Prairie Moon

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Overview

Living on a rundown farm at the edge of a small Texas town, Della Ward is haunted by the bittersweet life she once lived with an adoring husband who died too soon. Once a laughing, carefree soul, Della is now a widow with only guilty memories for company. Until the day she sees a rugged stranger riding across the prairie toward her house. His presence awakens Della’s heart, but she can never imagine the ways this man will forever change her life.

Lawman James Cameron believes in...

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Overview

Living on a rundown farm at the edge of a small Texas town, Della Ward is haunted by the bittersweet life she once lived with an adoring husband who died too soon. Once a laughing, carefree soul, Della is now a widow with only guilty memories for company. Until the day she sees a rugged stranger riding across the prairie toward her house. His presence awakens Della’s heart, but she can never imagine the ways this man will forever change her life.

Lawman James Cameron believes in settling debts and living by honor. It may have taken him ten years to arrive at Della’s door, but he’s finally here and is determined to tell her the truth about the day her husband died. But one look at the woman whose picture he has carried with him for years and he knows that the truth may destroy them both. For Cameron will have to face the past and force Della to do the same before either of them can have a future . . . or each other.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For ten years, Della Ward has struggled with guilt over the tone of the last letter she sent to her husband, Clarence, before he was killed during the Civil War. Now she is forced to resolve her feelings when gun-slinging lawman James Cameron, who was with her husband when he died, brings her Clarence's last letter and with it an account of his final minutes. But Cameron's calm, cool exterior is deceptive, hiding a guilty secret that he knows he must eventually share, even though it could destroy them both. Set against the stark background of post-Civil War Texas, this well-developed, character-driven Western romance clearly depicts the realities of the times and beautifully describes the developing relationship between Della and James and their reluctance to embrace it. With her classic flair and with great sensitivity, Osborne has penned an intense story of two emotionally fragile people who find healing and hope in their love for each other. Readers will be waiting. Winner of both a RITA Award and the Romance Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, Osborne (The Bride of Willow Creek) lives in Colorado. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“One of the best writers in the business.”
–SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
New York Times bestselling author

“Wit, style, and class. Maggie Osborne is a storyteller who consistently delivers all three.”
NORA ROBERTS

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574904758
  • Publisher: Beeler, Thomas T. Publisher
  • Publication date: 5/1/1903
  • Series: Large Print Ser.
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Maggie Osborne is the author of The Bride of Willow Creek, I Do, I Do, I Do, and Silver Lining, as well as more than forty contemporary and historical romance novels written as Maggie Osborne and Margaret St. George. She has won numerous awards from Romantic Times, Affaire de Coeur, BookraK, the Colorado Romance Writers, and Coeur du Bois, among others. Osborne won the RITA for long historical from the Romance Writers of America in 1998.

Maggie lives in a resort town in the Colorado mountains with her husband, one mule, two horses, one cat, and one dog, all of whom are a lot of aggravation, but she loves them anyway.

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Read an Excerpt

Della didn’t recognize the stranger riding through the twilight toward her house, but she understood who he was by a sharp, intuitive tingling across her scalp. She had been expecting this man, or someone like him, for ten years. Finally he’d come. Standing slowly, she stepped away from her porch chair, then smoothed down her apron and waited as she’d been waiting for so long.

The man rode like a soldier, tall and straight in the saddle, alert to his surroundings, tension bunched along his shoulders and tightening the slope of his sun- darkened jaw. The war hadn’t ended for men like this one.

Long before he reached the porch, Della felt his swift assessment of her, her small house and the deteriorating outbuildings. She would have bet the earth that hard won experience told him what a soldier would need to know. How many cows and chickens she owned, the number of rooms in her house, where a person could hide on her property. By now he’d be reasonably confident that she was alone and posed no danger. As if to confirm her conclusions, he reined in front of the porch steps and flexed his arms, relaxing the tight squared line of his shoulders.

“Mrs. Ward?”

A low voice with no particular accent. Neutral. Not warm or cold. He was a stranger with a rifle and pommel holsters riding up to a woman alone, yet he made no effort to put her at ease by smiling or immediately announcing his name and business.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, knowing in her bones why he was there, watching as he swung to the ground and tipped his hat. He was tall as she’d guessed, dark haired, and wearing a gun belt beneath his duster. Despite the weapons on his horse and at his waist, he didn’t frighten her. She doubted anything could frighten her anymore.

“I’ve come about your husband.”

“Yes.”

Immediately after the war, she would have burst into tears and run down the steps, begging for whatever information he could give. But now she’d lived with guilt and regret and hopelessness for so long that she wasn’t sure if she still wanted to know what this man had come to tell her. She did, and she didn’t.

“Who are you?”

“The name’s Cameron,” he said, halting at the foot of the porch steps.

Della swallowed back an odd, shivery thrill that lay somewhere between alarm and attraction. The attraction was easy to explain. Cameron was a handsome, commanding figure of a man. She also understood the frisson of alarm curling like smoke in her stomach. This man didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone, she saw that in his cool eyes. Such men were dangerous, possessed of a capability for violence and ruthlessness that showed in the way they moved and carried themselves. Della guessed that other men would take care what they said to Mr. Cameron and how they said it. Certain women would be irresistibly challenged by the hard indifference flattening his gaze.

Suddenly conscious of frizzy unkempt hair and her faded dress and soiled apron, Della nodded once, then gestured toward the door. “I have coffee in the house.”

“Thank you.”

Inside, she passed him on the way to the stove. He’d stopped to look around. There wasn’t much to see; one fair-sized room that served as kitchen, parlor, laundry room, sewing room, whatever was needed. Her bedroom opened off the back, and above was a loft area that she used for storage. Once he had the layout in mind, he removed his hat and duster and placed them on the floor next to his chair. But he didn’t ask if she’d rather he removed his gun belt as most men would have.

“I made a raisin pie. Fresh baked this morning,” she offered, reaching for cups on the shelf above the stove.

“No thank you.”

“I guess you had supper in town.”

Disappointment twitched the corner of her mouth. Company didn’t come her way very often, and she didn’t want him to leave immediately. Also, she wanted to delay his news by plying him with food and small talk. That was dumb. Mr. Cameron impressed her as a man who engaged in small talk about as often as she did. She placed a coffee cup before him and took the facing chair, surprised to discover him studying her as if he knew her, like he was looking for changes since he’d seen her last.

“Have we met?” Or was he just a rude bastard? She remembered Clarence’s friends as possessing refined manners. But the war changed people. Look at her. She didn’t put much stock in manners anymore either.

“I came through here years ago. You were working at the Silver Garter.”

She almost dropped her coffee cup. “Wait.” Yes, there was something familiar about him. But why on earth would she remember this man out of the hundreds who had passed through the Garter? But something about him . . . And then she remembered. “It was cold that night. You stood beside the stove. You said, ‘I didn’t expect to find someone like you working in a saloon.’ ”

“And you said, ‘You don’t know me, so don’t judge me.’ ”

How odd that both of them remembered so brief an exchange. Heat flooded Della’s cheeks and she turned her face toward the window above the sink. She hated to be reminded of that year, hated that she was face-to-face with someone who had seen her wearing a skimpy costume and a feather in her hair.

Holding his long-ago image in her mind, she slid a look across the table. He’d filled out, and deeper lines etched his forehead and the corners of his eyes. He was more of a presence now, harder, edgier. In place of the fire and fury she’d seen in him all those years ago, she now saw a weariness that extended beyond a need for rest. The shivery mix of attraction and warning swirled in her throat, then settled in the pit of her stomach.

“Wait a minute.” Comprehension came suddenly, followed by anger. She gripped the edge of the table. “You came here years ago looking for me, didn’t you?” Cameron didn’t answer and his expression didn’t change. “So why didn’t you tell me about Clarence back then?”

“I should have.” He blew on his coffee before he tasted it.

Clarence would have given a dozen reasons, would have talked for twenty minutes to reach the same statement. And it wasn’t acceptable. Pushing to her feet, she went to the window and stared outside, waiting for the storm in her chest to subside.

This was the wettest July that North Texas had enjoyed in years. Consequently, the prairie and low hills were green and thick with grass. On a hot evening like this, Della might have braved the mosquitos and walked down to the cottonwoods and dangled bare feet in the creek. Or maybe she would have donned the shapeless man’s hat she wore and weeded her kitchen garden until it got too dark to see. Maybe she would have considered the heavy clouds blotting the sunset and stayed inside.

“Yes, you should have,” she said finally. Anger was a waste of energy. He was here now and that’s what mattered. “I always knew there had to be more than the letter Clarence’s father received,” she said in a quieter tone. “Something more than an official notification. There had to be a message for me.”

The shadow of the barn stretched toward the house, reaching for the road. Not once had she imagined that news about Clarence would come in the evening. She had always pictured a messenger arriving in the morning. And she’d pictured him wearing a dress uniform, a foolish notion considering how long ago the war had ended.

Turning from the window, she returned to the table. “I’m sorry.” Della wasn’t sure if she’d snapped at him, but she’d wanted to. “I just wish you’d told me about Clarence when you were here before.” He kept his gaze fixed on the front door. If his jaw hadn’t tightened, she could have believed that he wasn’t listening. The subject was closed. Drawing a breath, she pushed aside her irritation and stepped into a conversation she had imagined a hundred times. “Did you know my husband well, Mr. Cameron?”

“I was with him when he died.”

“And Clarence gave you a message for me?”

Reaching into his jacket, he withdrew a packet carefully wrapped in oilcloth. It occurred to her that he had carried whatever was inside for almost ten years. She didn’t know what to make of that. In a way it was touching, endearing even. But it was also puzzling, frustrating, and she felt a fresh burst of anger. He’d had no right to withhold this information. Swinging between resentment and dread, she watched him open the oilcloth and slide the thin packet across the table.

Her mouth went dry and she pressed her hands together. “It’s a letter. From Clarence?” She sounded like an idiot. Of course the letter was from Clarence.

“Mrs. Ward? I’ll just step outside.”

“What?” Blinking, she raised her head, abruptly aware that she hadn’t moved or spoken for several minutes. “No. That’s not necessary.” Mr. Cameron would have read the letter, of course. It wasn’t in an envelope, wasn’t sealed.

“If the stain is what’s upsetting you, it is blood, but it’s mine, not your husband’s.”

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First Chapter

Della didn’t recognize the stranger riding through the twilight toward her house, but she understood who he was by a sharp, intuitive tingling across her scalp. She had been expecting this man, or someone like him, for ten years. Finally he’d come. Standing slowly, she stepped away from her porch chair, then smoothed down her apron and waited as she’d been waiting for so long.

The man rode like a soldier, tall and straight in the saddle, alert to his surroundings, tension bunched along his shoulders and tightening the slope of his sun- darkened jaw. The war hadn’t ended for men like this one.

Long before he reached the porch, Della felt his swift assessment of her, her small house and the deteriorating outbuildings. She would have bet the earth that hard won experience told him what a soldier would need to know. How many cows and chickens she owned, the number of rooms in her house, where a person could hide on her property. By now he’d be reasonably confident that she was alone and posed no danger. As if to confirm her conclusions, he reined in front of the porch steps and flexed his arms, relaxing the tight squared line of his shoulders.

“Mrs. Ward?”

A low voice with no particular accent. Neutral. Not warm or cold. He was a stranger with a rifle and pommel holsters riding up to a woman alone, yet he made no effort to put her at ease by smiling or immediately announcing his name and business.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, knowing in her bones why he was there, watching as he swung to the ground and tipped his hat. He was tall as she’d guessed, dark haired, and wearing agun belt beneath his duster. Despite the weapons on his horse and at his waist, he didn’t frighten her. She doubted anything could frighten her anymore.

“I’ve come about your husband.”

“Yes.”

Immediately after the war, she would have burst into tears and run down the steps, begging for whatever information he could give. But now she’d lived with guilt and regret and hopelessness for so long that she wasn’t sure if she still wanted to know what this man had come to tell her. She did, and she didn’t.

“Who are you?”

“The name’s Cameron,” he said, halting at the foot of the porch steps.

Della swallowed back an odd, shivery thrill that lay somewhere between alarm and attraction. The attraction was easy to explain. Cameron was a handsome, commanding figure of a man. She also understood the frisson of alarm curling like smoke in her stomach. This man didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone, she saw that in his cool eyes. Such men were dangerous, possessed of a capability for violence and ruthlessness that showed in the way they moved and carried themselves. Della guessed that other men would take care what they said to Mr. Cameron and how they said it. Certain women would be irresistibly challenged by the hard indifference flattening his gaze.

Suddenly conscious of frizzy unkempt hair and her faded dress and soiled apron, Della nodded once, then gestured toward the door. “I have coffee in the house.”

“Thank you.”

Inside, she passed him on the way to the stove. He’d stopped to look around. There wasn’t much to see; one fair-sized room that served as kitchen, parlor, laundry room, sewing room, whatever was needed. Her bedroom opened off the back, and above was a loft area that she used for storage. Once he had the layout in mind, he removed his hat and duster and placed them on the floor next to his chair. But he didn’t ask if she’d rather he removed his gun belt as most men would have.

“I made a raisin pie. Fresh baked this morning,” she offered, reaching for cups on the shelf above the stove.

“No thank you.”

“I guess you had supper in town.”

Disappointment twitched the corner of her mouth. Company didn’t come her way very often, and she didn’t want him to leave immediately. Also, she wanted to delay his news by plying him with food and small talk. That was dumb. Mr. Cameron impressed her as a man who engaged in small talk about as often as she did. She placed a coffee cup before him and took the facing chair, surprised to discover him studying her as if he knew her, like he was looking for changes since he’d seen her last.

“Have we met?” Or was he just a rude bastard? She remembered Clarence’s friends as possessing refined manners. But the war changed people. Look at her. She didn’t put much stock in manners anymore either.

“I came through here years ago. You were working at the Silver Garter.”

She almost dropped her coffee cup. “Wait.” Yes, there was something familiar about him. But why on earth would she remember this man out of the hundreds who had passed through the Garter? But something about him . . . And then she remembered. “It was cold that night. You stood beside the stove. You said, ‘I didn’t expect to find someone like you working in a saloon.’ ”

“And you said, ‘You don’t know me, so don’t judge me.’ ”

How odd that both of them remembered so brief an exchange. Heat flooded Della’s cheeks and she turned her face toward the window above the sink. She hated to be reminded of that year, hated that she was face-to-face with someone who had seen her wearing a skimpy costume and a feather in her hair.

Holding his long-ago image in her mind, she slid a look across the table. He’d filled out, and deeper lines etched his forehead and the corners of his eyes. He was more of a presence now, harder, edgier. In place of the fire and fury she’d seen in him all those years ago, she now saw a weariness that extended beyond a need for rest. The shivery mix of attraction and warning swirled in her throat, then settled in the pit of her stomach.

“Wait a minute.” Comprehension came suddenly, followed by anger. She gripped the edge of the table. “You came here years ago looking for me, didn’t you?” Cameron didn’t answer and his expression didn’t change. “So why didn’t you tell me about Clarence back then?”

“I should have.” He blew on his coffee before he tasted it.

Clarence would have given a dozen reasons, would have talked for twenty minutes to reach the same statement. And it wasn’t acceptable. Pushing to her feet, she went to the window and stared outside, waiting for the storm in her chest to subside.

This was the wettest July that North Texas had enjoyed in years. Consequently, the prairie and low hills were green and thick with grass. On a hot evening like this, Della might have braved the mosquitos and walked down to the cottonwoods and dangled bare feet in the creek. Or maybe she would have donned the shapeless man’s hat she wore and weeded her kitchen garden until it got too dark to see. Maybe she would have considered the heavy clouds blotting the sunset and stayed inside.

“Yes, you should have,” she said finally. Anger was a waste of energy. He was here now and that’s what mattered. “I always knew there had to be more than the letter Clarence’s father received,” she said in a quieter tone. “Something more than an official notification. There had to be a message for me.”

The shadow of the barn stretched toward the house, reaching for the road. Not once had she imagined that news about Clarence would come in the evening. She had always pictured a messenger arriving in the morning. And she’d pictured him wearing a dress uniform, a foolish notion considering how long ago the war had ended.

Turning from the window, she returned to the table. “I’m sorry.” Della wasn’t sure if she’d snapped at him, but she’d wanted to. “I just wish you’d told me about Clarence when you were here before.” He kept his gaze fixed on the front door. If his jaw hadn’t tightened, she could have believed that he wasn’t listening. The subject was closed. Drawing a breath, she pushed aside her irritation and stepped into a conversation she had imagined a hundred times. “Did you know my husband well, Mr. Cameron?”

“I was with him when he died.”

“And Clarence gave you a message for me?”

Reaching into his jacket, he withdrew a packet carefully wrapped in oilcloth. It occurred to her that he had carried whatever was inside for almost ten years. She didn’t know what to make of that. In a way it was touching, endearing even. But it was also puzzling, frustrating, and she felt a fresh burst of anger. He’d had no right to withhold this information. Swinging between resentment and dread, she watched him open the oilcloth and slide the thin packet across the table.

Her mouth went dry and she pressed her hands together. “It’s a letter. From Clarence?” She sounded like an idiot. Of course the letter was from Clarence.

“Mrs. Ward? I’ll just step outside.”

“What?” Blinking, she raised her head, abruptly aware that she hadn’t moved or spoken for several minutes. “No. That’s not necessary.” Mr. Cameron would have read the letter, of course. It wasn’t in an envelope, wasn’t sealed.

“If the stain is what’s upsetting you, it is blood, but it’s mine, not your husband’s.”

Copyright 2002 by Maggie Osborne
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Interviews & Essays

Question: You've written that you like to create heroines who "don't fit the romance-heroine mold." In what ways do heroines such as Della Ward, from your latest novel, Prairie Moon, differ from the typical, and why? The flip side of this is your heroes—they, too, differ from the usual romance fare, don't they?

Maggie Osborne:Oddly, I didn't quite realize that I created heroines who "don't fit the romance heroine mold" until this phrase kept popping up in reviews. At the time this comment first appeared, most if not all romance heroines were depicted as beautiful, slender, desirable women. I wrote a book in which the heroine was an alcoholic, not too clean, and not beautiful. My agent at that time refused to submit the book because it didn't have the typical heroine. She didn't believe readers would accept this type of woman as a romance heroine. I hired another agent who loved the book and sold it. It won buckets of awards, and went on to be one of my best selling books. I've since written other heroines who were down-and-outers. I don't particularly set out to write atypical heroines, but sometimes a wonderful story comes to mind, and there she is. It's that fringe personality, I think, that appeals so much to me.

Is the heroine in Prairie Moon atypical? I don't think this heroine is. I think Della Ward is probably a typical romance heroine, not one of the fringe people. She doesn't fit easily into her community, but that's a result of her past, not who she is. I would say my heroes are likely to be typical romance heroes. Strong, decent, good men who are trying to do the right thing.They've made mistakes and they fall on their butts, but they get up and keep trying. To me, that's what makes them heroes. If the hero is atypical, it may be because he can recognize the atypical heroine's qualities and eventually love her.

Q
: You also write under the pseudonym of Margaret St. George. How did that come about? It seems that more writers publish under multiple pseudonyms in romance fiction than in any other genre—why is that? Isn't Margaret St. George competing with Maggie Osborne for readers and publishing slots?

MO: I started writing category romance as Margaret St. George to give myself a change of time period and pace from historicals. Writing both contemporary and historical novels helps keep me fresh in both areas. I don't feel that Margaret St. George competes with Maggie Osborne because category romance readers generally don't read historicals and vice versa. For those who do read in both areas, I like to think they will buy and enjoy both Margaret St. George and Maggie Osborne.

Q: Is there such a thing as a "typical" romance reader anymore?

MO:I'm not convinced there ever was a "typical" romance reader. I receive letters from teenagers and great-grandmothers, from women and from men, from people who are obviously well educated and from those who clearly are not.

Q: What drew you to historical romances? And why the old West in particular? Is there any kind of personal or family history tied into your interest?

MO:When I decided to attempt a novel, the market was hot for historical romance. I loved reading historical non-fiction and loved reading historical romance. This area seemed a good match for me. I think I slept through history in school—discovering history as an adult has been a joy. I love the research.

My early books were not set in the old west. Then a few years ago I had an idea that worked best if set in 1880's Kansas. I suppose you could say that I came home. I was raised in western Kansas and have spent most of my life in the west. As a young girl, my grandmother crossed Kansas in a covered wagon.

Research showed me that the old west was filled with misfits. People who didn't fit well, who couldn't succeed in the urban east. I don't necessarily mean outlaws. Ordinary people came west looking for acceptance and opportunity. Many were of a type that we'd consider fringe people, people on the edges of society. These fringe people —particularly the women—exert a strong appeal to me. How did they get this way? How do they view themselves? Can they change? Do they want to? What are their strengths and vulnerabilities as seen against the values of their time and place?

Q: How important is historical research in your writing? I imagine that one of the challenges of writing historical romances is that you've got to come up with characters who appeal to readers who are living today. Obviously, attitudes about such things as race, sex, and religion have changed in our culture since the 1800s . . . thank God! But how do you balance historical accuracy with the need for characters that contemporary readers can relate to? After all, you can't just dress a modern man or woman in period costume and expect to create a believable character. It's almost as though your characters have to belong to the time they inhabit . . . and yet also stand outside of it somehow.

MO:This is a good question. Most historical authors spend a lot of time thinking about the issues you raise here. My solution is to recognize that while customs and mores have changed over time, human nature has not. While attitudes about sex and what is permissible have relaxed in contemporary times, it would be naive to assume that historical people did not have sex outside of marriage and so forth. For example, the fact that there were abortionists in New York City in the 1800's indicates that people worried about many of the same sexual issues then as we do now. The same is true of just about any relationship problem you can name. What does change in a historical novel is the degree of devastation an unmarried pregnancy, say, will cause. And the historical character plays out her story in her time period, which has an effect on the intensity of the problem and how it is resolved. The problem may be similar to that in a contemporary novel, but how the characters react and resolve may be very different. My point is that contemporary readers will identify with historical characters if the author remains true to human nature. The reader isn't identifying with costume or historical politics or that big nickel and iron cook stove. The reader identifies with a character and problems that aren't so different from today's problems, as well as with the character's vulnerabilities and strengths. It always comes down to character.

Q: A related question: How do you decide which historical details to put in and which to leave out? For example, I was struck by the absence of both Native American and black characters in Prairie Moon. Although the novel takes place around 1875, ten years after the Civil War, there seems to be virtually no recognition on the part of major characters that there might have been a moral dimension to the war—i.e., slavery. Similarly, although Della and Cameron make a difficult journey of more than two months across the open range from Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico, they never encounter Indians or seem at all apprehensive about the possibility.

MO:Whole workshops have been built around this question! There's no right answer. In my early books, I included way too much historical detail. Finally an editor gently pointed out that readers probably didn't really care about the entire history of the Spanish Inquisition—but they did care about what happened to the heroine. It broke my heart, but I had to cut most of that hard-won information about the Inquisition. Sure did improve the pace of the story, though.

When is historical detail too much? When is it too little? I've probably erred on both sides of this. If I hit it right, the reader has a sense of the time period without being overwhelmed or distracted from the story by historical detail.

You're correct that little or no emphasis on former slaves or Indians is placed in Prairie Moon. There is a mention that—Luke Apple has an Indian wife and lives on a reservation. Della grew up with slaves. Omitting any real emphasis was a deliberate choice. I had to ask myself if putting former slaves and Indians on stage would further my story. I concluded it would not. It was tempting, though. Most historical writers would love to write a book that's twice the length and includes as rich and full a depiction of the period as they can create. That's not always practical, and can sometimes lead to losing focus on the characters and story.

Q: I don't mean to imply with my question about slavery that you were ducking difficult moral questions in Prairie Moon. On the contrary, the circumstances that bring Della and Cameron together present an absorbing moral drama of responsibility, guilt, and forgiveness, and of the debts that people owe to the past and to the future. Can you talk about this aspect of the novel?

MO:You have identified what this novel is about—responsibility, guilt, and forgiveness, and the debts that people owe to the past and to the future. This novel began to germinate over a two-year period when my husband's parents lived with us. My father-in-law had emphysema, diabetes, and a bum leg. My mother-in-law was recovering from a broken hip, had glaucoma, and was in mid-stage Alzheimer's. This was probably the most difficult two years of my adult life, and it triggered a lot of thinking and angst about responsibility, guilt, forgiveness, and the debts we owe each other.

Q: When I was in college, more than twenty years ago, my English professors and writing teachers took a dim view of romance fiction, pointing to the prevalence of happy endings as evidence that the genre provided readers with nothing more than an escape from their own unhappy lives. Why do you think there is this kind of prejudice against romance fiction, and do you find it as common today as it used to be?

MO:OK, this question strikes a nerve. Tell me which genre does NOT routinely offer happy endings? Mystery novels solve the mystery, and we're all happy. The good guys triumph over Darth Vader. Harry Potter finds the treasure. Readers—and people as a whole—want happy endings. Happy endings are satisfying and give us hope for our own future. We want our fictional hero to triumph, not fail. We want Richard Gere to love Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. We want Arnold or Bruce Willis to save the world.

So why are romances pilloried for happy endings? I have no idea. To me, this makes as much sense as it would for all murder mysteries to be criticized for letting the murderer get caught at the end. Most fiction ends happily ever after—but romances are criticized for it. Go figure.

But let's say for a moment that your professors were right. Only romance fiction consistently ends happily, and the genre provides readers with nothing more than an escape from their own unhappy lives. So . . . tell me, why is that so bad? Would your professors prefer that the legions of unhappy readers take drugs instead of a book to escape for a few hours? Drown themselves in alcohol? Put down that romance and pull themselves together with a few hours of TV? Buy an exercise bike? I see nothing wrong with escaping for a few hours with a good book, whether it's a romance, a mystery, or whatever.

And yes, I think this attitude is depressingly common, and I have never understood it. Objecting to happy endings is utterly bogus in my opinion. There definitely is prejudice against romance novels, but I don't think anyone has ever really identified the reason for it. Maybe admitting to being a romantic is akin to admitting to weakness. Maybe romance seems trivial to some. Who knows why some people display a puzzling aversion to romance novels? I don't think anyone can adequately answer this question. I once read a quote that sums it up for me. Unfortunately, I cannot recall who said it. "Many people make a virtue of condemning romance novels without ever having read one."

Q: Do you think it would be possible to publish a romance that didn't have a happy ending? Or would that go too much against the expectations of the publishing industry and readers? And if you think it could be possible, how might you do it?

MO:There have been romances written with unhappy endings. Gone With The Wind is probably the most famous. Nicholas Sparks's Message In a Bottle is a more recent example. So is Bridges of Madison County. These books do very well because they go against the genre and are unexpected. They make us cry. But a whole genre of failed relationships? Do we really want to be depressed? Not going to happen. The happy ending is the more satisfying ending. An unhappy ending can offer a great read—occasionally. But not as a steady diet. And no, I doubt I'll ever write a romance that ends unhappily. Hmm. I'm not saying never—but it's unlikely.

Q: One of the most interesting developments in the romance genre in recent years has been the surge of popularity in paranormal and futuristic romances. Have you thought about branching out into any of these areas?

MO:I already have! I've written several paranormal romances as Margaret St. George. I like reading paranormal novels and enjoy writing them.

Q: What are you working on now? Do you have any television or movie projects in the works?

MO:What am I working on now? Well, I can either talk the book or write the book, and my wonderful editor will be happier if I write it. Ask me again when the writing is finished . . .

One of my books, Brides of Prairie Gold, was optioned for a film and actually went to the green-light stage. But the film never got made. Rats. But it happened once . . . maybe it will again someday. I'd love to sit in my living room, eating popcorn, and watch a film that eventually happened because one day I was pacing around doing the what-if process.

Q: Can you describe the what-if process? Maybe you could use Prairie Moon as an example . . .

MO:What if the heroine's last words to her husband were bitter and hateful? And what if the hero is the man who killed her husband? When I asked myself those what-ifs, the novel began to take form.

We're in a wonderful, magical business, aren't we?
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Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Sad Western Romance

    Della Ward has lived an isolated existence since her husband was killed in the Civil War. Living in a remote western farm she spends her days regretting the last letter she wrote to her husband. James Cameron is haunted by his past as well. He has spent the last ten years struggling with the decision to go to Della Ward and give her a letter and photo that her husband had on his position when he died. James struggles with the death of Della's husband, but he will have to tell her the truth if he is ever going to move on with his life. He owes Della that much, at least.

    Prairie Moon is a very tender and sad love story. Della and James both have an incredible amount of baggage. I like that Ms. Osborne doesn't reveal everything at once to the reader but rather dished it out a little at a time to keep the reader interested in what is going on. Once the reader does discover what both of these characters have gone through, especially Della, their heart will break for them.

    There were a few things about the book that kept me from giving it a higher grade. James keeps a very big secret from Della for most of the book and the reader knows that eventually Della is going to find out James motivation for coming to her. James allows Della to make untrue assumptions about how her husband died and he doesn't correct her. When the truth does finally come to light Della reacts just the way James had feared. That bothered me about her. After everything she had learned about James and all the time she spent with him she should have handled it better. Eventually these two do get their happy ending, but boy did they have a long journey of heartbreak to get there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    Recommended!

    Though she has lived a rough and scandalous life, Della Ward has been drilled in the ways of proper society. Despite this, she is drawn to gunslinger Cameron, who appears on her doorstep one day with a last message from her late husband. The beautiful, young widow has been haunted by her husband's death for years, and by the mistake of giving up her child to her in laws to raise. When Cameron convinces her to go and just see her daughter, even if only from a distance, they set out on a perilous cross country journey that will bring them closer to giving in to the temptation of one another, even though a terrible secret and haunting grief stand between them. ***** A memorable and unique story is told in this novel. Two scarred and troubled individuals find exactly what they need in one another's arms, only to be almost wrenched apart by the truth. The pain they share will touch your heart, and their passion will ignite your blood. ***** REVIEWER: Amanda Killgore.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    powerful Reconstruction Era romance

    Ten years has passed since the Civil War ended yet Della Ward lives one day at a time filled with guilt and remorse. A child bride Della regrets her last hateful letter she sent her spouse Clarence just before he died in battle. Della has no friends in the Two Creeks, Texas area and for the most part never speaks with or has anyone talk to her. It only took him a decade to work up the courage, but Lawman James Cameron comes to see Della. James is the bravest person in the west as he does not fear death ever since the Civil War, but is frightened of telling Della his secret about her husband¿s last moments alive. As he remains on her property helping her, they begin to fall in love. However, Della carries so much shame and James is loaded with his own culpability so that unless a miracle healing occurs, he will eventually head off into the sunset. Known for her award winning humorous romance novels, Maggie Osborne takes a serious turn with her powerful Reconstruction Era romance, PRAIRIE MOON. The story line is totally angst as two severely wounded people share a tenuous thread through Clarence. Readers will shed tears as a mature Della looks back at her spoiled behavior with deep sorrow for leaving her husband to conclude that she just did not care beyond her own selfish needs. James feels almost as bad though he knows he can justify his actions. This is another triumph for the magnificent Maggie. Harriet Klausner

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    Posted October 19, 2010

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