When my editor and I talked about me writing a duet set in my fictional town of Larch Valley, my mind started whirring. It’s always a challenge to come up with something to distinguish a book, a little something different to make it stand out. I already knew who my characters were – Jen O’Keefe and Andrew Laramie. Jen I already knew owned the bakery in town and made the best brownies ever. Andrew was her old flame who had moved on to greener pastures, something more than small town Alberta and its limited offerings.
But there had to be more.
I started looking a little more closely at Andrew and why he was coming home and what he was going to do when he got there. That’s when I had an idea…I would have him set up a rescue ranch.
I talked to my very horsey friend Trish Wylie about it, and she issued a warning. You see, I’m a little soft-hearted and she advised me that the research would be heartbreaking. She was right. There’s only so much you can read and watch about horse slaughter and abattoirs and abandoned animals.
In the middle of researching I discovered the website of Bear Valley Rescue Ranch in central Alberta. Bear Valley is situated in one of my favourite areas of the province, close to where I set three of my first four books and where we used to go camping quite often. I dropped them an e-mail with questions. It just so happened that I was going to be in Calgary for a weekend and I added a few days to the trip so that I could pay them a visit.
If there is a positive side to all the research I did, it was my afternoon spent at Bear Valley and with Mike Bartley and his motley assortment of animals. Not only horses, though there are several of those, with velvety soft noses, some only foals and others old gents and ladies. There are cows, and pigs, and dogs and cats and chickens and a particularly old tom turkey that was quite intimidating. Mike, however, is not. He is a gentle soul with a big heart who together with his wife, Kathy, has made this his life.
Bear Valley relies heavily on donations for upkeep, and you only have to visit the site’s donation roster to see how the community pitches in. That whole idea formed the spine of what I wanted Lazy L Rescue Ranch to be.
And in the middle of it all of the story, I somehow think that while it’s the cowboy that rescues the horses, it’s the heroine who steps in and rescues the hero.
One Dance With The Cowboy was a lovely book to write. It’s out this month from Harlequin Romance, the first in my “Cowboys and Confetti” duet.
Of course, being a duet you know there’s more to the story – and in March you get to return to Lazy L Ranch for Noah Laramie’s story…you won’t want to miss it.
Have you ever rescued an animal? In December we adopted a rescue cat who had been abandoned as a kitten. I get quite squishy about it and I think my husband is very relieved we have restrictive covenants against livestock in our community – else I’d end up with a stable full!
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