to his superiors at Wells Fargo and Company to let them know if Noelle is respectable and prosperous enough to open a branch there. What Clint finds is anything but respectable! Toss in a violet-eyed beauty who takes his breath away, a mayor and a preacher he things are consorting with the worsts sorts of evil, and the fun begins.

NORAH by Amanda McIntyre

On sale for 99 cents this week only!

Not proud of his seedy entanglements back East, Irish immigrant Seamus Malone is determined to create a new and better life in the western frontier. Despite attempts to reach the woman that captured his heart, his letters for the last four years have gone unanswered. 

Will a plea for help from Noelle’s new matchmaker convince his estranged wife to join him in this new world, proving his love, and that he is a changed man?

Passion (and a controlling aunt) drove Norah into marriage, but when she finds her new husband dabbling in drink and dangerous liaisons, she bid him farewell, relenting to his pipe dreams of a better life, while she remained behind living in the shame of a broken marriage. When a dark truth is discovered she must now decide if the love she once felt is enough to survive a second chance?

ROBYN by Jacqui Nelson

On sale for 99 cents this week only!

Raised by three free-spirited older brothers, Robyn Llewellyn has learned to fight for what she wants—and now she wants to transform her boss and best friend, Max Peregrine, into a lifelong partner. Determined to become the image of what a marriage-minded man wants, Robyn trades her trousers for a dress and heads to Max’s hometown of Noelle, Colorado. But changing who she is with the help of the now happily married Brides of Noelle puts her friendship with Max at risk, and now he fears he may take her away from him forever.  

This year, my husband and I celebrate 32 years of marriage the day after Valentine’s Day. We intended to get married on Valentine’s Day, but it fell on a Friday that year, which wasn’t good for out of town guests, so we pushed our wedding to one day later. Now we get to celebrate for two days!

I picked Valentine’s Day as the setting for my story because for me it is the most romantic time of the year. I thought it fitting that Hank Donovan would sell Valentine’s cards and did some research into Victorian handmade cards. They were truly works of art.

Hank happens to be blind, which makes his story all the more intriguing. When he gives one of the handmade cards to a cynical madam who considers “love” a transaction, something magical begins to happen, and two people who had nearly lost hope begin to dream again.

May you find your happily ever after,

E.E. Burke

Pick up all four delightful Brides of Noelle romances for a sweet deal, only 99 cents each. Click the names below. 

Ophelia |Jolie | Norah |Robyn

Have you read any of the Noelle books? in the Twelve Days or Brides series? If so, which character would you invite to dinner and why?

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His greatest adventure is about to catch up with him

TAMING HUCK FINN by E.E. Burke

Steamboat pilot Huck Finn lives life on his own terms, steering clear of the kind of messy entanglements that would tie a man down–until he takes charge of an orphan and defies the “old maid” determined to raise him.

What follows is a wild journey filled with humor, high jinx and heart-pounding danger, as a freedom-loving adventurer and an avowed spinster battle over the destiny of a young boy who is doing his level best to convince them they belong together.

Embark on an unforgettable adventure from award-winning author E.E. Burke in a novel inspired by one of America’s most beloved characters.

Read an excerpt

Order your copy today:

Amazon | AppleB&N Nook

Other retailers

E.E. answers your questions:

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s original story and always had a soft spot for Huck. I wondered what kind of man he would grow up to be. This is the story Huck gave me when I asked him what happened to him after he “set out for the Territory.”

How did you decide what occupation Huck would have as an adult?

It didn’t seem a far stretch to imagine Huck growing up to be a steamboat pilot. He was a child of the river, and I couldn’t see him straying far. Plus, he had the intelligence and temperament to pilot steamboats, which requires a unique combination of skills, instinct, excellent reflexes, and steely nerve.

Of course, I couldn’t write a book about Huck being a steamboat pilot without referring to Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi, which is largely based on Samuel Clemens own apprenticeship as a riverboat pilot. Reading the diaries of Missouri River pilots helped me place Huck on a different river, one that I think it fits his personality.

Why put the story on the Missouri River rather than the Mississippi – the original setting?

In Taming Huck Finn, as in Twain’s original book, the river itself is a character.
The Missouri River of today is nothing like what it was at the time of Huck’s story (1870). Before being dredged and tamed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 20th century, the “Big Muddy” was sprawling and unpredictable. I have a map that shows where steamboats sank along the old path of the river, and it is littered with wrecks. Taking a steamboat on the Missouri River was a dangerous undertaking, especially into the north part of the river where it was shallower and rocky and prone to flooding. Just the kind of challenge Huck Finn would relish.

During this same time, the era of the steamboat was giving way to the steady advancement of the railroads. Huck sees himself, the old boats and even the river, as relics of a past that is quickly fading. He’s struggling to figure out how he fits into a new world rapidly catching up with him. Does he keep running? Or does he risk his freedom for the one thing that’s eluded him all these years?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

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