~ About the Book ~
Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.
After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?
As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: #2 Vintage National Parks
Release date: 5 June 2018
~ Excerpt ~
John folded both arms across his chest. “You’ve been booked special for the next month. That’ll take you through the end of your contract. Scenic Magazine is sending out some artist—a painter. You’re going to be the escort. After that, the new team takes over.”
Clark ran a hand across his sore shoulder muscles. “A whole month? How many pictures does this person plan on painting?”
John shrugged. “I’m just the messenger. She arrives this afternoon.”
“She?” A familiar squeeze gripped Clark’s heart. “I can’t take a woman into the backcountry alone.”
“I know, you’re not so good with the ladies.”
Or too good. He’d succeeded in barely speaking to a woman outside his tours for months, and now he’d be saddled with one for four weeks? He’d rather guide a grizzly sow. “Can you spare someone to come along? How about that lady ranger, Miss Michael? This artist might like some female companionship.”
“You’re afraid of women, so you ask for more?” His friend shook his head. “Enid is busy putting together a wildflower display for the museum. And I’m told the artist is bringing a couple of chaperones—wealthy art connoisseurs. So there’s no need to panic.”
“I’m not afraid of women.” Clark thrust his hands into his trouser pockets. “They’re just a highly unpredictable species. One minute they’re sweet as honeysuckle; the next you find yourself up to your kneecaps in hellfire.”
John laughed. “I suppose there’s a grain of truth to what you say. At least about some women. But truly, you don’t know what you’re missing, my friend.”
Easy for John to talk. He’d snared a wife as steady as a mule but pretty as a ray of sunshine. No ranger could ask for a better helpmate than Melba Edwards. No wonder John smiled so often. “I’m safer keeping my distance—at least until I meet someone I can trust.”
“So, what’d she do to you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Back when we first met, when you were hiding out over by Mount Starr King, I guessed you were on the lam. I thought putting you to work as a guide might make an honest man of you.” He chuckled. “Took some time to figure out you’d been a preacher, not some criminal.” John leaned forward, a glint in his eye. “Melba thinks a woman put you over the edge. I told her you wouldn’t get close enough to a gal for that to happen.”
Clark buttoned his jacket, as if it could protect him from both unwanted questions and memories. “Natural history, John. That’s what you hired me for. Not personal history.”
John grinned—an expression so common it had carved deep lines at the corners of his mouth. “If you won’t throw us any bread crumbs, Melba and I will have to keep guessing.”
With a quick tip of the hat to his friend, Clark hurried back to his horse. If he’d learned anything in his three years at Yosemite, it was never feed the rangers. It only made them more curious.
~ Review ~
This series is a must-read for historical fiction lovers who are looking for a fresh and unique reading adventure. I adore everything about it: the covers, the time period, the National Park settings, the characters, and the stories. Each book takes place in a different National Park, so it doesn’t matter which one you pick up first, but once you’ve read one, you’ll want to read the others as well.
One of the things I enjoyed most was that I didn’t just get to experience the majesty of Yosemite National Park; I got to experience it through the eyes of an artist—an artist who seeks to capture the life and essence of Yosemite as well as its shapes and colours. It seems counterintuitive that you would be able to convey all of that through words alone, but that is exactly what Karen Barnett has done in this novel. In fact, she paints Yosemite itself as God’s artwork—‘a cathedral built by holy hands’, created ‘for the sheer joy of creating something stunning, whether or not any human ever laid eyes on it.’ There is such a reverence and sense of wonder in the way her characters are drawn toward God through His creation.
I also loved Clark and Olivia, both hiding in their own way—Clark, from a false accusation, and Olivia, behind the persona she’s created to sell her art to the wealthy and sophisticated. From a slightly rocky beginning, their relationship blossoms into a tentative friendship and then the kind of soul-connection that makes for such a sweet romance. *happy sigh*
And don’t forget the adventure. Olivia’s past and present collide when she accepts the job to paint illustrations at Yosemite National Park, and I enjoyed the twists and turns in her story as it played out.
I’m eagerly awaiting the next Vintage National Parks adventure!
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Previous Books in the Series ~
Read my review for The Road to Paradise.
~ About the Author ~
Karen Barnett is the award-winning author of The Golden Gate Chronicles (Out of the Ruins, Beyond the Ashes, and Through the Shadows) and Mistaken. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two kids, and three mischievous dachshunds. When she’s not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, decorating crazy birthday cakes, and dragging her family through dusty history museums. Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) honored her with the Writer of Promise Award in 2013 and a Cascade Award for her debut novel, Mistaken, in 2014. In 2016, she was named Writer of the Year by the prestigious Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Karen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) and has been published in Guideposts and other national magazines.