The first Urban Farm Fresh Romance, Secrets of Sunbeams releases soon, and I’ve had fans ask how I came to choose a setting for this series. I’d erased a large part of the map of northern Idaho for the original Farm Fresh Romances, but I wanted to play a bit closer to reality this time around.
When contemplating urban areas I’m familiar with, Spokane quickly rose to the top of the list. While Seattle and Portland and Denver (and many other cities) are larger and more “urban,” Spokane had two very important things going for it. One, it is close enough to Green Acres Farm that my characters could visit each other and two, it is close enough to my hometown that I could research on the ground.
First, I spent several evenings wandering around Spokane via the “man on the street” icon in Google maps. It didn’t take long to discover a little community called Pleasant Valley, just a few blocks west of downtown along the Spokane River. I cruised up one street and down the next on the map, and believed I’d found my setting. However, when I told my husband, he rose his eyebrows. Really? A neighborhood under a bridge close to downtown? It didn’t sound, shall we say wholesome, to him. As Google maps aren’t updated every year, I couldn’t be certain, but it certainly looked perfect in the images.
In mid-March, we took a day trip to Spokane and spent several hours wandering around the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. It turned out to be much like I’d anticipated and, in some cases, even better. See how the bridge shoots across the river above the community? I quickly renamed the area “Bridgeview” for the sake of my series.
Here it is as viewed from the other side of the river.
You can only get in and out of Pleasant Valley on the east and west sides of the area. The north side is bordered by the river, and the south side is a steep hill. This made me think the inhabitants of the area would be closer than in groups of blocks with no real boundaries. From what I’ve read about Pleasant Valley, it seems that is true. It is certainly true in my stories!
I loved the public spaces under the bridge. Technically those are road allowances, so there are no houses directly beneath. There’s a park on the lowest level by the river, and if you hike up the steps between the blocks, you’ll find a playground and basketball courts under the bridge a block up.
I didn’t use any of the exact houses in Pleasant Valley for my Bridgeview neighborhood, though I did stay with smaller, older houses as are found there, and tried to keep with the “feel” of the real neighborhood. I’ve definitely taken liberties. though! There is a real community center but, instead of using it “as is” I chose to model the Bridgeview Community Center on the old brick building that formerly housed the Cowley School.
Here’s the bridge just east of Pleasant Valley, which we used as the model for the bridge on the cover of Secrets of Sunbeams and will be on all the series covers. Because we’re going with fictional reality, we decided this bridge had more interesting abutments than the Maple Street Bridge that goes above the actual Pleasant Valley. This photo was taken from the ball field by the real community center.
The characters in Secrets of Sunbeams, Eden Andrusek and Jacob Riehl, live next door to each other on Water Street. I stuck with a semblance of reality here, as there are no houses on the south side of Water Street. Instead, the area is taken up by the River Walk and makes a perfect place for my characters to go for walks! Also, I needed an area just like this for one of the later scenes in the book, high water and all.
I hope this helps you visualize the real setting behind Bridgeview in the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series!