by Stacy Finz
Two years ago, my husband and I bought the dream: a cabin on a lake in California’s beautiful Gold Country. It wasn’t anything I ever thought I could have. But for years I fantasized and spent a lot of downtime on Realtor.com—time I should’ve been writing.
And then I saw it. The listing looked perfect. A serene, private lake and five acres only a two-hour drive from our permanent home. After much cajoling, I persuaded my husband to look at the property and we fell in love. Yes, the house needed a lot of updating and as it turned out, all new windows and a deck replacement. But despite the work and money, it is my happy place.
And the inspiration for the Dry Creek Ranch series.
The area, wedged between Grass Valley and Auburn, is home to large cattle spreads, big, old barns, and views of the Sierra foothills that go on forever. Staring out the car window on the drive, the series came to me as fluidly as the region’s rolling hills. A ranch, three gorgeous cousins and what it means to hold onto something you love—the underlying theme in all three books in the series.
I like to write stories where the world I build is as much the protagonist as the hero and heroine. And I sought to make Dry Creek Ranch come alive. The 500-acre spread is Cash, Jace and Sawyer’s grandfather’s legacy to them. Preserving it is as much a labor of love as it is a way for them to honor their late grandfather, a man they loved.
I borrowed generously from my cabin’s surroundings. And while the ranch is in Mill County, a fictional place, my characters visit Grass Valley and Auburn frequently. I stole the title for the series and the ranch from one of the roads near my cabin. And the big ranch house where Jace and his sons live is fashioned after the homes that dot the landscape in the Sierra.
Every weekend when we visit the cabin, I’m filled with inspiration. And stories. Everything from the rustic countryside and the deer grazing in my yard to the cowboys on horseback and the pickup trucks filled to brimming with hay touch my imagination. Some would call it art imitating life. I call it, living in one of my novels.
Sheriff Jace Dalton’s plate is piled high even before he discovers a stranded motorist just a few miles from his home. With two lively young boys to raise, a challenging reelection to win, and a hefty tax bill due on the ranch, all he wants at the end of the day is a shower and a cold beer. But the woman in the packed SUV clearly needs his help—and though she’s a stranger, Jace finds himself wanting to turn her haunted look into a smile. . .
Fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Charlotte Holcomb thought she’d escaped before she lost everything, but more heartache was to come. Now, sidetracked by a brewing storm, Charlotte has to trust the handsome sheriff. Just one night, she tells herself, before she’s on her way again. But when gentle Jace and his kids offer the kind of sanctuary she never imagined possible, it’s hard to say goodbye. Soon the two wary strangers are becoming friends, and longing to open their hearts to more—if they can move beyond the pain of their pasts . . .