Take pirates, treasure, autumn in New England and mix in a treasure hunter and a taciturn firefighter, and we have the ingredients for Cider Brook, my latest Swift River Valley novel. Trust me, no one is more surprised than Samantha Bennett when she’s caught in a burning, abandoned nineteenth-century cider mill and it’s Justin Sloan—the man who got her fired two years ago—who saves her. And Justin? He’s convinced Samantha is up to no good in little Knights Bridge.
Like fictional Knights Bridge, my hometown is one of the pretty, classic villages that dot the borders of the Quabbin Reservoir, a beautiful and very real place in the middle of Massachusetts. When I was seven, we moved into an eighteenth-century carriage house on the western edge of Quabbin, a massive water project of the first half of the 20th Century. Four small towns were wiped off the map when dams were built to capture the pristine waters of the Swift River and Beaver Brook to provide drinking water for metropolitan Boston. Everything in the towns had to go: homes, businesses, churches, school, even graves.
Since Secrets of the Lost Summer, my first Swift River Valley novel, debuted in 2012, I’ve heard from people with roots in the valley. One woman wrote from the west coast, telling me her memories of sledding as a small child in one of the now-gone towns. Another reader wrote how she’d recently discovered that her grandmother was from the Swift River Valley.
I was only vaguely aware of Quabbin when we settled into our fixer-upper. It had no central heat and only one cold-water faucet. Imagine that with seven kids under ten! We all pitched in, and it’s a gem of a place now, crooked and quirky, retaining its warmth and character, and no doubt a few of its secrets. Every autumn, we’d pick apples from a very old tree up by the well and, of course, have rotten-apple fights. This past fall, not long after I’d finished writing Cider Brook, my mother, my daughter and my four-year-old grandson and I picked apples from that same tree.
Cider Brook’s Samantha Bennett and Justin Sloan and their friends, family and fiery relationship spring from my imagination, but when I describe the Knights Bridge at the heart of my Swift River Valley series, I can’t help but think of home.
Carla Neggers started writing when she climbed a tree with pen and paper in hand at age eleven. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of many novels of romantic suspense and contemporary romance, including Declan’s Cross, Heron’s Cove, Saint’s Gate, Cider Brook, That Night on Thistle Lane and Secrets of the Lost Summer. An avid traveler, Carla is always plotting her next adventure—whether in life or for one of her novels. She lives with her family on a hilltop in Vermont, near Quechee Gorge, where she is at work on her next novel.
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