Want a pair of ruggedly handsome Horsemen to charge into your life for a few hours and get your heart pumping with adventure and swoon-worthy romance? Let me introduce you to Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks – the heroes of The Heart’s Charge, my latest release. These men are seasoned ex-cavalry officers with a calling to help those in need. Even if those who need them are homeless children society deems beneath their notice. And when they team up with a pair of passionate women who run the local foundling home, more than one heart will be charging into the fray.
When I first starting researching this story, I knew I wanted it to be set in a small town that was relatively secluded. Enter Kingsland, TX – a town surrounded on three sides by water. Kingsland was founded at the place where the Colorado and Llano Rivers meet, and during the time period for my story, the only way to get into town from the east was to cross a bridge built for the railroad.
I love to study old town maps when I am setting a story in a real place, but Kingsland, TX was never incorporated, so I had a difficult time finding any historic maps of the area. I reached out to the Chamber of Commerce, and they were kind enough to point me in the direction of local historical John Hallowell. Mr. Hallowell generously shared his research with me, including some photographs and personal recollections of that railroad bridge being used for pedestrian traffic. School children crossed it to get to school. People traveling from Burnet County would leave their horses or wagons on the Burnet side then cross the bridge to conduct their business in Kingsland. All of these facts fueled my imagination as I plotted.
However, the most colorful piece of history I uncovered was the fact that people vividly remembered mistiming their crossing on this bridge, and having to make dramatic climbs onto the support piers in order to avoid being hit by a train. I knew I had to use this tidbit at some point in my novel.
I visited Kingsland during the course of writing the book, and I saw the bridge in question. It still stands today, though a few additional concrete pillars have been added over the years for extra support. Note how there is no railing or trestles or anything to add stability for the people who crossed this bridge. And the Colorado River is no trickling stream. Falling in would spell disaster. Yet school children crossed it every day! I was brave enough to walk out on the bridge to the edge of of the shore, but that was as far as I dared. I had no desire to act out the scene I was plotting in my head, especially since I had no idea if the tracks were still in use.
Here is the start of the scene that was inspired by this bridge research, a scene that would become one of my favorites in the entire novel.
Katherine clutched Mark’s arm. It didn’t matter if Alice could recognize the man or not. She was putting herself in his path, and if he spotted her, she could be taken, just like the others.
Mark nodded but took the time to shake the porter’s hand in thanks. Katherine didn’t. Leaving the men behind, she hoisted her skirt above her ankles and sprinted across the platform and down into the street. People turned to stare as she raced past, but she paid them no mind. Her only thought was to follow the railroad tracks and get to the bridge.
Mark called out to her, but she didn’t look back. He’d catch up soon enough. Nor did she hesitate to mount the tracks and start across the bridge. People crossed this bridge on foot every day. Heavens, children from Hoover’s Valley walked across it every morning to come to school in Kingsland.
Once on the bridge, she hiked her skirt up a bit more and watched the placement of each hurried step. There were no railings and no trestles to protect her from falling into the Colorado River below should she lose her balance.
“Kate!” Mark called, much nearer now. “Stop!”
She lifted her head to judge how far she’d come. Almost halfway. And there, across the river, she spied a pair of horses at the end of the bridge. A small child in boy’s clothing moved between them. Alice! Katherine’s heart soared.
“I see her!” She halted momentarily and glanced over her shoulder, her excitement building.
Mark stood on the tracks at the edge of the bridge, waving her toward him. “Come back!” he yelled.
Go back? No. They had to go forward. Get to Alice before she was lost to them again. She shook her head and resumed picking her way across the bridge. Faster now. Nearly at a run. Alice was on the other side. In danger. Nothing else mattered.
But two-thirds of the way across, she realized she was wrong. Something else did matter. Something barreling toward her with such speed that the tracks convulsed beneath her feet. The deep, haunting moan of a train whistle pierced her ears and her heart.
The 6:50 from Burnet. Heading straight for her.
I’ll be giving away 2 copies of The Heart’s Charge today.
For a chance to win, leave a comment about a favorite bridge-related memory
or about a bridge you would love to visit one day.