But that's not where my heart is. Because one day, when I was ten, my father handed me a dusty, smelly, deteriorating hardcover book he declared was one of his favorites. He'd read it at least fifty times. My grandfather, whose book it was, agreed. THE LIGHT OF THE WESTERN STARS, by Zane Grey, was a classic, they said. And they were passing it on to me.
It would be my first romance. When bored and restless society beauty, Madeline Hammond, steps off the train in El Cajon, New Mexico, she meets a rough, drunk cowboy who will proudly give his life to protect her. While this tough, uneducated man knows a lot about honor and love, willful "Majesty" has money, pride and the desire to create the ranch of her dreams. It is a "conflict of lifestyles" love story, the very kind of romance that inspires me to write about falling in love in Montana and Wyoming and Texas. The kind of romance with those protective and stubborn Western heroes.
Zane Grey wrote almost ninety books and, though I have read them all, I have only enjoyed a handful of them. There were very few written in a woman's point of view. Scholars have speculated that his wife may have been something of a ghost writer. After all, Zane was shooting and fishing and hunting all over the world. He'd send descriptions and notes to Dolly (home with the children, of course!), but when did he, a gregarious womanizer, have time to write?
I still read THE LIGHT OF THE WESTERN STARS each year. The prose is dated and flowery, but when Gene Stewart puts Majesty on his horse and carries her out of the mountains to avoid danger, and her hair brushes his face, and she realizes uncomfortably that she has never been so close to a man's chest before...well, I confess, I swoon.
I hope I never outgrow it.