May 07

The Adventure of America’s Railroads by Jacqui Nelson

J Nelson 10_139

I’m very happy today to welcome Jacqui Nelson, a personal friend, as a guest on Travel Back in Time.

Thanks for having me, Anna. As a writer, I’m inspired by history, but I’m also inspired by movies and TV shows. The first inspiration for my Western historical romance novella Adella’s Enemy (and the Passion’s Prize anthology featuring this novella and two others that share interlinked stories and characters) came from Hell on Wheels—AMC’s hit Western series revolving around the construction of America’s First Transcontinental Railroad.

Every story benefits from a cast of great characters. Larger-than-life characters make a story shine. For Hell on Wheels, the saying “the truth is stranger than fiction” couldn’t be more accurate. The series starts in 1865 and follows the Union Pacific Railroad and its surveyors, laborers, land speculators, government bigwigs, preachers and prostitutes (basically all manner of righteous and mercenary folk) who lived and died in the mobile town they called “Hell on Wheels.”

The town was continually packed into wagons and transported westward, following construction across the Great Plains like a shadow.


On the Road to Riches-The Adventure of a Lifetime


One of the main characters involved in building the Transcontinental was Thomas Durant—physician, financier, railroad promoter and a major shareholder in the Union Pacific. He concocted a scam to pay himself to build the railroad with government subsidies. His devilish mind earned him thousands of dollars per mile of track laid. Yes, he suffered setbacks as all complex characters do, but his moxie always seemed to get him through the challenging times. Love him or hate him, Thomas Durant was an intriguing character who left his mark on both friend and foe, and history too.

A railroad with an equally wild and woolly past was the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. This was where I gleaned further inspiration for writing my story, Adella’s Enemy.

Thomas Durant

Thomas Durant

In 1870, Congress passed acts promising land grants to the first railroad to reach the border between Kansas and the Indian Territory.

The usual cast of characters flocked to the railroad and the rough towns created along the line. Two railroads became locked in a battle to win the race and earn the prize, but there could only be one winner.

So once again, powerful leaders entered the stage, each pushing their workers to extremes to ensure their own fortunes. Judge Levi Parsons lead the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (the Katy) and James Joy was at the helm of the Border Tier Road (the Joy Road).


Reaching the End of the Line

Reaching the End of the Line -Who Wins?

Judge Parsons

Judge Parsons

The laborers who did the heavy lifting were mostly Irish emigrants fleeing famine and poverty or ex-soldiers whose logistical skills sharpened in the War Between the States were essential for a project as large as building a railroad—a task often deemed similar to fighting a war.

But the war of personalities and pasts was what really intrigued me while researching all of these real-life characters and their historical shenanigans before sitting down to craft my story.

I hope readers will have as much fun following my heroine and hero, Adella and Cormac, as I had creating them and watching them earn a true prize—a happily-ever-after together.

JacquiNelson_AdellasEnemy_800Description – Adella’s Enemy 

Can the pursuit of an old enemy lead to a new love? The War Between the States ended five years ago, but she still pursues her enemy…

Rebel spy turned government rabble rouser Adella Willows receives her mission straight from a Washington senator—play havoc with the Katy Railroad and derail its bid to win the race. The senator craves wealth. Adella craves revenge against the man responsible for her brother’s death. But her plans crumble into chaos when she enters a battle of wits with the railroad’s foreman.

An ocean separates him from his failures in Ireland, but he’s still haunted by those who died… Seasoned railroad foreman Cormac McGrady’s sole desire is keeping his workmen safe and employed, which means keeping the Katy ahead of its rivals. But the beautiful spy bedeviling his railroad needs protecting as well. Cormac must choose between winning the race and winning Adella’s heart, while Adella must choose whether she lives for revenge or dies for love.

Adella’s Enemy (a novella) is available in e-book and print on Amazon.


Description – Passion’s Prize PassionsPrizeAntho-1m

 What do a spy, a madam, and an heiress have in common?

Outlaws, soldiers, and spies bedevil the Katy Railroad as construction crews race to reach Indian Territory before their rival. The prize—a fortune in land rights for the wining line. Stakes are just as high for three women whose lives hinge on the outcome.

Passion’s Prize (an  anthology featuring three interlinked novellas: Adella’s Enemy by Jacqui Nelson, Eden’s Sin by Jennifer Jakes and Kate’s Outlaw by E.E. Burke) is available in e-book and print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Kobo.

More about Jacqui 

Jacqui writes historical romantic adventures set in the American West and Victorian London. Her love of Western stories came from watching classic Western movies while growing up on a cattle farm. Her passion for Victorian London wasn’t far behind and only increased when she worked in England for four years and explored the nooks and crannies of London on her weekends. She currently lives on the west coast of Canada where she works in a bookstore. Jacqui is a Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® winner and three-time finalist.

Her Golden Heart® nominated Westerns Between Heaven & Hell (set on the Oregon Trail) and Between Love & Lies (set in Dodge City during the heyday of the cattle drives) will be released this summer.

Excerpt from Adella’s Enemy

Adella’s fingers brushed the piece of paper hidden in her cleavage and she went as still as Cormac. Blast! She’d forgotten about the telegram! She needed Cormac to stay in her hotel room, but she couldn’t let him see the telegram.
“How do you know what I want?” she whispered, stalling for time.
“I don’t. But this is what I want.” In two strides, he devoured the gap between them. Then his mouth claimed hers in a hot, heady possession.
Pressed against the door, all she could do was kiss him back. She did so with abandon. Her skin tingled, and her blood raced as if her body had woken from years of sleepwalking. She didn’t want the feeling to stop. She wrapped her arms around Cormac’s neck and pulled him closer.
He suddenly lifted his head. “I want more than one kiss,” he murmured against her lips. “And I don’t mean merely claiming everything that’s under this dress.” His hand slid up her rib cage to cup her breast.
The telegram! With a gasp, she covered her chest with both hands. The corner of the paper poked her palm. Thank Dixie. It was still there. But had he seen it? She drew back against the door.
Cormac retreated as well, lifting his hand to rake it through hair that was already disheveled. Had she done that? He reached for the doorknob and she jumped aside.
“Stay away from the worksite, Adella.” He opened the door without his customary restraint. It banged against the wall. “And, for God’s sake, stay out of trouble. Don’t provoke a man beyond his patience.”


Adella’s Enemy (kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EE1UW5E
Adella’s Enemy (print) : http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492216771
Passion’s Prize (kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EDSCZK8

Passion’s Prize (print ): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492103071

To learn more about Jacqui and her writing, please visit www.JacquiNelson.com or www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks


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  1. Sandra Owens

    I read Passion’s Price and loved it, Jacqui. Really loved Adella and Cormac’s story.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      I never get tried of hearing that you enjoyed Adella and Cormac’s story, Sandra! They were fun characters to write, but an author never truly knows if a reader will enjoy them as well.

      Thanks for dropping by, Sandra!

  2. Kimberly MacCarron

    First off, I hate when I have to do math to prove I’m not a robot in order to comment. It makes my stomach clench, and I have to start slowly counting, using my fingers. 🙂
    Jacquie, your books all sound awesome. I so enjoyed reading and learning about the Westward movement and the railway’s history. So exciting. Sometimes it’s difficult to think about the personalities behind those larger-than-life types who influenced that time. Your books seem to do exactly that! I loved reading the excerpt. I especially liked his last line, which made me laugh out loud: ““And, for God’s sake, stay out of trouble. Don’t provoke a man beyond his patience.” Love it! Isn’t that our job? To provoke men beyond their patience?? haha. Can’t wait to read your books–a perfect combination of love and adventure.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      That’s what fingers are for, Kim – doing math and writing stories that inspire us. Congrats on your double Golden Heart final this year. All your tenacity paid off big time!

      Glad to hear you liked my excerpt. That last line was the only thing Cormac could say after growing up with five sisters. Thanks for stopping by, Kim!

  3. Jodie Esch

    I’ve read Jacqui’s work and she has a wonderful ability to combine her passion with history with an intriguing story that captures the flavour of the time. I wish her great success!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thanks, Jodie! And thanks for sharing this journey into indie publishing with me. Wishing you great success as well! So happy you could drop by and leave a comment.

  4. Jo-Ann Carson

    Great post Jacqui. I love how you can make the past come alive. The characters jump into my heart on the first page and I stay with them to the end.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thank you for the lovely compliments, Jo-Ann! Now you have me reminiscing about the first line in Adella’s Enemy…

      Standing on the fringe of a courtyard full of women, Adella Willows waited to make a bargain with the Devil.

      Chapter one (and that line) almost didn’t make it into the book. because it felt a bit too much like a prologue.

      Glad you could drop by, Jo-Ann!

  5. Miranda Liasson

    Romance and adventure during this exciting time in American history..what could be better? Love it, Jacqui!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      You and I are like twins, Miranda! Yes, what could be better than a romantic adventure to a long ago time?

      Thanks for stopping by, Miranda!

  6. Melissa Keir

    Sound like some interesting times. I know that the Indians had issues with the railroads and often feared what it brought. I can imagine it takes a strong person to persevere in such an adventure as the building of the railroads.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      In regards to natives’ concerns about railroad construction and westward expansion, you are all to correct, Melissa . In the PASSION’S PRIZE anthology, E.E. Burke’s novella, KATE’S OUTLAW, delves deeply in the matter with a handsome Cherokee hero who’s very determined to protect his people from the railroad threat.

      Thanks for visiting my guest blog with Anna and leaving a comment, Melissa!

  7. Nan Dixon

    Hi Jacqui!
    The railroads are fascinating! And your book captures the flavor of those times.
    My 1st job out of college was with Burlington Northern Railroad in the Audit and then the Tax and Accounting depts. It was amazing the things that had been amassed in the general office building. Since the building had once been a bank, in the vault was filled with pictures painted for the railroad to encourage people to travel. Huge landscapes by Remington and Russell and other artists. The railroad was trying to draw people to the resorts that they had build in Yellowstone and Glacier Park.
    I think Banff was owned by CN at one time — but I can’t be sure of that.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      So cool, Nan! Love this insider glimpse into the vaults of history. A writer could get lost in researching all these lovely historic gems. Must resist temptation and continue working on final edits for my soon-to-be-released stories 🙂

      Congrats again on your Golden Heart final AND on your recent sale news! Woot! You are going great guns this year. Thank for dropping by, Nan!

  8. Jacquie

    Great post Jacqui, I can’t imagine living in those times, and we think we have it hard.
    I know there have been movies made about the railroad but was one done on Durant? He seems quite the character.
    Love the covers of your books and the excerpt from Adella’s Enemy, she sounds spunky 🙂

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      I’m unaware of any movies with Thomas Durant as a character – I only know the TV series Hell on Wheels. Let me know if you discovery more about the movie(s). I’d love to watch any that you find!

      Thanks for visiting my guest blog today, Jacquie, and for the compliments on my covers and my excerpt. Adella is indeed a spunky character and a very fun one to write!

  9. Pat Amsden

    I loved Adella’s Enemy Jacqui. Is there a sequel on the way?

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thank you so much for saying you loved Adella’s Enemy, Pat! I’d love to write a sequel and it’s on my to-do list. But after I publish my two other Western novels this summer, I have a craving to return to my “Angel Street Agency” series set in Victorian London. Maybe I can slip in writing a Western as a break from London? Isn’t being a writer fun? 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by, Pat. So good to see you here!

  10. Lana Williams

    Love Hell on Wheels! That time period is so fascinating – so many changes! Looking forward to reading this story, Jacqui!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Hello fellow “Hell on Wheels” fan! I agree, Lana, this time period is so intriguing with its rapid change. If you like change, you might be interested in the first book in my Angel Street Agency series. My heroine invents the flashlight in that story. Don’t know when I’ll get this one published though. A writer’s work is never done.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lana. Always nice to connect with another historical romance author.

  11. Nancy Morse

    Great post, Jacqui. Building the railroads was a nasty business, but for me, one of the most beautiful things in the world is an old steam locomotive. Thank you for bringing that era to life in your books.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thanks, Nancy! You’re so right about the beauty of an old steam locomotive and the grim side of the construction biz. I played around with several ways to portray this particular time period and setting. I vow that the mud almost became a secondary character. I must have been channeling the sticky clay on the farm where I grew up.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Nancy!

  12. Anna Markland

    Great to have you here, Jacqui.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Great to be here, Anna! Love you website and your blog – and your books too 🙂

  13. Piper

    A great post Jacqui! I’m looking forward to your releases this summer–this time period is very fascinting!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thanks, Piper! Looking forward to your releases as well. You have such amazing covers that they should be framed and put on a wall. Congrats on your Golden Heart final this year. You’re on a roll!

      Thanks for taking the time to visit my guest blog and leave a comment, Piper!

  14. E. Ayers

    I’ve had to research the RR for some historical novels I’ve been working on. I was thrilled to discover they all have historians that they employ! Was a fantastic source! And these folks are so thrilled to have inquiries. I have stacks of info from them.

    People made fortunes and lost fortunes on the RR’s. It’s a fascinating time in history and it wasn’t always pretty!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Sounds like a very wonderful source, E. Thank you for visiting my guest blog and sharing that nugget of information. Good luck with your writing. In my opinion the world can’t have enough historical novels!

  15. Linda Andrews

    Interesting post. I love railroads and the old steam engines. How many books/novellas do you plan to write about the Katy and her crea?

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      The Katy’s race to Indian Territory finishes at the end of the PASSION’s PRIZE anthology, but I could craft a prequel or a side story that happens along the way.
      Still mulling over plots and looking for the perfect characters to inspire me again.

      Until then, my Oregon Trail and Dodge City Western novels are keeping me busy. After their release, I’ll be able to focus on a new project. Looking forward to it!

      Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

  16. Angi Morgan

    Awesome story and awesome article. Thanks for sharing

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Thanks, Angi! And thanks for stopping by. So wonderful to see you here!

  17. Elisabeth Burke

    Great post, Jacqui. You know how much I love RR stories. I’m glad you and Jennifer turned out to be big fans of Hell On Wheels, as well. I had a blast writing Passion’s Prize with the two of you, and Adella’s Enemy kicks the book off with a bang. (Inside joke). Can’t wait to read your Westerns this summer!

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Hello, Elisabeth! Thanks for swinging by, my awesome Western writing partner!

      You were the first to get me and Jenn started on this project, and I love how it turned out. Love your RR story, HER BODYGUARD, as well. It was a super addition to the “Steam! Romance and Rails” series. Looking forward to seeing what you treat us to next.

  18. nora snowdon

    great post, Jacqui! I loved adela’s enemy and am really looking forward to reading between heaven and hell, and love and lies.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Yay! Glad to see you here, Nora! I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of my revisions on those two Westerns that started my writing obsession.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Nora!

  19. Natasha Pow

    Jacqui, I absolutely loved Adella’s Enemy and am really looking forward to your new releases! (Hey! I didn’t read Nora’s comment before writing this, really i didn’t!)

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      LOL, Natasha! We’ll just say that great minds think alike. Thanks for reading Adella’s Enemy and for visiting my guest blog today!

  20. Mary

    Jacqui, I really enjoyed Adella’s Enemy! I have purchased Passion’s Prize and can’t wait to read it! You gals make a great team!
    Mary Lawrence

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Aw, thanks, Mary! So glad you liked Adella’s Enemy. You’re in for a real treat reading Jennifer and Elisabeth’s stories now. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. Mimi Barbour

    Great blog post, Jacqui. I love reading history when an author can make it come alive on the pages. Probably why I loved your book so much.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      And I love trying to make history come alive. Thanks for the continued compliments on my writing, Mimi!

      So happy you could visit my guest blog this evening. Where has the day gone? But it’s not over yet. Still a couple of hours left to write before calling it a day 🙂

  22. Greta

    Great post, Jacqui. I grew up on gunfighter ballads and stories of the Old West–what a fascinating time that was.

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      Stories of the Old West are something I grew up with as well, Greta. So it’s extra fun to write a genre that takes me back to the memories and imagination of my youth.

      Thanks for visiting my guest blog, Greta!

  23. Alice Valdal

    Love the history lesson, Jacqui. Isn’t it peculiar who scoundrels of the past become colourful folk-heros while scoundrels of the present are just plain scoundrels?

    1. Jacqui Nelson

      So very true, Alice! It’s interesting how some scoundrels can be so likable. The villains we love to hate have the power to captivate an audience.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Alice!

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