November 2019 – LOST INHERITANCE

The idea for my novel LOST INHERITANCE came from a true story. My college friend Jayne was very close to an aunt and uncle who had no children. She spent many summers and holidays with them and lived with them for a time after she graduated from college. They always told her they planned to leave their home, properties, and business interests to her, but when they died it was discovered that the will hadn’t been property executed. It went into probate and all her aunt and uncle’s property was dispersed to a long list of other relatives, leaving Jayne out completely. She couldn’t even go into their home to get things she’d stored there but had to bid on them at auction if she wanted them. … This sad story stayed with me for years and finally found its way into the concept of this book.

Main character Emily Lamont, orphaned when only a young girl, was raised by her godparents in their opulent home in Philadelphia. From a young age she trained and worked with Hal and Mary Newman in their prestigious downtown art gallery, the Newman Gallery, and it was their heart’s desire to leave their home and gallery to her. However, as in Jayne’s story, a problem with the will cut Emily out of her inheritance. Her godparents’ home, money, art collection, and gallery went instead to their nephew Leonard—not a happy answer. In addition, Leonard disliked Emily and made it clear to her he would take over everything and do with it as he liked.

In shock, Emily discovers that a small gallery in Gatlinburg, that her godparents bought later in life, had been put jointly in her name. Her attorney encourages selling The Creekside Gallery but Emily decides instead to move to Gatlinburg to run it and to make a new beginning. However, Cooper Garrison in Gatlinburg, is bitter his mother didn’t inherit the gallery since she’d faithfully managed it for so many years. So the sweet reception Emily hoped for is tempered with Cooper’s grudging resentment, even though Cooper’s mother Mamie kindly welcomes Emily with open arms.

Of course, this is only the beginning of the story. Cooper has his own difficult past and issues to deal with and  immediately resents his attraction to Emily, too. Emily has her own adjustments to contend with, linked with her past and the new gallery in Gatlinburg. The “lost inheritance” theme plays out in other ways, also, as the story moves along … and the book is full of unsolved mysteries, friendships, love interests, and the lovely world of a beautiful little art gallery, all amid the colorful setting of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.

An extensive amount of research went into this novel to create the book’s settings—first in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and  then in Gatlinburg in the Smokies. I placed the Creekside Gallery on Gatlinburg’s River Road and I spent many hours creating the “fictitious” artists who showed their work in this mountain gallery. I put my characters’ homes in different spots around downtown Gatlinburg — all in the midst of all the real sights any visiting tourist can see and enjoy there. Gatlinburg is a fun city to visit … and I worked hard to help my readers feel they were “right there” in the Burg with Emily, Cooper, Mamie, Mackie, Sara, and all the other colorful characters that found their way into this story.

For additional story fun, Emily and Cooper take hikes in the Smoky Mountains together that readers will love. They walk their dogs on the nearby Gatlinburg Trail, enjoy the downtown restaurants and shops, and visit Dollywood.  … In the story,  Cooper Garrison builds log homes, so I had to study extensively about log-home building and visit a log home business to learn how these mountain homes are created. Emily’s new friend Sara Russell works with her mother in a dollhouse shop in the Laurel Mountain Village Mall in Gatlinburg, forming a link between these two young women right away as Emily builds dollhouses as a side hobby.

I believe all stories are enriched with beloved pets, and four wonderful pets help to make this story special. Emily’s well-behaved gallery dog Mercedes comes with her to Tennessee from Pennsylvania and right away has a spitzy confrontation with the Creekside Gallery cat Sugar Lips. The real Sugar Lips is owned by my Sevierville fan and friend Charlene Povia and Mercedes was based on another fan, Lisa Keever’s, gray poodle Sadie. Cooper’s golden retriever Brinkley is named after Steven Zacharius dog with the same name. Steven is the CEO of Kensington Publishing in New York and was pleased that Brinkley found his way into a novel. And finally little Buster looks very much my next door neighbors, the Owens’, two Bichon Frise feisty, little dogs. So I had actual pets to observe to create all these fun story pets. …and Mercedes and Brinkley even get to become heroes in the story.

I loved working on this book set in Gatlinburg… and many of the side characters I created became as dear and beloved to me as the main characters….the elusive, eccentric artist Cawood Gentry, the fun-loving Bolinger brothers who ran the coffee store next door to the gallery,  Cooper’s long-time friend Mackie Hilton and his wise father Delbert, and Venetta Renaugh, roaring up on her motorcycle and stirring up bad memories for Cooper. I also loved Daniel Stelben, valiantly trying to keep the Newmans’ Philadelphia gallery going and struggling to keep Leonard Newman from destroying it.

If this isn’t a book you’ve read yet, I hope you will look for it soon. ....See you next month to talk about the twelfth Smoky Mountain book THE INTERLUDE …  Lin

A few reviews and reader comments:

Lin Stepp is a gifted storyteller who skillfully captures the mystical and enduring history and beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains and the faith, loyalty, and resilience of the people who call them home. …Stepp’s writing is smooth and easy, bringing the reader into the hearts of her characters, showing (not telling) us their intersecting journey from multiple, individual perspectives. Her characters make mistakes; they stumble. They are complex, flawed, and real and while that makes me angry with them at times and sympathetic to them at others, it also makes me appreciate and enjoy their journey all the more. I’ll be returning for more of Lin Stepp’s engaging and heartwarming stories.” – PJ, Romance Dish

“Your books feed the soul in so many ways.” – L.H. Murfreesboro, TN

“I loved Lost Inheritance! When it ended, I didn’t want it to be over. It was hard to start another book after. I was still involved with the characters.” – R.J. C., Kannapolis, NC

“Just finished Lost Inheritance. Best one yet and I’ve said that about every one of your books. I feel like I’m right there in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. I hate to finish them. Hurry and write another.” – M.B., Urbana, OH

What another fantastic Smoky Mountain series book by Lin Stepp! There were several surprises for me including the outcome concerning the glitches in the Rockwell pictures. I loved the Lady in Red ending which brought tears to my eyes as I could “hear” it being played at that moment. Lin Stepp is a wonderful writer of these contemporary stories set in and around the Smoky Mountains.” – J.W., Amazon Review

“I always turn to your books to lift my spirits! They feel like home.” … F.C., Beech, NC

[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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