Love, Romance, and relationships in the Martiniere books

a in love young couple on haystacks in cowboy hats

I hadn’t really been focusing much on relationships in my books before I started writing the Martiniere books. Oh, they were there, but there was no particularly vivid romance, no toe-curling, passionate, to die for relationships. The closest might have been the relationship between Bess and Alex in the Netwalk Sequence books. But even then, they grew up together, and were just there for each other. Sarah–well, her relationships ended badly. Diana and Will have kept most of their relationship private. Melanie and Marty drifted together at work.

Then I started writing what became Inheritance. Right off the bat, Gabe Ramirez started yelling at me that I had things all wrong, and it didn’t happen the way I wanted to write it. Originally, he was going to be a thoroughgoing cad. A womanizer, a gambler, a bad guy that Ruby was well rid of when she divorced him. One of the forces that Ruby had to struggle against to keep the Double R Ranch.

Not what Gabe became after he kept yelling at me–an aristocratic heir on the run because he dared speak out in court against the abuses within his family’s privately held company. Who had a history of trauma to match Ruby’s. Who would keep silent about his real identity for fear of the consequences for Ruby should she know and he be discovered, until he was silenced by the use of mind control techniques that made him look like the worst of philanderers. Who carried a torch for Ruby even after he remarried, and once widowed, longed to be back in Ruby’s life. Who was willing to face certain death in order to protect Ruby and their son.

But Ruby’s side was just as intense. She never got together with anyone else after her divorce. She still held deep feelings for Gabe, leading to long-simmering anger when he remarried several years after their divorce. Once she learned who Gabe really was, she had to learn to trust him all over again because Gabe’s betrayal, even though caused by drugs and mind control manipulation, injured her so deeply. Then she also wanted to prove herself worthy of her aristocratic beloved.

I hadn’t really delved that deeply into a relationship until Ruby and Gabe. They met at a rodeo–Gabe on the run, hiding as an itinerant ranch hand and saddle bronc rider, Ruby as a barrel racer and rodeo court princess. Ruby catches Gabe’s eye with her horsemanship as she rides her barrel horse through a huge bucking fit during a competition, while being verbally harassed by a drunken bronc rider with whom she has a history. He follows her out of the arena because he wants to see what happens next with the woman and the horse, and because he’s itching to confront that drunken yayhoo. For his part, once he starts talking to Ruby, he realizes that she is not just a beautiful, highly-skilled horsewoman but is brilliant in their shared field, ag robotics. Ruby is taken by this handsome bronc rider who is polite, mannerly, accepted as friendly by her quixotic mare, and knows his way around ag robotics. Plus, once she finds out he’s on the run (he tells her he’s evading indenture bounty hunters wanting to force him into servitude because of the debt he owes for his education), there’s an aura of the forbidden around him. She doesn’t know how long she’ll have with this darkly handsome, brilliant, polite man who’s also good with horses.

And with that element…boy, did the story ever take off.

I have written a different way that the two of them got together, in a world (the A Different Life books) where Gabe’s younger life, while still traumatic, had different trauma factors than in the original Martiniere Legacy stories. In this case, they meet when Gabe interviews Ruby for a big financial grant, the Martiniere Grant, to help develop her vision of biobots in a world with rapid climate change. He’s coming off of a bad breakup where he was somewhat of a trophy for his ex-girlfriend, who didn’t like how hard he was working toward his goal of a leadership position within the family-held company. And his ex didn’t like horses. Ruby’s brilliance and her horsemanship attracts Gabe. He bails her family out of a major financial crisis in part to spite a business competitor with whom he has a significant bad history. But the attraction between them happens quickly.

Beyond Ruby and Gabe, however, there’s the relationship between Gabe’s sister Justine and her beloved, Donald Atwood (chronicled in Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality). Originally, Justine and Donald marry to allow Justine to escape from the control of her abusive father. It’s a very transactional relationship at the beginning, but Justine and Donald build it into true love. However, political circumstances force their divorce. Donald is in poor health, and the two of them have committed to significant underground political action supporting reproductive rights, as well as battling her father. On the surface, they’re estranged–but in reality, they protect each other.

And then there’s a third relationship in the Martiniere books, as told in the second book of the A Different Life series, the just-released A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. The story picks up several months after the conclusion of the first A Different Life book, featuring Ruby’s friend, Linda Coates, who has a significant history of her own. After Ruby hires Linda as her executive assistant, Linda meets Gabe’s executive assistant and cousin, Armand Martiniere. Over the course of their first weeks working together, they fall in love. But, of course, being a Martiniere story, there’s a lot of outside political nastiness that complicates everything.

It’s been an interesting romantic ride with these relationships. At the moment I’m not writing anything particularly romantic (well, except for a different Martiniere variant now serializing on my Martiniere Stories Substack, where Gabe reveals himself after they’ve been together for four years). The current work in progress, Federation Cowboy, has the protagonists participate in a formal marital association contract in order to simplify their work, but there’s not a romance–maybe. Still in the first third of the book, and the characters may yet surprise me.

For whatever reason, however, the Martinieres seem to be romantics in their relationships, even when there’s a pragmatic reason behind them happening. Especially with Gabe and Ruby.

At this point, I’m really glad that Gabriel Martiniere stood up and started yelling at me, because it’s nice to be able to write an epic relationship like the one he and Ruby have. It’s been a good ride.

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