Not only does God love to create, He also loves His creation. This is the message author Melanie Dobson hopes that her readers gain from her latest release Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan (Summerside Press) that combines historical romance with her trademark element of mystery.
A story filled with beauty and wonder, Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan transports readers to a magical place and time. The story begins in the 1890s at the end of the Gilded Age, a golden era of prosperity and growth. As the Gilded Age comes to a close, the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists begin to collapse, including the once-wealthy Bissette family who has nearly lost its fortune. However, the Bissettes still own a home on the fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing their daughter Elena to a wealthy suitor.
Q: Was there any special inspiration for the story? And why Mackinac Island?
I’ve always been intrigued by Mackinac Island (a very popular vacation destination on the east coast) because I was told time seemed to stand still there. There are no cars on the island so people ride bikes or horse-drawn carriages, and from the moment you get off a boat, you can sense it is a magical place.
Q: How does this book differ from your other books, including the Love Finds You series?
Love Finds You in Mackinac Island is a historical romance with an element of mystery (like my other novels). Many of my recent books have been about different religious groups, but this story is about high society in the 1890s. Readers will recognize and I hope enjoy some of the characters and twists inspired by Jane Austin’s novels.
I love being one of the writers for the Love Finds You series! I grew up in a small town in Ohio and have always been intrigued by small towns and their stories. The opportunity to research and write about unique towns has been an absolute joy for me.
Q: Do you decide where the books in the Love Finds You (LFY) series are set, or does the publisher assign locales? How do you decide where the story is set?
Summerside has asked me to write about a specific locale before, but usually I send my wonderful editor a couple ideas of places where I’d like to set a story and we work from there. My book LFY in Liberty, Indiana was set in Liberty because they were a major hub on the Underground Railroad, and the name Liberty was quite fitting for their work helping runaway slaves. LFY in Amana and Homestead were set in the Amana Colonies—a place I’ve been intrigued about since I was a child. I’ve also been intrigued about Mackinac Island since my early years, growing up in Ohio.
Q: Do you always get the opportunity to visit the places your books are set?
I always visit the locations for my Love Finds You books before I write about the towns because the setting is ingrained in these stories. I usually post blogs about my visits to the locations once the books are released if you would like to read about some of my adventures.
Fortunately, my next novel (Where the Trail Ends, releasing in October) is set on the Oregon Trail so I didn’t have to go far to research it.
Q: You’ve written in more than one genre including historical and contemporary. What genre or time period is your favorite and why?
I really just love to write about people who are passionate about their faith. My desire is to write stories that stir people’s heart and soul—whether historical or contemporary—but my favorite genres would be to write historical romance and romantic suspense. I love to research—so much so that it’s sometimes hard for me to stop and actually write the book.
Q: The book takes place in the Gilded Age. What/when was the Gilded Age?
The Gilded Age was a golden age of prosperity and growth in the United States from the late 1860s through the early 1890s. My story begins at the end of the Gilded Age when the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists began to collapse.
Q: For such a small island, how did Mackinac Island become such a popular getaway? How long has it been a tourist destination?
The resort island nestled into a strait below Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known by many names. Fairy Island. Land of the Giant Turtle. And my personal favorite—the island that time forgot.
From the moment I stepped off the ferry and heard the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves along the island’s historic Main Street, I was transported back a good hundred years. Pronounced “Mackinaw” like Mackinaw City (but spelled differently so the post office could differentiate between the island and town), Mackinac Island is a place that time did indeed seem to forget.
Even today, Mackinac Island reflects an era when the wealthy and their servants escaped the heat and grime in cities like Chicago and Detroit to enjoy natural spring waters and cool lake breezes. It was an era when women wore beaded gowns and plumed hats and twirled parasols in their gloved hands, when people were just beginning to talk about horseless carriages as they rode in their own horse-drawn carriages to an elaborate ball at the Grand Hotel or to an afternoon tea at what their neighbors would call a “cottage”—a residence that more closely resembled a castle. A nineteenth-century writer once said that the island was so healthy, a person had to leave Mackinac to die.
Mackinac Island hasn’t swung far beyond the era of the Victorians, and both residents and visitors alike savor the past. Its diverse history goes back hundreds of years, when Native Americans considered the island the home of their Great Spirit and local tribes gathered there each summer to fish. In the 1700s, lucrative French and American fur companies made their homes and millions of dollars on Mackinac until the British took over during the War of 1812 and held the island for three years before returning it to the United States.
Then, in 1819, the first steamship of tourists arrived.
However, the investors in the Grand Hotel made it a premier summer destination when they built the hotel in 1887. The Grand Hotel (on the cover of the book) celebrates its 125 anniversary this summer.
Q: What do you hope readers come away with after reading Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan?
I hope readers will be inspired by God’s majesty and be reminded that not only does God love to create, He also loves His creation.
I’ve published ten novels now, and LFY in Mackinac Island was one of my favorite books to write. This story (I hope) is filled with beauty and wonder. It’s about a magical place, during a magical time, and I hope that readers leave with a sense of God’s majesty on this beautiful island where time has seemed to stand still.
Q: As you were writing this book, you were able to travel to Haiti to lead a women’s retreat. Tell us how you were able to tie your preparation and experience there into the book.
In the midst of writing this book, I went to Haiti to help lead a retreat for the wives of Haitian pastors. Our whole team spoke on a different name of God, and I spoke about God as Mighty Creator. As I researched God’s passion for creating and the love He has for His creation, it was a joy for me to incorporate the wonder and beauty of the universe into this historical novel.