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Archive for January 20th, 2009

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Brooding ranch owner Brody Hamilton keeps his heart out of reach. But there’s something about vivacious stable manager Lucy that brings joy to his hardened soul.

Lucy Farnsworth has just discovered she’s of royal blood. She should be glad, but it has blown her world apart, and she finds herself just wanting to be the old Lucy again.

At Prairie Rose Ranch, Lucy’s found the man who makes her feel she belongs. Only, she hasn’t told him she’s a princess….

You know that feeling when you clue into something, and it makes such perfect sense you feel like an idiot for not realizing it before?

That happened to me this year.

I write for Harlequin’s Romance line and I did figure out fairly early on that while I am completely intrigued by far away and exotic places, when it comes to writing books, I opt for open, natural settings. My first sale to HR was set on a ranch in Alberta. The first incarnation of the book was set in a cottage outside Southampton. It didn’t work. The premise did, however, and rewriting it from scratch with a new setting and hero was the best thing I could have done. It ended up winning me a Bookseller’s Best Award.

I grew up on a farm, and so I always knew why I loved wide open spaces. Rarely will you find a book of mine set in a bustling metropolis, and if you do chances are I’ll put my characters in a lush green park at the first opportunity. I hate feeling closed in, cramped in a box like sardines. One of the things I liked most when I visited London was that despite it being a huge city, there are parks everywhere – little bits of green freedom where you can sit and breathe. My characters spend a lot of time outdoors, even if it just means sitting on a verandah as the sun goes down.

But it wasn’t until this winter when I was walking, in the dark, in the snow, with my dog, that the lightbulb went off.

We moved this past year, from tiny, postage stamp-sized lots in suburbia to what my mum calls “very country”, or what is technically termed “country residential”. The lots are over an acre big and we have woods. Last summer my kids picked so many blackberries on our property we ate them in everything and I made one heck of a mess of jam. I can actually say, “go outside and play” and they can run and run without touching the neighbour’s lot. I look out my office window and see grass and trees and quite often the wild flock of pheasants.

It makes sense, right? Farm girl. Open spaces. No traffic. Yep.

But even that wasn’t quite it.

So off I went one very dark evening, bundled up in a hat and mittens and boots to walk the puplet. I was only maybe a hundred yards up the road when I saw a truck turn at the stop sign to our street. Being dark, I didn’t know who it was, but just as it got to me there was a honk and a wave. It was my next door neighbour.

I have to say, this particular neighbour has been a big part of why I love it here. We don’t actually socialize, but we wave back and forth a lot, say hello, how are you. After Halloween, a “mysterious person” left a grocery bag with leftover candy on our doorstep for my kids. So the honk and wave was a small thing, but where I lived before you were really only apt to get a honk and a flying finger from someone you didn’t know.

And so as I listened to the snow falling during my walk, I realized that the reason I write small towns and communities is for the connections. I had those kind of connections growing up, not just to the land but with the neighbours, who were as likely to wave or invite you in for a cookie as anyone. Who, if you did something wrong, were apt to tell your parents next time they met at the store. Who, if you ended up in a car accident, like I did, came to the rescue, made sure you were all right and got you home again safe and sound.

I created this kind of place before I even moved when I created Larch Valley, my fictional town in The Rancher’s Runaway Princess (Jan 09). In it you meet Jen, the bakery owner, and Agnes, the retired schoolteacher who runs the antique store. And in a way, I think the heroine, Lucy, was looking for this kind of place to call home the same way I was when I wrote it. Now, a year after I handed it in to my editor, here I am. And the great thing is, I haven’t had to leave Larch Valley behind either. There are more books coming set in this close-knit Canadian town – right now I’m writing Jen’s story. Now I wonder if my next will have a kind, pretty next door neighbour the way I do?

*****Leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of FALLING FOR MR. DARK & DANGEROUS! Good luck! 🙂

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