I was lucky. I grew up in San Juan Capistrano, a small town in California, at a time when everyone knew everyone else and it was safe for a curious little girl to walk alone downtown.
My frequent destination was the old Spanish mission in the heart of town. The front entrance was a few blocks from my grandmother’s house and the gate attendants knew me and waved me in. From that point on I was in a wonderland. To me, the mission was like Disneyland without rides—beautiful gardens, still fountains with lily pads, mysterious ruins that smelled faintly of incense, white pigeons that perched on my palm.
My favorite spot was a peaceful pond near old hide-tanning vats on the west side of the mission grounds. Often, I sat on its stone-covered edge, making up stories about dashing soldiers and pretty senoritas while skimming my fingers in the cool water. Looking back, it was my refuge from family chaos and grief. My three-year-old brother had died of leukemia and my heart was heavy.
Sadly, the pond isn’t there anymore, but the musty corridors, bright gardens, and dull-toned bells survive. The bells, like in days when the mission thrived, were still in use in my childhood. They told me when I stayed too long and had to get back to the real world.
Today the mission is alive with tourists and much restoration has been accomplished. It’s still one of my favorite places in the world and while decades later I had an opportunity to write history books about San Juan Capistrano and Orange County, CA, it did not initially figure in my plan when I started writing romance novels. Now it does, and I am happy to say my first book in the Mission Belles series, Shadow of the Fox, will be released by Soul Mate Publishing on Sept. 13.
Scenes in the town were inevitable. In 1846 the mission was still mostly a ruin, a great place to harbor secret meetings. The new owner—Juan Forster—was refurbishing part of it for his family’s occupation. But in my novel, he’s not there yet.
The book will be offered only on Amazon (my publisher’s policy), but will be free for those in Kindle Unlimited. In a few months it will be available as a print book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If any of you would like to review it, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you enjoy it.