When I was writing Garden of Her Heart and mentioned the character of Delaney Danvers, I knew right then she would have her own story. At the time, I didn’t know, exactly, what or where or when. Before I completed the book, I happened upon an old map that showed where Army airfields had been located during WWII. And there, among them, was a base in Pendleton, Oregon.
Those of you who have read my Pendleton Petticoats series will understand why this tidbit of history was so exciting to me! Delaney’s story immediately began taking shape in my head even though it would be many months before I actually began writing her story.
Pendleton Army Air Base (Pendleton Field) officially opened in the spring of 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. By June, the base was home to more than 300 officers and 2,200 enlisted men, including the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 17th Bombardment Group.
Members of Pendleton’s 17th Bombardment Group participated in one of the most famous missions of World War II, the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in April 1942. (I’m going to share more about that another day.) Pendleton was also where the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, better known as the Triple Nickle Smokejumpers (an all black infantry unit that comprised the first military airborne firefighters in America), were based toward the end of the war. They were stationed in Pendleton to fight forest fires, especially those ignited by Japanese balloons carrying incendiary bombs.
Pendleton, with its Wild West reputation and colorful history, provided the perfect setting for this story. When I envisioned what it would be like to walk through town in 1942, I envisioned soldiers from the base mingling among civilians in town. Of course, I had to make some of those civilians folks from the Pendleton Petticoats stories.
If you read Home of Her Heart, you’ll encounter familiar characters like Kade Rawlings, Tony and Ilsa Campanelli, Nik Nash, and Gideon McBride.
I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it was for me to share these characters as they’ve grown older (and wiser!).
Home of Her Heart releases Aug. 10, but you can pre-order it today… for just 99 pennies!
Here’s a little excerpt:
The woman wasn’t the prettiest he’d ever seen. Her nose was a bit too broad and slightly crooked, as if it had been broken in the past. Her chin was slightly too sharp, inarguably stubborn. Her hazel eyes were bright, lively, and inquisitive. But her lips, oh those tantalizing lips, were absolutely made for being kissed well and often.
Stunned, he realized something about her appealed to him more than any woman he’d ever met.
“What kind of man spies on a woman from behind a Christmas tree?” she asked, stopping in front of him and crossing her arms in front of her chest. Her face held a look of suspicious scrutiny.
Dumbfounded and caught in the act, Klayne lost the ability to speak.
The scornful look she’d given him melted into a warm smile. She laughed and placed a hand on his arm. “I’m teasing you, soldier. What’s your name?”
He stared at her another moment before he looked down to his arm where her hand rested. It threatened to sear through the fabric of his shirt and brand his skin. Although he expected her to have soft hands with manicured nails, her hands were work-roughened, chapped, and with nails broken down to the quick. A scab covered the backs of two knuckles and a cut stretched along the length of her index finger.
“You’re a quiet one, aren’t you?” she asked, continuing to look at him as she dropped her hand.
“Most of the time, ma’am,” he said, silently urging his tongue to regain function. “My name is Klayne. Sergeant Klayne Campbell.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Sergeant.” She gave him a beaming smile and held out a hand to him. “I’m Delaney Danvers, but most of my friends just call me Dee.”