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The old-fashioned western was popular when I was growing up. My grandmother had bookcases of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. My dad never missed a John Wayne flick. The iconic tropes of movies like Destry Rides Again were so powerful that 65 years later Blazing Saddles satirized that film and others, and everybody got the joke.
For myself, I might have been more engrossed watching Marlene Dietrich and Madeline Kahn in their performances as “fallen” women than the scenery and six-shooters. I have to put quotes on “fallen” because no western I’ve ever read or seen asks, “Fallen from what and according to whom?”
Dietrich’s character in Destry might be the original #fridgingthewoman trope when she takes a bullet for Jimmy Stewart. As she dies, she wipes the lipstick from her mouth so he can kiss the clean “redeemed” version of her. Her character’s name is “Frenchy.” Like many women in westerns, if she’s got another name, we never know it.
A little bit of all of that was in my mind when I created the character of Darlin’. She’s got another name, but who would ever use it? Nobody else knows she loves Shakespeare, writes stories, and has a clear-eyed view of the world she’s enduring. As Darlin’ herself says of the men who frequent the bordello, “The parts of her he does not want do not exist.”
It’s a woman who sees beyond the parts of Darlin’, and that’s where the story begins.
Her arm tightened around me. Mere moments later I felt her heartbeat slow and her breath steady. Sleep would claim me soon enough, but in that moment, with only the stars to see the truth of me, I listened to her quiet, sleeping noises with a profound contentment. Her hair was soft against my cheek.
This might be the only night I spent in the arms of another woman like me. I would not risk the sweetness of the experience by asking for more.
The story ranges from sweet to anguished, and tender to spicy hot. It also has a happy-ever-after that satisfies my penchant for historical verisimilitude. Darlin’ and her beloved save themselves in a world that treats them as a commodity to be used and discarded. I hope you love the story as much as I do. All of Chapter 1 is below – just tap on the + sign.
Details: For the next couple of weeks, the ebook of this short novel is available exclusively here. As of February 23, you’ll also find it at Bella Books. April 1 it will be available most other outlets.
©2022 • epub, mobi, and pdf • 40,000 word short novel
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