The synopsis beckoned with the wheedling crook of one practiced in the art of reeling others in. California? 19th century? It wasn’t like I had a whole series planned about that era—even one in print already. So, of course, I had to read it.
But I couldn’t find it. See, I was researching for a blog post when I ran across the website, and there wasn’t a “buy” button. I didn’t see it on Amazon. But hey, titles change sometimes, so I wondered if maybe she just hadn’t updated or something. I recall creating several desperate explanations for just why I couldn’t find the book. The one I refused to consider, of course, was the one that fit.
Kathleen Denly told me it hadn’t been published yet. *insert sadness, pouting, and a little internal wailing and gnashing of teeth*
Often when I run across a book I want to read but isn’t available yet… I forget about it. No really, I do. This wasn’t one of those times. Every now and then I’d go look on the site, on social media, or something, trying to find that 19th century California book.
Then an email came.
Inside was a lovely note from Kathleen Denly saying, “It’s been a long time coming, but I can finally say that my debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness, releases on February 4th.” I believe I hit a pretty high C note of joy. Fortunately, no one but me was around, so I only annoyed myself with the racket.
The joy remained. Especially when I saw the preorder price is just 99 cents! AAAK. SOLD!
Check this book out. Doesn’t it sound awesome?
Title: Waltz in the Wilderness
Series: Chaparral Hearts
Author: Kathleen Denly
Genre: Historical Christian Romance
Length: 328 pages
Publisher: Wild Heart Books
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2020
Synopsis: She’s desperate to find her missing father. His conscience demands he risk all to help.
Eliza Brooks is haunted by her role in her mother’s death, so she’ll do anything to find her missing pa—even if it means sneaking aboard a southbound ship. When those meant to protect her abandon and betray her instead, a family friend’s unexpected assistance is a blessing she can’t refuse.
Daniel Clarke came to California to make his fortune, and a stable job as a San Francisco carpenter has earned him more than most have scraped from the local goldfields. But it’s been four years since he left Massachusetts and his fiancé is impatient for his return. Bound for home at last, Daniel Clarke finds his heart and plans challenged by a tenacious young woman with haunted eyes. Though every word he utters seems to offend her, he is determined to see her safely returned to her father. Even if that means risking his fragile engagement.
When disaster befalls them in the remote wilderness of the Southern California mountains, true feelings are revealed, and both must face heart-rending decisions. But how to decide when every choice before them leads to someone getting hurt?
Kathleen Denly writes stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. She enjoys finding the lesser-known pockets of history and bringing them to life through the joys and struggles of her characters.
Sunny southern California, a favorite setting in her stories, is also her home. She lives there with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories.
When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, she spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.
Note: links are likely affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, I have not yet read this book, but my review is coming during launch week for it!
When You Dance, Who Is Leading, Anyway?
Despite thinking I’d sent interview questions so you could all suffer with me during the wait until February 4th and not actually having done it, Kathleen Denly graciously allowed me to try again. This is one gracious lady, folks. So, while we endure the long, tedious, arduous, miserable wait for another fabulous book… (can you tell I’m excited? No? Well, I tried)
Here’s an email convo with Kathleen about her debut novel! EEEP!
Chautona: I love the title of your series, “Chaparral Hearts.”
It’s funny, I was listening to the song, “Shifting Whispering Sands,” one day on the way back from the airport and came up with a contemporary story that would take place somewhere around Acton, California. As I drove through that corridor on the 14 between Santa Clarita and Palmdale, I saw the chaparral plants (also known as creosote or greasewood). The combination of the area, the plants, and the song combined into a perfect title for the book— “The Quiet Chaparral” (after a line in that song).
So, I thought it was really cool that you’ve written a historical series with a similar emphasis. What inspired you to use chaparral in your title, and was it influenced by the bush/scrub-like plant or the desert-like ecosystem?
Kathleen: The chaparral biome is the primary biome in the San Diego region and part of what sets Southern California apart from Northern California.
They have some chaparral up north, but it isn’t the same, and there isn’t as much of it.
Merriam-Webster defines chaparral as: “an ecological community composed of shrubby plants adapted to dry summers and moist winters that occurs especially in Southern California.”
I live in the San Diego area and have fallen in love with the beauty of our local chaparral. Throughout all three of the books currently planned for the series, my main characters spend a significant amount of time living within and traveling through this biome. It’s here that their hearts will be healed and where they’ll find true love of both the earthly and heavenly kinds. So, when it came time to pick a series title, combining the idea of hearts with chaparral made sense.
Me: Now this is part of a three-book series, right?
Didn’t you say something about how the characters have cameos in other books? Are all three books from the same period in 19th century California, or does it spread across several years/decades? What part of the 19th century is this first book?
Kathleen: The first chapter of Waltz in the Wilderness is set in 1850, but the rest of the book happens in 1853 and 1854.
Sing in the Sunlight will be the second book and is set in 1857 through 1858. The third book doesn’t have a title yet but will be set in 1865. Each book is connected by the characters. A secondary character from Waltz in the Wilderness is the hero for Sing in the Sunlight, and a secondary character from Sing in the Sunlight is the hero for the third book.
Each book will be fully complete within itself so you could read them out of order, but you’ll miss the little insider winks and nods that readers who’ve read the previous books will pick up on.
I love that title. It has such vivid imagery. Titles are a big part of my writing process. I can have a whole story plotted out in my mind, but if I don’t have a title, I can’t write a word. How did you choose that title, and when did you come up with it?
Kathleen: Actually, up until about a year ago the title was Waltz With Me.
Then a publishing editor I was pitching to pointed out that that title gave the impression the story had a more urban setting and it failed to hint at the grand adventure my characters go on.
So, I began brainstorming new ideas and came up with around 101 floppers before finally settling on Waltz in the Wilderness. The longer I sat with it, the more I fell in love with all the layers the new title contained.
I originally picked the idea of waltzing for a few reasons, but most importantly because of how when a woman is ballroom dancing she needs to let the man lead. As Christians, we need to let God lead us and quit trying to steer Him the way we want to go.
Eliza, my main character has control issues that stem from a trauma she endured as a child. So she needs to learn to let God guide her even in the wilderness—literally and figuratively. There also may or may not be actual waltzing in the story. Maybe. 😉 I actually wrote a whole guest post on this topic for the Seriously Write blog that will go up on February 5th.
Me: Speaking of writing quirks…
Many authors seem to have something they “must” do or “can’t do” before or during writing. Mine, obviously, is having a usable title (even if it doesn’t end up being the final one). Do you have any fun ones?
Kathleen: I absolutely cannot read regency or any romance novels set in England on a day when I plan to work on a rough draft.
English movies are even worse. Actually, I can’t watch or read anything with a strong accent or dialect. I absorb them like a sponge and they come out in my writing. This can be very helpful if I’m trying to write a character from the south. I can just watch a few YouTube videos of people from Louisiana and I’m set. It’ll just flow naturally from there.
However, it can be quite a pain when the character I’m writing is from Ohio and suddenly he sounds like a British aristocrat. LOL
Me: I know your main character’s relationship with her father is a big part of this book.
What do you hope readers will take away from the story?
Kathleen: I hope they will take away that their identity isn’t in their accomplishments—good or bad.
It’s in who God says they are. I also hope they’ll identify with Eliza’s struggles both to forgive herself and to trust God with those she loves. These are issues I’ve personally struggled with and I have many friends who have as well. I’m hoping God can use this story to remind the readers that they are forgiven and loved and that God loves those they love more than they can ever imagine.
Me: Did any specific scriptures encourage you as you wrote?
Did any songs inspire you or set the tone or mood for you?
Kathleen: Yes! The theme scripture for this novel is Proverbs 3:5-6,
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
As with the title, these words have layered application to the story. Eliza likes to do things her way and charge forward with what she thinks is best not only for herself but, for those she cares about. Although she believes in God, she feels unworthy of His love and struggles to trust His plans, so she doesn’t really look to him to direct her paths.
As for songs, there are many, but I think the most appropriate is Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.” Although she has since become a controversial figure, the truth in these lyrics speak to my heart and address the issues I mentioned a moment ago about where we find our true identity.
Nora Taylor was the little girl who followed Jim Brooks around the fields asking too many questions. So when his brother, Henry, announces Nora’s return from a trip to Boston along with his intention to court and marry her, Jim thinks he’s joking. Until he sees for himself how much Nora’s grown up.
Suddenly staying out of his little brother’s way doesn’t seem so easy.
The man Nora loves thinks she deserves better. Can she change his mind? Or will his brother change hers?
One final note from Kathleen Denly:
It’s been fun chatting with you. I’m so excited to be sharing these stories with the world! I’m looking forward to your review!