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Elaine Coffman

Genre: Historical Romance

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Escape Not My Love

When Elaine Coffman pitched her editor a few details from a contemporary romance she was working on, her editor advised her to stick to what she knew best-historicals, which has garnered her a faithful following.

Able to trace her heritage back to the days of Charlemagne-William the Conqueror is an exponentially removed relative-Coffman is steeped in history to say the least. Her great-great uncle was El Paso's first mayor; her men kin have fought in all of America's wars, starting with the Revolution; and she knows the path her grandmother took across Oklahoma Territory. Unfortunately, she says, "her husband died on the way." After a rainstorm passed, "my grandmother buried him alongside the road, but she couldn't find the spot when she returned. In those days, you just had to go on."

Coffman, who has written about the Old West, Nantucket fishing villages and the Scottish Highlands, is widely known for her MacKinnon family series, which follows five orphaned brothers. The seventh and current, If You Love Me (Fawcett, Feb.), tells the story of a sister, Margery MacKinnon, whose character was inspired by real-life heroine Cynthia Ann Parker. Abducted as a child from Ft. Parker, TX, by the Comanches, Parker adjusted well to Comanche life, marrying the chief and producing Quanah Parker, one of the last great chiefs. Cynthia was recaptured and brought back to civilization, "where it is said she died of a broken heart," says Coffman. If You Love Me brings Margery to England after being auctioned by the Crow to a nobleman, among whose family she blossoms.

Will there be another MacKinnon book? "We'll see," hints Coffman. With reader pressure, she may be persuaded. "After I wrote Heaven Knows, I included a note to see if readers were tiring of the series. I got 600 letters telling me not to stop."

In August Fawcett is reissuing Escape Not My Love, Elaine's '90 Dell historical. Set in Rio Grande country, a hired marshall hauls an independent schoolteacher back from Mexico by horseback to her parents in Texas. A decade ago, admits Coffman, her books were considered "spicy." In the reissue, the hero's "harsher qualities have been taken out. Heroes were more rough then. There's been a lot of growth."

What is unshakeable, however, is her knowledge of the terrain. Having grown up around her grandmother's farm and having raised quarter horses and cattle as a ranch owner, this author knows a thing or two about riding, the fickleness of the land and its duststorms. (Elaine has her own version of an "English Patient" love scene). "There's something enriching and wholesome about ranching," she says. "A lot of things you can't get from books; you have to be around that sort of life."

But change is inevitable. Coffman has just moved into her first empty-nester condo in Washington, D.C., after years of living in big homes with her three children. "I told my friends I'll need a little dirt. I plan to get out there [on the terrace] with my spade and grow some squash or tomatoes." Another seed of fruition is Coffman's first contemporary, a novella, "Playing With Fire," in St. Martin's SEEING FIREWORKS anthology out this month.

In September look for Coffman's SOMEONE LIKE YOU, a Ballantine pocket-size hardcover release. In addition, Fawcett will reissue three MacKinnon books by the end of '98. Write to her c/o P.O. Box 11674, Washington, D.C. 20008.

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