Updated: May 5, 2019
The Queen of the Sierra.
*Includes an excerpt from The Christmas Calendar.*
If I didn't already love small towns, my heart would have been won the moment I stepped foot in the picturesque gold rush town of Murphys, CA. It's called the Queen of the Sierra for a reason. The gorgeous stone and shiplap buildings proudly display the town's rich history, while the rave-worthy restaurants, charming boutiques, and cozy B&Bs make you feel like you're on a movie set. Or rather, inside the pages of a sweet romance novel. ;)
In fact, during my weekend visit with my husband, I almost felt like I was in Poppy Creek. I could easily picture The Buttercup Cafe and Morning Glory Inn alongside the historic Murphys Inn Motel and Aria Bakery.
While the entire town is idyllic, my favorite spot would have to be the community park. It's just a few steps off of Main Street, located next to a darling little river. Much like the stream in Poppy Creek. Lush oak trees provide a shady canopy over the lawn dotted with picnic tables. And, of course, there is a postcard-worthy classic white bandstand in the center. It's the perfect spot for musicians to perform on a pleasant summer evening, or for two sweethearts to meet up for a long-awaited first kiss.
Our first evening in Murphys, we stumbled upon the park, drawn in by the familiar melodies of a classic rock cover band. It appeared as though the entire town had gathered to dance the night away. Smiling faces abounded, and the sense of community and friendship was nearly palpable in the gentle, warm breeze. Even as outsiders, we felt as though we belonged.
While my husband and I love our hometown, I have to admit, I was tempted to pack up all our belongings, and our two pups, and become permanent residents of Murphys, CA. In fact, I even found a home that would suit us perfectly, complete with a white picket fence and weeping willow in the backyard!
INSPIRATION FOR POPPY CREEK: The community park was the biggest takeaway for my Poppy Creek series. In the novels, I wanted to create the same sense of community and festivity in the town square. It's a place for the townspeople to come together and it features prominently in each of the books, so far. And some of my favorite scenes take place in this setting.
Like this SNEAK PEEK from THE CHRISTMAS CALENDAR:
For the first time, Luke wondered what their tree lighting ceremony looked like to an outsider. And now that he thought about it, he suspected they all seemed a little insane.
As they approached the town square, people were already mingling around various craft booths and dessert stands, all dressed in outlandish Christmas-themed pajamas. Some folks were covered up in long coats, but most wore their ensembles with good-natured pride, attempting to out-dress each other with their over-the-top garb.
A live Christmas tree, several dozen feet high, stood regally in the center of the square. The massive green boughs were hidden beneath a plethora of ornaments, most of which were handmade by the local schoolchildren. A long swath of red and gold ribbon swirled around it, like piping on a cake, and thousands of bulbs waited to be lit. The rest of the square brimmed with excitement and Christmas cheer. Various booths and carts offering caramel corn and roasted nuts bustled with activity. Laughter, boisterous greetings, and a four-piece band filling the crisp wintry air with classic Christmas carols, all added to the festive cacophony. Two large fire pits illuminated opposite ends of the square where people gathered and warmed themselves by the crackling logs.
Luke watched Cassie closely as she took it all in. “So, what do you think?”
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