Today I am so pleased to welcome our Book of the Month winner Karen Witemeyer, to I & R. Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling and Carol Award–winning author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children. And today you can win a copy of her latest book, Fairest of Heart!
Karen, welcome to Interviews & Reviews. Fairest of Heart is the first book in your new series Texas Ever After. Can you please tell us a little bit about the series?
As the name implies, TEXAS EVER AFTER is a series of classic fairy tale retellings that have been given a Western spin. I’ve always adored fairy tales—the romance, the adventure, the battle between good over evil. Those elements find their way into all of my stories in one way or another, so why not pay more direct homage to the happily-ever-after tales I’ve adored since childhood? That is what this series is all about.
Can these books be read out of order?
Yes. Each story in the series will be a stand-alone novel with no plotlines or characters carrying over into future books. The series is built on the theme of fairy tales, not on a set of specific characters, so order doesn’t matter.
What led you to choose the story of Snow White as the first of these fairy tale retellings?
The Snow White tale has so many iconic elements that are immediately recognizable. As soon as I mention that the heroine takes refuge at a ranch run by seven retired drovers, everyone knows the fairy tale used for inspiration. Besides that, the dwarves from the story we all knew as children have such distinct personalities. I had great fun bringing those to life. Throw in a Texas Ranger hero and a villainess with a fondness for mirrors, and the plot came together in a snap.
What is your favorite fairy tale, and what do you think it is about these kinds of stories that have made them beloved for centuries?
Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite fairy tale. A book-loving heroine and a wounded hero who must submit to the healing power of love—perfection! Several of my stories already use this trope in a subtle, nuanced way. I believe fairy tales continue to connect with readers because there is something hopeful in the idea of love conquering all. That message calls to each of us because it is an echo of the gospel message. The love of Christ conquered all on the cross. No one is too far gone that his love cannot find and redeem, heal old wounds, and restore relationships. Fairy tales focus on a more romantic affection, but the message of good overcoming evil and love conquering any obstacle still resonates with a depth that harkens to something greater.
Can you share a little about what similarities—and also maybe what differences—there are between your female protagonist, Penelope Snow, and the classic character Snow White?
There are several similarities between Penelope Snow and the classic Snow White. Penelope mirrors the fair looks of Snow White, with her pale complexion, dark hair, and overall beauty. But she is also very humble about her looks and even tries to hide them. She has suffered hardships in life that have relegated her to the role of a servant, yet she maintains a sweet, innocent spirit that cares less about herself and more about doing for others. Oh, and she enjoys talking to animals.
One major theme Fairest of Heart addresses is acting with integrity amidst persecution. Can you tell us a little more about how these come into play in the lives of your protagonists and how it applies to us today?
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but both Titus and Penelope fall victim to lies and deceit perpetrated by the villain. Things are made worse by painful incidents from the past that color the hero’s perceptions. Penelope has to learn to stop hiding and take a stand against evil while Titus must learn to see past his pain to find the truth. As often happens in our own lives, it’s rarely one big instance when we need to act with integrity, but many little instances. Not giving in to the easy way in the small decisions of life builds our courage and conviction so that when large persecutions come, we can stand with integrity in a way that reflects well on our Lord.
What inspired the idea for a series like this?
I’ve seen fairy tales retold in medieval settings, contemporary settings, fantasy and sci-fi settings, but there aren’t too many that have been done in the Western genre. Since I love both fairy tales and cowboys, I couldn’t pass up the chance to combine them in a fun new way.
What do Western historical romance readers have to look forward to in Fairest of Heart and the rest of the series?
The classic fairy tales you know and love won’t just be getting a Western redesign, the stories themselves will be getting a twist. Fairest of Heart stays pretty close to the classic tale, but the next books in the series will mix things up a bit more. Stay tuned . . .
Can you share what fairy tale retelling you’re working on next?
Book two in the series will feature a Cinder-fella story that opens with a ball and a boot left behind. The gender role swap won’t be the only twist in this story. Stepmother redemption, a villain rewrite, and an imaginary pair of sewing mice is but a taste of what is to come.
I can't wait! Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale! How can readers connect with you?
Readers can find me and my books on my website: https://karenwitemeyer.com/. I also have an active Facebook group called the Posse, where I chat with readers during the week. We talk books, complete reading challenges, and even brainstorm story ideas and characters. In fact, my Posse helped me name the seven drovers in Fairest of Heart. They’re the best! You can find the Posse here: www.facebook.com/groups/1839437643052460/.
Thank you for visiting with us today, Karen. And now, Dear Readers, if you would like to win a copy of Fairest of Heart, just fill out the form below. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and will run until June 28, 2023. The winner will be announced here and on our Facebook page.
Winner: Nikita Wells
Once upon a time in Texas . . .
Beauty has been nothing but a curse to Penelope Snow. When she becomes a personal maid for a famous actress whose troupe is leaving Chicago to tour the West, she hides her figure beneath shapeless dresses and keeps her head down. But she still manages to attract the wrong attention, leaving her prospects in tatters--and her jealous mistress plotting her demise.
After his brother lost his life over a woman, Texas Ranger Titus Kingsley has learned to expect the worst from women and is rarely disappointed. So when a young lady found in suspicious circumstances takes up residence with the seven old drovers living at his grandfather's ranch, Titus is determined to keep a close eye on her.
With a promotion hanging in the balance, Titus is assigned to investigate a robbery case tied to Penelope's acting troupe, and all evidence points to Penelope's guilt. But Titus might just be convinced that the fairest woman of all has a heart as pure as her last name . . . if only he can prove it.