What’s the best setting for a romance novel? Most Christian romances seem to be set in small towns, but not all. Today, I start a series of posts about my Sacred Bond series of contemporary Christian romance novels, three of which are set in the East End of Pittsburgh, where I lived for a number of years.

A Christmas Bond takes place in a neighborhood that used to be nice, but is now run down and crime ridden. It has elderly residents who’ve lived there since better days and newer residents who struggle with crime and poverty. This difficult situation is common in Pittsburgh, just like in many urban centers, and although there are challenges, magic can happen by means of human connection. Younger, stronger residents can help the elderly with daily tasks like snow-shoveling, and elderly residents can supply nurturing and wisdom that are sometimes sorely needed in their young neighbors’ lives.

A Bride’s Broken Bond spans the city, starting out in an affluent, Upper St. Clair-ish suburb of Pittsburgh and moving a poorer neighborhood in the East End, loosely modeled on Homewood. For many years I volunteered with children at the Homewood library. Some of the things I experienced there:

  • I was warned against even driving through Homewood by well-meaning friends who’d never visited or met anyone from the community, but were basing their fear on the negative local news.
  • I was mistaken for another woman solely on the basis of my race, since we were the only two white people in the library. This happens to African American people fairly often; I got a small taste of it and I didn’t much like it.
  • I watched children talk with each other—way too calmly—about another child who’d been caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting.
  • I met many people who could have lived and worked in safer surroundings, but who chose to devote themselves to a community that really needed help.
  • Most important, I learned that most parents in inner-city communities want safe streets, good schools, and better lives for their children–just like parents everywhere else.

Experiences like these made their way into The Bride’s Broken Bond, where Rock, the book’s hero, runs a program to help inner city kids, and affluent Hope learns to thrive there.

Her Reunion Bond is set in an older, middle-class neighborhood in the East End of Pittsburgh. Wendy and Daniel are neighbors who spend time on the front porches and in the backyards, raising kids, as well as working in a school for kids with disabilities that’s very loosely modeled on a school in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a friendly, know-your-neighbors kind of city, and I’m happy to be able to introduce it to readers who haven’t had the chance to visit.

If you’d like to get word about when these novels come out, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be sending excerpts around in the coming weeks to whet your appetite for the books. And I’ll be giving away 100 of these pretty Christmas ornaments to subscribers. Please, sign up!


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