June 12th, 2020
When I was a teenager and a baby Christian, I first discovered Christian Romance when I read the classic Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke. I went on to devour that entire series along with everything else Oke wrote. Not only did it satisfy my book-obsessed tendencies in a healthy way, it also became a way for my mom and I to bond. We read the The Love Comes Softly series together over the course of a summer, discussing them as we went. She and I went to the local Christian bookstore together to purchase more books by Oke and others. The common thread? All of them were westerns.
I’m not sure if it’s just that my mom and I loved the western setting or if that was the genre most Christian romances were at that time. The two of us did like to watch western shows together - Little House on the Prairie, Young Riders, Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman - but it also seemed like most of the books on the shelves were westerns. We read books about girls who went west on the orphan train, young women who were mail order brides, and women who fell in love with mounties in the Canadian west (yep, those).
To be honest, by the time college rolled around, I was burned out on Christian westerns and stopped reading them. I also went through my “intellectual phase.” I was an English major, thank you very much, and my tastes were meaningful. I roll my eyes at myself now, realizing that I had lost the point of reading - the love of it. My mom gave me Redeeming Love for Christmas my junior year of college, and it sat on my bookshelf for three years or so before I cracked it open. (Silly me!) Like most people, I was blown away by Francine River’s masterpiece, but the fact that it was set in the west didn’t change my mind about western books in general.
Fast forward many years and three kids later. I was on vacation with my extended family, and as usual my Mom, my sister, and I had all brought books with us. My sister’s was Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer. You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, I did, okay. It reminded me of those westerns I read as a teenager, and I kind of rolled my eyes at my sister.
“I know it looks cheesy,” she explained hurriedly, “but it’s really good! I’ve read a lot of books by that author, and she’s great.”
A week later, I was shopping at this deep discount store here in my hometown. It’s one of those places where you never know what you’ll find - a Dyson vacuum for a hundred bucks, Christmas Peeps in July for fifty cents, or rain boots for five dollars. One thing they always have is books - especially Christian books. Every time a local Christian bookstore closes, I swear this store gets their inventory. As you can probably imagine, this store’s book section is my weakness.
What do you think I saw sitting right there on the shelf for only $2.99? A Karen Witemeyer book - The Short Straw Bride to be exact. I picked it up and remembered what my sister had said. For only $2.99, it was worth a try, even though the cover still wasn’t my taste.
I devoured it! Couldn’t put it down! I was totally sucked into the lives of the Archer brothers and their ranch. I loved it so much I took a picture of the book and raved about it on Facebook. I swallowed my pride and borrowed Full Steam Ahead from my sister. I was thrilled to discover that there was either a book or novella on every single one of the Archer brothers. The library had most of Witemeyer’s books, and soon I had read everything she had written. At this point, I am a bonafide fan. There isn’t anything she’s put out that I haven’t read, and currently my Kindle wish list includes her next book that hasn’t come out yet.
It’s interesting how things have come full circle. As a baby Christian, Oke’s books were like water in the desert. Now Witemeyer similarly quenches the storytelling thirst of this SAHM mom/amateur writer.
And I guess I’m always a sucker for a western!
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.