Meet New Mexico, the romantic hero of your dreams
By PATRICE LOCKE
Love the ‘bad boys’ in romance novels? I do—the silent, brooding types. On the page, if not in real life. And it occurred to me that the settings of my books share that mysterious, macho characteristic.
Meet New Mexico—as wild, brooding, mysterious, and oh-so-deliciously gorgeous as any romantic hero—too hot literally and figuratively to be relegated to the background. New Mexico demands star billing.
I picture the fifty states lined up like Chippendale Dancers.
New Mexico saunters on stage, eyes as blue as the azure sky, rocking a Stetson, black leather vest, and ragged Levis, a six-shooter in each hand.
He sizzles. Believe me. I know. I’ve met him. He scoffed when I tried to make him the backdrop for my two books, Exit Signs and Fresh Start. “No way,” he said, and elbowed himself into a starring role. He’s back again in my soon-to-be-released third book, Happiest Marriage in the History of the World.
In Fresh Start, narrator Miranda finds herself stranded in Albuquerque. The high desert landscape looms like a rugged anti-hero, magnifying her sense of isolation until she falls victim to his robust charms and puts down roots.
And in Exit Signs, native New Mexican Tracy tells her handsome rock star about her birthplace as if she’s reminiscing about an ex-lover—someone like Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser, or Rhett Butler. Those iconic characters melt our hearts with their troubled pasts, enigmatic quests, and tortured dark brooding.
And they have nothing on New Mexico. (Happiest Marriage in the History of the World revisits Tracy and Jesse, the main characters of Exit Signs three years into their life together.)
New Mexico would probably win any contest for ‘most troubled past.’ I challenge any star-crossed lovers to produce a plot as fraught with agony and ecstasy as New Mexico’s relationship with the United States of America.
Back in 1850 the U.S. batted her eyes and claimed the NM territory. But she balked at offering the ultimate commitment of statehood.
She was scared off by New Mexico’s wild reputation for lawlessness and corruption. Outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid personified New Mexico, making the Land of Enchantment good for a fling, not a long-term relationship.
It wasn’t until they’d been dating for sixty years that the U.S. finally smiled demurely and said, “I do.” She walked down the aisle for the forty-seventh time with the Land of Enchantment as her handsome renegade groom in 1912.
How’s that for a circuitous route to romance?
NM still lives in the shadows, on the edge, never fully accepted. How would you like it if your hundred-and-six-year-long committed relationship constantly came under question?
Happens to New Mexico every day.
In fact, New Mexico Magazine has a regular column aptly named ‘One of Our Fifty Is Missing.’
Visitors and residents are still asked: “Have you changed your money to pesos?” “Don’t you need a passport?” “How did you learn to speak English so well?”
Here’s the bottom line: When I read a romance, I want to be mesmerized by the hero. I want him to show up in my dreams, and I want to wonder what he’s up to when I have to put the book down.
I may not love him right off, but by the final chapter, he better be tattooed behind my eyelids and I better long to know more about him. He needs to grow on me the way New Mexico has.
I was a Michigander until destiny made me a New Mexican and The Land of Enchantment wrangled a starring role in my life and in my books.
But, just between us, I’m moving to Idaho soon. I hope Mr. Potato Head can measure up. Please don’t tell New Mexico I’m leaving. I hate tearful goodbyes, and he’s suffered enough already.