Friday, July 19, 2013

"California Homecoming": The Greatest Adventure I've Ever Had by Casey Dawes

Pregnant and alone, Sarah Ladina wants to regain her independence and do what’s best for her soon-to-be-born baby, but buying a run-down Victorian for an inn wasn’t her brightest idea. An inability to cook or fix a leaky faucet will make the job even harder. When a friendly golden retriever, disabled vet, and potential cook show up on the first day, she knows her life is going to get a lot more complicated.

After returning from duty in the Middle East wounded in both body and spirit, Hunter Evans is in search of employment and a home. Finding a job has been tough and housing doesn’t come cheap in Costanoa, the town that he loves most on the California Coast. His prosthetic leg allows him to run, but keeps him from his childhood passion, surfing.

Spring is coming in Costanoa and love is in the air. With the help of good friends, Sarah and Hunter may be able to get beyond the painful past and complicated present to find the love and respect they want and deserve.


The story of Sarah and Hunter and if they can be together is what this whole book is about, pretty much. I loved it from beginning to end. It read like a proper romance should read. I found no mistakes in storyline, flow, or emotion. I was happy, sad, excited, scared, all rolled into one.  Great book!!!  -Jaime Hoelle Buncie on Goodreads

The Greatest Adventure I've Ever Had
by Casey Dawes

I’ve had many great adventures in my life, so it’s difficult to pick one! Do I discuss the stuff of travel--koalas, Eiffel Tower, buying Delft with a good friend? Or the greatest adventure anyone can have--raising children? Or should I pick the quiet adventure of a small deer crossing a swollen river?

For this post I’ll pick a series of adventures I had with my husband, Ken, when we were first dating. For some insane reason, we decided we should write a book about a historic wine region in California, the Santa Cruz Mountains. Nothing had been done in a few decades and the region had exploded. (There are now over seventy wineries nestled in the mountains to the west of Silicon Valley.)

We knew a little about wine, a little more about writing and photography, and nothing about self-publishing. Naivety is a wonderful thing, so we plunged right in!

The most exciting part of that adventure, and the adventure of articles and the book that followed it, was meeting the winemakers and attending winemaking events.  Many went out of their way to extend hospitality. The most treacherous part was driving the winding roads of the Central California coast to get to some of these places.

While the Santa Cruz Mountains had been a grape-growing region in the 1800s, like Napa, it had a resurgence of winemakers in the 1970s. Several of these folks were still around, like Kathryn Kennedy, a cult winemaker from Saratoga, and Bob Mullen, who had resurrected one of the 1800s vineyards near Woodside.  We spent hours listening to the tales the older generation told, often admonished, “You can’t put that in the book.”

There are famous winemakers in the region. Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon fame, gave an honest picture of who he was and what he did and didn’t bring to his winemaking. Paul Draper, of Ridge Vineyards, took us through the barrel room, providing samples of wines in process by using a “wine thief.” 

Two of the more interesting times were while we were doing the Monterey County book, From the Highlands to the Sea. Gary Pisoni, of Pisoni Vineyards & Winery ( insisted we come for our interview on a Sunday so we could meet his extended family and friends.  The bulk of the conversation took place in Gary’s jeep as he spun us around the vineyards, showing us which blocks were named for various girlfriends, and driving past a bathtub in the middle of the property. 

The bathtub, he informed us, was for use when he didn’t like journalists. He’d strip to the nude, jump in the tub, and continue the interview from there.

Fortunately, we weren’t treated to this demonstration.

The second was high in the Gabilan Mountains at a place called the Pinnacles. ( We’d made reservations at the Inn at the Pinnacles (  At that time we had a choice to bring our own dinner (they supplied grills) or have the hosts cook. We chose to bring our own. 

When we got there, we had a message. The winemaker we were to interview, Michael Michaud, had called to say he’d pick us up to go to his home and winery and we’d all eat there. It’s a good thing he came to get us. We would have gotten lost on the dead-end roads and airport roads that meander through the wilderness in the Chalone area of the Gabilans. 

We had steak. He’d brought salmon…and a case of wine of various ages. After yet another wild vineyard ride, we feasted, drank amazing wine, and watched the moon rise over the Pinacles. 

This is the type of adventure that inspires the novels in my California Romance series. (

Comment here on or on Facebook for a chance to win an e-book edition of California Homecoming. 

Enjoy an Excerpt
This excerpt from California Homecoming appears after Hunter Evans has met Sarah Ladina, the woman who purchased his childhood home.

* * *

After he left his former home, Hunter drove aimlessly south on Highway One.

Future inn. Ugh.

The thought of the future innkeeper made him smile. Her wiry toughness was covered by a soft petite frame, luminescent eyes, and gleaming chestnut hair. Boy, would he like to wrap his hands in that hair and find out what kissing her would be like.

Eucalyptus trees whipping by the side of the road made him glance at the speedometer. Immediately, he eased off the gas. He wasn’t in the desert anymore; he actually had to obey the laws instead of enforcing them with the military might of the U.S. Marines.

He had no right to be attracted to another woman. He still hadn’t completed his penance for getting Lauren killed. No matter what the shrink said, Hunter knew his inattention was to blame for her death.

He pushed away all thoughts of women—past and present.

The day gleamed in a way his soul never would again. He should focus on the natural beauty of the bay. Ignoring the camouflaged paintball store at the curve of the road by the Bennet Slough, he concentrated on the egrets and herons stalking the wetlands.

His stomach grumbled. Moss Landing, the small town up ahead, was a good place to stop for something to eat and figure out his next moves. He needed a job and a place to live.

As he turned off the highway by The Whole Enchilada, he caught a glimpse of otters in the cove and pulled over to watch. The flop of their webbed feet as they rolled and dove in the water whispered boyhood memories of carefree afternoons on the Santa Cruz shores.

Before his father had uprooted them all and moved them to the chi-chi town of Sausalito. Before Hunter had gone to war.

Before Lauren had died.


Casey Dawes lives and writes on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Montana.


  1. California Homecoming sounds like a great summer read. No where near a beach, so I'll just curl up in my cozy chair and drift away to California to meet Hunter and Sarah. Loved reading your adventures in the wine country, too!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Karen! I don't live near a beach anymore either, but hopefully my words will bring the salt and surf to your cozy chair.

  2. Hello Casey! So nice to "meet" you on this blog. I am charmed by the title of your book, as that was my feeling, too, when I'd been gone from California for awhile. My hubby and I lived in Santa Cruz for about six years before we left...and we can't afford the real estate now after coming back. :-( But we visit every chance we get. And the Santa Cruz mountains are marvelous, aren't they? Actually, the whole Northern California coast is marvelous, and the redwoods are phenomenal. Our neighbor to the south of our house has one growing just on the other side of our fence! Anyway, all of this has nothing to do with your just released story, but I have found that California is home to lots of folks who've ended up here to heal from various wounds, both physical and mental. If you can afford a little of its real estate, it's a great state to live in.