by M.B. Guel
1880s, The Wild West.
An easy, solitary life on the outskirts of Ghosthallow is all Lou Ramirez wants. They want to buy some house plans, build a home, and live their quiet life far from townsfolk’s prying eyes. But somehow instead of house plans, a housewife is delivered to their door.
Clementine Castellanos desperately needs a way out from under her family debt, and it seems as though selling her services as a wife is the only way to do it. Expecting a rough, harsh man to be her new husband, Clementine is pleasantly surprised to instead be dropped off at the ranch of an equally surprised Lou.
Lou would rather Clementine leave them to their lonely existence, but Clementine is too charmed by the quiet and mysterious rancher to give up. She may have come into Lou’s life easily, but she certainly isn’t planning to leave that way. Undeterred by Lou’s prickly demeanor, Clementine is determined to get her reluctant spouse to open up to her.
When the past comes back to haunt the pair, the fight for their independence—and their love—may become more deadly than either of them ever expected.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Amelio Robles Ávila fought in the Mexican Revolution and is thought to be one of the first transgender people in recorded Latin American history. He threatened anyone who misgendered him with his pistols and lived out his life happily as Amelio despite being born under a different name. He isn't the only person who “cross dressed” or lived their life hidden behind the clothes of the gender they weren’t assigned at birth. Even the minimum history we have mentions several instances of women joining the army dressed as men in nearly every war.
My mind began to spin with the possibilities of all the people who lived out their lives as their true selves but were erased from history. All of the people who loved and thrived but we’re told they never existed.
I couldn’t let go of the idea, and thus Lou the Mexican genderqueer rancher was born. I wanted to gift myself the queer Latinx Old West love story I craved and knew others would love. Hopefully through this fictional story people can see themselves as the hero, not just the villain stereotype. And maybe the ghost of a trans person who didn’t get to celebrate their love story with the world will be given a voice."
The Lesbian Review
...There is everything a reader would want from a book set in the Old West, with the bonus of a gender diverse person who turns the head of a beautiful woman who is not the defenseless damsel of a typical fiction set in this milieu. Suspense and violent danger are set against a romance that takes a long while to play out in this tale of a recluse rancher and their mail order bride.
Joanna B. - They Ain't Proper is a well-written and engaging take on this genre that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy to finally see yourself represented in this context. …This book is sweet and romantic and has so much heart—and I highly recommend anyone who enjoys queer romance….
Ren H. - They Ain’t Proper had been on my tbr since I first heard about it, so I was really excited to see it available to request on NetGalley. I sometimes struggle with historic settings, but with the way this book was written, it didn’t even feel like it was historic. The writing was easy to read and flowed well and I didn’t have to focus too hard on the plot, so it was quite a fast read. …Overall, it was a fun and easy read, and I liked seeing the development of Lou and Clem’s relationship.
Della B. - …I am a big fan of stories set in the wild west’s early years and I was happily entertained by They Ain’t Proper. There is a lot of story packed into this high drama novel. The slow burn romance is excruciating in the best of ways. Lou being nonbinary is accepted and fits into the wild frontier philosophy of live and let live if they do you no harm. This is a fun romantic read.
Michele R. - …There was so much to love about this book. I highly enjoyed the sizzling character chemistry, the slow burn romance, the story background, and the emotion at several points during the story. Give this unique book a try and you will not be disappointed.
Kathryn M. - This was such a great western romance novel; it was a unique concept and I enjoyed how real everything was. It worked well overall, and I enjoyed the use of the western setting. M.B. Guel does a great job of writing this and I can’t wait for more.
Alice N. - …I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a queer romance especially if they read historical or are looking for more gender non-conforming characters in books. I will be sharing this book with lots of people I know and placing this author on my watch list as I am interested to see what they write next!
Jennifer B. - …if you’re looking for a queer historical western romance look no further! This is definitely going on my “to be reread” shelf.
Alexis A. - I was enthralled by this book. I read it in one sitting and will be rereading it. The character of Clementine is endearing and relatable while Lou is adorably stubborn. Their shifting points of view throughout the novel gives the read glimpses into past and emotions that are addictive. The storyline for each character is really interesting and kept me in my toes.
Jessica R. - …This book is great, and I really enjoyed reading about a non-binary main character who likes their ladies. I liked the plot, it was engaging and had twists that kept you entertained. The spice when it got there, was very hot. I recommend this book to all.
Betty H. - I had a lot of fun reading They Ain’t Proper by M.B. Guel….This novel takes you on a wild ride filled with danger, criminals, gunslingers, saloon girls, and many more things you expect to see in a wild west narrative. The story is fast paced and exciting.
Amanda D. - This romance was absolutely adorable! It pulled me in beginning with the cover, and I fell in love with many characters very quickly. The comedy and banter in this book were spot on, and I absolutely loved the chemistry! Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.
Blanche M. - …The story was compelling and intriguing, and the last part of the book had my heart racing because I was scared I wouldn't get my happy ending. I enjoyed every second of this book and am excited to read other stories by this author! I really recommend if you like westerns and queer stories!
Elizabeth S. - Wild West queer sapphic historic romance? Sign me the heck up!! Features a non-binary rancher and a feisty as hell mail order bride (delivered to the wrong rancher, of course), Easy read, and I WILL be reading over and over again.
The sun was at its highest in the sky when there came the distant sound of a wagon rolling down the road. Lou looked up from the fence they were building, leaning against the newly sunken post, with the mallet hanging at their side. Their muscles burned and they could feel the sweat dripping down their face and threatening their eyes. They quickly wiped their face with the back of their sleeve, their hat pushed askew as they squinted into the distance.
No one came down this road unless it was on purpose; it was the reason Lou had chosen this piece of land. Far enough away from the main road and Ghosthallow that they felt safe from any people that might come after them.
Ghosthallow was a small, quiet town, but one that harbored its fair share of secrets. Everyone had something they were hiding. The town was just far enough away from the gold rush to keep the miners away—unless they were the ones running away. Even still, people would usually give up before they reached Ghosthallow unless they were desperately determined. It became a safe haven for all sorts of criminals and various riffraff. Everyone knew and no one really cared. While they would gossip amongst themselves about this dirty secret or that, they’d never tell an outsider. Never snitch.
That’s why when Lou saw the mail wagon slowly rolling toward their ranch, they figured after a few long weeks it finally might be the house plans and supplies they had ordered from Old Man Franklin at the general store. They let their mallet fall to the ground and walked toward the road. Taking their hat off, they ran a hand through their wavy black hair to push it back from their face before adjusting their hat back on their head.
Their property was offset just enough that they didn’t have to worry about people riding past it all the time, but they could still monitor it from anywhere. The house itself wasn’t much, just a small one-room shack with a bed, fireplace and stove. They had a barn and a wide amount of acreage, much more space than they needed for the few cows and chickens they kept, but they were ready to expand, and a nicer, more spacious house was the beginning.
The wagon stopped just as Lou made it to the edge of the road. They stared at the top of the enclosed wagon, suspiciously free of house supplies. The driver looked down at his ledger, his young face scrunching up as he ran his finger down the list. He scratched at the patchy stubble on his chin and looked back up at Lou.
“’At’s me,” Lou confirmed, making sure to deepen their voice as they spoke. The driver thrust the ledger at them and jumped off the wagon.
“Sign ’ere. I ’ave to say, I’m glad’a be rid o’ this one. Wouldn’t stop complainin’.”
Lou signed next to their name and handed him the ledger with a frown. “Complainin’?”
“Yeah. Yer in for a handful,” he said before banging on the carriage door. “Come on ’en.”
Lou could do nothing but stare, confused as to how their house plans could be a handful in any way. Maybe he’d just been in the heat too long and was acting looney. Their confusion only deepened when the carriage door swung open and a girl stepped out.
A pretty girl.
A beautiful woman.
Dressed in a simple blue calico dress with dark-brown hair done up in a braid only to be twisted and pinned to the back of her head, Lou couldn’t help but stare. She was petite with light-brown skin, and nervous hazel eyes looked up at them as she stood in front of the carriage—nervous eyes that betrayed the purposeful hard look she was trying to give off. Lou noticed her jaw was tight, lips pressed into a hard line as she looked Lou over.
They managed to pull their attention away from her and look back at the driver. “What’s this?”
“Well that ain’t no way to talk ’bout a lady. I mean, she’s a bit on the skinny side but I’m sure you can fatten’ ’er up a little.”
The woman scoffed and Lou blushed. “No, I mean, I didn’t have…Why is she ’ere?”
The driver sucked on his teeth and shrugged. “Yer the one that ordered her.”
Lou’s first reaction was a guffaw of a laugh. Loud and grating and harsh in a way that made the driver cringe, but the woman’s face softened just the slightest. Lou wasn’t sure why the smallest twitch of this girl’s face was wholly distracting, but they found themself forgetting what they were saying for a moment until they heard the driver suck his teeth again.
Their gaze flickered back to him and they shook their head. The driver pointed at the description of the order next to Lou’s name in the ledger.
“Says right ’ere. Wife.”
“I ordered house plans. Plans. Not a housewife.”