Which of these sounds more romantic to you—the lights of Times Square or the starry skies of Yosemite? The sounds of an orchestra or of a rushing waterfall? Truffles or s’mores?

I’m not sure about you, but to be perfectly honest, I’m more of a graham cracker and starlight kind of girl.

I fell in love with nature at a young age, and was fortunate enough to spend several years working as a park ranger and a naturalist. Eventually my life went in other directions, and I settled into a career as a novelist. When I got ready to write my newest series, I was drawn to my memories of working in these amazing places. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting and romantic location to set a story than our national parks. Wilderness holds inherent danger as well as beauty, and that tension plays well in good story-telling.

My newest novel, Where the Fire Falls, is set in 1929 Yosemite National Park and features a budding romance between a flamboyant watercolor artist and the quiet backcountry guide assigned to show her the sights. Though Olivia and Clark seem to come from different worlds, she is not as much of a city-girl as she first appears. Her family’s secret needs to remain hidden, even from the man who’s stealing her heart, but coming face-to-face with Yosemite’s raw beauty forces Olivia to reconsider who she’s become.

When I started the research for this novel, I had a single goal in mind—to see Yosemite come alive. I didn’t want to simply plop the story in an interesting location. I wanted Yosemite to feel as integral to the plot as the main characters.

When I first visited the park, I was captured not just by the epic landscape, but also by the strong sense of community and tradition among many of the visitors. I met families that had camped in the same spot for generations, couples who had said their wedding vows by Bridalveil Fall, and grandparents eager to share Yosemite’s charms with their grandchildren.

What struck me most were the stories of the Yosemite Firefall. This unusual nightly event started in the late 1800s and lasted until 1968. Fifty years have passed since the last Firefall, but many visitors still remember it fondly. Hotel staff would build a huge bonfire on top of Yosemite’s Glacier Point and let it burn down to glowing ashes. At sundown they would use long rakes to slowly push the fiery embers off the side. As the sparks tumbled down the cliff face, it created the illusion of a burning waterfall. Visitors gathered below in Camp Curry and the nearby areas to watch, the event serving as the climax to an evening of entertainment.

It became such a popular show that tourists would leave their cars all over the meadows just to find a good spot to watch. The Firefall tradition finally came to a close in 1968 when the park service decided the overwhelming crowds were causing too much damage to the valley’s vegetation.

While the Firefall doesn’t fit with today’s Yosemite, it still holds a treasured place in people’s memories. One thing I love about historical fiction is that I can breathe life back into an intriguing event without risking any damage to this iconic park. Featuring this unique tradition as well as many visitors’ favorite sights gives my characters—and my readers—a foothold in this romantic place and time. And that is my hope for each book in the Vintage National Parks series. If you enjoy Where the Fire Falls, you might want to pick up the first novel, The Road to Paradise, set at Mount Rainier. I’m just now putting the finishing touches on a novel that will release in 2019 that will take place in Yellowstone. Each of these books stands alone, connected only by their theme.

When we visit incredible places like Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Yellowstone, they become a part of who we are. Hopefully we, in turn, become a good page in the stories of these national parks.

She could feel herself falling into the kiss much like the sparks that had tumbled from the cliff face and dove free into the waiting air below. Or was this as much of a passing illusion as the Firefall? She’d never known anything could be this good—this safe.

from Where the Fire Falls