I was born and raised in Central Kentucky, and I still miss it. It still feels like home, even after living in South Carolina for more than twenty years.
I go home (and I still say I’m going home when I go to Kentucky) and it’s like I feel it in my bones. I see it in the sky and the beauty of the rolling hills, how blue and green everything is.
It’s a cliche to write about Central Kentucky and horse racing or the Derby, and in truth, I was 19 or 20 before I ever went to a horse race, despite the fact that one of the most beautiful and famous race tracks int the world was maybe twenty-five miles from my home.
It wasn’t until I met a man….
The man I eventually married, in fact. He’s the one who loves horse racing and proceeded to convince me to skip classes and go to the track with him instead. (I tell him he was such a bad
influence on me.)
He took me to Keeneland in Lexington, Churchill Downs in Louisville, River Downs in Cincinnati and what was then Latonia in Northern Kentucky. I got him to New York City for the first time because the Breeder’s Cup was being held there.
So, cliche or not, when I finally wrote a book set in Kentucky, there had to be at least one horse, and a horse farm, and it was really hard to resist Keeneland completely. It is one of the most gorgeous places on earth in the fall.
When the hero on Unbreak My Heart, Stephen Whittaker, wants to show the heroine, Allie Bennett, something of Kentucky to remember and love, he takes her to meet his horse, Wish, at his grandfather’s horse farm. And they eventually end up at Keeneland, although it’s not to see the horse races. But it was fun to put so many familiar places into a book.
Allie’s family has so many secrets, and she’s trying to find answers to them, answers she believes are waiting for her in the family home. Her mother dragged her away from there in the middle of the night when Allie was a girl, and she hasn’t been back since. Stephen is the boy next door, all grown up now, handsome as can be and either trying to help her or keeping a secrets from her. She doesn’t know which. It’s a romantic suspense with a Gothic feel, because of the house that may or may not be haunted.
My husband and I just made a trip to Kentucky, this one much more pleasant, and we stayed for the second time at a beautiful bed and breakfast at the back gate to Keeneland, Swann’s Nest, complete with horses in the paddock and horse racing trophies all over the house.
If you’re ever in Lexington and need a place to stay, go there. It used to be a horse farm, so you’re in the middle of green pastures with horses lazing in the fields. Rosalie Swann will make sure you have a great time. My favorite time of year to be there is October or early November, when the fall colors are at their peak. Spring is gorgeous, too, and the horses run at Keeneland in April and October.