Where the Fire Falls

Written by Karen Barnett
Review by Clarissa Harwood

California, 1929. The last thing watercolor artist Olivia Rutherford wants is to return to the mountains where she grew up. Having put her traumatic past and father’s crime behind her, she’s reinvented herself as a worldly, urban flapper who moves in the highest circles. But when Scenic Magazine commissions her to paint Yosemite National Park, she can’t say no. She needs the money not only to maintain her image, but also to help provide for her two young sisters.

Yosemite backcountry guide Clark Johnson is running from his own past. His former life as a minister was destroyed by a parishioner’s lies. Now he doesn’t know where he belongs. And he’s less than enthusiastic about having to escort a flashy artist and her two socialite companions around the park. But he soon sees that Olivia isn’t who she pretends to be, and he’s intrigued.

The premise of this novel hooked me from the beginning. I loved the unusual setting, the chemistry between Olivia and Clark, and the way they both struggled to overcome the pain of their past and accept themselves. Barnett’s humor is enjoyable too: “If he’d learned anything in his three years at Yosemite, it was never feed the rangers. It only made them more curious.”

However, the fact that there is an ominous dark secret involving Olivia’s father is repeated far too often, and when the secret is revealed, the details are discussed offstage between two characters, which made this reader feel cheated. Other types of repetition involve characters thinking something in one scene, then saying the same thing in the next scene.

Overall, this is an enjoyable read that will appeal to readers of inspirational or sweet romance who like unique settings.