Follow the Owl


Follow the owl and what will you find? Have you ever planned a trip and had to include a random night or two just to get you closer to your destination? A place to lay your head, to stretch your legs, to satisfy your hunger. This is the place on which you did the least amount of research.

From experience this added stop can end up being an unexpected, special jewel–a hidden treasure.

IMG_3995If there ever was a planner, I am one. I believe half the fun of a trip is the planning. But on my recent trip to France, my daughter and I had two nights we had to insert to travel from the Mediterranean coast of Italy to Paris. The only planning was a map and mileage. One night in Geneva, Switzerland and one in Dijon, France. We were tired after leaving the mountains of Switzerland and needed to rest. Little did we know Dijon would become one of the highlights of our trip. Unexpected. Charming. Interesting. Perfect.

A moment in time, swelling with potential and promises.

And an owl–la chouette.

Our AirBnB was in the old town center in an apartment nestled between old 16th century timber-framed houses. Cobblestone streets wound through the heart of the ancient city. We immediately felt like this place surpassed some of the destinations and events we had planned and researched for months. How did we miss it in our plans? It deserved our attention beforehand.

Dijon is about three hours southwest of Paris in Burgundy, France. It offers glimpses of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as well as more modern attractions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Our host suggested we follow the Owl’s Trail. We nodded not understanding at all what she meant. How can you follow an owl’s trail? With map in hand, we set out on the cobblestone streets. After admiring the timbered buildings above the old storefronts, we looked down and noticed brass plates in the old stones.

An owl and a number!

Heeding the words of our host, we followed the trail which took us to monuments and buildings, churches and houses, breathing with historic stories and details. The 13th century Gothic church of Notre-Dame boasted of rows and rows of gargoyles. Here is where we found the famous owl, la chouette. It is a symbol of good luck and peace on the left side of the church. The stone statue carved into the wall has been rubbed by passers-by as a good luck charm. We bought a children’s book call The Dijon Owl’s Secret that fictionalizes the owl’s story.

IMG_0933One of my favorite things to do is to find a tower to climb. My daughter acquiesces to my wishes with a smile. Tour Philippe Le Bon was erected in the middle of the 15th century and offered a wealth of historical information about Dijon as well as spectacular views.

We ate boeuf bourguignon and escargot, bought Dijon mustard, and fell in love with this town. I’m thankful for the surprises along life’s journey. I still believe in planning, but spontaneous decisions can unfold into golden memories, precious blessings.

Follow the owl and see where it leads.

Can you think of a time on your life journey when the unplanned turned into a wonderful escapade?


Hidden Among the Stars Book Review and Giveaway


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About the Book

Book Title: Hidden Among The StarsHidden-Among-The-Stars-Book-Cover-200x300

Author: Melanie Dobson

Genre: Historical Fiction (However, this is a time-slip novel, so there is also a contemporary component to the story)

Release date: September 4, 2018

From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.


Click here to purchase your copy!


About the Author

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of nearly twenty historical romance, Melanie-Dobson-Author-Photo-200x300suspense, and time-slip novels including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets . Three of her novels have won Carol Awards; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010; and The Black Cloister won the Foreword Magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year.

Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes at George Fox University.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls.

Visit Melanie online at


Guest Post from Melanie

Hallstatt’s Hiding Places

Backpacking across Europe—that’s how my husband Jon and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We savored the old world culture and charm as we hiked along Italy’s coast, toured medieval castles in Germany, and cruised the canals in Belgium; we both left a bit of our hearts in an ancient lakeside town called Hallstatt.

The moment we stepped off the ferryboat and into this storybook village, we crossed through a portal of sorts, traveling back several centuries in time. The rugged, snow-capped mountains around us and alpine lake, the quaint village with its church steeples and cobblestone lanes and waterfall that spilled into town—all of it captivated us.

Along the shore, hidden partially by trees, we could see spires of an abandoned castle, and I wanted to know its story. No one in Hallstatt could tell us who’d lived in the castle—at least, not in English—so my husband agreed to a new adventure. With a swan as our escort, we glided across the lake in an electric boat so I could study the rusty turrets, boarded windows, and wooden boathouse resting in the water like a felled log.

Instead of quelling my curiosity, the match of inspiration ignited my mind. Who had lived in this castle, and what happened there? I began writing in my journal that night, trying to capture my rogue thoughts on paper, hoping that one day a novel would emerge from the ashes of this castle’s story.

When we returned home, I began researching more of Hallstatt’s history and discovered that this region, in all of its beauty and mystique, had been infiltrated by an enemy in 1938. This town and the surrounding Salzkammergut became a mountain retreat for Nazi officials who built mansions on the shores of its many lakes and used salt mines to hide “ownerless treasure”—the gold bullion and artwork they’d stolen from the Jewish people.

The Nazis intended to build a Fourth Reich in this alpine fortress, but the Allies had other plans. Near the end of the war, these lakes became a dustbin of sorts, collecting whatever the enemy dumped into its waters—weapons, counterfeit banknotes, concentration camp lists—as they fled south from the Allied troops. The Devil’s Dustbin, locals call it.

Lake Hallstatt plunges more than four hundred feet between the fortress of mountains. Because of its depth and the many hiding places in the underwater forests, caves, and shifting sands, divers continue finding World War II artifacts today. Some still believe there’s a treasure trove buried on the bottom, but no one has reported finding any gold.

After our trip, a story about this castle and what happened to the heirlooms of the Austrian Jewish people continued to burn inside me until I finally put it on paper. So I built Schloss Schwansee—Castle of Swan Lake—in my mind, inspired by the castle along Lake Hallstatt, and created a cast of historical and contemporary characters who are searching for lost treasure.

Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip novel about a castle and treasure and fairytales, but most of all, it’s a story about God using ordinary people across Austria to resist evil in their own extraordinary way.

My Review

Melanie Dobson brings secrets and mystery to the pages as she weaves a modern-day treasure hunt with a horrific Nazis invasion of Austria in 1938 that affects the wealthy, the Jews, and ordinary citizens. No one is immune to the devastation of the evil take over. In the midst of the intense darkness of history, hiding treasures for his Jewish friends from the Nazis, Max Dornbach hides Luzia Weiss too. Running and hiding from the Nazis becomes a tangles mystery that will take 80 years to solve.

Gripping and painful, senseless death and destruction, brave sacrifice and love, secrets and treasures, all combine with an endless love for mankind. This author never disappoints. Through her tale, she makes fiction a reality, believable even in its darkness and painful truths mixed with hope and endurance.

Blog Stops

Reading Is My SuperPower, September 6

Fiction Aficionado, September 6

Back Porch Reads, September 6

Among the Reads, September 6

The Power of Words, September 7

Multifarious, September 7

lady ansel book vibes, September 7

The Becca Files, September 7

God’s Little Bookworm, September 8

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, September 8

Painting with Words, September 8

Lis Loves Reading, September 8

cherylbbookblog, September 9

Living LIfe Free in Christ, September 9

Madeline Clark, September 9

Mary Hake, September 9

Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 10

Genesis 5020, September 10

Faithfully Bookish, September 10

Simple Harvest Reads, September 10 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Margaret Kazmierczak, September 11

All-of-a-kind Mom, September 11

Daysong Reflections, September 11

Caffeinated Christian Raves – N – Reviews, September 11

Seasons of Opportunities, September 12

Remembrancy, September 12

Inklings and notions, September 12

amandainpa, September 12

Maureen’s Musing, September 13

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 13

Just Commonly, September 13

Book by Book, September 13

Connect in Fiction, September 14

Pause for Tales, September 14

Have A Wonderful Day, September 14

Splashes of Joy, September 14

The Christian Fiction Girl, September 15

Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 15

To Everything A Season, September 15

A Baker’s Perspective, September 15

proud to be an autism mom, September 16

Bibliophile Reviews, September 16

Bigreadersite, September 16

Aryn The Libraryan, September 16

By The Book, September 17

Christian author, J.E. Grace, September 17

Janices book reviews, September 17

Texas Book-aholic, September 18

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 18

Carpe Diem, September 18

Godly Book Reviews, September 19

For The Love of Books, September 19

Live. Love. Read., September 19

Reader’s Cozy Corner, September 19


amazon card Hidden

To celebrate her tour, Melanie is giving away a grand prize package that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, Catching the Wind paperback, and Hidden Among the Stars paperback!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Melancolie–the search

IMG_3964.JPGThe search for the statue called “Melancolie” began when I received an emotional, moving text from one of my sisters about a statue in Geneva, Switzerland with a gripping image of alloys meshed together to form a model of a human being suffering in the midst of great loss. The image itself was mesmerizing as I understood the gaping void in the chest to symbolize emptiness, complete loss. Ever since we as a family (especially one of my sisters) lost a 19-year-old (son, nephew, grandson, brother), each of us has struggled in our own lives with melancholy, this feeling of pensive sadness or sorrow, gloominess, misery, depression. The passing of a loved one is not something forgotten or set aside. Grief takes many forms. Occasionally, something like this statue puts a new meaning or image on the loss.

When I received this text and image, I was traveling in France with my daughter. For once I was glad I read all the details of the statue and its location. Geneva, Switzerland in a small park on the promenade Quai du Mont Blanc along the shore of Lake Geneva. I read it again, out loud this time to my daughter. No way! Out of all the places in the world, this statue rested in Geneva. No longer was this an image, a depiction of an emotion my beloved sister carries in her loss, but a physical statue in the path of my travels. Only God could have for some reason put all the pieces together–the statue, the text, the route at the precise time we would be in Geneva for only a few hours.

IMG_3958I didn’t know if we could find the statue or if we were meant to find it. I just knew excitement and purpose in the mission. My thoughts were far from melancholy and sorrow. Sometimes God puts things in the pathway for us to find as signs and reminders of our loved ones and of His love. This was one for me. As our trip had only just begun, we had two and a half weeks of travel before Switzerland even entered our minds. The mountains of France, Spain, Andorra, and Italy posed unconquerable, much less Mont Blanc and the entrance into Geneva.

Still the image of the statue rested in the back of my mind, patiently, unforgotten, only resting for a time. In my happiness and excitement during my travel with my daughter, I experienced God’s handiwork in the scenery, the hills, the sea, the gardens, the architecture, the people, and the language. The whole time “Melancolie” waited, quietly and peacefully.

IMG_3864I had just conquered my mountain, Mont Blanc and didn’t know what kind of energy I had for exploring Geneva. After all, this was really only a stopping point on our way to Paris. As a rule we knew if we wanted to see anything of this city, we had to bypass a rest and hit the city in order to see a few sights. Quickly we found Geneva to be expensive and a bit confusing. Once we found the old town we relaxed and wandered. Still there was nothing we HAD to see. We found our bus stop and waited for our transportation to our room.

Something pulled at my memory; something I needed to do, to see; something I couldn’t put off until we left in the morning. Now was the time to search, even if unsuccessfully, for the statue–for my sister, for me, and perhaps for a message. Since we had already bought our bus tickets, we had about 50 minutes to see if we could find “Melancholie.”

IMG_3953On the Quai du Mont Blanc, there are three parks. And in one of those parks, “Melancolie”. My heart was racing. Why all of the sudden did I HAVE to find the statue? Because it was so close. I needed to touch it. For my sister and for me. As we searched park #2 with no luck, we turned and my daughter said, “There it is!” Across the street in a park by the lake.

IMG_3956I cried as I approached it, as I’m crying now as I’m writing this. On a bench with his (her) back to the lake, the figure is bent over with his arms on his knees, head bowed, with a huge empty circle where his chest and heart should be. “Melancolie.” I stared at the heartbreaking image of grief and emptiness while a peace filled me. Peace mixed with the power of love. A mother’s love. A sister’s love. A father’s love. Love!

I didn’t know what to do. I looked to my daughter, and with a nod of her head, I advanced and sat by the statue and placed my hand on one leg and looked at the face. I saw myself sitting by my sister and sharing her grief. It was beautiful. And it was healing. It was far from melancholy because love was there in the image of people coming alongside of all of us who grieve. God’s constant comfort even in the grief.IMG_3960

“Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

The sculptor, Albert György, created the statue after the grief he experienced about the death of his wife. He has been able to find and enjoy freedom in his life now. The emptiness depicted by the huge void in the sculpture is how the loved one feels at all times–empty. But the love seen through the void is real and allows hope and happiness.

This journey to the statue was not by chance. It was set in motion by God.

Is there an image that has touched you profoundly?

Dead end Research? No way!

Bordeaux, France

As many of you know, I spend lots of hours in research on family history and on historical data for my novels. I like to keep my novels in a real historical setting with quite a few historical characters that I bring to life on the pages. In the states, I’ve been very successful in my genealogical research, but I want to go further back, across the pond and onto the continent–France in particular.

IMG_2957In July on vacation with my daughter, I included a two-day research option in Bordeaux, France. Family oral stories relate that Louis Lestarjette (the male protagonist in my Revolutionary Faith Series) sailed from Bordeaux to South Carolina around 1770. Also, one oral source remembered seeing Lestarjette on a storefront in the city. It was a place to start since my internet research had come to a halt.

After visiting a local library in Bordeaux, I learned that the information I sought was in the National Archives, especially since I had a great hunch by now that Louis was not from Bordeaux. Perhaps he had only set sail from the city, if even that.

Still I decided to check a few cemeteries boosting of graves from the 1770s. We chose Chautreuse Cemetery and wandered perhaps a fourth of it looking for names. I felt at peace on the old foot paths. This burial ground in the past was Catholic although in the present it has morphed into a mixture of denomination. No luck. And no plot record available.

Next, we chose the Protestant cemetery. Smaller and more manageable. But no Lestarjettes. Here the cemetery director and archivist assured us that no Lestarjettes were there. She gave us her contact information which in turn gives me a lead to follow to other national cemeteries. A ribbon of hope.

IMG_4107Another family story places Louis’s mother under the guillotine’s blade, beheaded during the French Revolution. I didn’t want to find her name on a list, but I knew I must research it. At the Conciergerie in Paris–the prison that once housed thousands of people facing executions during the Revolution including King Louis and Marie Antoinette–a room has been designed with all of the names of the executed on the walls and in a hands-on computer data base. We searched and found no Lestarjettes. I’m glad. Yet, people all over France were executed outside of the Conciergerie.

Even with these dead ends, I’m not discouraged. One day I will find the one tiny link that I need to connect my Louis with his past and mine.

What genealogical resource have you used?

Book Review and Giveaway, Toby’s Troubles


Tour page on Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book Title: Toby’s Troubles

Author: Carole BrownTobys-troubles-195x300

Genre: Romantic Mystery, Cozy Mystery

Release date: July 1, 2018

Everyone loves Toby Gibson. A co-owner of Undiscovered Treasures, a unique shop of antiques, collectibles and junk, Toby is friendly, generous to a fault, the director of the local plays in Appleton and supports his church’s youth functions. But the minute his sister, Caroline and her new husband, take off for their honeymoon, a “ghost” begins to haunt the shop—or maybe it’s just an intruder. If so, Toby has no idea for what he is looking. To add to his troubles, he suspects Amy, not only is bidding for the property he’s wanted forever, but is in love with him. And he’s not interested.

Amy Sanderson who owns the only flower shop in Appleton—Bloomin’ Life—is drawn into capturing Toby’s “ghost” when her own business is damaged by a destructive intruder. Having loved Toby from childhood, she’s more than willing to join forces with him. But she has no interest in being his best friend or like a sister to him. And if she has to resort to schemes of outbidding him at his frequent auction attendences to get his attention, then so be it. She can be just as stubborn as the man who’s determined to ignore her love.

In between the break-ins, destruction of property, thefts and personal competitions against each other, Amy and Toby work together to find the thief who seems so determined to find a valuable item, he’ll stop at nothing.


Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown Carole-Brown-169x300enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?


Guest Post from Carole Brown

Antique Shops, A Thief, the Community Theater, and Love

Toby’s Troubles, Book Four from the Appleton, West Virginia Romantic Mysteries series

I knew when I wrote this book who Toby was. But capturing Toby’s personality and presenting it in the right way, was a challenge for me. Readers can see his teasing, fun-loving character when he labels the person who’s breaking into his shop as a ghost. But Toby is also serious, smart and successful. The side of him who has had plenty of girl friends, but who’s never gotten serious with any of them, is prominent too. But I didn’t want him to seem frivolous and uncaring, because he isn’t that. With a focus on his interests, love has never—as of yet—been a primary concern, so when Amy Sanderson strolls into his life, she turns out to be his confidant in the time of his troubles. The question is: can she not only have a place in his life as a best friend, but also capture his heart?

Let’s talk about:

Antique Shops

Who doesn’t love a place filled with valuable items, interesting history, and hard-to-find items? Undiscovered Treasures—a shop of antiques, collectibles and junk—could be described as the town gathering place. Everyone loves browsing there. Deciding on such a place for the business of brother and sister, Toby and Caroline Gibson, was a fun choice. From grandfather clocks to unique shaped vases, it’s a shop where treasure hunters could just find what they’re looking for.

A Thief:

There are way too many new people visiting Appleton, West Virginia, so how is someone like Toby suppose to guess what the thief is after? The thief definitely knows what he’s looking for, just not where. He’s tall, thin and a fast runner, especially when escaping across a rooftop. But then, maybe it’s not a new person in town. Maybe the thief is Toby’s part time help, who has a mystery all of his own. It makes things interesting, and a bit terrifying for everyone.

The Community Theater:

One of Toby’s loves is directing and overseeing the community theater. Caroline Gibson writes some of the plays, the actors are usually taken from the West Virginia area, and all proceeds go to charities. But when their main actors, of the current play, elope and leave the play desolate, someone has to step in to fill the gaps. Toby struggles with decisions he doesn’t want to make.


Toby is smart, funny, and a resourseful man. He’s also busy with his community theater activities and his business. Known as the one man in town who’s not interested, at the current time, in getting married, his reputation of loving and leaving is in danger of being wrecked by one small woman. Can she sabotage his well-laid plans and help him realize it’s now or never? Could it be the time when real love is captured by two people, even when one of them seems doomed to ignore what God’s put in their hearts?

I love creating characters. Developing them into real people with real desires, moods, troubles

My Review

Five stars for Toby’s Troubles

Toby’s Troubles is the fourth installment in the Appleton, WV Romantic Mystery series. After reading this one, I want to read the first three to complete my relationship with these unique characters. I love a mystery when it involves the melding of different personalities having to work together to solve odd occurrences. For Toby that includes “the ghost” that has decided to haunt his shop full of antiques, from collectibles to junk. He has no interest in adding any kind of relationship to his bowl of troubles. So what can he possibly do to halt any involvement with Amy, a local flower shop owner in Appleton?

I easily stepped into this WV town and became a part of the quaintness, wanting to stay a bit and become involved. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good mystery sprinkled with romance. I will read more of Carol Brown’s novels.


Blog Stops

Vicky Sluiter, August 21

Godly Book Reviews, August 21

The Avid Reader, August 22

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 22

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, August 23

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 23

Kaylee’s Kind Of Writes, August 24

Two Points of Interest, August 24

Connect in Fiction, August 25

Blogging With Carol, August 25

Bibliophile Reviews, August 26

Splashes of Joy, August 27

proud to be an autism mom, August 27

A Baker’s Perspective, August 28

Maureen’s Musing, August 29

Mary Hake, August 29

Janices book reviews, August 30

Pause for Tales, August 31

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 31

Lighthouse Academy, September 1

Texas Book-aholic, September 2

Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 2

Carpe Diem, September 3

Bigreadersite, September 3



To celebrate her tour, Carole is giving away a grand prize that includes winner’s choice of one of the two attached mugs, winner’s choice of a print or kindle copy of Toby’s Troubles and a tote bag!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click below to enter.


Claim your mountain!

Don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment..They keep you safe on your way.” Proverbs 3:21-23

IMG_0304My daughter and I had planned our dream trip to France for over six months. We envisioned a three week road trip to places we each wanted to revisit or to explore for the first time. Any adventure I had like this in the past included my husband as the designated driver. But this time, I was the sole driver for the 21 days. Oh course, I questioned my ability to navigate in France, but we made sure we had a European GPS. Therefore, what could be amiss. I’m a great driver, at least in the United States and more specifically Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.

As we planned, I don’t recall being overly concerned about the French terrain. My concerns centered around navigating the cities and the tiny roads in the villages. Why didn’t I think about the hills and the mountains? Possibly because I don’t confront them often at home. The Rockies I have left to my husband’s driving skills. And the Appalachians were not so imposing on many trips to Virginia.

IMG_3222Now, I had to face my mountains alone–challenges I put in front of myself and accepted by the lack on my part of dwelling on the obstacles the Pyrenees and the Alps might cause. And there they were…

The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord gave me. Acts 20:24

IMG_0377I had to conquer the Pyrenees upon entering Andorra. These rugged mountains with a high point of 9,652 feet forced me to calculate my proximity to cliffs and to curves where other vehicles seemed awfully close.

I did it even when I had to back down the mountain half a mile due to construction. I hope never to have to do anything like that again….

IMG_3855The most impressive sight on our whole trip was our introduction to the Alps when leaving Italy for France. Slowly the range crept closer, immense and imposing. My mountains, my challenge. I laughed instead of shaking in fear or crying. How did I get in this situation?

Mont Blanc, 15,781 feet of solid mountain, the highest mountain in the Alps, looming, challenging, drawing me near. Praying for a calmness that I didn’t feel.

IMG_3854This mountain, like many challenges, had a way through it–an 11.6 km tunnel (at a hefty cost of $55.) God is like that too. So often He provides a detour or a reprieve in the midst of the hardships or challenges of life.

I conquered and claimed my mountains in the literal sense last month giving me a visual of how to face my other challenges ahead of me.

IMG_3864What mountains are you facing or have you faced where God gave you a way through, a reprieve?

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield…Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:20-22




Château de Chenonceau

IMG_0107.JPGMy FAVORITE place on earth–the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley on the River Cher in France. This fairytale castle captured my heart and imagination forty years ago and draws me back often. My most recent visit took place in July. My heart dances at the thought of it.

IMG_2726Built in the 16th century, this “small” rather magical place has housed many flamboyant characters from kings and queens to mistresses and philosophers. The stories vibrate from the tapestries, paneled rooms, tiled floors, stone staircases, and treasures displayed throughout the rooms.

And oh, the stories going around in my head! One will become a novel, a part of my Gardens in Time Series (yet to be published.) Book #3 will take place in Chenonceau during the Age of Enlightenment in France around 1750. The historical characters will be Louise Dupin who surrounded herself with poets, writers, scientists, and philosophers as well as those on the political scene. Her salon became infamous as a stage for debates and ideas prior to the American and French Revolutions.

IMG_0110The fictional characters of my novel will interact with those who question traditional authority and ways. Lisette, possibly the name of the heroine, has always lived on the farm connected with the castle and now supplies the flowers and ornamental foliage that perfumes the salons and enhance the guests’ experience. Christophe performs the role of a guard acting on behalf of the king keeping the grounds safe. How will their lives change as the ones within the walls of the castle deem it necessary to change the world? The gardens of the castle act as a perfect backdrop for intrigue, love, good food, beauty, secrets, peace, and dreams whether royalty or commoner, educated or illiterate.

IMG_2644Today the grounds of the Château de Chenonceau in France are a gardener’s delight. They have been maintained with their original structure and intent in place. Each time I visit there is more improvement and much more to explore. The formal gardens of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis are manicured to perfection in all seasons. I explored the Labyrinth with my daughter as well as a huge garden divided into plots full of all the vegetation used for decorating the chateau. Hundreds of varieties of flowers, fruit, and vegetables occupy the area, giving the visitor a visual of what it might have been like a few centuries ago. Also, there is a 16th century farm complete with stables, houses, pond, and storage rooms.

My mind was overloaded with ideas and images as I walked on this historic ground one more time. I hope to write this novel soon and send it on its way.

Is there a place that you want as a setting for a novel? (I have so many!!)