Thursday, June 25, 2015
Guest Author E.E. Burke on Romance, Rails & Riots!
Not many of you know that I began my law career as a railroad lawyer. So trust me when I say that I am very excited about my guest today, E.E. Burke, author of award-winning Western romances that weave in history the way it really happened in the American West.
She is sharing with us some of her research from her series titles Steam! Romance and Rails of which Her Bodyguard is a part (reviewed by me two days ago). It’s a great series, one I know you’ll enjoy!
One lucky commenter will receive Her Bodyguard, so be sure we can reach you or leave an email.
Romance, Rails and Riots by E. E. Burke
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the United States entered a time of explosive growth and expansion that has been unmatched since. The country had just emerged from a devastating war and its people needed to have faith in something. That something turned out to be what railroads represented: opportunity and hope for the future.
The hotly contested construction race between the Missouri, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company (nicknamed The Border Tier) and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (more commonly known as The Katy) encapsulates the spirit of these times and the challenges. This race turned out to be the perfect setting for the first two books in my railroad romance series.
Her Bodyguard follows the history of the Border Tier and tells the story of an unlikely romance that develops between two people caught up in the cutthroat railroad race and a violent settlers’ revolt.
“If the railroad can be put through next season, we can sell lots enough to make such sinners as we are rich as sinners ought to be.” Samuel Pomeroy, Kansas Senator
With the Cherokee Treaty of 1866, President Grant establishes a large tract of land in southern Kansas for settlement. Using political pressure, the railroads got the land cheap, less than $1 an acre.
That same month, the President signs the Land Grant bill into law, giving first railroad to reach Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma) exclusive rights to build through the sovereign nations.
The race between three contenders quickly becomes a neck-to-neck competition between the two most powerful railroads: the Southern branch of the Union Pacific started by Judge Levi Parsons and the line owned by then-president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, James Joy. Both men are Eastern investors who get into the railroad business for the easy money. It turns out to be not so easy.
Since the end of the Civil War, settlers have been “squatting” on what is now railroad land. They claim Congress promised it to them and refuse to pay the railroad’s asking price.
“Hang the RR man as high as Haman, without benefit of clergy” Crawford County Settlers’ Land League
Meanwhile, settlers in Southeastern Kansas organize into armed militias (Land Leagues) to violently oppose the railroad. Leaguers attack railroad agents, burn out rail crews, steal supplies, tents, articles and camp equipment. Federal troops are sent in to keep the peace. The settlers, predominantly Union veterans, face off with the government they’d fought for just a few years earlier.
Despite problems with angry settlers, all bets are on the Border Tier to win the race. The railroad is laying two miles of track a day, has a head start on the Katy, and more money.
“Give me the iron and the big stuff and I’ll put your railroad down if I have to lay it flat on the prairie.” John Scullin to Katy brass
In January 1870, the stockholders of the Katy Railroad meet in Emporia. Parsons has hired a new general manager who will win the race for him. While the Border Tier builds a railroad that will last, the Katy’s workers lay iron “flat on the prairie” and adjust routes to minimize bridges and curves. They focus on speed, rather than quality.
Rumor has it Parsons’ men are stirring up the settlers and encouraging them to riot. The Border Tier strikes back and is accused of vandalism and banditry. Both lines engage in bidding wars for workers.
“One must be prepared to pay for the victory, or not play at all” James Joy
In May, the Border Tier line reaches Baxter Springs near the Indian Territory border, still ahead of the Katy, and holds a blowout celebration party—a little prematurely.
Sneaky competitors hire “fake” Indians to direct Octave Chanute to wrong border crossing, a pile of stones that mark an 1837 survey, which is few miles away from the official 1854 border. While the Border Tier celebrates, the Katy lays track to the correct borderline.
The problems with the settlers continue to plague both railroads as they dispute the results of the race. I won’t tell you how it ends, although I will say Her Bodyguard is historically accurate, and at least two people get their HEA.
The most dangerous man may be the one she hires.
For America “Amy” Langford, investing in the Border Tier Railroad isn’t about chasing riches. The savvy businesswoman is after bigger stakes: influence, respect, success her father didn’t live to see. Rioting settlers and underhanded competitors can’t stop her, but a killer might. When a ruggedly handsome drifter comes to her rescue, she trusts her instincts and hires him as her bodyguard.
Buck O'Connor has put his violent past behind him, but being a wanted man dictates a life of deceit. So what’s one more lie? He becomes Amy’s protector so he can secretly thwart her railroad’s progress to help his cousin avoid financial ruin. A great scheme—until he falls in love.
While Buck hides his true purpose, Amy lies to herself about her growing feelings for her bodyguard. But the price for deceit is steep, and the secrets they both hide could destroy their future—if they survive.
Three other novels in the Steam! Romance and Rails series, Passon’s Prize, A Dangerous Passion and the upcoming release, Fugitive Hearts, continue the story.
E.E. Burke writes sexy, suspenseful historical romance set in the American west. Her upcoming release, Fugitive Hearts, is part of the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart.
Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing fiction—specifically, historical fiction. Her stories are as deeply rooted in American soil as her family, which she can trace back to the earliest colonists and through both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest inspiration of all.
Buy it on Amazon.