Mary Connealy is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has sold more than 1.5 million books and is the author of the popular series Wyoming Sunrise, The Lumber Baron’s Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero.

In this interview, Mary talks with us about the first book in her new A Western Light Series, titled Chasing the Horizon.

FF: Chasing the Horizon is the first book in your new series A Western Light Series. Can you share with us what this book—and series—is about?
The story begins on the night Beth’s mother escapes from an insane asylum. Ginny is running from her cruel husband, who’s had her locked away. Beth has spent three years planning every step of their escape. They run west with plans to hide forever. They have help, arranged by Beth, people loyal to her and her mother. Along the way, pursued by Ginny’s tyrant of a husband, Beth finds love while Ginny finds peace after years of a nightmarish existence inside the asylum.

FF: This series takes place on the Oregon Trail. Can you tell us a little about this part of American history and the role it plays in the series?
My heroine travels west on a wagon train the same year the Transcontinental Railroad opens. She chose the wagon train as a means of hiding from her father, who she believes would never consider that his pampered wife and daughter (pampered in his opinion) would choose such a rugged way to travel. Once the railroad made it to the country’s western territories, that meant the end of the wagon trains. A few still made the journey this way, but less and less of them as time went on. It was interesting comparing the wagon train to the railroad train and learning how this transition changed the nation.

FF: Throughout your career, you’ve highlighted a variety of different places in the American West—from Texas to Montana, Wyoming to Nebraska, and more. What inspires your love for western stories and the history that surrounds them?
I’ve lived in a rural area all of my life. My husband, now retired, was a Nebraska cattleman. I think I bring some authenticity to the cowboy way of thinking and to what it means to live off the land. I believe that’s part of why my books appeal to readers.

FF: What kind of reader do you envision will fall in love with this story—as well as the rest of the series?
My books are for everyone. The romance piece is always important, but sometimes I’ve got enough action going on that my characters have to find each other really fast or they’ll miss out on love. Mostly because of the romance, I think of my books as being for women, yet I’ve also received positive feedback from men who have read my books. They’re more John Wayne and Louis L’Amour than they are romance novels.

FF: Do you have a favorite character you’re especially excited for your readers to meet?
Yes, my heroine Beth. She’s stepping into a world she knows nothing about, but she’s smart enough to see that she’s got a lot to learn. Beth is always studying anyone who knows more than her, and surrounds herself with knowledgeable people to help her out.

FF: One of the things your female protagonist is fleeing from is the possibility of being forced into an insane asylum by her father. How were asylums misused in the past, and did things like this really happen?
I read a book titled The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore. It’s about Elizabeth Packard, who was locked up in an asylum based on the word of her husband. That was legal at one time. No doctor had to be consulted, nor any tests given. If a woman’s husband claimed his wife was insane, that was enough. When Elizabeth got out of the asylum, she went on to make a real difference in the world, righting wrongs and working to change unjust laws. Her true story inspired this series—A Western Light.

FF: What rights did women have in this time period, and how was their safety often threatened?
The story takes place in 1869 and is set in the Wyoming Territory, a unique place in that they granted women the right to vote, which I used as a backdrop in my Wyoming Sunrise Series. It’s hard to understand how it could be that women didn’t have the same rights as other American citizens, that is, those who were men—the mindset that women couldn’t be trusted to vote. The bottom line was that my heroine’s mother is determined to escape from the asylum, knowing that if her husband ever found her, he’d throw her right back inside. So when she ran away, she did so with plans to hide from him for the rest of her life.

FF: What do you love most about writing western stories featuring strong female characters?
The pioneers were a strong bunch of people. The West was a hard place to make a living. You either were tough or you died or went back east. The pioneer women were strong too. I don’t think I’m being all that creative to make my heroines strong. They just were. And I love trying to capture their pioneer spirit.

FF: What do you hope readers experience when reading Chasing the Horizon?
With all of my books I mostly just try to make them fun. Take the reader on a wild ride. Draw them in and hold them. If the characters are sassing each other and falling in love while they’re running for their lives, then I’m happy. That’s what I love to read, and that’s what I love to write. If they learn something new along the way, that’s great, but it’s not really my goal.

Chasing the Horizon
A Western Light Series #1
Mary Connealy
Bethany House
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Release Date: February 13, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎0764242652
ISBN-13: ‎978-0764242656

Book Summary:
Her only chance at freedom waits across the horizon.

Upon uncovering her tyrannical father’s malevolent plot to commit her to an asylum, Beth Rutledge fabricates a plan of her own. She will rescue her mother, who had already been sent to the asylum, and escape together on a wagon train heading west. Posing as sisters, Beth and her mother travel with the pioneers in hopes of making it to Idaho before the others start asking too many questions.

Wagon-train scout Jake Holt senses that the mysterious women in his caravan are running from something. When rumors begin to spread of Pinkerton agents searching relentlessly for wanted criminals who match the description of those on his wagon train, including Beth, she begins to open up to him, and he learns something more sinister is at hand. Can they risk trusting each other with their lives—and their hearts—when danger threatens their every step?


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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.