Book Review: Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

where the fire falls karen Barnett book review

The synopsis in the back of the book: 

Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as "pervaded with divine light."

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford fashioned her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region's wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. 

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he's faced with the choice of becoming a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? 

As Clark helps open Olivia's eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park's story as its vistas-- a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

  • Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
  • Will Be Published: 06/05/2018
  • Pages: 352
  • Goodreads Rating: 4.38
where the fire falls by karen barnett book review
It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Why I Chose This Book

When I was sent this book I was immediately excited to read more about Yosemite, especially during the roaring 20s. I haven't read too many Christian books set during the 20s.

First Initial Thoughts

First off, how gorgeous is this cover? I have always wanted to visit Yosemite. It's a photographer's dream! 

Olivia is a young artist that struggles to make a living. During one of her gallery openings, Olivia finds out she is hired by Scenic magazine to paint images of Yosemite - all expenses paid. During that evening as well, a wealthy couple, Sophie and Marcus Vanderbilt, take note of her talent. Sophie wants her portrait to be painted. Olivia during this time put up a front to portray herself as a wealthy artist. I really felt bad for her at this moment, because when everyone was talking, everyone was kind of rude, and in a way condescending. 

Clark is a man that has escaped from his past. He used to be a pastor but because of certain circumstances, he is a ranger in Yosemite. He was a kind and gentle but also rugged and adventurous.  

At first Olivia kind of bugged me, I am not sure why but her attitude I think was what was bugging me. She was unwilling to go outside of the hotel and venture into nature (which the reader finds out the real reason why) to paint. She also does it to fit in better with the wealthy Vanderbilt couple. I think this bugged me as an artist myself because - you are not going to get the best of pictures by sitting on the porch (sorry - not sorry). Olivia does end up deciding to venture into the trails, being persuaded by Clark. 

Photo via  Vintage Everyday


I love nature and Karen brought out the beauty of Yosemite so well. I have never been to the park but I could easily imagine what it looks like. It was also interesting to learn what the park was like in the 20s. It reminded me of all-inclusive resorts for the wealthy. This book also made me miss the mountains more! 

Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days... Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.
— John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra

Final Thoughts

The hotels mentioned in the book are real places. They are now called The Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Half Dome Village. If I could afford to stay at the first one, I would! It just looks breathtaking! 

There were points in the story that were just hilarious. When the Vanderbilt's go with Olivia and Clark on the trails their reactions were priceless. I don't think they spent more than one day out in the wilderness! Marcus, ugh he just needed to go. I did not trust him from the start. Sophie however, was a gem. She was so sweet towards Olivia and was so excited to get her portrait painted. She kind of reminded me of those young naive actresses. 

Clark and Olivia thought vastly different were the same in so many ways. They both came from a past that they want to hide. Their bickering was cute at the beginning. You could tell there was some kind of attraction at the start. I just loved these two- such a sweet slow burning romance!

What I appreciated about this story, it was more than just a romance. There was also a mystery, adventure, art, parties, friendship, and so much more! This book also just makes me want to go out in nature and pursue my artistic talent more (I am a hobby photographer). A beautiful inspiring story to inspire us to follow our passions and dreams. 

Would I Recommend? 

Yes! I think this would be a great book to read outside in the sunshine. It will help set the mood of the book. 



You can pre-order the book (comes out tomorrow!) ---> HERE

Have you ever visited Yosemite? Share your experiences in the comments! 

the caffeinated bibliophile

Note: I was provided this book by WaterBrook & Multnomah to review. All opinions are my own.