Surely a girl can be forgiven a moment of fantasy dancing with a tall dark stranger? And surely nothing can come of it? Wrong. Life’s chance, indulgent moments always find a way of coming back to complicate everything.”

In looking back on my past books, I always smile when thinking about this one. The story brings together two very different people—both with hurts and problems in their past. The main characters in this book are Rosalyn Latham McCreary and Kendrick Reynaud Lanier. Even from their names, you sense their backgrounds are very dissimilar. The two meet by chance in a lovely, romantic opening scene. Rosalyn has been cleaning a house on the mountain and stops to dream and dance on the patio with an imaginary partner. Kendrick, new to the valley, stops to visit for his realty company. He sees Rosalyn dancing on the patio and impulsively moves into her arms to dance with her. It’s a sweet moment but a crazy one and Rosalyn is quickly shocked with herself as the dance ends.

The following synopsis provides a quick story overview:                                                                  ….. Life is sometimes hard as a widowed, single mother with three young children, a business to run, bills to meet, and debts to pay. Despite it all, Rosalyn McCreary tries to count her blessings. She cherishes her shop, Second Hand Rose, her family and friends. A practical woman by necessity, she seldom indulges in impulse and fancy—except for that crazy spring day she danced with a total stranger she’d never met. Whatever was she thinking? And then to later learn her mystery stranger, Kendrick Lanier, plans to move to Wears Valley. Great. Just one more problem she doesn’t need. …. Kendrick, however, is enchanted and intrigued with Rosalyn and soon pursues her, despite her efforts to crowd him out. He finds ways into her life, and into the lives of her children, and creates complications Rosalyn simply doesn’t want to deal with. The more she learns of the man’s life and secrets, the more she’s determined they are not well-suited…. With Rosalyn and Kendrick’s troubled pasts, and Rosalyn’s temper, you’ll find it a toss-up to decide if these two stubborn, determined individuals should—or shouldn’t—get together.

As a writer, I had a joyous time weaving the story about Kendrick, a former professional dancer, starting his life over again after an accident, and Rosalyn, a young widow with three children, struggling to get by with her small shop and her penny-pinching. Rosalyn’s life, even with its difficulties, is sweet and good and she doesn’t see any place in it for someone like Kendrick—despite their attraction. Kendrick, in contrast, sees no conflict in pursuing Rosalyn and works to charm himself right past her objections and temper and into her life and the lives of her children. But their relationship is not without continual problems.

Rosalyn’s children, Caroline 12, Davis 9, and little Holly 5, make the story all the more fun because they are all charmed by Kendrick from the first. The book also quickly introduces a wealth of interesting side characters who work their way into the pattern and fabric of the story. These include Kendrick’s friend Arthur, associates in the realty company, and his family members, as well as Rosalyn’s family, her friends, neighbors in the valley, and her children’s friends.

The setting for this book is Wears Valley, a long scenic valley that lies between the Smoky Mountains and the Chilhowee Mountains. The two-lane highway through the valley, known as Wears Valley Road, connects busy Pigeon Forge to quieter Townsend, Tennessee on the west. Since its early settlement, the valley has grown from farm and mountain land to an area popular with tourists. The valley is now dotted with mountain shops, restaurants, a few historic sites, and an abundance of rental cabins. For legal reasons, I used mostly fictitious stores and businesses for this story, but I tried to pattern them after the types of stores and businesses actually found in the valley.

Contrast comes again between the home Kendrick buys, Saddle Ridge, a lavish estate on the mountain top with beautiful views, compared to Rosalyn’s small home behind her deceased husband’s parent’s house on their farm in the valley below. The differences are easy to compare, and Rosalyn is uncomfortable with Kendrick’s wealth, further explained as the story progresses. Helen McCreary, Rosalyn’s mother-in-law, is Rosalyn’s help and rock in this story and I admit I fell in love with Nana, too. Her wisdom and counsel were always so wise and good and her faith strong and inspiring.

Months of research time went in before I was ready to create my chapter-by-chapter outline. Pulling out my old files again today to write this blog, reminded me of all the things I needed to research. I found over fifty pages of notes just about the ballet alone. I needed to learn so much about the ballet to create realistic scenes and dialog about Kendrick’s past. Many scenes scattered throughout the book, too, involved the ballet or reference to it. I also had to study about running a second hand children’s store. Rosalyn’s store needed to be realistic and I wanted it to be charming, as well. I visited several similar second-hand stores, studied the merchandise and arrangement of the store, and then researched online about business aspects of owning a store that I needed to know. In addition, for Kendrick and Arthur’s Mountain Realty business I had to delve into information about the real estate business.

In the last year, people have often asked me if I plan to write a book about the Gatlinburg fires … but I already touched on this subject in Second Hand Rose. I actually saved many newspaper accounts of the 2002 fires that burned up sections of Wears Valley mountain land and many rental cabins and homes there. It troubled me even before the fires of 2002 how close together contractors were building tourist rental cabins and how little respect was being shown for the beauty of the mountains in development plans. While plotting my story for Second Hand Rose, I read all these news accounts again, studied about fires and fire-fighting on the internet, and watched you-tubes about fire-fighting to create the scenes of a dangerous fire for this story.

As always in my books, I took readers to scenic spots around the mountains and painted pictures of the beauty so prevalently found. Main character Rosalyn loved flowers in this story, with a partiality for roses. I read and researched a wealth of information for the scenes where Rosalyn talks about and tends her roses. While reading about old rose varieties, I discovered the sweet story of how the Madam Hardy rose got its name. Then I had fun weaving this rose’s romantic history into Rosalyn and Kendrick’s story. In our country’s early years, many vintage roses were brought to early America from Europe. Then starts of roses and other flowers were often lovingly carried into frontier and wilderness areas, planted, tended, and loved. Even after the old settlers were long gone, many of the flowers, shrubs, and old roses lived on. J.L. and I often find sweeps of daffodils, flowering shrubs, wild roses, and other garden flowers—not native to the area—around old home sites when we hike in the Smoky Mountains.

Developing running themes to thread through a story can be fun to create and fun for readers to follow. The “rose” theme was one of those themes really apparent in this book. Rosalyn’s name had the word rose in it and her store was called Second Hand Rose. She loved growing and propagating roses, created her own perfumes and lotions from them, and several scenes with roses are scattered throughout the book’s story. At the book’s end, Kendrick delights Rosalyn with a special rose gift at their wedding to help sweeten the final scenes of the book.… And of course Caroline writes about the wedding in detail in her diary, too, letting us know everything that happened.

If you haven’t read this book, here is one review about it to close:

Lin Stepp is back with the fifth edition in her Smoky Mountain series, Second Hand Rose. This one doesn’t disappoint. She has once again spun a compelling story with homegrown flavor. Her words flow across the page like a soft spring breeze in the Smokies, leaving behind traces of wildflowers and wood smoke. If you’re looking for a heartwarming tale sprinkled with romance, you can’t go wrong with a Lin Stepp book. Her stories always bring to mind those long summer nights sitting on the front porch and listening to my grandmother tell stories about the family and neighbors. For me, reading her books is like going home.” ~ Andrea Chapman, Co-founder and Co-Owner of Reading Lark

[Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.]

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