Carol Award–winning Cowboy Romance author Mary Connealy is an established leader in the lighthearted Historical Romance category. For years readers have delighted in Connealy’s stories full of thrilling adventure and sweet romance starring strong and witty heroines. Featuring self-supporting, independent female protagonists in nontraditional occupations, Mary Connealy steals fans away to the atmospheric American West.

In this interview, Mary talks with us about her newest book, Forged in Love, book one of her new the Wyoming Sunrise Series.

FF: Can you please tell us a little about your new novel Forged in Love?
Forged in Love is me trying to push the limits of what a woman would be allowed to do for a career in 1870. It’s special because it’s set in Wyoming, the first territory (Wyoming wasn’t yet a state then) to give women the right to vote. Of course, there was more to women’s suffrage than just voting. Women could run for elective office. They could be appointed to government posts. They could serve on juries. It’s so hard to understand just how much women couldn’t do. Well, to me, if they could run for office, then they could do all sorts of formerly male-dominated things, and in Forged in Love, I explore just how much women can do.

FF: Forged in Love is the first novel in your new Wyoming Sunrise Series. What’s the connecting element that ties each book in the series together?
Each of the three books has a really strong woman working in a male-dominated field. In book one, my heroine is a blacksmith. In book two, my heroine is a justice of the peace. And in book three, my heroine is a lady rancher. I know I do a lot of lady ranchers. For me, being a rancher is not that bold of a choice, but for a woman in the nineteenth century, it would have been pretty unusual.

FF: Your protagonist, Mariah, takes over her father’s blacksmith shop to make ends meet. What inspired the idea to highlight women in nontraditional occupations in this series?
The seed of the story was planted when I visited a restored fort called Fort Atkinson. They host living-history weekends, and I just loved spending time there. I learned about the different jobs of the late 1800s: the cooper who made wooden buckets, butter churns, washtubs, things like that; the farrier who shoed horses; the town doctor; the ones who wove homespun cloth; ; and the blacksmith, which struck me as the most interesting of the bunch. Once I decided I wanted to work against the traditional, I considered the job of blacksmith for a woman character. Blacksmithing is very hard work—the heavy sledgehammers, the anvil, the raging hot forge. I had to create a woman character who could handle it all. It’s funny how one idea inspires the next. Before I knew it, I had an idea for my novel.

FF: Forged in Love focuses on themes such as women’s suffrage. Can you tell us a little more about the significance of this and how it affects your character Mariah?
Mariah is raised by her father after her mother dies. Since her father is a blacksmith, and she was old enough to be careful around fire and hot iron, she went to work with him and her brother. Her father gave her small jobs at first, making nails, angle iron, and hinges. He bought her a smaller sledgehammer so she could manage it. Then in a stagecoach holdup, her father and brother are killed and the town is left without its blacksmith. Mariah, with the training her father had given her and in need of a job, takes over her father’s blacksmith shop. Not everyone approves, but eventually they all need a blacksmith, and she’s it. The town comes around, and Mariah’s got a way to support herself.

FF: Was there anything you found particularly interesting in your research that you included in your novel?
I had the best time talking to a blacksmith, who was working at a living-history museum. He was so passionate about the skills involved and loved talking about it. I’ve met several people who are passionate about what they do, are almost always intriguing, even if the topic isn’t one you would choose to discuss. This blacksmith was so interesting to get to know. I also watched a TV series called Victorian Farm. It was fascinating to watch modern folks living in an old farmhouse, raising pigs and sheep, planting seeds and harvesting crops. Their skills also included some blacksmithing.

FF: What is your favorite part about writing historical romance?
I guess this isn’t a good answer, but truly, I love everything about writing. I love looking at that blank screen with all the possibilities of creating a world and inhabiting it with characters. I love rewriting. The best writing is rewriting, and I never balk at revisions. A book can always be made better. I love the research that goes into it, too. It’s sort of strange, but I usually find some little tidbit of history and then a whole book can bloom from that tidbit.

FF: What do you hope readers take away from this story or the series at large?
It seems like I always come back to family. In my books, that seems to be my goal for characters who don’t have a family, to get them one. Or characters who have family to heal the emotional wounds from past troubles. Mariah begins this book by losing her family. In one horrible blow, she loses the men she loves, is badly wounded herself and is set adrift, finding her way back to health and happiness. And Clint, the man who runs the town’s diner, is right there wanting to help and to protect her when more danger comes her way. He’s the beginning of a new family for Mariah.

FF: What do readers have to look forward to in the rest of this series?
Book two is The Laws of Attraction. Nell is a lady justice of the peace. Sweet, delicate, seamstress Nell is the widow of a sheriff, who taught her far more than anyone would expect about investigations and firearms and toughness. When widower Brand Nolte brings his three daughters into town to get dresses, Nell is so excited. Sewing pretty dresses is what she loves to do. But when trouble comes for Mariah, and Nell jumps in to help, the townsfolk have found their new judge.

Book three is about my lady rancher, Becky. She’s so tough that she makes the blacksmith and the judge look like wimps. Her turn for trouble is coming with the ruthless stagecoach robbers who roam the area and never leave a witness alive.

Forged in Love
Wyoming Sunrise Series #1
Mary Connealy
Bethany House
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2023

ISBN-10: ‎ 0764241133
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0764241130

Book Summary:
When sparks begin to fly, can a friendship cast in iron be shaped into something more?

Mariah Stover is left for dead and with no memory when the Deadeye Gang robs the stagecoach she’s riding in, killing both her father and brother. As she takes over her father’s blacksmith shop and tries to move forward, she soon finds herself in jeopardy and wondering—does someone know she witnessed the robbery and is still alive?

Handsome and polished Clint Roberts escaped to western Wyoming, leaving his painful memories behind. Hoping for a fresh start, he opens a diner where he creates fine dishes, but is met with harsh resistance from the townsfolk, who prefer to stick to their old ways.

Clint and Mariah are drawn together by the trials they face in town, and Clint is determined to protect Mariah at all costs when danger descends upon her home. As threats pursue them from every side, will they survive to build a life forged in love?


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About The Author

Mary Connealy writes “romantic comedies with cowboys” and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has more than half a million books in print. She is the author of the popular series Wild at Heart, Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, Lassoed in Texas, Sophie’s Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero.