When I start thinking about the setting of my historical romance--you guessed it, Wilson Township--I think about what it looks like out there, typically in the spring and summer, because I rarely have winter scenes. One of the things I love so much about the area north of my own hometown, is how open it is. See, I live midway up a hill and we basically get to look down into the valley, across the hill, or up at a sky crowded by trees. None of those are bad things, but if you visit Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, in the area where the farmland once was, you begin to notice that the ground there is working its way toward the Ozark Plateau. It's gentle rolling--almost prairie-like--land rather than the steep valleys and bluffs just ten miles to the south.
This is one of my favorite photos of the battlefield. It's next to Wilson's Creek and it shows the slightly slope-y, rolling land. You've still got hills and plenty of trees, but it's so open. To be honest, once I was riding with my husband to a place called Hulston Mill and I was astounded and terrified by how flat it is the father north-east you go in Missouri. Yes, I've been to Kansas and I lived in Oklahoma, but it had been a long time since I witnessed land like that and it just makes me think of how likely you are to get caught in a tornado. Yet, in it's way, it's breath-taking.
I was writing about the land in my WIP, about how sometimes a view will just "take" you. So here's a little snippet from Right Heart, Wrong Groom. The hero came from Tennessee. He lost his parents and some siblings in the yellow fever epidemic. He's pretending to be the heroine's husband--long story about why he's pretending--but he's falling in love with not just her, but the farm she owns too. She's a widow and she's talking about how her former husband also loved it, but his parents, who are still living, hate it. For reasons, the hero has vowed to take care of Abigail and not let anything bad befall the farm if he can help it.
At the barn door, a wheelbarrow full of used straw waited to be dumped, and somewhere down the aisle, Abigail was tossing new straw into the stalls.
He took the old out to the corner and dumped it with the rest. Come planting time, it would make a good fertilizer.
How long since he'd had his hands in dirt that belonged to his family? It felt like a lifetime. He hadn't plucked an apple or a head of wheat that he could call his own since before the fever struck. There were damn few fields back East planted and growing where any man could find work harvesting.
This place afforded him that chance. It hit him like a punch in the chest. It was late spring and there was little planting to do, but if he held up his end of this game, he could own the next hay crop. He could pick apples from trees all day and taste the sweet juice of something he'd watched grow. He'd witness the first wobbly steps of newborn foals.
He'd be home. With a woman to call a wife. A woman more than willing to lay in his arms.
“It takes you like that sometimes. One minute you're grunting over how much grass horses eat and how bad it smells, then the sun hits the fields just right and every second is worth it.” Abigail stepped up beside him. “Michael and Malissa never understood what I saw in it, but I think you do.”
“It's much different than any place I've known. It's special.” He smiled. “You're right. The way the light hits. Right there, on the creek, breaking through the mist. It's...well, beautiful. Add in the horses and the oaks, then the fields and orchard. I never imagined any place like this.”
“You sound like Isaac. His favorite spot was on the porch, but he always talked about the land like it was a beautiful woman out to seduce anyone who saw it. Except his parents. They couldn't understand why he'd waste his life on hard work when he could put in long hours at a desk. It would have killed him.” She laughed, but it was bitter. “Surer than a copperhead. I must admit, I worried you'd take one look at it and see what they saw—all that back-breaking labor and a silly woman asking you to run yourself into the ground for it.”
“Abigail, I—” He bit his tongue. “I never want to return to an office. This is what I want. Even if it kills me.”
Just like the hero of The Wrong Brother's Bride, the hero sees something special in the farm on Wilson's Creek. I'm so struck by the place, I want to make sure readers see the beauty in it, so I try to express than in each of the books about Wilson.