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A rest stop in Oak Bluff, California

I don’t live in a small town, but my Chicago suburb sure feels like one. The town is situated on a lake (Lake Zurich), which is very small town to me. We’re a unit school district, which means kindergarten through senior year of high school, you’re pretty much with all the same students. I have one student at one of our elementary schools, one in middle school, and I am the librarian at the high school. In a nutshell, I can’t go anywhere in town without bumping into someone I know. I love the close-knit feel of our community, which is what gives it that small-town vibe.

For Oak Bluff, the town at the center of my Crossroads Ranch series, I wanted that same vibe and then some. Naturally, I drew inspiration from my favorite fictional small town, the one where I wish I could live if only it were real… Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. Stars Hollow had the Dragonfly Inn, Luke’s Diner, and Doose’s Market… I wanted Oak Bluff to have its own landmark places—and even characters—that gave it its essential Oak Bluff-ness.

Here are a few must-stops for your next visit:

The Crossroads Ranch and Vineyard: I’m just going to put this out there: I like wine. Which is why I wanted to write a series with the vineyard as a backdrop and to end the series with one of the Everett brothers getting married at said vineyard. (You’ll have to read to find out who.) To me, vineyard meant California, and from there my Oak Bluff, California ranchers—Jack, Luke, and Walker—came to be. Inheriting the vineyard from their late father was the catalyst for the three brothers to find their way back to each other and also find love along the way. It’s what forces Jack (Second Chance Cowboy) to confront his past, which includes Ava, the high school sweetheart who broke his heart. The first vineyard event takes place in Tough Luck Cowboy, where chef Lily Green accidentally volunteers to cater her ex-husband’s wedding and has to work side-by-side with Luke Everett, her ex’s BFF and the man she thinks hates her. And Walker and Violet’s first kiss—before either knows the other’s name—takes place when Violet shows up for a job interview as the burgeoning vineyard’s sommelier.

The Oak Bluff Bed and Breakfast: Every small town needs a B&B, right? The Oak Bluff B&B serves as the backdrop for many scenes in the series. In my novella, Saved by the Cowboy, Cash and Olivia have a flirty game of Trivial Pursuit with other patrons and the B&B owners. In book three, Hard Loving Cowboy, there’s a sexy scene involving a guest room, a plush robe, and a claw foot bathtub.

Lucy the Psychic Chicken: That’s right. I said psychic chicken. Jenna Owens is the Everett brothers’ aunt who became their guardian when the men were teens and she was barely twenty-five. She’s also an egg farmer who has a chicken, Lucy, who always seems to know when one of the brothers is wrestling with matters of the heart. Don’t believe me? Just look at how she flaps her wings at Luke and Lily at the farmers market in Tough Luck Cowboy. Or how she squawks up a storm while bathing in Walker’s kitchen sink in Hard Loving Cowboy. No one has romantic intuition quite like Lucy. And even though the Crossroads Ranch series is coming to an end, Lucy and Aunt Jenna will pop back onto the page in my upcoming Meadow Valley Ranch series soon!

But first, stop on over in Oak Bluff. The Everetts are waiting to sweep you off your feet!