For about the first ten years of my writing career, I collected rejection slips like normal people collect photos from their family vacations, souvenirs of an extended stay in an alternate reality. Most of those nopes had a distinct theme: love your writing, love the rodeo action, but your characters are just too nice.
Or as one editor told my agent, “She needs to rough them up.”
I am embarrassed to say that I resisted for a very long time. I wanted my heroes and heroines to be smart and sensible, someone I’d like for a friend. I didn’t want to let them make dumb mistakes and bad decisions. But finally I realized that even smart people do dumb things. Life inflicts damage on pretty much everyone, and none of us is as together as we’d like the world to think. As Grace McKenna tells Hank Brookman in Mistletoe in Texas when he complains that his brother-in-law is too perfect, “Wyatt is as much of a mess as all the rest of us. He just looks better doing it.”
But why are we so drawn to flawed characters?
The easy answer is that the harder the battle, the more satisfying the victory, and we all love an underdog. As a rodeo contestant, the trophies I treasure most are those won by overcoming not only the stiffest competition, but my own doubts and insecurities. To win when you’re expected to win is nice. To perform brilliantly when the odds are stacked against you is a thrill like no other.
But if we dig a little deeper, I think we identify with the less-than-perfect because most of us are underdogs in some way. Especially if we’re female. If our faces and bodies don’t conform to rigid standards of beauty. If we’re too ambitious, or we raise our voices too often, or we’ve had the audacity to take chances and make mistakes.
In other words, if we don’t fit between the very straight, very white lines that have defined the world of romantic fiction for far too long.
In every book, I set out to challenge those limits. To show that yes, in Reckless in Texas Violet Jacobs can be a single mother and a hard-nosed businesswoman and a cowgirl, tall and strong and what your mama would call big-boned, and expect to find a man who admires those things about her. That Tori in Tangled in Texas can demand a life partner who isn’t intimidated or diminished by a woman who is brilliant and driven and sometimes single-minded beyond a fault. That Shawnee in Tougher in Texas shouldn’t learn to be quieter or less outrageous or more biddable. She just needs a man who can handle her exactly the way she is. That Melanie in Fearless in Texas can declare war on the good ol’ boys club and expect full and unconditional support from her friends and family, the hell with anyone who tries to tell her to hush up and play nice.
And in Mistletoe in Texas, Grace McKenna can choose to opt out of the traditional role of motherhood and not be less of a woman.
I never thought I’d write a secret baby book. It isn’t one of my preferred romance tropes. Then Grace stepped quietly onto the pages as a secondary character in Fearless in Texas and I found myself wondering under what circumstances could I see myself keeping a child’s existence from its father. How high would the stakes have to be, and what exactly would I have to have to lose to justify that silence? It couldn’t be for money, or for career. In the end, there were only two reasons I could live with: family or the welfare of the child.
And so Grace became a woman raised in the cult of extreme conservative Christianity, whose decision to give up her daughter would mean being cast out by her father and, most importantly, banned from contact with the younger brothers who she aids and abets in their resistance to indoctrination. When she finds herself pregnant with Hank’s baby—a man who has proven time and again throughout the Texas Rodeo series that he can’t be trusted with anyone’s secrets, including his own, and who seems bent on destroying his career and possibly himself—Grace makes what she feels is the best choice for all of them.
But she knows the day of reckoning will come. Hers is a secret with a built-in expiration date. She’s prepared to deal with Hank’s outrage, his pain, his anger. She believes she has earned them all. What she never anticipated was acceptance. Or love.
Before she can achieve her happily-ever-after, though, Grace has to persuade the harshest critic of all that she deserves it—herself.
And so it is with everyone I know. We are constantly bombarded with reasons we don’t measure up—by society, by the media, all too often by the people closest to us under the guise of being helpful. We are trained to focus on our faults instead of our strengths, and we fall into unsatisfying, damaging or dangerous relationships because we’ve been persuaded it’s the best we can expect.
I write women who aren’t perfect, who don’t conform, who make mistakes and have major flaws because that’s who we all are underneath. In the process, I hope to smash the myth that only a certain kind of person has the right to demand happiness, and convince my readers that we all deserve to be loved because of what we are, not in spite of it.
The women of the Texas Rodeo series are all more than willing to hand me a hammer.
“Dell takes you on a fun, wild ride!” ―B.J. DANIELS, New York Times
He’s always been the black sheep: the troublemaker.
But this Christmas, the prodigal cowboy returns.
Rodeo bullfighter Hank Brookman was headed straight for the top. But
after a single misstep resulted in devastating injury, he disappeared
under a mountain of regrets. Now he’s back, ready to face the loved
ones he left behind-starting with the one girl his heart could never
When Hank stormed out of Texas, he left Grace McKenna picking up
the pieces…and struggling with a secret that changed everything. He
may be back looking for redemption, but after everything they’ve been
through, how can she admit what he really walked away from all those
Hank always knew persuading Grace to trust him again would be a tall
order. Convincing her they deserve a happily ever after? That may take
a Texas-sized Christmas miracle.
Texas Rodeo Series:
Reckless in Texas (Book 1)
Tangled in Texas (Book 2)
Tougher in Texas (Book 3)
Fearless in Texas (Book 4)
Mistletoe in Texas (Book 5)
What People Are Saying about the Texas Rodeo series:
“Look out, world! There’s a new cowboy in town.” ―CAROLYN BROWN,
New York Times Bestselling Author
“An extraordinarily gifted writer.”―KAREN TEMPLETON, author of Wed
in the West series
“Real Ranches. Real Rodeo. Real Romance.”―LAURA DRAKE, author of
Sweet on a Cowboy series
“A sexy, engaging romance set in the captivating world of
“Illuminating…a standout in western romance.”―Publishers Weekly
Romance Contemporary [Sourcebooks, On Sale: September 25, 2018, Mass Market Paperback, ISBN: 9781492658146 / ]
About Kari Lynn Dell
Kari Lynn Dell is a native of north central Montana, a third generation ranch-raised cowgirl, horse trainer and rodeo competitor, most recently the 2013 Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association Breakaway Roping Champion. She attended her first rodeo at two weeks old and has existed in a state of horse-induced poverty ever since. She currently resides on the family ranch on the Blackfeet Reservation, loitering in her parents’ bunkhouse along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog, with a tipi on the front step, a view of Glacier National Park from her writing desk and Canada within spitting distance.