Moving to Wyoming was a lifelong road trip for me.
It started on a family vacation when I was eight years old. Like many families in the sixties, my parents believed in long summer road trips. And like most kids subjected to those trips, I spent every single day in the back seat fighting carsickness, occasionally poking my head through the Dramamine haze to ask if we were “there” yet. I had no idea where “there” was, but I hoped it had a swimming pool.
That’s about all I remember about that trip—besides a horde of hungry chipmunks at a roadside rest in Wyoming. The little critters were so hungry they’d climb on your lap and take crackers from your hand. For eight-year-old me, this made Wyoming the highlight of our trip, and I vowed to live in the land of the friendly chipmunks when I grew up.
The grown-up section of my lifelong road trip was little grittier. Wrong turns, slippery slopes, unforeseen disasters—just think of the worst vacation you ever had and you’ve got the picture. Road trips go a lot better if you plan them, and for a long time I didn’t have a plan. I was a drifter, always on the move, looking for something I couldn’t define.
Finally, I remembered that roadside rest and the chipmunks. Some of the scenery I’d seen from the back seat had evidently made an impression too, because I found myself longing for the big sky and wide open spaces, too. I also knew about cowboys by then, and I wondered if they’d be as friendly as the chipmunks.
It was time to go to Wyoming and find out.
Cat Crandall, the heroine of Cowboy Tough, is also a seeker. But she’s not looking for cowboys; she’s looking for a landscape. As a painter, she believes every artist has a Starry Night – a picture that will forever define her like Van Gogh’s stormy sky-scape defined him. Jolted out of complacency by the sudden death of her sister, she decides to take some risks and shake up her life in a hunt for her own Starry Night.
When she takes a new job teaching art workshops in exotic locations, she’s hoping to go to Tuscany, or France—places renowned for their beauty. Instead, she’s sent to the Boyd Dude Ranch to lead a troop of aspiring artists through Wyoming’s rough backcountry on horseback.
At the heart of the Boyd Dude Ranch is rodeo cowboy Mack Boyd and his eccentric but capable mother. Mack doesn’t need to search for anything; he was born right where he belongs, and is as much a part of the high plains landscape as the rocks and the trees. Cat senses that right away, and it intrigues her. But she’s not about to fall for a cowboy. There’s no way Wyoming could be her Starry Night, and she could never satisfy her artistic ambitions on this dusty Wyoming ranch.
But the cowboy’s determined to change her mind, and when a cowboy sets his heart on something, he usually gets it.
I believe that everyone has a spiritual home, but for some reason we’re often born miles away from where we belong. When I finally returned to the land of friendly chipmunks (and cowboys), I knew I’d found my own Starry Night. It’s my love of this place that makes me want to write—and it sure doesn’t hurt that I found new inspiration here in the man I was meant to love.
Have you ever visited a faraway place and felt that you belonged there? Or were you born right where you belong? What is it about you spiritual home that makes it the right place for you?
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COWBOY TOUGH BY JOANNE KENENDY
She’s hardly a cowgirl…
Cat Crendall left a successful advertising job in New York to teach art workshops in the wild west. The Boyd Ranch is hardly her dream destination, but if the outing’s a success, the company will send her to more exotic locations.
But once a cowboy…
Mack Boyd was in the middle of the best bronc-riding season of his life when his mother asked for help with an artists’ retreat at the ranch. Mack might be able to ride a wild stallion to a standstill but he can’t say no to his family.
Cat and Mack are complete opposites…but when the ranch is threatened financially, can they set aside their differences and work together?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joanne Kennedy’s lifelong fascination with Wyoming’s unique blend of past and present inspires her to write contemporary Western romances with traditional ranch settings. In 2010 she was nominated for a RITA award for One Fine Cowboy. At various times, Joanne has dabbled in horse training, chicken farming, and bridezilla wrangling at a department store wedding registry. Her fascination with literature led to careers in bookselling and writing. She lives with two dogs and a retired fighter pilot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information, please visit http://joannekennedybooks.com/ and on Facebook.