Tragedy, romance — and Colorado scenery

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The recently published “Journey to Sand Castle” by Leslee Breene of Englewood actually describes several journeys — that interweave three broken lives.

First-grade teacher Tess Cameron, recovering from a difficult divorce, was teaching in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. As the book opens, she is helping out in her school, which has become a shelter.

Breene, a member of Colorado Romance Writers, and active in the Women Writing the West (WWW) organization, is a Denver native. She also writes short fiction, winning a WWW second place in 2012 for her story, “Pueblo Dancer.” She says she hopes to publish a collection of short stories in the future.

She attended the University of Denver, received a Denver Fashion Group Scholarship and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. For several years, she worked in San Francisco as a newspaper fashion illustrator.

Her new book follows “Leadville Lady” (2006); “Hearts on the Wind” (2008); and “Starlight Rescue” (2011). When she's not writing, she enjoys scouting in the Rockies for book settings with her husband, and delving into area history. She enjoys meeting with book club groups to talk about her writing.

Her story continues as Tess Cameron, who had determined to be carefree, commits instead to caring for a beautiful little biracial orphan named Crystal, daughter of a fellow teacher who perished.

She hopes to reunite the child with a grandfather in the San Luis Valley, in Sand Castle, who had been estranged from the child's mother. He initially shows racial prejudice and wants nothing to do with her and his slow change is another journey.

Breene develops an interesting character in the grandfather and includes nice details about that beautiful, historic part of Colorado — complete with the sounds of a flight of sandhill cranes one evening.

Tess takes a cooking and office job with a widowed outfitter, Grant Wilder, to support herself and Crystal — and the reader can predict where that will lead. But his and Tess' emotional journeys are thoughtfully recorded en route, including details of day-to-day ranch life, local people, scenic landscapes, horses and a violent snowstorm.

Information about the author is at: lesleebreene.com.