Set against the wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the books in the Willow Ranch series tell of the lives of Canadian ranchers, cowboys, and First Nations people. Adventures in the mountains and legends of the indigenous people are mingled with a longing for love, home, and community. Life at Willow Ranch, surrounded by the vastness of untouched nature and the wildlife of Canada, invites the reader to sit by the crackling campfire and dream.
After receiving an ominous message, siblings Lee and Lyla return to their father’s Willow Ranch in Canada. However, their father, who is seriously ill with cancer, seems anything but pleased to see his children again after fourteen years.
As the magic of the Rocky Mountains washes over them and the wilderness of Canada puts their resolve to the test, they both realize that home is more than a place and that dreams can tell their own story.
When the ranch is at risk and a secret threatens to tear apart the newly forged family bonds, the siblings are willing to risk everything to make Willow Ranch their home again.
When Lee learns of his father’s illness, he quits his job as a photojournalist and returns to Willow Ranch—even though he hasn’t had any contact with his father in 14 years. Lee quickly settles back into the rhythm of life on the ranch. He enjoys the daily work with the horses and dives into his tasks with relish. However, his somewhat stubborn ways do not always make life easy for him. Growing up on Willow Ranch, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the feeling of space, he secretly longs for his father’s approval after his years of absence. Photography remains his passion, and one he has brought with him to the Canadian wilderness. Whenever he finds the time, he grabs his camera.
Lee is now the owner of Willow Ranch. This responsibility brings numerous challenges, yet he is willing to face them. He is willing to give everything for this ranch and for his home,, but without taking unnecessary risks.
Her father’s illness also brings Lyla back to Willow Ranch after many years away. Unlike her brother Lee, she is very shy and easily rattled. Her need for harmony and her naivety don’t always make life simple for her.
Lyla is always on hand and willing to help. At the same time, she is always anxious to please everyone and not disappoint anyone. She has a very close relationship with animals, even of the wild variety. Her closeness to horses goes beyond even her familiar relationship with other animals. Once in the midst of nature, she becomes aware of a gift that was previously deeply hidden.
A self-confident First Nations woman, Naira shows an irrepressible lust for life alongside her pride in her heritage. She is a determined woman who cherishes the traditions and culture of her people. She becomes a close friend to both Lee and Lyla.
The rodeo rider is a happy-go-lucky guy and a friend who would go through thick and thin with Lee. His carefree and warm nature makes spending time with Chuck always a pleasure. He is bubbling over with ideas, he’s courageous and he’s definitely willing to take risks.
His experiences in life have left their mark, however. Where once there was a carefree spirit and a glint of mischief in his eyes, Chuck now appears somber, dismissive, and sullen.
With his love of the outdoors and his sense of duty and loyalty, Nick is a cowboy through and through. For a go-getter like him, Willow Ranch is more than just a place to work. It becomes his home. Nick is a hothead who often acts on impulse and, particularly when it comes to his personal life, his jealousy is often bubbling just below the surface. His close ties to Willow Ranch deepen in the second volume.
The willow-lined driveway shows residents and guests straight away where Willow Ranch gets its name. At the end of the drive, the building appears: imposing with its huge, overhanging gable roof and windows that provide a magnificent view of the surrounding nature on all sides—the Rocky Mountains, the pastures, and the trees. An all-wood construction, the house is impressive without being ostentatious. Steps lead up to the porch and from there into the house, which Lee and Lyla’s father built with his own hands before they were born. It was an engagement present for his German girlfriend. He just wanted to make sure she didn’t go back to her home country, but would stay and share her life with him in the Rocky Mountains.
250 people call the small Canadian town of Spruce View home, as a sign will tell you as you enter. Still, residents and ranchers settled nearby are able to get everything they need at the town’s grocery store, bank, gas station, hardware store, and small second-hand store, all of which are located on the main street. To the right and left of this street are the prefabricated houses of the townspeople. At the only intersection in the town is the Coyote Moon Bar, and next to it is Smith’s grocery store with its many goods for locals’ daily needs. Just a few steps further is Mary’s Diner, which is perfect for grabbing a bite to eat.
Like Spruce View itself, Mary’s Diner is rather plain. Or at least that’s what the stone building looks like from the outside. This first impression is immediately corrected upon entering, as the first thing you see are colorful, cozy armchairs that invite guests to linger. The furniture ranges from wing chairs to recliners, complemented by equally diverse small end tables. The floorboards creaking with each step enhance the homey feel of the small diner, whose small counter is on the far wall. Hanging from the wall are large slate boards that announce the food on offer in squiggly lettering. There’s no need for menus here.
You can’t miss the grinning tin cowboy next to the entrance. The bar’s interior is rustic, with plank flooring, small round wooden tables and a long redwood counter. Behind the bar, liquor bottles are lined up in front of a mirrored shelf front that reaches up to the ceiling. Old saddles are arranged on a wooden beam. The stuffed head of a famous rodeo bull now adorns one of the walls. In keeping with the theme, photos of rodeo legends and country singers hang from the others. The Coyote Moon regularly hosts live country music shows. On those nights, tables and chairs give way to a dance floor and a small stage. On the nights without live music, the slots machines and pool table in the corner provide the entertainment.