Are you a fan of historical romance? It was my first love when I discovered the genre, not just for the wonderful romantic stories, but also the clothes, the manners, the balls, the carriages…can you tell Regency is my favorite historical genre? But in addition to all the bells and whistles, I actually learned a lot of real history from the historicals I read–and that’s still part of the appeal for many readers and writers.

Sara Luck is a veteran writer of historical romances, though hers aren’t set in the Regency, but in the American West. Of course that means plucky frontierswomen and handsome cowboys, but also railroad tycoons, explorers, gold miners and even journalists! And every Sara Luck novel is inspired by a real historical incident–one you may not have learned about in school (I know I didn’t). Here are just a few of the real-life events that have inspired Sara’s heartwarming romance novels…

In Hearts Unbound, heroine Pia Caranza isn’t your typical girl-next-door…she’s a Basque, who immigrates to Idaho, where many of her family have gone to herd sheep. She’s promised to one of the Basque herders from her village, but she has eyes only for the handsome doctor who treats his Basque patients with a respect many others don’t.  Today Boise, Idaho has the largest concentration of Americans of Basque descent. You can learn more about this fascinating chapter of the American experience here and here.

Or perhaps you have childhood memories of playing Oregon Trail? Then maybe you’d enjoy Susanna’s Choice, in which she and her family travel across the country in a “prairie schooner,” a covered wagon like this one: Photo: This photo by B.D.'s World is of a replica prairie schooner (covered wagon). Readers of 'Susanna's Choice' may remember we meet Susanna on one of these very wagons as her family travels the Oregon Trail.

Susanna grows up to be an intrepid journalist, and finds herself crossing paths (and verbal swords) with a San Francisco investor in the Comstock silver mines who suspects that silver prices are being manipulated by the mine managers. (Hmm, some things never change, huh?)

In Luck’s newest book, Hearts Afire, we get a bit of east and west: as the novel opens, we meet Sabrina Chadwick, the toast of Broadway. But an ill-chosen love affair creates a scandal she can’t recover from, and she flees to her brother out west, restyling herself as Tori Drumm and landing in Colorado Springs. The gold rush is in full flood here, and Tori/Sabrina soon meets Link, a local mine owner. Link seems wonderful, but Tori’s brother is agitating for a miner’s strike–can she bridge the gap that politics and secrets have placed between them? This strike is based on the Cripple Creek strike of 1894–you can read more here.

Sara has a talent for making even difficult historical moments work as the backdrop for her love stories, as readers will be able to see this fall when A Family for Maddie is published. Maddie is the younger daughter of the man brought in to clean up the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Helena, Montana. The BIA was under intense scrutiny because of a massacre of local Blackfeet families, including women and children (see here to learn more)–a mistaken attack that was intended for a band of Native American warriors nearby. With the help of Case, an entrepreneur on the run from a broken heart, Maddie finds herself in a position to care for five young Native American girls orphaned in the massacre.