To quote that great troubadour Waylon Jennings:
"Ladies love outlaws
Like babies love stray dogs.
Ladies touch babies like a banker touches gold;
Outlaws touch ladies somewhere deep down in their souls."
It was somewhat of a surprise to me when I started to realize just how many readers of traditional westerns were women. I got a lot of comments from female fans when I started publishing westerns, and when I took an informal survey of my students when I taught high school in Illinois, I discovered that more girls liked westerns that boys (they often cited the western as something they can do with their dads, and they associated the genre with their fathers.) There are a lot of good western writers who are women, too, I bet a lot more than you'd think.
I think at least part of it is the romance of the Old West -romance in the 19th century sense, as well as the more modern "love" sense. Ladies really do like a cowboy; I've rarely met a woman over 30 who didn't swoon at the sound of Sam Elliot's voice.
I've been making a conscious effort to make inroads into that audience, even though my books are rarely what we guys would call "mushy" (except in the gory sense.) I've been invited to be the guest blogger on January 28 at the website "Petticoats & Pistols: Romancing the West." I'll be on hand throughout the day to answer readers' questions, and there will be a drawing for an autographed copy of my western novel Caleb's Price (which does have a romantic element to it.)
Feel free to drop by, all day Saturday Jan. 28. It's at http://petticoatsandpistols.com/