Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gingham Mountain Interview and Review

I was thrilled to receive my copy of Mary Connealy's latest book last week. I adore her Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon, and had high hopes for Gingham Mountain. These sassy westerns are filled with romance, heart, and characters that leave you in stitches. Gingham Mountain is a wonderful addition to the series.

A young woman's need to protect
A cowboy's need to provide
A galloping ride headed for a love-hate relationship.

Hannah Cartwright lands in a small Texas town desperate to save orphans from the dastardly Grant. Grant has dedicated his adult life to adopting the orphans nobody wants off the orphan train. When two are left in the opening chapter, he naturally accepts them into his family. Hannah has fears that the children will only be used and abused by him. And thus begins this wonderful romp.

Mary is back with her delightful humor, but also with a wonderful dose of warmth and emotion. She doesn't swing to the extreme of humor or romance, but instead blends the two in a delightful concoction that keeps the pages turning. There's also the dash of suspense that builds at the end of the book. And I love the surprise for readers who adored Calico Canyon.

What gripped me about this book is the incredible heart for the abandoned children that is demonstrated by the characters. Frankly, as we wrestle with abortion/adoption/caring for the orphans, this book challenged me even as I laughed and loved right along with the characters. Not only did it challenge my attitudes on a personal level, it also revealed God's heart for us. While we were yet sinners, He gave His all -- Grant shows those characteristics in how he acts for his kids. Yet he also has to learn to let go and trust God, because the problem is daunting.

You can read the first chapter here.

Mary has graciously stopped by today to answer some questions. If we have at least 20 commentors I will go buy a copy of this book to give away. It's that good! So leave a comment letting me know why this is a book you need to read.

Mary, you're back with your delightful series of westerns. But they're so much more than mere westerns. What sparked the idea for the series?

I started with only Petticoat Ranch, really no notion of making it a series. I wanted to write a ‘battle of the sexes’ book with the hero and heroine behaving in complete discord, not because they don’t like each other, but because they don’t understand each other, a situation made worse by their gender and upbringing.

Out of Petticoat Ranch with it’s one man surrounded by women, came an idea to write the flip side, one woman surrounded by men. Then I decided I’d mix it up with a family of boys and girls together. One of the things I tried to do with Grant in Gingham Mountain, was make him understanding of women, at least girls. He’d taken in a lot of children and had a lot of practice. He’s very comfortable around his daughter’s tears and need to talk, but that’s daughters, he’d never had much practice with thinking of a woman romantically, so of course he messes that up badly.

Petticoat Ranch... Calico Canyon...Gingham Mountain...the titles for these books rock. Who came up with them: you or your editor?

I came up with Petticoat Ranch, brainstorming with my agent. Then Becky Germany and I talked about new titles that would hook the series together. A very collaborative effort. I’ve learned to not get attached to titles. In fact, although it’s not a rule, I usually just title my books by the heroine’s name these days. For a long time these three books were titled, Sophie, Grace, Hannah. Then, as I write, sometimes I get an idea and insert a title, but that can happen several times as the book progresses.

Gingham Mountain is hilarious -- an fun romp through heavy issues. I love that you start in Grant's perspective, and he leads the way throughout the book. What helped you determine it was his story to tell?

Well, of course it’s Hannah’s story, too, but Grant is a hero that honestly, makes me tingle. He just has such a heart for children in need. It’s a driving passion with him. But we also find out that he is a profoundly lonely man. Taking in those children, while it makes him seem heroic, inside he sees it as selfishness because he wants a family so badly. And that self-doubt and the belief that he doesn’t ever feel safe from loneliness, no matter how many children he adopts, makes him so sweet and vulnerable, that I just ended up adoring him.

Grant and Hannah have similar pasts, but those pasts actually blind them to each other. Why are they right for each other?

Hannah is right for Grant because he is the first man ever that she’s not afraid of. Hannah is a meek soul and she was so terrified of her adoptive father that she’s permanently distrustful of men. The fact that she’s feisty with Grant is miraculous to her. And she marvels at her courage, without giving Grant any credit, at least not for a long time, for being absolutely NOT scary.

What spiritual lessons did God teach you as you wrote this book? What did your characters teach you?

This book has it’s roots in my own family, mostly because I come from a large family and we lived in a small house with almost no money. There were ten of us in what eventually, slowly, grew to a four bedroom house. When my FIFTH sibling was born we had a house with one attic bedroom and a fold out couch in the dining room downstairs (I use the word ‘dining’ loosely since no ‘dining’ went on in that room)

The thing is, although I knew we didn’t have any money, I never felt poor, or at least not so poor it was scary. We lived on a farm. We ate meat and vegetables we grew and milk from our own cows, so I suppose hunger wasn’t a problem. We always wore used clothes either given to us by neighbors or from the Goodwill Store. It was just a very modest home, but it was a rich home in the things that mattered. My mom always acted like she adored us and couldn’t possibly have too many kids. My dad played with us and read to us. We could always afford a library card so the books were endless. I remember our first television set. I was about four. I tried to capture that idea that money isn’t the root of happiness, we are so materialistic today, including me…I like nice stuff.

But money isn’t what makes the world go ’round. It’s not what makes you a good Christian, a good parent, a good citizen.

I always knew that, but I explored it more and learned that lesson more deeply.

Since everyone's going to run out and scarf up Gingham Mountain, tell us what's next for Mary Connealy!

Gingham Mountain is the last book in this series, although I’m talking with Barbour about a series based on Sophie’s girls, from Petticoat Ranch, all grown up. That’s possibly in the future. But next is the Montana Marriages series, beginning with Montana Rose in July. I love these books. They’re the same suspenseful, historical western, romantic comedy, as the Lassoed in Texas series. I’ve heard people say they want more of the Mosqueros, Texas brood, but trust me, we are gonna have FUN in Montana. Montana Rose and book #2 The Husband Tree are, I think, some of the funniest things I’ve ever written.

I’ve also got Nosy in Nebraska coming in June, a collection of the three books I wrote for Heartsong Presents Mysteries. These are contemporary cozy mysteries. I had so much fun writing these. I know readers who love historicals really LOVE historicals, but I hope they check this book out. I just had a grand time writing them. Murder mysteries set in Nebraska in a small town who has for it’s only claim to fame, Maxie—The World’s Largest Field Mouse.


Cynthia Decipher said...

I really dont have a thing for Western romance theme but with this book, it made me think otherwise.

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Linda said...

I find myself relating to the author in having a big family, living on the farm, with very little, yet not feeling poor. Vegetables, fruit, and home-grown beef, pork, and chicken, with a few duck thrown in. We didn't lack food. I loved hand-me-downs. This book sounds intriguing as to how Grant handles all the children. Count me in for the contest! Thanks!

Janna said...

This is a fantastic book! Mary is amazing with her humorous writing style. I am currently giving this book away on my blog as well if anyone would like a second chance at winning...



mez said...

I love sassy, fun stories. Petticoat Ranch was wonderful, count me in for Gingham Mountain. Thanks!

Maureen said...

This looks like a fun story with an upbeat message, something we all could use.


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