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A Heart for the Taking
The historical romance genre we enjoy today was pioneered by a group known in the '70s as the Avon ladies. They were the first historical writers to open the bedroom door in their love scenes, a fiction technique that has obviously continued to this day.
When Shirlee's best pal and fellow secretary, Rosemary Rogers, wrote Sweet Savage Love for Avon, she encouraged Shirlee to also start writing the kind of books both liked to read. The rest is romance publishing history.
Whereas Rosemary went on to fame and fortune and opted for a wild la dolce vita lifestyle, Shirlee took her earnings and stardom and made a radically different decision. She retreated with husband Howard to a country life surrounded by animals. They chose northern California, near Covelo, a ranching community offering a quiet life far from the maddening crowd of the big city.
Shirlee has written sporadically since those early days, but her 12th book is about to be published by Warner, and she's as excited now as when her books first hit the shelves.
"A HEART FOR THE TAKING is set in Pre-Revolutionary War America and takes place in Virginia," explains Shirlee with bubbling enthusiasm. "The hero is just adorable, he has such a smart mouth on him. The heroine is a dowager baroness. It's their love story."
On their two-acre homesite in Covelo, Shirlee and Howard play with their 12 Shetland ponies and eight horses. Lately, Shirlee is considering raising ponies as a hobby-type venture.
"They're so cute," she says. "I just delivered my first America Shetland foal, a sorrel and white pinto philly."
For years, Shirlee had difficulty keeping on a writing schedule. Unlike some of her peers, who could turn out one book a year, she would get writers block, or procrastination set in-sometimes both simultaneously. "This is the first time in my publishing history," she says gleefully, "that I have one out, one in, and one started. 'Wow Shirlee, what happened?' I tell myself. I don't have hot flashes. I have power surges now! Well, I'm definitely getting creative surges."
The release date for her 1998 historical novel isn't set, nor is the name. "I wanted to call it 'Love's Remains,' but it sounded like leftovers, so it will have another title," she says jokingly.
Aside from writing and spending time with her animals, Shirlee has been spending more time with her family. "My youngest sister died unexpectedly last year, which caused my mother to have a heart attack, and last spring she underwent a seven-bypass surgery.
"Recently, my mom's miniature schnauzer, Heidi, went into labor, and I could see trouble was brewing, so Howard and I loaded up the dog and my mother, and we drove 1H hours to our vet where we spent the night helping Heidi have the babies.
"Then Howard just had a hernia operation, a six-hour round trip to the hospital. So it has been a typical period in the country. We go from one animal crisis to another, with a few human crises thrown in!"
Shirlee and Howard have built onto their existing house, and fashioned what Shirlee
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