Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Pony Express

I just turned in Book 7 in the Cotillion Ball Series. This one takes place in 1860, and is not situated in civilized New York City, but rather, St. Joseph, MO and beyond. It has nothing to do with the cultured confines of a ballroom or a Cotillion Ball, except for the time frame.

One of my favorite parts of writing American historicals is uncovering bits of history about which I know very little and doing research on them, and how they affected everyday citizens. The Pony Express is no exception. This time, I learned a lot about a little known slice of Americana.

I'll be writing about The Pony Express in detail over the coming months, as part of the buildup to the release of Expressly Yours, Samantha. There is so much to talk about, but today, I wanted to share with you the one thing that really jumped out at me, and how something like The Pony Express would never be possible today.

This route of nearly 2,000 miles was cobbled together by William Russell in only 67 days. Every ten to fifteen miles, a relay station was established, where riders could change horses. At about every eighty miles, a home station was set up, where a change of rider would occur along with a fresh mount. Wherever possible, existing structures were used, but in many cases, a relay station had to be thrown up using whatever materials were available. The route followed the Pioneer Trail, which in the summer was clogged with wagon trains heading west, and spanned the states or territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. And it wasn't just the route that needed to come together. There were horses to be purchased–500 to start with in each of the seven different divisions, and riders–80 to 100 for each division.

Can you imagine something of this magnitude, and spanning so many states, being put together today in a matter of months? It would never happen. There would be legislation developed, people to be bought off, lively debates would take place on the floors of the various state houses, and ultimately, nothing would be accomplished.

As quickly as it came into being, The Pony Express died out only eighteen months after it became an American icon. As soon as the telegraph line extended from coast to coast, the ponies and their riders were no longer an efficient resource for disseminating information, and the doors to The Pony Express were closed. It existed only 18 months, but its colorful legend is part of our American history. Some of the men who rode for the Express went on to fame and fortune in the Wild West shows, but most of them faded into oblivion. Samantha, and Valerian, are two of those who were part of The Pony Express for a time. I hope you'll enjoy their story, which will be released in March, 2015.

Here's a bit about the story: Samantha Hughes needs to get away from her wicked uncle, and, following her aunt’s death, she has one day to escape. A sign in the post office offers an avenue out. She can cut her hair, pose as a man, and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

 Valerian Fitzpatrick has defied his parents and stayed in St. Louis for the past year. He doesn't want the weight of responsibility his brothers have in the family business. All he wants to do is ride horses, and, fortunately, the Pony Express is starting up and looking for wiry young fellows. When Sam Hughes helps Valerian control a runaway horse, Joseph, Valerian’s brother-in-law, tells him their meeting was destiny. 

Over the weeks and months that follow, Sam and Val work side by side on the exciting Pony Express. Val assumes Sam is on the run from the law, and helps shield his buddy from the Pinkerton agents. He thinks this must be the destiny Joseph talked about. Although Samantha harbors feelings for Val, he has no idea she’s a woman. Until she suffers a stray gunshot wound and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. 

Friendship turns into attraction and maybe even love. When her uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again. She realizes the danger she’s put Valerian into, having him try to shield her from her uncle, and leaves him behind with a note to not track her down. Will he be able to find her again, or is he relieved to not have any responsibility again? 


  1. The pony express was a wonder. You have a great premise in this one Becky. I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Thanks, Caroline. I can't believe how complex the operation was, and how quickly it came together and then dissolved. As I traveled across the country last spring, we pulled off the highway every time we saw a sign for the pony express, and I managed to get a feel for what it had been all about. Hope I was able to translate it into the book.

  3. Love it! I am amazed and mystified at the Wild West and latter 1860's and beyond. Years ago I enjoyed the TV series, The Young Riders, which chronicled a group of Pony Express Riders. Can't wait to read Expressly Yours...and I adore the title.

  4. I watched a part of The Young Riders when I got the idea for this story, since I remembered there was a girl masquerading as a boy, too. I would not have liked living during the Civil War, but the west in the 1860s and beyond? I only wish I could have been there.