A Badlands Cops Series by Nicole Helm is a must read for anyone who wants a great suspense story intertwined with a romance and very likeable protagonists. These novels explore if children can escape the sins of their father, who is the ruthless head of a murderous gang.
The first book in the series, South Dakota Showdown has the oldest of the six Wyatt brothers, Jamison, helping his former beau, Liza rescue her four-year-old-kid step-sister Gigi.
The next book in the series, Covert Complication, highlights the youngest of the brothers, Cody, and someone he was in love with, Nina. She had left him seven years ago to protect Cody and their child, having been warned off by Ace, the leader of the gang. Now back because she can no longer battle the gang on her own, Nina informs Cody they have a child, Brianna. Cody and Nina must team together to protect their child by deciding to go on the run.
The third book in the series, Backcountry Escape, features a middle brother, Gage, and the heroine, Felicity. He has a law enforcement background and she is a Park Ranger, her dream job. Because she helped Cody and Nina, Ace is out for revenge and vengeance, wanting nothing more than to kill Felicity.
These first three books will be covered in the following Q A, with the last three covered sometime in the summer. If people have not read Nicole Helm they might want to because her novels always have a riveting mystery with great relationship stories that include brother to brother, sister to sister, and hero to heroine. All the novels are fast-paced and have realistic action.
Elise Cooper: Why the Badland series?
Nicole Helm: I wanted to write a crime and mystery series that has some romance, basically romantic suspense. I decided to have six brothers and six sisters, where one brother and one sister will be featured in each book. Although the brothers are all birth related the sisters are either blood relatives, foster children, or adopted, but the girls still look upon each other as family. I figured out each personality as I wrote each book.
EC: How would you describe Ace, the over-arching bad guy of the series?
NH: He is a sociopath and has the qualities of a cult leader: charismatic, egocentric, manipulative, and controlling. He is cold, calculating, ruthless, and someone who is willing to play with people’s emotions.
EC: Why the South Dakota setting?
NH: I was just on vacation there. My grandmother lived in South Dakota when she was a girl in a tiny little town. As I was traveling through I saw a sign that explained how land spectators caused a bunch of trouble. The story took off from there.
EC: Did the last name Wyatt come from the famous figure Wyatt Earp?
NH: I could have sub-consciously come up with that last name from the historical figure. When I write western cowboy books I do try to think of western names.
EC: The motherly figure of each book is Grandma Pauline who raised the brothers after their mother, her daughter, was killed?
NH: Yes. She is tough, a fighter, a straight-talker, and became the brothers’ defacto mother. She creates a safe-haven for the brothers and they realize, even as adults she is not someone to argue with.
EC: There is Duke, the father of all six girls?
NH: He and his wife, who has since died, adopted some of the girls and were foster parents to some of the others, besides raising their own daughter and their niece. Duke became the same role for the girls that Grandma Pauline is for the boys. He is very protective of his daughters.
EC: In the series all twelve characters along with Grandma Pauline and Duke are involved in each story?
NH: Yes, because the story comes about because of the strong family ties. Throughout, they help each other. I tried to emphasize that family is everything whether a nuclear family or a foster family. It does not matter if someone is related biologically, through adoption, or by being a foster child. A family is what people make of it. In this series they all connect and support each other. I wanted to show how each sibling could be viewed differently depending on their relationship and age difference. They all interacted in different ways.
EC: In the first book, how would you describe the hero Jamison?
NH: He is responsible, uptight, and always wants to do the right thing. He is also humble, serious, trustworthy, and a father figure to the brothers.
EC: How about Liza?
NH: Bold, confidant, loyal, protective, and stubborn with good instincts.
EC: How about their relationship?
NH: They butt-heads at first. In their younger years they had a relationship but she left and Jamison was very hurt. He now holds a grudge and is a bit hateful. They have to work through this tortured tension where Jamison sees everything as black and white and Liza sees all the grey areas. In the end of the day, love is about forgiving and acceptance.
EC: Book 2 did not highlight the next brother in age but the youngest, Cody?
NH: Originally, he was not going to be second. But since he had such a big role in book one it made sense to me to make him the hero in book two. He beats to his own drum and did not go into law enforcement like all of his brothers. He is more independent, brave, an introvert, likes to be in control, and has trouble admitting when wrong.
EC: How would you describe the heroine, Nina?
NH: Protective, courageous, has a soft heart, and the core of her being is motherhood. She is a survivor and tough. I wanted to show that for a parent the biggest danger is fearing that their children could be hurt.
EC: What about their relationship?
NH: This was another reunion. She had disappeared for seven years. There was a lot of baggage after she came back that the two had to overcome. Since they truly loved each other it won out.
EC: In book 3 the hero was Gage?
NH: I originally had his twin brother Brady as the hero. But, there was not a lot of tension because of their personalities so I shifted it around and had Gage as the hero. He is light-hearted, calm, and even-keeled with a sense of humor. Unlike Felicity he is an extrovert, brash, and confident.
EC: How would you describe Felicity?
NH: An introvert, dreamy, and lost some of her shyness/anxiousness because of her job. She likes routines. I had her stuttering and struggling to get words out as a physical manifestation of childhood abuse at the hands of her father.
EC: The relationship?
NH: They both realized they understood each other. She had to overcome her crush on Brady, while Gage realized how much he admired her for overcoming some personality traits.
EC: Next Books?
NH: The next book in this series will highlight Brady and Cecilia. After this series is done I plan on writing a spinoff series. It will feature the North Star Group that Cody was a part of and highlight his co-worker Shay. In book five of the Badlands series the North Star Group will play a prevalent role where readers can get a better understanding of this group.