Countdown to the Conference Wind Up, Guest Blog with Amber Leigh Williams!

 Hello everyone! Today is our last day of Countdown to Conference and I’m proud to present a very nice and talented author from the Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA. Amber Leigh Williams spins a steamy and emotional tale of cowboys and I’m so glad that today our commenters will get the chance to win one of her three books. She has been kind enough not only to do the guest blog but to offer one digital copy of BLACKEST HEART to one commenter, one digital edition of BLUEST HEART, and one digital edition of BET IT ON MY HEART. Three winners total, one for each book so please make sure to leave a comment and Amber will be checking randomly throughout the day! Thanks again Amber!!


Amber Leigh Williams:

Things I Learned While Writing Western Romance

I’ve learned much by genre-hopping in the romance industry. I learned how to build a taut romantic suspense and globe-hob in a matter of days in DENIED ORIGIN. I learned how to not only switch gears completely to write western romance, but I also managed for the first time to write a novella with BLACKEST HEART (November 2008), following it up fast with two sequels: BLUEST HEART (January 2010) and BET IT ON MY HEART (March 2010). With the launch of my historical romance set in war-torn Italy, FOREVER AMORE, my trivia range expanded by leaps and bounds. When asked recently what my favorite learning experience has been while writing full-time for six years, I harkened back to the development of those three western romance novellas and everything they taught me.

#1 – Cowboy Heroes Are SEXY!

I was crazy enough never to read western romance before delving into my Texan Ridge family and their many idiosyncrasies. Up until then, the cowboy hero seemed like a bit of a cliché. Boy, am I ashamed of that assumption now! There is nothing sexier than the cowboy hero. In fact, writing the characters of silent cowboy Judd Black (BLACKEST HEART), charming Casey Ridge (BLUEST HEART), and playboy Keefe Ridge (BET IT ON MY HEART) helped me understand the romance hero in general a heck of a lot better. These boys instructed me on how to take my historical romance hero to a totally different—and sellable—level! I’m also thrilled that after reading BLACKEST HEART a reviewer who was unfamiliar, as I was, with western romance decided to pick up more of the genre because of Judd’s story. She and many others gave the book top-rating. Nothing has been more rewarding than writing the cowboy hero. Whether it’s the rein-roughened touch or the way they look in the saddle, I now read the genre extensively and can’t wait to find an excuse to write more because of them! 

#2 – Feisty Heroines Are the Order of the Day

Don’t count on finding any believable shrinking violets in western romance, especially The Wild Rose Press’s Wayback, Texas line, which demands heroines with a little spice in every story. Gone are the days when a cowboy throws his swooning bride over his shoulder and rides off into the sunset. No, these days western romance heroines—historical and contemporary—want their own horse. And gun, if suspense or danger is involved. Take a classic example: Lily from Nora Roberts’s Montana Sky. When readers first encounter her, she’s running from an abusive ex-husband and shrinks from every shadow. As the story progresses, however, Lily learns to stand on her own two feet and show everyone—even that crazy ex—she’s got real gumption. In today’s western market, we see heroines stand up for themselves. It takes a real woman to tangle with that more-likely-than-not-alpha cowboy. Whether it’s the innocent schoolteacher or the bawdy showgirl, you can count on a feisty heroine to go with your latest dose of western romance!

#3 – What Do Cowboys Do for Fun?

I don’t know how historical western romance hero/heroines do it. For me, that remains to be seen (and written J). But I learned real quick what cowboys and cowgirls do in the small town of Wayback, Texas. Thanks to the authors who came before me and the Ridge trilogy, the one-stop place on everybody’s weekend agenda is the rodeo! And there is a wealth to be learned about bull-riding, bronc-busting, barrel-racing, and rodeo clowns. Now whenever anybody mentions rodeo, you hear this western-lover say “Whoop!” As long as we’re talking fun, let’s not forget that cowboys and cowgirls need a watering hole even in modern times. Cue the saloon (er…country) music! And gone are not the days when you’ll see a brawl beyond those swinging doors, thank goodness. Dude ranches are also a big thing in the ranch community. It is difficult for ranch owners to turn a profit if they don’t own more than 50,000 acres of cattle. They turn to the dude-ranching market, opening their homes and grounds to tourism. You can bet a week at a dude ranch in pigtails, chaps, and spurs is on my bucket list!

There’s a wealth to be learned from writing any genre at all, especially with Google at your fingertips. But researching and writing the Ridge family saga was by far one of the best writing experiences of my life and I’m equally proud and a bit sad to be wrapping it up with Keefe’s story this month. I look forward to going back to the west soon with a brand new cast of characters.

Until then, I’m pimping Keefe out to the world! If you haven’t been introduced to this fun-lovin’ ranch man, let me just say that it was sinfully fun to watch this cowboy fall flat on his face for none other than a gorgeous Yankee heroine. The great thing about writing Calli Morlani was experiencing contemporary western culture from a total newbie’s perspective. Here’s an exclusive peak into BET IT ON MY HEART through her eyes…

“You that nosy Hollywood bit who’s come to steal our Stella?”

Calli’s mouth fumbled open. Irritation firmed them as she planted a hand on her hip. “That’d be me. And you are…?”

“Nuala. I run this house,” she replied, proud, double chin jutting out. Her black eyes narrowed.

“You got something in your mouth, girl?”

Again, Calli gaped at her. “You got something against Northerners?”

“Yeah, and we gotta name for them around here. Yankees.”

Calli resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Jesus. I must’ve hit a time warp somewhere between here and civilization that wiped me back to the eighteen-hundreds.”


“I was told to extend the regional courtesy if you showed up,” Nuala said. “Stella’s a good girl. I trust she knows how to pick her friends. But a friend would know bliss when she sees it. Our Stella’s never been happier. ”

“Our Stella’s probably just been in the country too long.” She raised her hands to avoid an argument. “I digress. Where can I find the belle of the bovine?”

“North pasture. She won’t be back until lunch,” Nuala informed her. “If you want to wait, you’re free to roam about. Just watch the cowpies. Wouldn’t want you to ruin another pretty pair of shoes.”

The door slapped shut in Calli’s face before she could reply. She gritted her teeth. Seemed word of her first bout of humiliation had spread. Her heels tapped against the wood of the porch as she walked around the side of the house.


Her breath caught when her gaze fell over the back view. All those rolling, green hills. It’d been too dark to see them the night before. The range seemed to stretch and undulate until the panorama fell out of view and there was only that lovely, blue sky. She stood at the rail, admiring it. The vastness of it stole the breath right out of her lungs.


A whistle cut across the yard from one of the hunter green, barn-like structures. She looked to see two cowboys on horseback chasing three calves into the corral with the rest of the noisy herd.


Instant recognition struck her when she focused on the one who sat taller in the saddle. A warm, twining feeling sank into her torso. Considering the snug sensation, she walked off the porch and across the grass toward them, careful where she stepped this time.


Keefe Ridge looked as laid back in boots and saddle as a grandpa in slippers and recliner. He was a picture of rustic perfection she found herself oddly drawn toward.


She watched from the fence line as he and the other cowboy rustled the braying herd around the corral. There was some ruckus in the barn at right, but she didn’t think she wanted to know what was happening in there.


The other guy noticed her first. Keefe turned in the saddle when he pointed her way. His hard jaw softened into a devastating grin she felt from her scalp to the tips of her bare toes. She lifted a hand as he made his way toward her.

“Aren’t you a picture?” he called.

“Funny, I was just thinking the same about you,” she replied. A pleasant thrill of a shiver ran up her spine when his eyes lowered over her chest. She’d put on a purple v-neck blouse that clung to her torso and added a black, patent leather belt just above the waist to coordinate with the flattering, black slacks and peeptoe wedge heels. “What are you doing?”

“Vaccinating heifers,” he explained.

“Hm,” she mused. “Is that any fun?”

He lifted a shoulder. “It’s work. I’d rather be up in the north hills rounding up the strays with the others, but I’m with the ladies today. Yourself?”

“Tracking Stella,” she told him. “Seems I won’t catch her until lunch.”

He shook his head. “She went with Judd. She likes to ride. She’s addicted to the free space. I think it’s from being cooped in the city too long.”

“It’s breathtaking,” she admitted, looking out over those picturesque hills again. “Like Georgia O’Keefe but deeper, richer, more tangible. Certainly more pungent.”

He chuckled. “The smell gives it a tang of realism. Keeps us cowpokes from dreaming.” He tilted his head, his eyes roaming over her face again.

She gripped the fence rail and held his stare. “What? Have I got compost on my face?”

He shook his head, one of those lazy grins digging laugh lines into his cheeks. “I was just thinking how you’d look in a ten-gallon hat, leather chaps, and boots.”

She raised a brow. “Do I get a horse whip with that get-up?”

His eyes shined with mischievous suggestion. “Anything you want, babe.”

“And what does one wear under all that gear?” she wondered aloud, smile curving wide to match his. She hadn’t had a good flirt in forever, it seemed.

“Depends on the scene.”

She propped her chin on the rail, eyes still keen on his. “I thought cowpokes weren’t supposed to dream.”


BET IT ON MY HEART © Amber Leigh Williams

Visit my blog, The Cozy Page, for more excerpts, the teaser trailer and other stops on Keefe and Calli’s blog tour: You can now purchase BET IT ON MY HEART from The Wild Rose Press:



Keefe Ridge’s bronc-busting days are nearly over. Despite that and the fact that he is slowly making his dream business venture a reality, Wayback’s wildest cowboy doesn’t see any reason to settle down. He is even willing to bet that marriage isn’t in the cards at all for him.


Agent Calli Morlani came to Wayback on a mission: to bring Stella Ridge back to Hollywood . When Stella refuses, she dares Calli to take in some local color and see what Wayback has to offer. Whether that includes Stella’s devastatingly charming brother becomes irrelevant once Calli finds herself in bed with him – in more ways than one…

Will it take a tough city girl to make the Wayback playboy finally fall long and hard? Or will Keefe give Calli a reason to stay? Place your bet!

The Wayback Ridge trilogy doesn’t have to be read in order, but if you’d like to catch up, Book I – 1st Place More Than Magic Novella BLACKEST HEART – is available for just $3.00: It is also featured in the paperback anthology THE WAY BACK HOME along with two more Wayback, TX tales That’s three cowboys in one! Woot! Book II, BLUEST HEART, is available for purchase for just $3.75! And Keefe isn’t the only sexy Ridge hero *wink*. Get your copy of The Blues today:



Amber Leigh Williams


11 Responses

  1. Great post, Amber. Welcome to our blog. I was not a big cowboy fan til you and Sayde opened my eyes!

  2. She’ll have him the minute he lays eyes one her.
    Great post Amber , I love a hunky cowboy myself.

  3. I absolutely loved Blackest Heart & Bluest Heart, and I’m hoping to read Bet It On My Heart this weekend! Amber, you are one amazing writer! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much, Donna!

    Thanks for stopping by, Mary! Glad you liked the excerpt.

    Sfcatty, glad Sayde and I I opened your eyes!

  5. Hurray for cowboy romances! I love how different you made the heroes of your novels; makes for an excellent variety. 😉

  6. AMBER LEIGH–You, my dear, are the queen of Wayback heroes and heroines! Congratulations on all your books and your chosen genre just fits you–your name even sounds Western–“Amber leigh.” You could be one of your own characters! I can see you now…..Celia

  7. Enjoyed reading the comments. I have added these books to my TBR list.

  8. Oh, wonderful! Thanks for stopping by Joye!

  9. Julie, it’s funny – I was so focused on making the heroines different, I didn’t realize the heroes were night, day, and…early early morning!

    Celia, you are so sweet! And can I be Stella? LOL

  10. Loved Blackest Heart, looking forward to Bluest Heart, and now see I’ll need to pick up a copy of Bet It on My Heart real soon! Great excerpt–you do coyboys pretty darn awesome. *grin*

  11. Thank you Stacey! I’m so glad you enjoyed Blackest Heart! Hope you like Casey, Keefe, and their heroines too 🙂

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