Loving Matilda by E. Ayers

EA LMHi, Cynthia, I always love to visit your blog. Today I’m here with my newest western, Loving Matilda. I had so much fun writing this and working with you to incorporate your heroine, Lena, into it. That was fantastic. Here’s a little of what happened behind the scenes for your readers.

I saw Cynthia’s cover and knew instantly that Matilda “Matt” Berwyn would connect with Lena. Here’s why. Matt was really a girl living as a boy in a mining town. Her father cut her hair off and had her dress in boys clothing to protect her in an all male environment. Then Prudence came with her pretty dresses, and married Michael Morgan who owned the mine. When Lena came, she was more approachable. Unfortunately Lena didn’t know the redheaded boy was really a young woman who was not much younger. But Matt took one look at Lena and she was everything that Matt wasn’t.

John Thorpe was an average guy – well not quite. He was better off than the miners, but not as wealthy as Mr. Morgan. Lena was pretty and had a dainty way about her. Her hair ribbons matched her dresses and she always looked beautiful to Matt. Lena represented everything that Matt wanted.

Everyone took Matt for granted. “He” was just a kid in the town, but “he” was liked. “He” was clean and well mannered, plus “he” loved to read. At one point, Matt figured that Lena might have guessed that Matt was actually a female.

How Cynthia and I pulled off this mixing of the stories took just a little time. First we both know how the other writes. And who doesn’t love Cynthia’s stories? Cynthia knows me and knows my stories. She told me a little about Lena and we just exchanged a few passages. It was so much fun! Cynthia’s story stops and mine continues, with a wee bit more about Lena. But I’m not going to give away the stories and tell you why.

The truly amazing thing is that Cynthia and I write with totally different voices. And our stories are almost 180 degrees from each other. Cynthia writes a romance in a western setting. I write a western with a romance in it. Blending characters into my story was a challenge, as I mixed several characters from the other authors into my story. I found it interesting to see how some of the other authors used Matt in their stories.

We all know if you put nine people in a room that some of those people will be good friends and others are acquaintances. Our feelings towards one another will all be different. That came through as various authors added a line or two about Matt as they wrote their stories.

Everyone saw Matt in a different light and “his” reaction to those characters in Morgan’s Crossing is different. Of course, we all used Debra Holland’s characters as we created our stories. In fact, to keep all us from making silly mistakes, Louella Nelson worked with Debra Holland to create a primitive but serviceable map we could use. Her not-to-scale map inspired me to have my hero handed a hand-drawn map to find his way to Morgan’s Crossing, and its inaccuracy made my hero’s trip a little more complicated. He made the correction to the map he was given.

That’s how many maps were back then. The government had maps and the railroads had maps, but most of those traveling didn’t. If they did, chances are it was hand-drawn. That’s something we almost can’t fathom today with our GPS systems to get us across town. Can you imagine driving down the road looking for the third tall beech with the slash mark, and turning northeast when you do? Probably a third of those reading have no clue what a beech is, and another third couldn’t point to the northeast. I’m going to assume that back then if they didn’t know, they soon learned.

I used to swear I’d never write historical novels because of all the work and research involved. Yet, here I am eating my words and having fun as I delve through time. This book forced me to back up ten years from my two other historical books, A Rancher’s Woman and A Rancher’s Dream. And I had new things to learn, such as mining operations.

All that mining stuff isn’t in my book, just the little town. But once I had that knowledge, it colored what I wrote. Who were the people who became miners, and what was the difference in skilled jobs from the non-skilled jobs? Who would be the support personal who would attracted to a small town? I looked at other real mining towns, and studied photos.

Two things have stayed with me during my research. A mining town was not the cleanest place to live. Today with all our clean air laws and so forth, the dust that they dealt with shouldn’t exist. The stamp mill that crushed rock, to separate the gold from the stone, would constantly be tossing dirt into the air. The stamp itself uses water, which would put out some very “dirty” silt water, so where is the airborne dust coming from? From the rocks before they go into the stamp and from the crushed rock that’s been through the stamp. I could imagine that dust settling on streets, windowsills, and porches. Considering nothing was very airtight when it came to houses, I’m sure it created a layer of dust on everything inside the house, too. Certainly homes would require a daily dusting.

The tent “towns” are historically correct throughout the west. The tents, made from heavy canvas, are called white wall tents and were used year round in many mining towns. Yet it’s not unusual for places in Montana to have -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32C) in the winter. Yikes! In a tent? They didn’t have today’s super thermal sleeping bags from LL Bean. Yes, they had Franklin stoves in them to help keep them warm. Certainly not something I would want to attempt! Those miners were tough people.

I have to admire the characters in Debra Holland’s books. Like their real counterparts, they were strong, hearty people. She has some of the miners living in those tents during the summer months. And she placed the mine entrance on the far side of the mountain to keep down the dust, noise, etc. But looking backwards through time, life was hard for everyone in those days.

Matilda “Matt” Berwyn’s dad was a miner. That’s all he’d ever been. It’s what he knew. He’d follow that stamp mill wherever it might go.

And for fun, I dragged in Germantown. Pennsylvania. I grew up not far from there, and my family is from that rural area. My great grandmother would have been about Matilda’s age. I knew those farms, the countryside, and seeing City Hall when it was still visible and not blocked by taller buildings. (I’m not old enough to have seen sailing ships on the Delaware River, but my father did as a little boy.) Germantown was so close to me that it was a bit of a trip down memory lane.

Come visit Morgan’s Crossing and look at it through the eyes of a young woman who has spent her entire life in a mining town someplace. I enjoy taking my readers on a journey back in time and letting them peek at the real life those people lived. But I love wrapping it in a romance.

Loving Matilda

E. Ayers


Matilda “Matt” Berwyn, forced to live disguised as a boy in a mining town, longs to escape and blossom into the female she’s always wanted to be. But her desire to leave Morgan’s Crossing escalates when she realizes she’s being stalked.

Stockyard hand Zeke Hillerman knows her secret and has fallen in love with her. He helps her flee to his parents’ home in the east to learn to be a lady, while he struggles to start his own ranch. As Matilda grapples with Victorian expectations of young women, Zeke’s plans for their future unravel, and he realizes that the cost of her ticket out of Morgan’s Crossing may have been his own heart.

Here’s a little excerpt that shows the daily life of Matilda. May I interest you in a bowl of oatmeal?

There wasn’t a single person in Morgan’s Crossing that Matilda didn’t know, and everyone was friendly towards her. So who would be following me, and why?

Her mind wandered to Marla and Rebecca Lee. Matilda had been warned by her father to stay away from the gals at the saloon, but they were both nice women. Then Lena caught her eye. Dressed in white with pink trim, and a fancy crocheted shawl, Matilda decided that of all the women in Morgan’s Crossing, she loved Lena’s clothes best of all. Lena didn’t walk to town this time. She walked to the livery where her husband worked. Taking him dinner?

Aside from a few women, there wasn’t a single man to be found stirring in town. Giving up, Matilda went home, but as she approached the soddy, she had that same feeling of being watched. Gooseflesh rose on her arms and the nape of her neck prickled. Instead of going into the soddy, she walked around the back of it where the stove was kept during the summer.

This morning she had fixed hot oat cereal for her brother and father. Oats always took forever to cook. She boiled the water and then added the oats. The minute she did, she saw a problem – weevils. She had added extra water when she realized the number of weevils that were in the oats, and then carefully spooned out the weevils that floated to the top as the cereal boiled. Certain she removed most of them, she added a bit of fatback to give the oats more flavor and let it boil down. Now she had a messy pan. Lifting the pan from the stove, she looked at the oat cereal that was stuck to the metal, and headed for the stream.

Instead of staying in a secluded area, she walked to the plank bridge near the tents and placed the pan into the cool water. It wasn’t much of a pan, but if she left it, someone would probably take it. She yanked her pants above her knees and waded into the water. She rubbed her arms and face with the water and wished she could have taken a cooling bath. With luck, Zeke would be coming in a few days, and she wanted to see him again.

EA 2015 SMBio:

As the official matchmaker for all the characters who wander through a mind full of imagination and the need to share, E. Ayers enjoys finding just the right ones to create a story.

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6 thoughts on “Loving Matilda by E. Ayers

  1. This whole process sounds fun and challenging, E. Delving into the past is an amazing way to see how our forefathers lived.

    • It’s not joint novels, but we have used and borrowed characters from each other. We were all familiar with Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing and that made it quite easy.

      I have considered working with another author and maybe someday we’ll do it. We’ve seriously discussed it – now to find the time!

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