I lived in Calgary for twelve years. In fact, Calgary, Alberta was my address until May 28th…when we moved all the way across the country, about a five-hour drive from where I grew up. But I’ve spent the bulk of my marriage in Calgary…we moved when we were married less than a year, had a small car, mostly hand-me down possessions, and no kids.
The first year we arrived too late for the Stampede, but just ahead of the beginning of hockey season. (Go Flames Go!) It was a heat wave, and we couldn’t believe how HOT it was. One of my first memories was going to a WalMart by where we lived, and seeing an oriental man, in a cowboy hat and boots, talking on a cell phone!
The second week of July, there are no hotel rooms to be had in Calgary. It’s Stampede Week, complete with Princesses, a parade, and free pancake breakfasts all over the city. We did make it to Stampede the next year, and I was pregnant with our first child…just pregnant, like about 8 weeks along and sick. It was hot and all these people were drinking cold beer in the stands and I was stuck with water. I had beef on a bun…red meat was a must while I was expecting, apparently…and laughed at the mutton bustin’ kids, admired the dexterity of barrel racing, and oohed and aahed over the broncs and bull riding. I still love the smell of mini-donuts and hate the crush of people on the C-Train. But I liked the Rodeo so much that I knew I had to have one in my second Romance, Marriage at Circle M. Complete with a sexy ex-bronc rider.
We fell in love with the mountains, being able to see them from the city (there’s a great view from the Calgary Tower if you get a haze-free day), driving to them, skiing in them, hiking…I always thought when we moved away what I’d miss most was the mountains. But I was wrong.
It’s the prairie.
It’s the wide open expanse. Because truth be told, those cowboys and girls that make it to Stampede don’t live in Calgary. They live in Longview, and Caroline, and Madden, and Wetaskawin, and all sorts of small towns that hardly appear on the map. They live on the land and farm it, raise their stock and travel around during rodeo season. Those towns mean something. And I fell in love with one of them – Sundre – a few years ago.
Sundre is a typical western town – a hotel, a grocery, a department store (I love browsing around the V&S!), a library, a few restaurants…the amenities you need, but still a bit of a drive to Red Deer and about an hour and 20 minutes to Calgary. When you take the highway in from Olds, you crest a hill and if you hit it at the right time, the sun is setting over the mountains and it’s spectacular. It’s ranch country. And maybe a little oil and gas country. And it’s beautiful.
When I wrote Hired By The Cowboy, it was a natural choice for the setting, and so Windover Ranch was born, and featured again in Marriage at Circle M. I was a little homesick after that so I wrote The Soldier’s Homecoming and set it in my east-coast hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick. But I wasn’t done with the characters or the setting from my first 2 books yet, and so that became Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous.
I went slightly south of Sundre to the community of Bergen for this story, where the main feature is the General Store. I’d e-mailed for some info, and one weekend when we were camping in Elkton Valley, we popped in and I introduced myself. It was so much fun…I got to see the store, drive the roads…and knew exactly where Maggie and Nate would park in the parking lot!
Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous is out this month with Harlequin Romance, and in some ways it takes me back to my other “home” where I can see for miles and feel the blustery warmth of a Chinook on my face.
I’ll select one person from the comments after the weekend to win a copy of FALLING FOR MR. DARK AND DANGEROUS…guess what I’m doing this weekend? I get to witness a real-life love story. My mum, who is 75, is getting MARRIED. Seems genetics might have played a part in my romantic heart!!!