Few things are as eye-popping as a Kentucky fall with its burst of colorful foliage, and the Red River Gorge Geological Area is the perfect destination to take in this natural beauty. It is home to approximately 150 arches, a number surpassed only by Arches National Park in Utah. Popular with tourists and locals alike for climbing, hiking, camping and simply enjoying nature, the Gorge has something to offer for all abilities.
To Cheryl Hollon, the area offered an ideal setting for her Paint & Shine cozy mystery series. Growing up spending her summers at her grandparents’ small farm in Wolfe County, Hollon has fond memories of “running barefoot in the soft grass, gazing up at the Milky Way in the evenings and hiking the hundreds of trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest.” Her family made certain she and her siblings learned the ways of farm life, such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening and shooting, an upbringing that reflects heavily in her writing.
The series revolves around Miranda Trent, a former New York artist and heir to her uncle’s farm in Wolfe County, who operates an adventure attraction featuring painting excursions paired with moonshine cocktails and farm-to-table dining. As Miranda expands her business to include distilling Uncle Gene’s famous ’shine, she also grows her sleuthing skills in cracking murder cases with the help of her forest ranger boyfriend, Austin Morgan.
While the first book, Still Knife Painting, finds Miranda solving the murder of the town’s best biscuit baker before the butter knife is pointed at her, the newest release, Draw and Order, involves a murder that hits close to home, that of her own cousin. Adding to the shock, his remains are discovered by one of her clients. Can Miranda keep her promise to her grief-stricken aunt to uncover the truth of what happened before her own life is in jeopardy?
In keeping with the moonshine and meals theme, Hollon includes the recipes Miranda concocts, both for her traditional Southern cooking and her cocktails. Readers will also enjoy plentiful references to local favorites such as Battleship Rock, Miguel’s Mystic Pizza and Ale-8-One soda.
Draw and Order (Kensington Books, $8.99) can be ordered through local booksellers or on Amazon.com. Connect with Hollon at www.CherylHollon.com.
The Red River Gorge Geological Area has been designated a National Natural Landmark and National Archaeological District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known for its world-class hiking and climbing, it also offers visitors zip lines, underground kayak tours, mountain biking, bird watching and guided activities. Learn more at www.redrivergorge.com.