PERSONAL: Married; husband's name Jim (a retired professor of English); children: Matt. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Missouri, B.A., M.A. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, travel, cooking, working in her greenhouse.
CAREER: Writer and romance novelist. Worked variously as a public welfare caseworker, assistant circulation manager for a daily newspaper, cashier for a loan company, administrator for a federal program for the elderly, a newspaper editor, a social worker, and instructor in a large urban university.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Novelists Inc., International Thriller Writers, and Missouri Romance Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Romantic Times, three career achievement awards and four reviewer's choice awards.
"TEXAS" TRILOGY; ROMANCE NOVELS
Cactus Flower, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Moon Flower, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Night Flower, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1990.
"SANTA FE" TRILOGY; ROMANCE NOVELS
Night Wind's Women, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1991.
White Apache's Woman, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.
Deep as the Rivers, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
"BLACKTHORNE" TRILOGY; ROMANCE NOVELS
Love a Rebel … Love a Rogue, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Wicked Angel, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.
Wanton Angel, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.
"AMERICAN LORDS" TRILOGY; ROMANCE NOVELS
Yankee Earl, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.
Rebel Baron, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2004.
Texas Viscount, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Golden Lady, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Love Unwilling, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Capture the Sun, 1988.
Summer Has No Name, Severn House (New York, NY), 1991.
Paradise and More ("Discovery Duet" novel), Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.
Return to Paradise ("Discovery Duet" novel), Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.
Terms of Love ("Colorado Couplet" novel), Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.
Terms of Surrender ("Colorado Couplet" novel), Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.
Bouquet, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
A Fire in the Blood, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Broken Vows, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
McCrory's Lady, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
Bride of Fortune, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
The Endless Sky, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Sundancer, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Finders Keepers, Silhouette (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to anthologies, including Old-Fashion Valentine, 1993; A Dream Come True, Topaz, 1994; and Secrets of the Heart, 1994.
SIDELIGHTS: Shirl Henke is the author of numerous historical romance novels, many of which are set in the American West. Bride of Fortune is a Mexican variant of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, in which the American-born illegitimate son of a Mexican landowner meets his wealthy, legitimate brother while they are fighting during the Mexican revolution of the 1860s. The two decide to change places and identities. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted a couple of "credibility gaps," but stated that they are "offset … by passionate love scenes, engaging characters and a well-researched, fast-paced plot."
Henke placed the setting of another of her books farther north. The Endless Sky, which features Chase Remington—a half-breed who is torn between his love for a white woman and his Native American roots—exposes the reader to many aspects of life on the frontier. A Publishers Weekly reviewer complimented Henke on "the intensity of her writing" and her "thorough research." Among the most interesting passages in The Endless Sky, according to the critic, is the account of the battle at Little Bighorn, told from a Native American point of view.
In Deep as the Rivers, Henke introduces the character of Colonel Samuel Shelby, who travels into the western wilderness on a secret mission for President James Madison on the eve of the War of 1812. The plot involves a complicated contest of wills between Shelby and the beautiful but headstrong Olivia St. Etienne, whom he has "won" in a gambling game.
Sundancer tells the story of Roxanna Fallon, a Union spy on the run from a dangerous Confederate officer. When her best friend, heiress Alexa Hunt, is killed, she assumes her identity and continues on to complete a marriage to a railroad baron arranged by Alexa's grandfather. On the way, her stagecoach is attacked by Cheyenne Indians, and she is captured and taken for ransom. Alexa's grandfather hires Cain, a formidable and well-known gunslinger who is also half Cheyenne, to rescue her. Inevitably, Cain and Roxanna/Alexa discover a powerful mutual lust, but their relationship damages her standing in wealthy society and ruins her arranged wedding. Their situation is complicated when they realize she was engaged to Cain's white half-brother, and that her wedding was little more than part of a plot between two railroad tycoons at war with each other. When Alexa is rejected by her fiance, Cain offers to marry her instead, creating impassioned conflict between the two brothers. Cain must also come to terms with his racial heritage while he and Alexa struggle to thwart the many forces arrayed against them. Though the intricate plot makes the story difficult to follow, it also "makes the narrative rich and evocative," commented a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Kathe Robin, reviewing the book on the Romantic Times Web site, remarked: "Powerful and sensual, Sundancer is one of Shirl Henke's finest western romances."
A mother's matchmaking for her daughter backfires in an unexpected way in Rebel Baron. Civil War-veteran Brandon Caruthers returns to Kentucky after the war, only to find that his ancestral home has been destroyed. An unexpected inheritance leads him to England, where he has hopes of marrying a generous heiress and creating a successful racehorse operation. Disappointingly, his British inheritance consists of nothing more than a run-down country house desperately in need of repair, and the title of Baron Rushcroft. Brandon then receives an unusual business proposition from wealthy widow Miranda Auburn: she will secure his bank loan if he will marry her daughter, Lori, to keep her from being courted by less noble suitors. Brandon agrees, but as he attempts to woo Lori, he finds that he is much more interested in the confident and business-savvy Miranda. She thinks she is too old for him, but Brandon is persistent, and long-suppressed emotions begin to stir again as their fledgling relationship is complicated by kidnapping, danger, and mysterious events. Robin, in another Romantic Times Web site review, called the novel an "explosive and passionate love story." Booklist reviewer John Charles named it "another sensual treat for readers who like their romances liberally laced with both danger and desire."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2004, John Charles, review of Rebel Baron, p. 1144.
Publishers Weekly, March 25, 1996, review of Bride of Fortune, p. 81; December 1, 1997, review of The Endless Sky, p. 51; December 7, 1998, review of Sundancer, p. 57.
Historical Romance Writers Web site, http://historicalromancewriters.com/ (February 6, 2006), biography of Shirl Henke.
Romantic Times, http://www.romantictimes.com/ (February 27, 2006), Kathe Robin, review of Sundancer; Kathe Robin, review of Rebel Baron.
Shirl Henke Home Page, http://www.shirlhenke.com (February 27, 2006).