Golden Heart Spotlight – Jennifer Jakes!

Okay, before we get to the spotlight today, I just have to say thanks so much to the golden heart spotlighters we’ve had so far! Keely, Linda, Sharon & Lisa – I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better and can’t wait to meet you (hopefully) in Orlando! Now that my book is done and turned in (TEMPTED – Book 3, Eternal Guardians, as of today, wahoo!) I can relax a little and get back to enjoying the blogosphere.

And now, as they say in tinseltown, on with the show…


Writer Jennifer Jakes lives outside St. Louis, Missouri on fifteen rural acres with her husband, two daughters, two elderly horses and four spoiled dogs. While she’d like to say she spends peaceful days writing, that’s not quite true. Her process is more of a manic sprint than a relaxing stroll. In fact, that kind of describes her life. 

Her manuscript – RAFE’S REDEMPTION – is a finalist in the Historical category of the Golden Heart contest. It also won First Place and Grand Prize in the 2009 Gateway to the Best contest.

To learn more about Jennifer and her writing, visit her website.

Here’s a little about Jennifer’s Historical Romance Golden Heart finaling manuscript, RAFE’S REDEMPTION:

Artist Maggie Monroe wants to travel and see the West. Her cousin wants to see her dead. But when they are stranded in a rough Colorado outpost, Maggie becomes collateral for her cousin’s gambling debts.

Disillusioned recluse Rafe McBride went into town to buy supplies, not a woman. Maggie is exactly what he doesn’t need: a female, yes, that, but worse, someone depending on him. He has problems of his own. He’s being hunted by a vengeful killer – his own stepbrother. But Rafe’s conscience won’t let him leave Maggie in the hands of the lecherous townsmen, so he buys her, promising to return her to St. Louis. All he asks is that she follow orders.

Maggie isn’t about to follow orders. This is her first taste of freedom after a controlled upbringing, and just because Rafe is the most attractive man she’s ever met, he’s still a man -an infuriating one at that – and his rules were made to be broken. But her new found independence drives Rafe to distraction. And desire. Each day he wants her a little more. But he knows no woman would accept the dark secret he’s hiding.

So together they trek across the Rocky Mountains, pursued by killers, delayed by blizzards, and tempted by passion, forced to face all three head-on.

And now a few fun questions to get to know Jennifer better:

1)  How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing about four years. Perhaps it’s better said I’ve been putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, about that long. I’ve been writing stories in my head since I was a little girl.

2)  Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life?  
No.  I actually didn’t consider it until my first (colicky) child was born. Walking the floor all night gave me lots of time to consider the story of my heart, Rafe’s Redemption. So I made several notes and stuck them into a file folder labeled: The story I’ll write someday. Ten years later I finally decided it was “someday.”

3)  What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
Well, my mom says I’ve been a Jen-(not Jack)-of-all-trades. Guilty. But my most unusual day job was driving a dump truck! My husband and I owned a dump trucking company for twelve + years. So besides doing the paperwork and payroll, I was the fill-in driver. Once we sold the company, I told my husband I wanted to devote my time to writing—‘tho I do work part-time at a bookstore. (Dream job for a writer!) Besides that, we are Civil War re-enactors.  My husband is an artillery man, and I portray an Army laundress. It’s great fun for a historical enthusiast like me.

4)  Who are your favorite authors?
 The author I pick up over and over again is Sabrina Jefferies. I love her style, her voice. And her plots always have some new quality. Not easy in a flooded Regency market.

5)  Do you have an agent? 
Not yet.

6)  Where do you see yourself in five years?
How about a beach! I’m thinking Key West. Pastel buildings, white sand, blue water, and me with my laptop, cranking out storiesJ

 It’s great to have Jennifer here today. And now, in her own words…


Michaela and Sully. Stands with a Fist and John Dunbar. Hawkeye and Cora.

Have I got you thinking? Take a moment. What TV series or movies did these characters come from?

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Dances with Wolves; Last of the Mohicans.

I like to use peanut M & Ms as a reward. So if you got one right, give yourself one  M & M (your choice of color). If you got two right, give yourself two. If you got all three right  –  go ahead and give yourself the entire package.J They’re small.

Now, down to business.  The characters I mentioned are those I never tire of. These are the kind of characters I write about. These are the kind of characters that grow larger than life in my head. Ever since elementary school, when I spent my summers reading about Sacajawea leading Lewis and Clark, I’ve had a love affair with frontier stories. So I have to wonder: Does that make me a western historical romance writer? I’m not sure. Let me explain. In my opinion ‘western’ brings to mind a certain image. When you say the word, do you automatically picture Clint Eastwood or John Wayne riding down a dusty Texas street? Do you picture two gun-slingers meeting on said street at high noon? Mmm-Hmm. Me too.

And therein lies my dilemma. None of my stories take place in Texas. Stagecoaches? Nope. Cacti? Sorry. And *gasp* there’s not a tumbling tumbleweed in sight.  

Am I a fraud? Will the real card-carrying western romance writers kick me out of the circle?   OK, I joke, but it’s something I’ve given some – maybe too much – thought to. And I have to ask: What is my subgenre?

A chaptermate suggested I call my work frontier historical romance. What do you think? What do you expect when you pick up a book labeled western historical romance?

24 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Jennifer Jakes!”

  1. Jerri
    June 1st, 2010 at 3:25 am · Link

    Great interview, Elisabeth and Jennifer!

  2. Lynn
    June 1st, 2010 at 3:48 am · Link

    Hi Jennifer!
    Great interview. I’m interested in the sub genre question. I love the exploration stories – Lewis and Clark, wagon trains, frontier life. Maybe it’s the overcoming great odds that I fall in love with. (And might explain my addition to reality shows with a purpose.)

    Good luck with finding a home for Rafe’s Redemption.

  3. Linda Lovely
    June 1st, 2010 at 4:53 am · Link

    Intriguing blog. I love genre books but I love even more the cross-genre books and novels that wiggle out of the rigid constraints. Your book sounds wonderful–two strong characters with opposing agendas and an unexpected attraction. Frontier Historical Romance might come closer than Western in telling readers what to expect. Good luck.

  4. Jeannie Lin
    June 1st, 2010 at 5:28 am · Link

    Great interview Jennifer. And LOVE the site Elisabeth!

    Congrats to both of you for the respective GH and Rita nominations this year. Best of luck!

    I think frontier romance is a great term, but I wouldn’t balk at categorizing your books as westerns either. The west can be anything from trails to prairies to saloons and shoot outs, right?

    I’m so happy to see your growing success and I’ll be cheering hard for you in July in Orlando.

  5. Angi Morgan
    June 1st, 2010 at 5:57 am · Link

    It’s awesome getting to know the GH finalists. Thanks for the opportunity. And I’ll second the congratulations to all of you (and Elizabeth on her RITA nod). Best of Luck !

    I love the idea of your romances. Western…frontier…doesn’t really matter. Put a horse in it and let it run. There aren’t enough on the bookshelves to satisfy my love for them. But you got me thinking, the “frontier” of Scotland has the same appeal to me. It’s not that they’re IN SCOTLAND, it’s the isolation and how the characters are forced to depend on each other.

  6. CJ
    June 1st, 2010 at 7:04 am · Link

    Hmm. I’d still classify yours as Western, although I guess I never considered how broad that classification could be. Guess I don’t need a stagecoach or Texas to make it Western for me. Inspirationals have a whole subgenre called “Prairie Romances.” Dr. Quinn and Sully would be good Prairie Romance material.

    Now Last of the Mohicans I would classify as Colonial — which is kind of a kiss of death in Romance Novel Land right now. (Says the person who finaled in the GH last year with a colonial setting.) Wonder if we changed the classification to Frontier romance if we could expand the settings to include places east of the Mississippi River?

    (And — I have to say it — for those of us who read the book (over and over, in the case of some of us) we know the romance was between Uncas and Cora. I hated what they did with the characters in the movie.)

  7. Jacqui Nelson
    June 1st, 2010 at 7:52 am · Link

    Wonderful interview Jennifer! As a writer and fan of westerns I ponder the same questions. I like the idea of calling them frontier romance.
    Have you watched the TV series Deadwood? That was a very interesting show and it was set in South Dakota and not in Texas 🙂
    Also interesting was the fact that my interest in the show dipped significantly after the 1st season — after the romance between Alma and Seth was put on the backburner. All of the characters were fantastic, though.
    Looking forward to reading you book one day soon!

  8. Megan Kelly
    June 1st, 2010 at 8:41 am · Link

    Jennifer, This is a great intro to your story. I hope it finds a home soon so I can read it! I love Westerns, and a Western by another name (frontier) would still stink like horse sh*t, right? 😆 Call it whatever will sell it to publishers. Readers will recognize it by the cover. I loved Dr. Quinn and Sully’s romance, happy she never really tamed him. Good luck–I’ll be in the crowd in Orlando cheering for you. Thanks, Elizabeth,for bringing us these interviews, and good luck to you in the RITAs. That’ll be me clapping like crazy.

  9. Shirley
    June 1st, 2010 at 9:01 am · Link

    Great interview, Jennifer. And congrats on the Golden Heart Finalist. I hope you went out and celebrated!

  10. Jennifer Jakes
    June 1st, 2010 at 9:21 am · Link

    Thanks to everyone! Reading all this makes me want to have a Dr. Quinn marathon 😉
    I also liked Kevin Costner in Open Range –tho the romance wasn’t a large part–it was still a great movie.
    Hmmm, do you think we could talk Mr. Costner into opening a publishing house…………???? With his love of western, Jacqui, we’re a shoe-in:)

  11. Laurie London
    June 1st, 2010 at 12:11 pm · Link

    Great blog, Jennifer! I’m trying to picture you driving a dump truck. All the dump truck guys who hauled sand in for my horse arena were about 70 years old, balding, with pot bellies. You’re sort of breaking my image of them now!

    I sure hope your story finds a home because it sounds wonderful!


  12. Keely Thrall
    June 1st, 2010 at 2:26 pm · Link

    Yeehaw, Jennifer!! Hmm, I wonder what the equivalent of that was during “frontier” time?

    Stories of the frontier are so fundamentally American. Progress: the sound of a canoe making its way through the waterways of the west morphing into train whistles then changing yet again to the rumbling exhaust of your Chevrolet seeing the USA along Rte 66 and the roar of Red-eye jet-stream from JFK to LAX.

    Love the western, no matter the era, because it’s one of our unique stories – a fairytale, if you will. Keep at it, Jennifer! We need stories like yours!

  13. Barb H
    June 1st, 2010 at 2:38 pm · Link

    Thanks for the great interview, Elisabeth, and congratulations on the Rita nomination.

    Loved the blog, Jennifer! And I’ve loved Westerns for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s called Western or Frontier, Rafe and Maggie’s story sounds yummy. A publisher is bound to pick it up soon. Congratulations on the GH!!

  14. Shan
    June 1st, 2010 at 3:15 pm · Link

    Wow Jen, I just think you are awesome! I can’t wait to read this, western historical romance!

    And thank you for the permission to eat a whole bag of m and m’s! 🙂


  15. Kimberly Killion
    June 1st, 2010 at 4:06 pm · Link

    First off, Woo-hoo!, on the GH final. What a tremendous accomplishment in just four years of writing.
    Secondly, Rafe sounds like a cowboy I want to meet and hopefully I won’t have to wait much longer. 🙂
    Thirdly, get me a ticket to that beach. We’ll order drinks from the cabana boys and type like crazy.

    Congratulations to both you and Elisabeth! I’ll be in the audience with fingers and toes crossed.

  16. Angie Fox
    June 1st, 2010 at 4:30 pm · Link

    Great blog! And I had no idea about the dump truck driving. I can see it, though. You are definitely the take charge type. Congrats again on the Golden Heart. I can’t wait to cheer you on in Orlando!

  17. Morgan Wyatt
    June 1st, 2010 at 4:52 pm · Link

    Great job Jennifer! The Western genre has me perplexed. When I hear the word Western I think of cattle drives and cowboys. I’ve read plenty of Western romances without a single cattle drive. Frontier romance has merit. Good luck with Rafe’s Redemption, I know you’ll go far.

  18. Kathy Mullens
    June 2nd, 2010 at 5:53 am · Link

    Great blog!!! I remember you reading pieces of Rafe’s Redemption in critique at ORA sometime back, and thinking, “This girl’s got talent!” I was so caught up in the story, I forgot I was supposed to be critiqueing!
    Great story, written well. Can’t wait to see it in print! So proud of you!

  19. azteclady
    June 2nd, 2010 at 7:27 am · Link

    It’s an interesting question for sure. For me though, Westerns include everything from the cattle drives to the gunslingers to the wagon trains to the California Gold Rush, so…

    As far as I’m concerned, Western romance works fine, but I fear I may be in the minority there.

  20. Beth Carter
    June 2nd, 2010 at 8:53 am · Link

    Hi, Jen.

    Sorry I didn’t make it on here yesterday. Getting ready for a conference tomorrow.

    Loved your blog! And I can say I got to read Rafe’s Redemption way back when!!! It’s a great story and I know you’re going to have wonderful success–as you already have with all of your accolades and awards. Good luck in Orlando.

    P.S. As a reader, the genre wouldn’t matter to me if it were classified as a western or as a frontier. I have the same problem with my contemporary since it has both humor and suspense as you well know.

  21. Sharon Lynn Fisher
    June 2nd, 2010 at 9:10 am · Link

    Yes, Dances with Wolves! I was really fascinated with that story for a while, and cooked up a whole spin-off story starring Wind in His Hair.

    I hail from the sci-fi romance subgenre, where we have so many flavors we’re forever grappling with appropriate labels…futuristic? sci-fi? space opera? space fantasy?

    I really like “frontier romance,” and it seems more descriptive/specific than “western.” With “western” I do tend to expect a story like Lonesome Dove (which I loved!).

    Congrats, Jennifer! I look forward to meeting you in Orlando.

  22. Elisa Beatty
    June 4th, 2010 at 8:22 am · Link

    How fun to get to know you a little better, Jennifer! Rafe’s Redemption sounds amazing–can’t wait til it hits shelves!

    I like the term frontier historical romance, too. Makes me think of Lorraine Heath’s early books, which are set in Texas–love them!

  23. Shea Berkley
    June 8th, 2010 at 7:43 pm · Link

    Hawkeye and Cora. Yummy romance. I have to admit, I would hesitate picking up a western romance even though I like Dances With Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans and that’s because both of those stories transend the genre. The characters are bigger than their setting, and that’s the secret to writing. Make your character come alive.

  24. Keli Gwyn
    June 9th, 2010 at 6:52 am · Link

    Congrats on your GH final. How cool that you finaled with your first manuscript. You’ve obviously got oodles of talent–and a story that sounds uber exciting.

    How cool that you’re a Civil War re-enactor and enjoy the experience along with your husband. What a way to indulge in your love of history. What’s one of the most interesting aspects of the character you portray?

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