National Parks Inspire Romance Books ... A Story Excerpt

Jan 16, 2024 by Gayle M Irwin

A view from the road through Great Smoky National Park, December 2023. Photo by G. Irwin

During Christmas, my husband, Greg, and I drove through Great Smoky National Park, driving from Tennessee to North Carolina. We took a similar trip 15 years previous. So many waterfalls! High mountain peaks, especially by east coast standards. I'd love to see this area again during October -- I imagine the autumn colors are stunning!


On the North Carolina side, near the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we encountered nearly 20 elk -- I didn't know those large mammals were found in that area! Elk are plentiful in the Rocky Mountain area of the U.S., where I live, but they are elusive -- except in Yellowstone National Park. 


Elk in Great Smoky National Park, North Carolina side, December 2023. Photo by G. Irwin

If you've been following me for a while or if you know me well, you likely know Yellowstone is one of my favorite national parks and that I once lived on the outskirts of this breath-taking place. My husband and I visit as often as we can; however, 2023 was a year we didn't get there due to family situations and health issues. I am hoping a trip will be in our 2024 future, especially because Greg and I will celebrate 25 years of knowing one another, and we bonded in part because of our love for nature and national parks.


My Pet Rescue Romance series - Yellowstone Country takes place in and around this majestic national park. I'm finishing the last book of the series, titled Paws-itively Love, and as they are on a hike in the park, my primary male character, Gary, confesses his love for my primary female character, Brittany. Leading up to that scene, I give readers a glimpse at the types of wildlife one can experience in Yellowstone. Here's an excerpt:

           “Don’t close your eyes too much,” Gary said. “Lots to see in Yellowstone during the autumn.”

            She smiled.

            “I know. When we came a few weeks ago, we saw two grizzly bears, a pair of sandhill cranes, several pelicans, and of course, a lot of bison. A few elk, too. Like I said before, the elk weren’t bugling yet.”

            “Well, we just may be lucky on this trip. Mid-September is about right, especially since the weather has been pretty warm this month.”

            Brittany nodded again and replied, “That’s what Uncle Levi said.”

            Her eyes widened as a large animal leaped from the hillside on the right.

          “Look out!”

            Brittany’s shout caused Gary to stomp on the brake pedal, lurching them both forward. He swerved to miss the bighorn ram, and the Jeep rocked from one side to the other as Gary regained control of the vehicle. Brittany held onto the handle above her head and glanced at the creature, which seemed to glare at them as the vehicle righted itself and Gary maneuvered around the heavy-bodied creature.

            “Thank God no one else was coming,” Brittany breathed.

            “You all right?” Gary asked as he glanced at her.

            She nodded and whispered, “That was close.”

            “He must have been going to the river for water.”

            “I hope he doesn’t get hit.”

            “Glad we were going slower than the speed limit. I might not have been able to avoid him.”

            “He was magnificent!”

            “Yeah, one of the largest I’ve seen in a while – large, full curl.”

            “I’ve never seen one that large before.”

            Gary smiled and said, “Let’s hope neither of us get that close to another bighorn, at least not in a vehicle traveling thirty-five miles an hour.”

             They traveled about a mile in silence, Brittany watching the ripples of the river. Something large and white captured her attention. She stared. As the Jeep drew closer, she noticed two elongated necks and broad, snowy bodies in the water. Her eyes widened.

            “Gary! Could those be trumpeter swans?”

            He slowed the vehicle and glanced in the direction Brittany pointed.

            “Yep! I do believe they are.”

            Stepping on the brake, he slowed the Jeep and darted his eyes, looking for a pullout. Noticing one, he pressed the left turn signal and slowed the vehicle more. He then steered the SUV into a parking lot along the river. Two other vehicles already claimed spaces, and four visitors gathered at the water’s edge to view the birds. After parking, he and Brittany jumped from the Jeep and joined the group, Brittany holding a 35 mm camera and Gary carrying binoculars.

            “They’re beautiful!” she whispered as she raised the camera to her face.


Swans and other waterfowl swimming on a Montana pond. Photo by G. Irwin

I've seen trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, bison, coyotes, wolves, grizzly and black bears, bald eagles, and many, many more species of wildlife during my travels through Yellowstone. Geysers, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, forests, and so much more envelope visitors at the world's first national park. As I conclude this series and begin another, I will continue using national parks, or areas around them, as settings.


Watch for Paws-itively Love next month, just in time for Valentine's Day!



What are some of your favorite places to visit? Do you have a favorite national park, in the U.S. or elsewhere? I'd love to hear about some of your adventures!


If you enjoy national park settings for romance stories, I recommend two authors and their books:


Karen Barnett: she wrote the Vintage National Park series, a collection of three books, one set in Yellowstone, another in Yosemite, and the other in Mount Rainier. Find out more about these books, written by this former park ranger and naturalist, here:



Regina Scott: Her American Wonders Collection also consists of three books set in three different national parks: Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, and the Grand Canyon. I have read two of the books (the ones set in Yellowstone and at the Grand Canyon, and I've enjoyed both of them!). I'm currently reading the book set at Mount Rainier. Regina is a prolific writer of sweet and Christian historical romance, including Regency and the American West. Find her American Wonders Collection here:


Enjoy traveling and reading this year!