cowboys Nothing seems more iconic to America than the cowboy, who is recognized and often revered all over the world. He’s tall; handsome; hardworking; kind to women, children, and the elderly; deadly to miscreants; and laconic. His trademarks include a well-worn Stetson, boots, jeans, and chambray shirt. Occasionally, he’s seen in chaps, spurs, and holster holding his trusty revolver. He’s a man’s man, and definitely, oh, definitely a woman’s man.

The last few years have seen a slight resurgence in romance novels featuring cowboys, both contemporary and historical. He still hasn’t replaced his Regency counterpart, the tall, dark, handsome rake, but given the renewed interest in the American West by movies like True Grit, the cowboy may be making a comeback, and I am thrilled.

While authors Linda Lael Miller and Leigh Greenwood, once president of Romance Writers of America, are arguably the queen and king of the cowboy genre, they also represent the contemporary (Miller) and the historical (Greenwood) sides of the subgenre. Miller thoughtfully provides eye candy on her web site for those who want to see videos of the land and the cowboys that are the heroes in her books.

As far as historical Western romances are concerned, my favorite authors besides Greenwood are Maggie Osborne, Susan Kay Law, Kaki Warner, and newcomer Ellen O’Connell. Unfortunately, Osborne has retired, but her Western romances leaven the grueling day-to-day living in constant dirt and wind with humor and tenderness.

Contemporary cowboys have carved a niche for themselves in series books and have even branched out to populate erotica. Some of my favorite authors for contemporary Western romances include not only Miller, but also Diana Palmer, Lori Foster, Genell Dellin, and Kathleen Eagle. If more spice and maybe a ménage or two is your cup of tea, then Lorelei James or MacKenzie McKade will light up your cowboy reading.

But if you’re a novice on the range, how can you get helpful hints? Well, these three sites should get you started:

* Where else but AAR reviews? Go to the Reviews tab where you’ll see a drop down menu. Choose Power Search. On the right hand side, look for Book Type which is another drop down menu. Choose American Historical Romance where after you press the Search button, you’ll find six pages of titles, authors, and links to reviews.

* Wendy The Super Librarian hosted The Great Western Drive in 2009, and devoted blog entries to cowboys and the American West. And there’s a 2010 update!

* And there’s always Petticoats and Pistols the blog of some Western romance writers whose mix of news, reviews, and a bit of this and that is sure to get you in the swing.

These are all some of my favorites. But what are yours? As an avid reader of cowboy romances, I for one would really like to know!

– Pat Henshaw