A Road Map of Places that Inspired Author Stacy Finz


One of the many things I loved about writing Nothing Less Than Magic—in fact all my books—is the setting, my home state of California. I’ve lived here most of my life and as a newspaper reporter, traversed the state, covering everything from natural disasters and high-profile crimes (OJ Simpson and Scott Peterson) to quirky towns and food festivals. In other words, I’m having a romance with the Golden State, which has a personality all its own. That’s why I take extra pains to make it a secondary character in all my books.

In my very first book, Going Home (part of the Nugget series), my heroine is obsessed with the history of the Donner Party. Because nothing says romance like cannibalism, right?

In Nothing Less Than Magic, the story is set in an old Gold Rush town named Ghost. The fictional town is an amalgam of many of the Gold Rush towns dotting California’s Sierra Foothills. Unlike what most people think of as California—beaches, palm trees, movie stars, and surf culture—this is a different world of ranches, farms, forests, mountains, and rural life. The history is rich here and remnants of it are everywhere.

So, if you find yourself in Gold Country, here’s a little roadmap of some of the landmarks that inspired my fictional places in Nothing Less Than Magic.

Let’s start at the beginning, the mother of all Gold Rush towns, San Francisco. I didn’t even try to disguise the Mark Hopkins Hotel, or Top Of The Mark, as the locals call it. The hotel with its iconic penthouse bar is the stuff of legends. Nineteen floors up with sweeping views of San Francisco. It’s where Chelsea Knight, my heroine, meets with her ex-husband with hopes of reconciliation. The story goes that during World War II, servicemen used to come to the Top Of The Mark for a farewell shot before shipping out. Now, travelers come for the skyline.

Things don’t go as planned for poor Chelsea. To nurse her wounds, she hightails it to her weekend lake cabin in Ghost. Like I said, Ghost is an amalgam of many Gold Rush towns, but my inspiration came from a few in particular. For example, the Ghost Inn, the watering hole where Chelsea hangs out with her newfound friends, was inspired by the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley. Originally the Golden Gate Saloon, founded in 1852, it’s now a national landmark. A few years ago, the Holbrooke got a total makeover. I borrowed that little tidbit, as well as the moody interiors, for Nothing Less Than Magic’s Ghost Inn. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth checking out, along with its history of gunslingers, Victorian madams, and highway man Black Bart Holbrooke Hotel. – Beautifully renovated Victorian hotel in the Grass Valley, CA.

Main Street in Ghost, where the annual Halloween parade takes place in the book, is based on Mill Street in Grass Valley and Nevada City’s historic district. Both still have buildings that harken back to the 1800s and exude small town charm with lots of fun shops, restaurants, and saloons.

The backstory of the Ghost Mine Historic State Park where Chelsea and Knox take what turns out to be the harrowing walk of their lives (that’s all I’m going to say about it) was richly borrowed from the Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley. It’s one of the oldest and richest gold mines in California. It was in operation for 100 years and is open to the public. The park still has many of the mine’s buildings and 367 miles of abandoned mine shafts. There is 856 acres of forested backcountry and fourteen miles of trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding. Here’s more information about the park Empire Mine State Historic Park (ca.gov)

As for Chelsea’s lake cabin, well that’s based on my own weekend getaway. Read all about it in Nothing Less Than Magic.


When a heartbroken celebrity marriage counselor seeks refuge in a lakeside cabin during a glorious leaf peeping season, everything wrong in her life starts clicking into place in the dreamiest possible way…and during Halloween, no less!

Readers of Josie Silver and Sophie Cousens will adore New York Times bestselling author Stacy Finz’s emotional character arcs and cozy fall time vibes in this Hallmark Movie-esque tale steeped in magical realism.

Just one year ago, Chelsea Knight was living the life she’d always wanted. Marriage to the perfect guy, a thriving career, and a gorgeous condo overlooking San Francisco Bay. Then out of nowhere, her husband, Austin, left her. Ironic, because Chelsea fixes marriages for a living. In fact, she’s famous for her techniques. Naturally, she’s been using her expertise to win back her ex—and when he invites her for drinks, she’s sure her work has finally paid off. Until he announces he’s engaged.

Devastated, Chelsea seeks refuge in the beloved small-town lake cabin she and Austin now take turns using. When she arrives, the streets are dazzlingly decked out for Halloween, the autumn leaves are exceptionally vibrant, and the locals are especially warm and welcoming. It’s downright magical—and so is Knox Hart, a talented jack-of-all-trades who’s fixing her roof. Chelsea is instantly drawn to him—and to the simplicity of country life. Slowly, she becomes immersed in the townspeople’s problems and finds a sense of belonging—leading her to reevaluate her own path . . .

But something about the idyllic hamlet—and Knox—seems too good to be true. A trick more than a treat. And when she ultimately learns the truth, her heart is shattered. Miraculously, Austin is there to mend it. It’s everything she’d hoped for. Or is it? On the cusp of making all her dreams come true, Chelsea must find the strength to make an impossible choice . . .

Reprinted with permission from Kensington Books