Railroads and Romance

Last summer when the second season of Hell on Wheels ended with the murder of Lily Bell, the destruction of the town, and the well-deserved but possibly unsuccessful hanging of the odious Swede, I was shocked and heart-broken by the loss of Lily and wondered if I’d be able to watch the show again.  By the time the third season started last night, I was eager for its return.

The first two episodes, “Big Bad Wolf” and “Eminent Domain,” did not disappoint me.  (If you’d like a full recap, visit TV.com or the AMC site.)  Still wrapped in animal skins after a winter spent dodging hallucinations and wolves on the site of the burnt out town, Cullen collects Elam in Omaha and drags him to New York City.  After a bath, a barber, and a good tailor, Cullen faces down the board of the Credit Mobilier and talks his way back into the position of Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific, snatching the job away from the son-in-law of a crony of the imprisoned but far from powerless Durant.

By the second episode, the moving town of Hell on Wheels is back at work.  Eva has delivered a baby girl (even she may not be sure who the little one’s father is, but Elam doesn’t care).  Ruth is setting up her church and giving Cullen advice, the McGinnis brothers, Mickey and Sean (who is in way over his head) are back, and Elam is not too pleased to be working for a new police chief.  Meanwhile, back in New York, Durant is out of prison and determined to take back the railroad.

I was delighted to see a new character appear, Louise Ellison, by her own description “neither a lady nor a whore,” but something Hell on Wheels hasn’t seen before, a reporter for a New York City newspaper, determined to see all sides of the town and the railroad, an outsider with her own viewpoint.

Hell on Wheels being the show it is, there are a couple of deaths, a moral dilemma or two for Cullen, and the promise of complications to come.  Not to mention those AMC promotional photos proving that the Swede will be back.  You didn’t really believe he’d drowned, did you?  I didn’t.

Passion's PrizeIf you’d like stories of railroad building and tough-minded women with guaranteed happy endings, you’re looking for a romance, and I have a suggestion to offer, in fact three in one volume.  Passion’s Prize, a new anthology by three prize-winning authors, kicks off the Steam! Romance and Rails series.  “Adella’s Enemy,” by Jacqui Nelson, pairs a former rebel spy with a railroad foreman.  The heroine of “Eden’s Sin,” by Jennifer Jakes, is a madam (yep, that kind of madam) who needs help from an Army major.  And “Kate’s Outlaw,” by E.E. Burke, features a railroad heiress caught up in a land dispute with the Cherokee.

Whether there will ever be a happy ending for Cullen Bohannon remains an unanswered question, but I have no doubt his journey will continue to fascinate me.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. E.E. Burke
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 09:05:41

    Wow, Kay! I am honored by your mention of our book! Thank you!

    I have to admit, I was swearing at the TV the night the Swede killed Lily. But she and Cullen were so wrapped up in that damn bridge that it was obvious something very bad was going to happen. But this series isn’t about the romance (that’s just a little treat now and then). It focuses on the two main characters (Cullen and Elam) and in some ways their relationship is just as fascinating. But I need romance, too.

    Way back before Hell On Wheels, I was working on a Western romance based on a railroad competition. When I saw the show, my jaw just dropped! I thought, hey, that’s kind of like the book I’m working on! About the same time, Jennifer, Jacqui and I decided to write a Western romance together and they also thought a railroad race would make a great backdrop. I’d done research and had already started on a different story (hint: it’s going to be the second book in this series and the hero reminds me of Bohannon. Very flawed. Very dark. Just so you know, he existed before I even knew there was a Bonhannon.

    I’m constantly astounded at how many parallels exist between our book and show, but the history of the railroads is what ties them together. Same roles, same issues, same struggles. But it’s a different cast with different stories and definitely more romance. Lots more romance.

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  2. lstites
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 09:22:26

    Wow, Kay! I’m honored you’re sharing our stories!

    I have to admit, at the end of the second season I was swearing at the TV when the Swede killed Lily. But she and Cullen were so wrapped up in that damn bridge that I knew something bad was going to happen. However, I also realize Hell On Wheels isn’t about the romance. In some ways, the relationship between Cullen and Elam is just as fascinating, but I’d prefer more romance and a few less dead bodies. I’ll still watch the show because it’s just so well written and well acted and intelligent…a breath of fresh air. And it’s a great Western, to boot.

    Back before I ever saw Hell On Wheels, I’d started working on book based on a different historic railroad race. When I saw that first season, my jaw literally dropped and I thought: hey that’s like my book! About the same time, Jennifer and Jacqui had agreed to write an anthology with me, and we thought a railroad-themed romance would be great and perfect timing, given the popularity of the show. So that’s kind of how we got here. I’d already started working on a different book. Hint: it’s the second book coming out in this series, and the hero reminds me of Bohannon, but I had written about Buck O’Connor long before I ever met Cullen Bohannon.

    The parallels between the show and our book are many, but that’s because the history of the railroads, the roles and situations, are very similar. What’s really different is the focus. With our books, you’ll get the history, the conflict and adventure, even suspense, but you’ll also get romance. Lots of romance. Frankly, I think that’s the perfect combination. I suppose that’s why I write what I do.

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  3. Jacqui Nelson
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:19:46

    Great recap of “Hell on Wheels,” Kay! I’m also uncertain whether Cullen Bohannon will ever find happiness for himself, but with the “Passion’s Prize” railroad anthology (written by myself, Elisabeth and Jennifer) YES it’s totally “Hell on Wheels with happy endings”. Still our characters have to go through some tough times to earn their happily ever after. Hope fans of “Hell on Wheels” will take a chance on “Passion’s Prize” and follow along as those HEAs are earned. And thanks, Kay, for recommending our anthology to fans of “Hell on Wheels”!

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  4. E.E. Burke
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:21:11

    Whoa. I’ll be. It picked up my comments from two places. Sorry about that.

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    • Kay Hudson
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:34:10

      That’s okay–glad to see either or both of you here. And now I have your email addy (which I probably couldn’t find because I was spelling your name wrong).

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  5. jenniferjakes
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 10:55:22

    HI Kay! WOW! Thank you so much! And I’m always thrilled to meet another HOW fan. Like you and Leigh, I was watching season 2 end as Lily Belle was killed just so mad I could have hanged Mr. Swede myself! Of course, we all knew Swede was too wiley a villain to just drown. Season 3 started out exciting as ever and I too really like the addition of Louise. Of course, the romance writer in me wonders what lies ahead for her and Bohannon outside of railroad business. 😉
    Anyway, thanks again for mentioning us in your post.
    Best-
    Jennifer

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    • Kay Hudson
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 11:15:34

      Glad to see you here, Jennifer–thanks for stopping by. Louise should be interesting as a character, and as an observer, reporting back to her newspaper readers.

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  6. Trackback: Romance in the Old West | Kay Hudson

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