The Real Places Behind the Raegan O'Rourke Mysteries Series

The Real Places Behind the Raegan O'Rourke Mysteries Series

Did you know that River Junction, Minnesota -- a key setting in the Raegan O'Rourke Mysteries series -- is based on a real place? It is! My constant readers may have figured it out by now, but I'll let you in on the secret as well: River Junction is a fictionalized version of Anoka, Minnesota. Anoka is an old river town located roughly 20 miles north of Minneapolis, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Rum Rivers.

In River Junction, the Rum River is called the Bourbon River. See what I did there?

Anoka is chock-full of history and interesting places, making it an ideal place to set a series of books featuring a fiery redhead with a complicated family life. Here are some of the inspirations for other places in the Raegan O'Rourke Mysteries series (in no particular order):

The Fortress (all 3 books)

The longtime home of the nefarious Faust family, the Fortress is loosely based on the former Kline Sanatorium -- Anoka's first hospital, now a historic landmark. Imagine this lovely building clad in dark gray granite, and that's basically the Fortress.


Beananza (Angel Baby & Fool's Gold)

River Junction's happening coffee shop, which becomes a favorite of Raegan's, was actually inspired by two places:

Avant Garden, Anoka


Wise Acre Eatery, Minneapolis

Note that Wise Acre Eatery is located in the same Minneapolis neighborhood as the home of Liam O'Rourke (Raegan's dad) - known as Tangletown.

Alex Blackett's house (Angel Baby)

There's a fantastic and rather mysterious old house on the eastern edge of Anoka that intrigues me, but I don't know its full history. It was built in 1895 in the Federalist style, and I can only guess it was the original farmhouse in the area. Someday I'll get over to the historical society and look it up.

Of course, Anoka wasn't the only source of inspiration for places in my books. I've visited so many cool places and seen so many cool things on my travels; and sometimes they make it into my books too.

Mia Masterson's house (Angel Baby)

Mia lived in a converted carriage house next to Alex Blackett's house. The home shown above doesn't have a carriage house, but my bestie Sarah lived in one in Kansas City. I found it charming, and it served as the basis for Mia's little house.


Kabetogama County Government Center (The Thirteenth Cabin)

In Raegan's first adventure, she meets Sheriff Chad Overton in a county government center originally built by the Works Progress Administration in fictional Agate Falls, Minnesota. This is a nod to all the WPA-commissioned structures that still dot the Minnesota landscape eighty years later, and based on the Goodhue County Government Center in Red Wing, Minnesota.

The Ainsley Mansion (all 3 books)

My bestie Kulani and I took an amazing trip to Maine back in 2019, and during a fun visit to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, we stumbled across the fascinating ruins of the Goddard Mansion. This served as the loose inspiration for Raegan's family's ancestral home.

I'm glad to say that the Ainsley Mansion is in much better condition than the Goddard Mansion; it still has its roof!

If you haven't noticed by now, the concept of place is very important to me and you'll see that reflected in my books. The concept of time is another important element I like to explore. These things together form the core, the foundation, of our lives and our understanding of the human condition.

We look back to move forward.

Haven't had a chance to get to know Raegan yet? Check her out here! Her third adventure, Fool's Gold, is coming your way September 10, 2024.

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