What makes a good romance book? There's got to be chemistry, a little bit of conflict, a good dose of humor, and, of course, a happy ending. Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story (William Morrow) is a slam dunk.
For those who don't know her already, Drummond is better known, at least on the Internet, as the Pioneer Woman. The blog she started in 2006 chronicles her story as a city-girl-turned-ranch-wife in the wilds of Oklahoma. While a large focus of the blog has been food, as was her first book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, this love story, co-starring Drummond's husband, aka Marlboro Man, has been woven in almost from the beginning.
When I talked to Drummond, she and her daughters were hiding out in Salt Lake City, avoiding the minus-20-degree weather that the boys were braving back on the ranch. After reading her book, it's hard not to wonder how it feels for a woman who left the busy world of Los Angeles for a quiet life in Oklahoma now that she is on the road and in the spotlight as a best-selling author.
"The irony is hilarious," Drummond says. "It took me about 10 years to really get in the groove. Living there those 10 years before I started blogging helped feed my creative side; I wouldn't be a writer without the experience. That's where the contentment comes from. Traveling and meeting people is great, but it has made me realize how much I love home and the country."
For some men, being the star of a sweet love story could be a bit awkward, but for Drummond's Marlboro Man, it's been just another part of the ride. "He's fine with it. He's always been very supportive of the blog. Besides, he knows I wouldn't write anything I wouldn't want the kids to read, so he knew it would stay family-friendly," she says.
The story starts with their meeting in a smoky bar in Drummond's hometown just as she was beginning to transition from her life in L.A. to a new life in Chicago. Four months later, he called, and they began a romance that changed all of her plans. Drummond shares the story of their courtship and the first year of their marriage, telling it with the humor that got her through the hard, embarrassing, and heartbreaking moments.
Turning the story into a book, though, seemed to happen organically. "I didn't really plan it when I started telling it on the blog. I never thought about turning it into a book. It came out because I had writer's block one day. I posted the first part of it for fun. I was sure no one would be interested in this, but then over 18 months it turned into a serial on the blog, and people kept asking for more," she says.
"As a book, people can enjoy sitting down and reading it straight through," Drummond continues. "And it gave me the opportunity to talk about how our honeymoon fell apart and what happened when we got back. People are getting a kick out of it."
And then, of course, there's the food. While there were stories in The Pioneer Woman Cooks about Marlboro Man's reactions to some of her original ideas about cooking, this book goes more in depth. Drummond was very proud of the first meal she cooked for her husband, and she was also very sure that he loved it. "It was awhile before he fessed up about that — after we got married actually," Drummond says. "Those first couple of meals almost killed him, but my cooking has only improved since then."
It wasn't that her food was bad in the beginning; it just wasn't "cowboy food." As Drummond says, "I had to re-invent how I cooked. For cowboys, food is about refueling. It's not about stimulating the palate or experimenting. My favorite part of blogging is still sharing the recipes."
You'll find some of those recipes at the end of Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. Make them for your special somebody.
Ree Drummond discusses and signs Black Heels to Tractor Wheels on Friday, February 25th, 6 p.m., at Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Line tickets are required and are available at Davis-Kidd.