One of the perks of reviewing is the sneak peek factor. Sometimes the peek comes even before the book is written, as was the case when best-selling author Debbie Macomber came to our state to research her North Dakota-based trilogy.

Dakota reviewers and readers alike expect writers to walk the canyons as North Dakota-born author Louis L'Amour once described his research process. So Macomber and I talked for hours about everything from crops and big sky sunsets to hometown heroes before she continued on her way. The first book in the series is Dakota Born (Dh Audio, cassette, $9.99, 155204212X). The story takes place in Buffalo Valley, a rural community linked to North Dakota's landscape and the agricultural economy. As the ranchers and farmers struggle to survive, so does the town. The community desperately needs a teacher to keep its school alive, and newcomer Lindsay Snyder is looking for some purpose in her life. Returning to see her grandparents' home, Lindsay decides to stay and teach in the local high school. In the process, she learns about herself and her heritage. Rancher Gage Sinclair distrusts her motives and his own attraction to her. Like the townspeople, Lindsay and Gage must learn to trust each other if they are to build a thriving relationship.

Macomber's heartwarming stories of ordinary people struggling against extraordinary challenges live up to the formidable task of walking the canyons. Sandy Huseby writes from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and Nevis, Minnesota. She is online at

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