Shannon here: Kelly Irvin shares insight into her real life romance, plus a chance to win a copy of her latest Amish Romance, Mountains of Grace. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for a copy, U.S. only. Deadline: Oct 5th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Kelly:
Romance and the research trip by Kelly Irvin
My husband of nearly thirty-two years likely wouldn’t be classified as a romantic. Tim’s love language is doing things for me. He’s a great a cook and he runs a mean vacuum. If I need a spider or a snake disposed of, he’s my man. When I signed a contract to write a series set in three northwest Montana Amish communities affected by the 2017 wildfires, Tim stepped up to the romance plate in a huge way. He agreed to serve as my co-pilot on an eight-day, eight-night research trip to the far reaches of Big Sky Country.
Because of my physical disabilities and two go-rounds with ovarian cancer, traveling was a challenge for me. Knowing this, Tim took a week off work and chose to see this trip as our 2018 summer vacation. I booked the flights, the rental car, and the hotels based on where I planned to set my three novels and what I needed to learn. Tim agreed to do all the driving, take photos, and help me if my introverted nature got in the way.
We flew into Spokane, Washington, picked up the rental car, and spent the night in our first hotel near the Spokane airport. The next day we started a trek that would end with Tim having driven more than one-thousand miles in one week. We crossed through Idaho at Bonner Ferry and into the farthest reaches of Montana where the Kootenai National Forest and multiple mountain ranges provided spectacular scenery. For a photographer, it was heaven on earth.
The first day we drove to Libby where we spent the night. It was not a five-star hotel, but the best one I could find in such a small town. It’s the first time in thirty-one years that I’ve made the hotel reservations for one of our trips. Let’s just say Tim was a good sport and leave it at that.
Libby serves as the site of the third book in the series, Peace in the Valley. I’d hoped to interview the sheriff of Lincoln County while there. He and his agency were heavily involved in coordinating evacuations during the devastating 2017 wildfires. Despite having made arrangements ahead of time, he was unavailable (I interviewed him by phone a few days later) so we headed to Eagle Valley Amish Ministries, just south of town where an unusual Amish district is concentrated. There I was able to talk to one of their members, who is a teacher, visit their church and school buildings, and talk to some Amish from Indiana in the general store. I’d read stories about this being a charismatic, evangelical district and I was able to confirm that.
Tim, who is a professional photographer, documented all the sights for me. As much as it pained him, he didn’t take photos of the Amish folks.
Then it was on to the scenic drive up Highway 37 and across Lake Koocanusa to West Kootenai another community greatly affected by the fires. One Amish family lost their home, three single Amish men lost cabins, and several English families lost their homes. In all thirty structures were destroyed by the Caribou fire. West Kootenai is the setting of book number one, Mountains of Grace.
On the way back we made a quick tour of Rexford, a tiny community on the lake, to which many of the Amish families evacuated when the fire came down out of the mountains. We also visited Eureka, where one of the churches became a central gathering point for information, Red Cross assistance, clothes, food, and other aid for affected families.
Night number three was spent in Polson on Lake Flathead, a beautiful recreational lake and tourist attraction. Did I mention we made this trip in July? July Fourth weekend. The highways were jampacked with vacationers and they wanted to see fireworks over the lake. So did Tim, but by the time I made the hotel reservations a few months earlier there were no lake-side hotel rooms left. We had a nice room down the road. I was exhausted and fell asleep long before dark. Tim, on the other hand, could see fireworks from the window, so he pulled up a chair, took some photos, and enjoyed himself.
He made the best of every situation. He never complained. We traversed the winding, narrow roads of Glacier National Park with a thousand of our closest friends. Then we drove down to Missoula and checked into yet another hotel, our home base for the last three days of the trip.
We spent half a day touring the Smokejumper’s Training School outside Missoula, including interviewing a smoke jumper. Tim took photos and helped with the interview. Then it was on to St. Ignatius, where we ate at a diner and had dessert at The Malt Shop. This gave me time to observe before we drove out to the Amish-run general store on Watson Road and then by the Amish community’s school. This district is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, a fact that plays an important role in the second book in the series, The Long Bridge Home.
On Saturday, our last full day in Big Sky Country, we visited The People’s Center in Pablo where the docent, a Kootenai Indian, shared with us the harrowing history of his tribe, also an important thread in The Long Bridge Home. Our final stop was the Arlee Pow-wow in Arlee.
We flew out of Missoula on Sunday. Talk about a whirlwind trip. Something I could not have done without Tim’s help. To write a series about the Montana Amish I had to go there. I needed to see the countryside and learn so much about these three communities. It’s possible in this age of technology to learn much through the Internet, but nothing beats sneakers on the ground. Tim understands that and he knows my limitations. So he turned a research trip into a vacation for two. We enjoyed eating in new restaurants. We visited a national park. We delighted in the beauty of God’s creation.
Would he have booked the trip differently? There’s no doubt in my mind. My goal was to pack everything I needed into the number of days he could be absent from work. He would’ve made sure we were more comfortable and likely found a way to shave a bunch of miles from the trip.
All the same his love shone through with every one of those miles. We have great memories of the trip. The books are better for it. And so is our marriage. I wouldn’t change a thing.
About Kelly: Best-selling author Kelly Irvin’s latest Amish romance is Mountains of Grace, the first book in a new series, Amish of Big Sky Country. She is the author of the Every Amish Season series from Zondervan/ HarperCollins, including Upon a Spring Breeze, winner of the 2018 Readers’ Choice Award in the long romance category. The series follows the Amish of Bee County Series, which included The Beekeeper’s Son, subject of a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “an intricately woven masterpiece.” Among her other works are novellas in four collections. She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House Publishing.
She has also penned three inspirational romantic suspense novels, Over the Line, Tell Her No Lies, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
Kelly’s novels, The Beekeeper’s Son and Love Redeemed, were finalists in the 2015 and 2016 contemporary romance category of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Carol Awards Contest.
About the book – Mountains of Grace:
Mercy is content with her life as an Amish schoolteacher. But when wildfires threaten her Montana home, everything she thought she knew turns upside down.
Mercy Yoder loves her students and her life in the tiny village of West Kootenai, nestled at the foot of Montana’s most northern mountains. And she is in no rush to get married . . . much to the disappointment of her parents. In fact, she has turned down the one marriage proposal she’s received. Her beau Caleb has yet to tell her he loves her, stoking her fears that they simply aren’t right for each other.
When a devastating wildfire threatens to destroy her beloved community, Mercy and her family evacuate to the nearby town of Eureka. There she meets Spencer McDonald, an Englisch smoke jumper. Her conversations with him are unlike any she’s ever had with a man. She finds his directness and ability to express his feelings refreshing and completely different from Caleb, who is tightlipped about his past.
But what would her family and community say if Mercy chose a relationship with an Englischer? Is Mercy willing to give up all she has known and loved for someone who finally understands her? Or can Mercy find the love she has always longed for closer to home?
Can’t wait for the drawing or worried you won’t win? Get your copy now!
Question for Readers: What would you say is the most romantic travel destination in the world and why?
Come back Oct 27th for Debbie Archer!