Several of you have written to ask me where in Montana my new series takes place, and why I chose that area. So I thought I would share that with you today. My Brides of Gallatin County series is the latest series I've set in Montana. There will be three books. Book one is out and titled A PROMISED TO BELIEVE IN, as you can see noted here at the blog site. Book Two is out in April 2009 and titled A LOVE TO LAST FOREVER, and book three is out summer 2009 and is titled A DREAM TO CALL MY OWN.
This series deals with three sisters who run a stage stop hotel in 1879-81 Montana. The location was a fun one for me, as it's only about 5 miles away. There was a real stage stop in the tiny town of Hamilton, MT just 15 miles west of Bozeman. Now Hamilton is no longer a town (well it is, but more about that later). All that remains in of that old stop is a cemetery and a plaque that speaks about the fact that the town was a stage stop among other things.
I decided, instead of going with the exact location, however, I would create a little town to the south. In my research I found that many little, hole-in-the-wall towns started as stage stops - places to change out the horses or water and feed them, as well as give the passengers a break. Some were overnight stops, as is the one in my book, as well as a place that might provide a lunch stop.
Now for those of you who have run to the map to see where Hamilton, MT is - the current Hamilton is located just southwest of Missoula, MT and has nothing to do with my book's location. However, in the 1870s, the other Hamilton faced a plight much as the one my fictional town. The proposed railroad site was going in north of where the city was located, and they knew this would mean eventual death to their town. Like many locations on the frontier, Hamilton decided to move north to meet the railroad. When they did this, they renamed their town Moreland, and later renamed it Manhattan, MT. This place still exists and has a couple of fantastic places to eat - Sir Scott's Oasis (the most incredible steaks in Montana) and The Garden Cafe (nice for breakfast).
Some people ask me why I decided to create a fictional town when there was a real town available in the area. The reasons are many. Fictional towns obviously give me much more liberty and freedom. Also, Hamilton was a "dry" town. In other words, they had no saloons or liquor available to the public. I wanted my stage stop to have a most irritating saloon owner and the further complication of prostitution in their area. I also didn't want to worry about whether I put the exact number of businesses, and well-known residents into the story, although often I do this. For example in the series I'm working on now, I have a detailed list of businesses and streets available to me and am using the real town of Sitka, Alaska in 1870.
Nevertheless, I researched stage stops extensively and learned a great deal about the industry and its needs.
Research is one of the things I enjoy most about writing historicals, and I try to keep things very accurate. It doesn't mean I never make mistakes - as readers are always happy to point out - but it does mean my love of the past has a chance to shine through. I hope you enjoy that journey to yesteryear as well.