Like many of you, I’ve been curious about this Vanessa Vale, Amazon’s new Queen of Western Romance. So, when I had the opportunity to pick her brain, of course I jumped at it–and I’m not selfish, I’m sharing it with you.
Let’s start at the beginning. Vanessa when did you start writing?
Vanessa Vale is a baby, only six months old. She didn’t exist until the fall of ’14. I’ve written under a different pen name for years but decided to break into the erotic market, so Vanessa was conceived. I lived in Montana for years, and still live in the West, so I wanted to focus on Western Historical Erotic. I have a thing for cowboys and I’m pretty sure it shows in my books.
Will you share with us your other pen name?
Nope. But I can say writing romantic comedy is completely different from writing erotic.
What do you like to read?
I read a lot. I mean a lot. I love erotic, romantic comedy, romantic suspense, cozy mysteries and even those creepy ones where you are scared in your own bed. Within the romance genre, I do NOT like fantasy. No fairies, aliens with tentacle penises, witches, warlocks, bear shifters, etc. You get the idea. I can handle a werewolf and a vampire, but it better be darn good.
What’s your favorite book ever?
Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home
What are you currently writing?
I publish a book every 4 weeks, so I’ve always got a book going. Sometimes two. I’m just about to begin writing The Outlaw, book 3 in the Montana Men series.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I write from 8-2:30 when kids are in school. Then I take up my second job: kid chauffeur. When I’m not wrangling kids, I do martial arts. I’m a black belt in Kenpo and teach a weekly class and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which means I’m clueless. It’s wonderful because I’m trying to get my body to do what my brain says, which makes me forget about my crazy day and any insanity. It’s humbling and is a constant reminder there’s always someone more skilled, more successful, richer, smarter, funnier, skinnier than you. I then am thankful I’m whole and healthy enough to show up. It’s pretty simple actually.
Introvert or extrovert?
I am a die-hard, card carrying introvert. I hate big groups. I hate concerts, parties or anything where I have to introduce myself. I’m not shy, but I will never be the life of the party.
How much of your books comes from real experiences?
This question makes me laugh because have you read my books? I lived in Montana and can picture the settings perfectly. I’ve had sex at least twice (I have two kids), so there’s realism there. Otherwise, you’ll just have to speculate.
Do you have any advice for new writers getting into erotica?
Write the first book, then write again…and quickly. Readers want more. They’re greedy. Erotic readers are also voracious. You only make money if you have books (note the plural there) out. So the more books you write, the more chances you have for readers to PAY YOU.
You sound like a really serious person. Is this true?
I’m serious about Vanessa Vale, for sure. But I’m also weird and quirky. I have crazy curly hair that matches my personality. I talk really, really fast. I like to eat dinner at five. I don’t like wearing floral prints. I can’t listen to music when I work. On my web site, I’ve got a list of 25 Things About Vanessa that might give you a little more insight into the ‘real’ me and are not in the least bit serious. http://vanessavaleauthor.com/25-things-about-vanessa/
I love to hear from readers! email@example.com
© 2014 Vanessa Vale & Blushing Books, Book 1
The proposition of being married to a stranger held mystery and allure the entire stage coach ride—three days of rattling and rolling across the open prairie—just until the driver called the horses to a halt in front of the general store in Liberty, Montana. This was the end of the line and my future husband would be waiting for me. My heart thumped so hard I couldn’t imagine it not being noticeable to all, either by beating its way out of my chest or by hearing the loud, frantic beats. My palms dampened my white gloves and breathing was even more difficult within the confines of my tight corset. My future was beyond the wooden door of the stage. Once I stepped out, my life, I knew, would alter dramatically.
Herbert Beecham had wanted me as his wife, at least until he found me unbuttoning the very top of my blouse beneath my neck one day outside of church. It had been stifling and I was overcome from the heat and thick humidity. The ruffled edge of the high collar was claustrophobic and hot and tickled my chin. With that sole button undone, no one would notice a change, nor would any skin show. It only relieved the constriction about my neck so I didn’t overheat and swoon at his feet. Instead of being concerned for my welfare, he’d labeled me a harlot in front of the remainder of the congregation mingling on the city sidewalk.
Did I have such low moral values that I wanted to expose my neck to strange men milling around? Was it my hope to lure these same men into my woman’s trap like I had him? Mr. Beecham wouldn’t be pulled from his soapbox once he began ranting about my wantonness, but he’d retracted his offer of marriage then and there. I’d been mortified, shamed and publicly humiliated. Even now, weeks later and hundreds of miles away, I was haunted by his words and wore my most severe, and modest, of dress.
Left without other prospects—no one would marry me after that public tirade—I had to consider farther afield as I had become somewhat desperate. Work for a woman was unattainable without any skills like sewing or teaching and without such, there would not be enough money to pay off my father’s debt and survive. Thus, my presence in Montana, far from St. Louis, as a mail order bride. It was either the poorhouse or marrying a complete stranger in a strange land.
What did my husband look like? Was he handsome and appealing to the eye? Would he be pleasant or cruel? Would he consider me amoral and a slattern like Mr. Beecham had? When I’d accepted Mr. Jake Bridger’s marriage by proxy, I’d envisioned a dime novel cowboy, all virile male and bulging muscle. He’d be able to rope a steer, ride a horse and pleasure a woman with mastery and skill. This last was a phrase I’d learned from such a novel and had no real idea what it meant, although it was a dream that kept me company on the long, arduous trek from St. Louis. Perhaps I was amoral and wanton as I’d been viciously painted.
The driver helped me down from the coach as I shielded my eyes from the bright sun. The air was warm, yet refreshing after the confines of my uncomfortable seat. There had been no reprieve since breakfast. Summers in Montana seemed palatable and pleasant, an appealing change to the sweltering streets of a big city.
“Miss Langton?” a deep voice called out.
I looked up, but couldn’t see the man with the voice, the sun directly behind him. Stepping closer, he broke free of the sun’s blaze and stood before me, close enough where I had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye. Oh lord, he was a big man!
Pulling his hat off his head, I was able to see his piercing dark eyes, his equally dark hair long at the nape and curling slightly. It was thick and wayward, making my fingers itch to feel how soft it was and to tame it. His jaw was square with dark whiskers, in need of a shave. His lips were full and one corner quirked up in a smile.
This was my husband? He was all the book described and even more.
© 2014 Vanessa Vale & Blushing Books
I’d never seen Tessa Bowers more beautiful than the moment she discovered she was getting married. She was stunned, panicked and nervous. Her cheeks, bright pink with vitality, had drained of color. Her mouth, often turned up into a contrary little smile, fell open and her tongue darted out to lick her full lips. Needless to say, my thoughts took a very carnal turn at the gesture.
Ever since she’d developed her woman’s body, she’d tested her feminine wiles on every man in Liberty, Montana, before ultimately setting her sights on me. Coy glances, an inappropriate brush of a hand, a brief, yet planned moment alone had been a few of her attempts to gain my attentions. Instead of the modest, demure behavior of a young miss, she was brazen, bold and devious and I’d been bewitched from the very first. The more she tried to gain my attention, however, the more I rebuffed her every effort. That didn’t mean I hadn’t noticed her. Hell, what man hadn’t? I blatantly disapproved of her every forward gesture, snubbed her bold advances because that meant she would apply herself even harder, and I enjoyed her efforts. Her blatant innocence was endearing, as long as it was directed toward me. No one else. And until she was old enough, I waited, for she was to be mine.
But she couldn’t ensnare me. I would trap her. It was the man’s job to claim his bride. And today at church, I did.
“You’re sure she’s the one you want?” Sam asked, leaning in to whisper in my ear. “It’s not too late to back out. No one would blame you. I hear Clara James has turned quite fetching in recent months.”
We were standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the altar, next to Reverend Abernathy. The church was small and the pews were filled with townspeople I’d known my whole life. I could hear their soft whispers as they watched the event unfold.
I turned my head and rolled my eyes at my brother. “Clara James? If you think she’s so fetching, then you have her. Tessa’s mine.”
I turned and watched my intended in the middle of the aisle, standing motionless between her parents. Both had a hand on one of her elbows, attempting to push her forward, but her feet held fast, even on the polished wood floor. For the first time in her life, Tessa Bowers was being forced to do something she wasn’t inclined to do. It might not be the last.
As she was being manhandled in my direction, Tessa seemed to have grasped what was about to occur. No one came up to the raised dais besides the minister unless they were about to be wed or buried. Mr. Bowers had taken care of his last responsibility toward his daughter: getting her to the altar. He’d done an exceptional job. It was obvious she had no idea this was no ordinary church service until she’d crossed the threshold to see me standing by the minister in my Sunday finery.
Stepping down, I shook Mr. Bower’s limp hand, nodded to his sour-faced wife and then took Tessa by the biceps.
“This is not happening,” she snapped, her voice low. She actually stomped her foot like a five-year-old, not the nineteen-year-old woman she was. She was tall, but still only came to my chin. Her hair was black as night and she had the bluest of eyes, a striking contrast that I’d never seen in another woman. Her mouth was lush and ripe, as were her womanly curves. When she spoke, however, her venomous words never failed to find their mark. I doubted she had many friends, and her parents had been quicker with a belt than a kind word. They were far from doting.
“I’m not even dressed appropriately.” She leaned in close and I could see a slight hint of freckles across her nose. Her familiar floral scent drifted up to me.
“You’re worried about your dress and not the man who is standing at the altar waiting for you?” I smirked at her tangled concerns.
She pursed her lips as if I’d just made a benign statement. “Of course it is you. Who else did I tempt all this time?”
Who else, indeed? No one that wished to claim and tame her like I did. Not that I’d let any of them get near her. I wanted a spirited woman. I wanted a woman with passion, with fire. I wanted Tessa.
“Regardless, this is not a convenient time. Perhaps next Sunday would be better.” She sniffed and smoothed her skirts to appear unaffected. I knew otherwise.
I only arched a brow at her dictate and leaned my head down so only she could hear. “Do you want to tell the reverend about the time you cornered me in the coat closet, or should I? How about when you accidentally spilled the water pitcher on your white blouse?” It was blackmail of the lowest form, but she needed to be swayed and quickly. I’d waited long enough to make her mine.
I heard her sharp intake of breath and watched her give Reverend Abernathy a furtive glance. “You wouldn’t.” Her voice hissed out with her usual snap of anger.
I bent at the waist so we were eye level. Her pale blue gaze was wary, fearful, yet still defiant. The room was silent. Not even a deep breath came from the congregation, as they no doubt watched our exchange, wondering who would emerge triumphant. “It doesn’t matter to me, darlin’, one way or the other.” I grinned. “We can stand up and get married today with everyone knowing of your forward ways, or we can just keep that to ourselves. It’s your choice.”
Her full mouth fell open and I could see her thinking, debating. I enjoyed watching her clever mind at work. It only took her a moment to realize she was good and trapped. “Very well, but I don’t have to like it. Or you.”
“You don’t have to like it, but it’ll sure be more enjoyable for you if you do.”
© 2015 Vanessa Vale & Blushing Books
Old Man Jenkins was a wily bastard. Somewhere in his seventies, he’d spent his last years as a recluse, a veritable hermit on his ranch. It had vast amounts of acreage, greater than ten thousand if I had to venture a guess, which meant he had vast amounts of money. He had ranch hands to tend the cows, the horses and maintain the property. He had a wife, young and biddable. Devney. She must be in order to survive the long winters isolated with an old geezer like him. He also had a daughter, Becca, close in age to his wife. He’d pulled her from school when she was twelve, kept her on the ranch and no one had seen her since. It seemed he controlled everything with a ruthless hand, everything except death. Adam Graham, my good friend and town doctor, had said it was most likely his heart that finished him off.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been either the wife or daughter who’d done him in for keeping them so alone, and Doc wouldn’t have reported them to the sheriff, Ian McKenzie. Hell, McKenzie would have helped dig the hole to bury the man if he had.
It was the three of us that rode to the Jenkins ranch to bring Devney and Becca back to town, back to civilization that was Liberty, Montana. Without a will nor son, Devney, as wife, inherited it all. She’d be hounded by leeches who wanted nothing more than her money, her land once word spread. And her land held power. The Yellowstone River bisected a section which gave her water rights, water rights that were crucial to survival in Montana. She’d have to marry. So would Becca. They had no other choice.
We rode in silence, side by side across the open prairie south of Liberty. We’d left while the townsfolk were in church, hoping to return with the women before dark. After an hour, we let the horses drink from a creek, the day hot and the sun blazing.
“There’s only so much we can do to protect them once they get to town,” Doc said, wiping a bandana against his neck. “They’ll have to marry.” It seemed Doc and I were thinking along the same lines.
“I have no idea what to expect,” McKenzie took a swig of water from his canteen, the sun hot and dry. “No one’s seen Becca for six, maybe seven years. Devney’s only been to town once and that was to see you.” He looked to Doc.
“She got a sliver in her foot and it got infected. Could have killed her if she let it linger, but somehow managed to ride in with the foreman who was collecting supplies. This was about six months after she married. I haven’t seen her since. It’s possible she’s got a herd of kids by now, for all the news that comes from their ranch.”
I hadn’t met either woman and felt sympathy for both. I was all for protecting a woman that was legally mine. Hell, I was heading to a ranch to protect two women unknown to me. But keeping them so restricted took this stance too far. Jenkins might have protected them, but cut them off from the world as well.
“The land’s hers. The water rights are hers. Once words spreads that Jenkins is dead, she’ll be fair game,” I said, thinking about the vultures that were soon to circle Devney Jenkins. “This country is rough on a woman. But without any contact like they’ve had to endure?” I just shook my head imagining two women wild and potentially a little insane.
I hadn’t wanted to spend time in the mercantile with Old Man Jenkins whenever our paths crossed in the past. The idea of the things Devney Jenkins had been subjected to left a bad taste in my mouth. The rules for wives in Liberty were definitely strict, but I could only imagine what Devney had endured.
McKenzie bit off a piece of jerky. “What about the ranch hands? They have to know her worth. This might not be a good scene.”
Those words brought about grim thoughts the remainder of the way to the main house. As we approached, we gave each other knowing looks. The house was pristine. The white paint was fresh, the fences in working order around the corral. The barn also had a fresh coat of paint and the roof appeared to be in good condition. Several horses were in the near pasture and cows dotted the hills beyond. All was quiet. Too quiet.
We rode up to the house, tied our horses to the rail at the base of the steps and looked around. “What’s that god-awful smell?” I asked. I covered my mouth and nose with my hand.
“Dead body,” Doc replied grimly.
McKenzie nodded his head, his jaw tight. Were the women dead? There was obviously only one way to find out. He pulled his gun from his belt and we followed him around the house to where the stench was stronger. There on the ground about thirty feet from the house was a dead man. By the way the birds were picking at him, flying off only when McKenzie shot into the air, he’d been there awhile. Not the ladies.
I heard the cocking of a gun and it wasn’t the sheriff’s. I froze and so did McKenzie and Doc. “Who are you and what do you want?” a woman shouted.
Submitting Sarah – The Montana Maidens Series, Book 4
© 2015 Vanessa Vale & Blushing Books
For someone who’d escaped in the dead of night, slipping past not only the town doctor but the sheriff as well, I wasn’t as free as I’d hoped. The lightening of the sky was just a faint gray on the distant horizon, the air cool and crisp as if fall was approaching. I shivered in just my simple dress I’d donned this morning on my father’s ranch. Now, not quite a full day later, my life had changed irrevocably.
Yesterday, my stepmother, Devney, and I, had been taken into town by Doctor Graham, the sheriff, and Mr. Bridger to offer us protection from unsuitable and money-grubbing men. With my father’s death a week prior, my stepmother inherited the property and became a very wealthy–and very young–widow. We were very familiar with these vultures rightly enough when Carl, one of the ranch hands, had decided to claim Devney as his future bride, willing or not. Not interested in the union, especially to a cruel and ruthless man, Devney had shot him dead. Then there’d been Mr. Wainright from some far off town who she’d shot in the arm and fled. It had become clear as the glass on the windows we’d been stuck behind that Doctor Graham, the sheriff and Mr. Bridger had been reasonable in their offer of protection; what irked us both was the lack of choice in the matter.
They’d given us an unsavory option, a marriage between Mr. Bridger and Devney, which I’d forbid. She didn’t know the man, let alone love him. I’d been on the ranch for six years, yanked from school to stay isolated per my father’s wishes, and in that time, Devney and I had spoken dreamily of the men we’d marry. The love we’d share with those men.
Also in those six years on the ranch, I’d planned my escape. There were no prison bars, of course, but the confinement was the same. With my father dead, leaving Devney alone on the ranch with those men circling to claim her was not something I could do. I’d been forced to remain. But that changed swiftly. With Devney safe under the protection of Doctor Graham, she would be well taken care of. Based on the way Mr. Bridger had been watching her, married to the rancher soon enough. Devney was safe.
Because of that, I knew my moment had come. I could finally set off to do what I wanted, be who I wanted to be, see the places I’d only dreamed about from the confines of the Jenkins Ranch. So with the rising of the moon, I’d slipped fully dressed from bed in Doctor Graham’s house and tiptoed down the stairs and out into the darkness.
Now, a few hours later, it was clear there were some flaws to the plan. In my hasty departure, I had no food, no water, and I had a wretched harness about my waist, a veritable chastity belt. Not only did it fit uncomfortably where it covered my woman’s core so snugly, it also was positioned between the cheeks of my bottom in a way that was uncomfortable. Riding upon a horse I’d borrowed from the livery, it was the only constant in my thoughts. Doctor Graham had placed it upon me as a protection from unwanted advances; he’d stated that it was to guard my pussy. My virtue. It also made the most basic of life’s necessities extremely difficult.
I sighed, savoring the sight of the sky turning pink from a different vantage point, something different than what I’d solely seen day after day from my father’s ranch. In the distance were a smattering of trees in a long line, which I knew meant water. I turned the horse in that direction. As I climbed from the animal, letting it walk to the water’s edge for a cool drink, the sun had broken the horizon and I could see clearly.
There must be some way to remove the leather harness. I’d tried, oh, I’d tried, yet the lock at the small of my back, meant to keep others out, kept me tightly confined within. I would need to find some tool to cut through the tough leather. A rock! A sharp rock could work. My dress, however, would be quite the hindrance. I couldn’t hold up my dress and work on the leather belt about my waist at the same time. Glancing left and right, I searched for anyone who might witness me in just my shift.
I removed my ankle boots and stockings, undid the buttons of my dress and let it puddle at my feet. I wore my simple white shift and the annoying harness. Devney wore a corset as well, but I was too small, too petite everywhere to require one. When I did, it lifted me up and enhanced my breasts in ways I felt only drew more attention to me. My red hair was enough of a burden as it was.
The water was slow moving and shallow, clear and babbling as it was forced around rocks and larger boulders. Finding a tool to use would not be hard. Following the water’s edge, I picked up rocks, discarded them, until I found one with just what I was looking for. Pleased, I couldn’t help but smile at this first step to escaping the harness.
Finding a patch of soft grass, I sat down, the cool blades still wet with dew, and lifted the bottom of my shift. Spreading my legs wide, I balanced myself as I gripped the leather at my hip in one hand, the rock in the other, rubbing the sharp point across it. Using small motions, I worked one particular spot, hoping to soften it, tear through it so that it break apart. Then I’d be free. This wasn’t going to be a quick task. As the sun rose, so did the temperature and I became warm. Overheated.
“This is a sight I had not expected to see.”
© 2015 Vanessa Vale & Blushing Books
I was to be first. First out of the ridiculous sanctuary of this bumpy, stuffy, uncomfortable stage coach and into the keeping of a complete stranger. Until death do us part. We had endured the arduous ride from Ft. Mandan – Caroline, Emily and myself – and had become close friends, commiserators of sorts to our fears of our identical life changing decisions to become mail order brides.
“Just think, if we hadn’t gone to Mrs. Bidwell’s office, we never would have met,” Caroline said in her soft lilt. She matched her voice: petite and shy.
Emily smiled, although clearly forced, and grasped her hand. “I couldn’t agree more.” She turned and shared her somewhat reassuring smile with me. “Although now that we’re almost to August Point, I fear for you, Eleanor.”
My stomach leapt toward my throat, not from another rut in the hard packed ground, but from the thought that soon, only minutes from now, I’d meet my husband. All three of us had wed by proxy in Mrs. Bidwell’s office in Minneapolis to men in the far off Montana territory. Men who had written to the older woman whose business was to find single, eligible and willing women to move west and marry complete strangers. I had no doubt finding women–unmarried and of childbearing age–in a wild and untamed land was a veritable impossibility. My new husband might be desperate, but not such as I.