“This place should be in a book.”
Readers, has this thought ever crossed your mind while wandering beautiful places? That was how I felt when I first visited Montana’s Madison River twenty years ago. Soaring mountains, wildlife sightings, pine-scented air, and bright blue sky simply screamed rustic romance! So, when I started writing and needed refuge for a fallen hero far away from city life and smack dab in the middle of small-town drama, I had the ideal spot picked out. Before I knew it, I’d written an entire series!
It was the perfect chance to share with others my love for this river and the town of West Yellowstone. My hope? That even if a reader never visits this region, they could experience it through my characters. They might feel the chill of the mountains’ morning shadows on their skin and the blessed warmth of the riverside café’s coffee between their palms. They could imagine the gravel rolling beneath their soles as my guy and gal walk along Wildflower Road, lifting their voices to be heard above the rolling rapids nearby.
Just this week, for the first time after releasing all three of my Madison River Romance novels, I revisited West Yellowstone.
Words cannot describe how it felt to gaze upon the locations of major scenes: the library where Robbie and Keira had their first kiss (This Wandering Heart), the crosswalk where Thomas saved Blue from getting hit by a car (Glory Falls), the bookshop where Ryann and Shane played a game to get to know each other (Wildflower Road). I could see each moment play out like a movie and taste the excitement, the fear, and the tethering love each couple shared.
Look, I’m humble enough to know that I’m likely the only person who has read my books and visited my setting. As a result, it’s a strangely haunting but strikingly intimate experience to envision the lives, albeit fictional ones, that lived here. This was most evident at the Campfire Lodge and Café. The time I’ve spent at this fly-fishing resort through the decades inspired me to create the fictional River’s Edge Resort.
At one point, I stood next to the woodburning stove where Shane so lovingly cared for Ryann as she told him about her darkest moment in life. I peered out the windows to the spot on the riverbank where they first met. As I ate my oversize omelet and mammoth bacon, I watched Ryann and Shane slow dance in the dining room. Call me crazy, but I pitied those around me who couldn’t see, much less recite the moving scenes as I could.
I must admit I’m grieved that my Madison River Romance series is complete. Yet, I now get to travel to new locations so breathtaking, so unforgettable, and so romantic that I simply must set a novel or series there. With the beauty the Lord laced into this world, the possibilities are endless!