by Susanne Dietze
When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento in January of 1848, California became the place to be for seekers of instant wealth, fresh starts, and open spaces. The call of California has beckoned every generation since, with images of movie stars, surfers, and Disneyland shimmering in the ever-present sun.
But California holds many more secrets, making it the perfect setting for stories rich in romance, intrigue, opportunity, and history. It is home to rocky beaches; vast ranch land; one of the world's richest agricultural valleys; cool, stately Redwood forests; deserts rich in curious, gnarled Joshua Trees (found elsewhere only in the lands of the Bible); outlaws, banditos, and squatters; and a fascinating blend of cultures, providing California set-stories provide endless possibilities.
Check out these "backlist" titles, all inspirational, California-set stories....and be sure to check the end of the post, with a few forthcoming titles. The titles are alphabetical, unless a book is part of a series, in which case the first book appears alphabetically and the subsequent books follow in order of publication. All titles are inspirational, though not all of them are published by CBA publishers. While most of these books sit on my shelves, some are new to me, so use your best judgment.
Young Adult Titles
Shelley Adina's six-book series, It's All About Us (Faith Words)
It's All About Us (2008)
Some things you just know without being told. . . . Like you passed the math final (or you didn't). Like your boyfriend isn't into you anymore and wants to break up. Or . . . you're the New Girl and your junior year is going to be utterly miserable.
Lissa Mansfield is used to being in the "in" crowd--but being accepted by the popular girls at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco is a lot harder than she thought. And then there's her New-York-loudmouth roommate, Gillian Chang, who's not just happy to be a Christian herself--she's determined to out Lissa, too. If Lissa can just keep her faith under wraps long enough to hook Callum McCloud, the hottest guy in school, she'll be golden. But when Callum pressures her to go all the way with him, Lissa has to decide how far is too far. How can she see that line when he's so gorgeous and popular and God seems so far away? Between that and shopping for a knockout dress and booking the hottest celeb for the Benefactor's Day Ball . . . who knew finding a place at Spencer Academy would be so complicated?
The Fruit of My Lipstick (August 2008)
New Yorker Gillian Chang starts her second term at posh Spencer Academy boarding school in San Francisco prepared to focus on her studies, her faith, and her friends. She plays a dozen musical instruments and can recite the periodic table of the elements backward. She's totally prepared for everything--except love! She's falling hard for Lucas Hayes, who isn't even a senior yet and is already aiming at a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford. The problem is, she never seems to be able to measure up and be the girlfriend he wants. He's under a lot of pressure from his parents to achieve--maybe that's why he's short-tempered sometimes. But even a thick-skinned girl like Gillian can only take so much. With her heart on the line, Gillian conceals more and more from her friends. So when she's accused of selling exam answer sheets, even her girlfriends, Lissa Mansfield and Carly Aragon, wonder if it can be true. Can Gillian hang onto her integrity--and her faith--when she loses her heart to Lucas?
Be Strong and Curvaceous (January 2009)
After spending spring break in Mexico with her grandparents, Carly Aragon can't wait to get back to school at Spencer Academy in San Francisco. With Lissa Mansfield and Gillian Chang by her side, she's ready for anything ... except a new roommate. Lady Lindsay MacPhail, flamboyant daughter of the Earl of Strathcairn, quickly becomes Carly's worst nightmare. "Mac" not only swoops in and steals Carly's privacy, she's also stealing Brett Loyola--Carly's biggest crush! But when Mac starts receiving strange, threatening e-mails, she and Carly must come together to figure out who's behind them and why. In the end, the fate of one girl will lie in the other's hands. Will the two learn to trust one another and trust God?
Who Made You a Princess? (May 2009)
Shani Hanna always thought her parents sent her to Spencer Academy to groom her for a career in her dad's company. Little did she know it was to advance her family's interests in a much more personal way! Shani returns to Spencer Academy after an amazing summer with her friends and a new hottie: Danyel Johnstone. The two are just starting to generate some heat when it's time to hit the books again. But a new addition to the student body has all the girls buzzing. Prince Rashid al Amir is doing an exchange term at Spencer Academy—and he’s set his sights on Shani. It turns out that Shani's family and the prince's go back for generations. In each generation, members of the two families have expanded their business interests through an archaic and inescapable tradition. Will Shani put aside her feelings for Danyel to become a princess? Or will her headstrong ways put her feelings, her future—and her faith—at risk?
Tidings of Great Boys (September 2009)
Finals week is approaching, and Mac is still undecided on where to spend the holidays. Normally she’d go home to Scotland, but spending two weeks alone in the castle with her dad isn’t as appealing as it used to be. So she invites Carly, Lissa, Gillian, and Shani to join her for the holidays! Mac is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She even decides to organize the traditional Hogmanay dance for New Year’s Eve. If she can get her mother involved, maybe her parents will finally get back together. But when Mac and the girls arrive in Scotland, they are faced with bad news: The castle is falling apart and Mac’s parents are struggling financially. Not only that, but Shani is in big trouble with Prince Rashid’s royal family. Can the girls find a way to celebrate the holidays, get Mac’s parents back together, save the castle, and rescue Shani ... and will Mac believe it's all part of God's plan? There’s only one way to find out!
The Chic Shall Inherit the Earth (January 2010)
Lissa Mansfield has come a long way since transferring to Spencer Academy two years ago. She’s made a great group of friends in Gillian, Carly, Mac, and Shani. She’s strengthened and grown her relationship with God. She’s even gotten over the Callum McCloud “incident” from her first term. Now she’s set to graduate and experience college life! But with the girls about to separate and head in different directions, Lissa is faced with some of her biggest challenges yet. Her archenemy, Vanessa Talbot, has a shocking secret—one that could destroy her reputation forever. Can Lissa act on God's prompting and reach out to her foe when Vanessa needs a friend the most? And with college on the horizon, will Lissa and Kaz finally come to terms with their feelings for each other? High school may be ending, but the excitement has just begun!
Angel in Disguise by Patt Marr (Love Inspired, 2000)
Pete and Sunny are reluctant contestants on a dating show. Matched, they are obligated to go on a single date...but something occurs which keeps them together through twists and turns.
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky (Multnomah, 2008)
They say love is blind. This time they’re right… As a woman lies unconscious in a hospital bed, her husband waits beside her, urging her to wake up and come home. Between them lies an ocean of fear and the tenuous grip of memories long past. Memories of wonder. Of love. Memories of a girl named Madison and a boy named Paul…
Madison Foster knew she was going blind. But she didn’t want pity–not from her mother, not from her roommate, and especially not from her best friend Paul–the man she secretly loved. Paul Tilden knew a good thing when he saw it. And a good thing was his friendship with Maddie Foster. That is, until he started to fall in love. With the music of the seventies as their soundtrack and its groovy fashions as their scenery, Maddie and Paul were drawn together and driven apart. Then one night changed everything…forever.
And only now, when life tiptoes past the edge of yesterday, along the rim of today, can they glimpse the beauty that awaits them…beyond the night.
California Chances, by Cathy Marie Hake, Tracey V. Bateman, and Kelly Eileen Hake (Heartsong Novella Collection, March, 2006)
The Chance brothers of Reliable, California, are about to have their ranch invaded by three apparent "damsels" in need of relief from their "distress." Miriam arrives from overseas not expecting to find her sister dead and nieces living in neglect of feminine supervision. Alisa is fleeing false accusations and seeking a place of quiet refuge. Delilah carries a burden of pain from her past and won't risk trusting anyone again. Will any of the rough-around-the-edges brothers stand a chance of barring their hearts from love as they offer a hand of compassion?
A Distant Melody (Wings of Love, Book 1) by Sarah Sundin (Revell, 2010), followed by England-set A Memory Between Us (Revell, 2010) and back to California for Blue Skies Tomorrow (Revell, 2011).
Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love. Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?
In Blue Skies Tomorrow, Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?
Gold Rush Christmas, by Colleen Coble, Rebecca Germany, Cathy Marie Hake, and Joyce Livingston (Heartsong Novella Collection, September, 2003)
When the "Gold Fever" epidemic sweeps the nation in 1849, people drop everything to chase the dream of striking it rich. Four Christmases in gold country prove life's most priceless gifts come not in the form of polished gold - but from the vast riches of a loving heart.
If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky (Multnomah, 2009)
Childhood sweethearts Kinna and Jimmy Henley had simple dreams–marriage, children, a house by the sea…everything they needed for happily ever after. What they didn’t plan on was years of infertility, stealing those dreams, crushing their hopes. Now, all that’s left is the memory of young love, and the desperate need for a child to erase the pain. Until…Kinna rescues an elderly woman from the sea, and the threads of the past, present, and future weave together to reveal the wonder of one final hope. One final chance to follow not their dreams, but God’s plan. Can they embrace the redemptive power of love before it’s too late? Or will their love be washed away like the castles they once built upon the sand? The past whispers to the present. And the future shivers. What if tomorrow never comes?
Letter Perfect and Bittersweet, Cathy Marie Hake's California Historical Series ( Bethany House, August, 2006 and April, 2007)
If her own two feet don't end up tripping her, Ruth Caldwell's mouth is likely to get her into equal trouble. But Ruth has the best of intentions. Truly. It's just that her attempts to live up to her mother's expectations of how a lady should act have often yielded…well, less than impressive results. Josh McCain is speechless when he sees Ruth step off the stage in Folsom, California. Sure, it looks like she's been sleeping in her gown for the past week, but with a crown of riotous curls and those deep green eyes, she's certainly the most beautiful woman he's ever met. But Josh soon finds the sparks that fly upon Ruth's arrival aren't the romantic type. With her legitimate claims to an inheritance, the Broken P Ranch's future is suddenly precarious. And when Ruth's "accidents"--going beyond even her normal bumbling ways--seem to take a sinister turn, Josh must decide where his loyalties lie.
In Bittersweet, Laney McCain has unabashedly had her sights set on Galen O'Sullivan for years. And though Galen has treated her as nothing more than his best friend's pesky tag-along sister, Laney dares hope that now is the time he will open his eyes and truly recognize the woman she's become.
But the arrival of Ishmael and Ivy Grubb, squatters on the O'Sullivans' land, diverts Galen's attention. Though the Grubbs are crass and uneducated, Galen shows mercy and allows them to stay in exchange for help around the farm. But it becomes a decision he lives to regret....
The Lightkeeper's Daughter, Mercy Falls Series #1, by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson, 2010)
At a lavish estate in Mercy Falls, California, Addie Sullivan finds danger-and quite possibly the love of her life.Growing up as the lightkeeper's daughter on a remote island at the turn of the century, Addie Sullivan has lived a hardscrabble life. When a long-lost and wealthy relative finds her and enlists her to work as a governess at a lavish estate, she hopes to discover the truth of her heritage. But at Eaton Hall, nothing is as it seems. Not the idyllic family she hoped for, not the child she was hired to help, not even the aloof man she's immediately attracted to. Soon she must turn for help to Lieutenant John North, a man who views her with suspicion.As Addie edges closer to the truth, danger threatens even as her romance with John blossoms and together they unravel a decades-old mystery. As Addie faces down her enemy, she discovers that faith in her one true Father is all she needs.
The Lightkeeper's Bride, Mercy Falls #2 (Thomas Nelson, 2010)
Katie Russell loves working as a telephone operator in Mercy Falls, California. But since childhood she has been expected to marry well. Her family presses for an engagement to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster and though he doesn't stir her heart, their engagement promises a secure financial future.
Working the phone lines one evening, Katie overhears a chilling exchange between her friend Eliza and a familiar male voice. Katie soon learns that Eliza has diappeared, and the crime may be linked to another investigation by handsome new lighthouse keeper, Will Jesperson. Katie and Will soon form an alliance. An alliance that slowly blossoms into something more.
Despite the danger surrounding her, Katie is powerfully drawn to Will. But she is not at liberty to marry for love. And though society forbids their growing affection, Katie can't help but notice Will's sense of peace. It's a peace that rests on his trust in God--a trust that Katie has never had to depend on, with her future so clearly mapped out before her.
But the more Katie uncovers of the mystery, the more she discovers about herself, her past, and the brilliant future that could be hers if only she has the courage to trust in God and follow where her heart so fearlessly leads.
The Lightkeeper's Ball, Mercy Falls Novel #3 (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-those considered the wealthiest and most distinquished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters' marrying well.
Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiance. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.
When Mercy Falls holds a charity masquerade ball to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets-and truths long hidden-will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing-not money, family, or romance-will ever compare to God's unconditional love?
Love Finds You in Calico, California, by Elizabeth Ludwig (Summerside Press, July, 2010)
A young seamstress weaves her own story in a world run by men. After hearing news of a silver strike in Calico, California, Abigail Watts packs up her needles and thread and follows her beloved father out West. But when she’s suddenly left alone in the rough mining town, Abigail finds herself pressed into a marriage of convenience with the local livery owner, Nathan Hawk. Determined to uncover the mystery surrounding her father’s death in the mines, Abigail agrees to stay in Calico. But when the truth sets her free, she must decide whether to leave the town - and Nathan - for good.
Love Finds You in Last Chance, California, by Miralee Ferrel (Summerside Press, February, 2009)
It's 1889 and Alexia Travers is alone in the world. Her father has died unexpectedly, leaving her burdened with a heavily mortgaged horse ranch. Marrying one of the town’s all-too-willing bachelors would offer an easy solution, but Alex has no interest in marriage. Instead, she dons men’s clothing and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own. Help arrives when Justin Phillips, an acquaintance of her father’s, comes to Last Chance with his young son. Justin’s and Alex’s combined effort to save the ranch quickly turns into a fierce competition between cowboy and tomboy. But when disaster threatens Travers Ranch, they must work together to save someone they both love. Can these two independent people learn to depend on God—and on each other?
A Long Way Home by Margaret Brownley (Ten Talents Press)
Libby Summerfield can’t wait to get out of Deadman’s Gulch—a lawless mining town filled with gunfights, brawls, and uncivilized mountain men—men like Logan St. John. Stranded there with a new baby, the pretty widow tries to make the best of it. But she vows to return to the refinement of Boston as soon as the weather clears and the stage resumes its run. Maybe then her heart would stop quickening at the thought of Logan’s gentle touch.
Logan St. John knows Deadman’s Gulch is no place for a woman—especially one who single-handedly turns him into a church-going family man. Of all the crazy things! The sooner she and her precious baby leave for Boston the better. But how could he stand to lose this spirited woman who tamed this wild western town—and melted his heart of stone forever?
Masked by Moonlight by Allie Pleiter (Love Inspired Historical, 2008)
When night fell on the lawless streets of old San Francisco, Matthew Covington--seemingly just another wealthy society idler--became the mysterious crime-fighter known as the Black Bandit. Nothing could tempt him to reveal his secret identity, until the English gentleman met Georgia Waterhouse, whose pseudonymous newspaper accounts had made his daring exploits famous. He was coming to care deeply for this woman, who shared his passionate devotion to justice--and the Lord--but she could never know he was her shadow-shrouded hero. What would become of their growing love if he revealed the truth that lay behind the mask...?
The Measure of a Lady by Deanne Gist (Bethany, 2006)
Rachel van Buren arrives in Gold Rush San Francisco with two wishes: to protect her younger siblings and to return east as soon as possible. Both goals prove more difficult than she could imagine as her brother and sister are lured by the city's dangerous freedom and a missionary-turned-gambler stakes a claim on her heart. Rachel won't give up without a fight though, and soon all will learn an eloquent but humorous lesson about what truly makes a lady. Speak Politely. Even when you're the only respectable woman around, protesting the decadence of a city lost to gold fever. Dress Modestly. Wear your sunbonnet at all times. Ensure nobody sees your work boots muddied by the San Francisco streets. Remain Devoted to Family. Protect your siblings from the lures of the city, even against their wishes. Stand Above Reproach. Most difficult when a wonderful man turns out to be a saloon owner. Rise Above Temptation. No, not even just a little kiss…. When these rules become increasingly difficult to uphold, can Rachel Van Buren remain a beacon of virtue in a city of vice?
Monterey Memories by Gail Gaymer Martin (Heartsong, 2009)
Walk the streets and countryside of Monterey, California, with three couples who are surprised by love in the midst of their busy lives. Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa’s bed-and-breakfast. Can busy people slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (Multnomah, 2005)
California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.
Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.
Shades of Morning by Marlo Schaelesky (Multnomah 2010)
Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness. Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?
The Tender Vine by Kristen Hartzmann (Bethany House, 2010)
Aching from the recent loss of a constant companion, Carina DiGratia Shephard longs to return to the shelter of her close-knit family. Her husband, Quillan, is bent on proving his devotion, and they begin the arduous journey to the home of her youth nestled in the vineyards of Sonoma, California. But their arrival at the DiGratia estate is not the joyous occasion they expected. Will a confrontation with the past pull them apart--or will the love they once embraced be reignited?
Out now and coming soon:
Although it's not technically a "backlist" item, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gwyn is new this month (Barbour)!
An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can't help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles's mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora's daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?
While The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee (Abingdon, 2012) may not exactly be a "backlist" title either, it starts in California!
Within the course of a week, Natalie is dumped by her husband, receives an urgent call home from her father, and discovers her estranged sister is pregnant.
A road trip on Route 66 may not help, but it sure couldn't hurt. Or so Natalie thinks, until Lindsay's boyfriend starts stalking them. Will their trip down the Mother Road bring the two sisters closer together or turn out to be the biggest wrong turn yet?
Coming soon from Jennifer AlLee...A Wild GooseChase Christmas (Abingdon, 2012). Set in contemporary southern California, the story is full of romance, mystery, and holiday cheer. Don't miss this one!
All images are from Amazon.com, BN.com, or were provided by the authors.
Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com.