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Thanks so much for hosting me today, Mia!
I’m thrilled to talk a little about researching my latest release, Lily and the Gambler, a Western romance set in the California Gold Country.
My husband and I toured the area twice some years ago and I fell in love with it. Gold Country is best enjoyed by driving State Highway 49. We started at the southern end, in Mariposa, and drove north to Sacramento, and then Grass Valley and Nevada City, where my book is set Valley in September 1868. I recall scribbling descriptions of the scenery as we drove along.
She watched mile after mile of open spaces pass by, all bathed in brilliant sunlight. In the distance, clusters of dark green trees dotted a hillside, standing out in contrast to the lighter yellow-green of the grass. Wispy white clouds, without a hint of rain in them, streaked the sky, separating shades of blue ranging from pale turquoise to bright azure.
We made the trip twice, first strictly as a vacation, though I kept thinking how I’d like to set a book in the area. The second was a research trip for me, if not for my DH. At one point, he threatened to divorce me if I dragged him through one more mining museum!
A lot of the old Victorian homes have been turned into bed and breakfasts, and we took advantage of that to stay in some lovely old homes.
Interesting stops along the way include:
Sonora, a lovely little town that hosts the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. For the kid in all of us.
Columbia State Historic Park, the best preserved Gold Rush town.
Angels Camp, where Mark Twain heard a story on which he based his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
Placerville, formerly nicknamed Hangtown for the zeal of its law enforcement.
And my favorite, Grass Valley, a charming town with the attraction of having the wonderful Empire Mine State Historic Park, a fascinating glimpse into the lives of 19th century miners.
If you’re up this way, do take a side trip to Sacramento, the state capital, with its charming Old Sacramento historic area, and the amazing California State Railroad Museum. This is one of my all-time favorite museums. It was fun to climb aboard the old trains and imagine a different time.
Grass Valley was especially interesting to me because of the large Cornish population in the 19th century. This area had deep gold veins that couldn’t be panned. The Cornish miners were encouraged to come because of their experience in the tin mines of Cornwall, which were petering out. To this day, the Cornish pasty is a local treat, and the city still celebrates a Cornish Christmas.
Lily and the Gambler by Linda McLaughlin
Blurb: Respectability is in the eye of the beholder, or so Lily hopes. After her lover’s death she pretends to be his widow and travels to California to marry a mine owner. Then she meets King Callaway, a charming gambler. King knows he’s found his Queen of Hearts. But can he convince her to take a chance on a foot-loose card sharp? Only Lady Luck knows for sure…
On sale this summer for 99 cents at:
Amazon Kindle US: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01MYMEKMD/
“Do you tell fortunes, too?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Is the lady interested?”
“Perhaps,” she said, aware he was flirting with her again and annoyed with herself because she was enjoying it. “There should be a deck of cards here somewhere.”
“No cards required. Just let me see your palm.”
Unable to stop herself, Lily stripped off her gloves and let him take her hand. He held it in his left hand, and with his right index finger, traced the lines on her palm. Shivers ran up her arm at each caressing touch. His scent, a mixture of bay rum, male musk, and a faint hint of tobacco, overwhelmed her.
“What do you see?” she asked, her voice suddenly breathless.
“Health and long life.”
“What, no handsome stranger?” she joked.
He raised his head and stared into her eyes. “Oh, yes, I see romance ahead for you. With a dark haired fellow. But he isn’t a stranger.”
For what seemed an age, she stared into his green-gold eyes while her pulse quickened and warmth stole through her veins. It would be so easy to surrender to the feelings he evoked.
“I also see a fork in the road ahead,” he added softly. “You have a decision to make. A very important decision.”
She snatched her hand away, knowing she couldn’t afford to be distracted by him. It wasn’t as if he had made her any promises. “I think you need to practice your fortune-telling skills, Mr. Callaway.”
He chuckled. “There’s something else I’d like to practice.” Cupping her chin, he stared at her, his eyes full of half promises. “Oh, hell, I may get my face slapped for this, but…” His hand moved to the back of her neck as he lowered his head and captured her lips in a kiss that stole her breath away.
For a moment, she closed her eyes and gave herself up to the kiss. Then a door slammed somewhere in the house, reminding her of where they were. She pushed him away. “How dare you?” she hissed.
He gave her a lazy grin. “What’s that old saying? Nothing ventured, nothing gained?”
“I think you’d best be going.”
He paused at front door, turned and held her gaze for a moment, then left.
She sighed and leaned against the doorjamb. What had she been thinking to let him kiss her, however briefly?
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history, so it’s only natural that she sets most of her books in the past. A native of Pittsburgh, she now lives in Southern California.
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