Thursday, September 9, 2010

Contemporary Cowboys: The New Black?

It's entirely possible I just haven't been all that observant (I don't read every blog on the Internet after all!), but I'm surprised nobody has pointed out the fact that contemporary westerns seem to be experiencing a heck of a resurgence at the moment. I tend to like my cowboys of the historical variety, but you know what? Being all about the western that I am - I'm not about to scoff at a sexy contemporary hero rockin' the boots, hat and faded blue jeans. Hell, I'm breathing. I'm straight. They're cowboys. What's not to love here people?

If it pleases the Romance Bloglandia court, here is my evidence in the case of Calling Out Of The Contemporary Cowboy Trend:

Linda Lael Miller:

R.C. Ryan:

Joanne Kennedy:

Carolyn Brown:

Vicki Lewis Thompson

Lorelei James:

Beth Williamson:

Granted, Linda Lael Miller and R.C. Ryan (who is Ruth Ryan Langan) have had long and distinguished publishing careers, with resumes loaded with titles featuring cowboys (historical and contemporary). So yeah, this sub genre is not "new" for them. But I think it's telling that they're still working the West. Also telling, that all of these titles (which exception of the last three Lorelei James titles - which are 2010 print reprints of 2009 digital releases) are all 2010 books. Yes. All of these contemporary westerns have landed, or will be landing, in 2010.

And let's be honest here - I've left off scads of Harlequins from this list. Cowboys have thrived over there for decades - I chose to specifically highlight the Thompson trilogy because 1) I'm reading them right now and 2) those book covers make me all tingly.

So what, you might be asking, is the appeal? Oh, so glad you asked! When you think cowboy - you think "man's man." He's strong, he's sexy, he's take charge. He's Alpha enough to swoop in and save the day, and sensitive enough to know how to treat a woman properly. Also, cowboys have a built-in code of honor. A personal moral code of right vs. wrong. Whether or not that's actually true - the "history" of the American cowboy is that he knows injustice when he sees it, hates it, and fights it. And in a contemporary setting - it's easy to pair your modern day cowboy hero with a modern woman, with modern sensibilities. Readers get a hunkilicious cowboy and a heroine who can stand toe-to-toe with him.

Damn, I'm finding this scenario even more appealing than I did before. How is that possible?

So what say you? Have you noticed this rebirth of the contemporary cowboy? Do you think I'm spinning fantasies out of whole cloth (again)? And the real question: if this is a trend, how long can it possibly last (and keep me ever so happy)?

Oh and in case anyone is curious? A decent variety of publishers represented here. In order: Harlequin (HQN), Grand Central, Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks, Harlequin (Blaze), NAL, Samhain, and Berkley.


Donna Alward said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your post! :-) I'm one of those "scads" authors who write Westerns for Harlequin and I'll give a big Hell Yeah for all those reasons you mentioned!

As a contemp western author, I can say that I love blending a contemporary voice with a tried and true, hunky down-home cowboy.

And can I just say right now how awesome contemp western cover art is????

Phyl said...

Wow, Wendy. I'm thinking that I need to give some of these a try. I love the titles of those Carolyn Brown books.

Obe said...

As a writer and hopefully one day published author of Historical Cowboys and the women that loved them. Thank you from the top of my Stetson covered head to the bottoms of my spurred boots. There is nothing like a tall man dressed in a bibbed shirt, who touches the brim of his hat when he walks by a lady. Even better is that deep look he gives when holding her close and they sway to the sound of a guitar. That earthy appeal, that delicious slow tango - sigh, Oh yes give me a cowboy any day.

Big Sis said...

How the west was faceless men with rock hard abs in stetson hats...LOL!

Wendy said...

Donna: Harlequin has literally kept me in cowboys during these lean western romance years. To which I'm eternally grateful!

Phyl: Those Carolyn Brown titles crack me up! The first one was in the RWA goodie bag this summer :)

Obe: It's the appeal of the "Every Man." Cowboys can have larger than life reputations, but they still have that feel of being "regular people."

Big Sis: Or in the case of the R.C. Ryan book covers - by guys who look like they're not out of puberty yet! It's a sign that I'm getting old when looking at some of these romance covers makes me feel like a dirty old granny pinching some young stud's behind. Sigh.

Hilcia said...

Ohhh I'm with you Wendy!! I've noticed, I've noticed (jumping up and down)... and I have quite a few of those in my TBR already and I've already read others... Hell Yeah! I hope the ball keeps rolling because I looove my contemporary cowboys just as much as the ones in historicals. ;P

*Goddess* said...

Resurgence? Have they ever gone away?:)

When I was at the used book sale this fall, and couldn't find my lawmen books (more lawmen heroes, please!!), I saw TONS of cowboy heroes and grabbed them in lieu of cops because they're my second favorite hero. Now I'm hoping that with all the cop tv shows, lawmen heroes will be big in romance novels. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

How weird that my word verification was "redlips"? LOL!

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I did notice it while reading RT lately. However, I think one is attracted to what they don't have and not attracted to what they have in abundance. I live in Montana. Cowboys? Meh. Dukes? Yes indeed.

nath said...

It's interesting when you put them all one next to each other. I mean, I've seen them, but did I think contemporary cowboy resurgence? LOL, no. If all publishers are starting to pick it up, I think you're onto something :)

Me, I like a nice contemporary with ranchers :) Hmmm, I'll have check some out :)

Any suggestion?

Giynlith said...

I'm not the biggest fan of cowboy romances (I'm more of a Regency romance reader), but I do love country music. I'm amused/annoyed that a lot of the titles you highlighted here are also titles of country songs.

Wendy said...

Hilcia: I'm currently deluding myself into thinking that if contemporary cowboys take off - maybe historical ones will follow.

Goddess: They never really went away (thanks to writers like LLM and Harlequin) - but I can't remember the last time I saw this many of them coming out around the same time. They used to be fewer and farther beteween - especially in the single title realm....

PK: There's an HH author who lurks on my blog who feels the same way you do! LOL. She lives in the country and when she thinks "cowboy" she thinks of the smells associated with someone who is around horses and cows for a living!

Nath: I'm working on the Vicki Lewis Thompson Blaze series right now - and that's set on a Wyoming ranch. I need to get moving on those too. Sybil is going to want reviews!

Giynlith: Yeah, those Carolyn Brown books make me think of line-dancing! LOL

Kristie (J) said...

I've been somewhat aware of it, but since the historical Western is really my favourite of the two, I haven't noticed as much as I would had it been western rather than contemporary.
But still I do see it as a very good sign. I picked a few of them up in Orlando, most especially the RC Ryan books and while I haven't gotten to them yet, I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into them in time.

Leslie said...

I've been devouring the Lorelei James books, more for the um... indoor activities than the actual cowboying. I live in a small city surrounded by cowboy country and don't find most of the actual cowboys fodder for fantasy (many rodeo guys are alot smaller than you think they are - compact and wiry rather than tall and broad), but the carryover from the Western myth of the gentlemanly, yet masterful, cowpuncher makes for good escapism. Several of the authors on your list live in the rural West and do carry over pieces of "real life" that enhance their stories.

Wendy said...

Kristie: Who knows? Maybe if the contemporaries prove to be popular enough, publishers will once again be more open to the historical western setting. La, la, la - Wendy's off in fantasy land again - la, la, la!

Leslie: LOL! No shame in enjoying those indoor activities ;) And as for cowboys - I'm all about the tall and wiry fellows myself. ::dreamy sigh::

Viviana Giorgi (Georgette Grig) said...

I love westerns, both historical and contemporary (and also movies!). So much that I wrote one. I'm an italian romance writer and I settled my last novel in Wyoming, in Christmas time. The heroine is italian, the hero is a wonderful cow boy, Mitch. I didnt know if italian romance readers would have appreciated it (it is not a very popular genre here) , but it seems they did.
Loved the post, Wendy. Thank you so much.