posted on May 13, 2020 by Sarah Ballance

Romance is Everywhere…Even at the Asylum

Giveaway noted at the end

After twenty-one years, two months, and twenty-one days of marriage, my husband had finally had enough. He hauled me off to an asylum.

I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t want to go. In fact, I would say it was entirely my idea, which is not to say he hasn’t considered taking me to an asylum, but rather that if he did so on his own accord, he’d chose one that was still accepting patients. Alas, this one, The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, is only open for tours. It was creepy, it smelled funny, the halls echoed with age and sorrow.

You guys, it was perfect.

My husband and I have traveled extensively (like, literally over 48,000 miles in the car road-tripping together and still speaking) and oddly, have always had perfect weather at our destinations. The day we arrived at the asylum, however, thunder rumbled. Low storm clouds make for some pretty awesome pictures of that classic sprawling batwing facade, but—and maybe it’s just me—walking into a widely-considered haunted building, largely empty and falling into disrepair, while thunder groaned and torrential rain made the walls wet with sullen tears felt a bit too B-horror for me. Don’t get me wrong—I loved it—but if ever I expected to find myself on the evening news, it was then.

Now, I’ve trudged through more historic buildings than I can remember, but walking into that asylum left me feeling hot and feverish (no worries—this was a couple of years ago, back before hot flashes left public favor). This excited me. Ghosts, I thought. My husband surely saw the anticipatory light in my eyes when he rolled his, but whatever. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, so I’m going to one day haunt him just to get in that final told ya so, but I digress.

We both enjoy history, so when I booked the tour I chose the historical one—a fortuitous choice for two reasons. One, the paranormal group that day was more like a made-for-TV frat party: large, boisterous, and borderline obnoxious. Two, my husband and I ended up doing most of our tour solo with the guide, which left us wandering the upper floors alone. The only light filtered through dirty, aged windows, and with the storm churning outside, there wasn’t much of it. Water dripped aimlessly, particularly on the top floor, where I most vividly remember ducking from one wing to the next through these mini corridors that connected sections of the sprawling building. The overall effect was claustrophobic. Endlessly long hallways, and the only way out was through a little door like you’d find on a baseboard in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

I say this all in jest, but believe me when I admit I was uncharacteristically on edge. So much so that when a bunch of birds took off right above my head—yes, indoors—I almost had a heart attack. (My husband laughed. Y’all know he did.) In case you hadn’t guessed, the sudden flapping of wings by several perturbed avians in a long, vacant building make a tremendous amount of noise.

Oddly, that wasn’t the most disconcerting moment of the trip.

We usually travel with our six kids and pull an RV, but we didn’t need to sleep ten. So I had the bright idea to take the back seats out of our rather large SUV, rent a tent site, and sleep in the car. Well, just imagine the look on the face of this poor woman at the campground as we rolled in, reeking of stale asylum air, asking for a tent site during a steady rain and flash flood warning. She took our $16, though (how’s that for overnight accommodations?) and directed us to the tent sites.

Y’all, we had to drive through running water to get it. My husband is smart with this stuff, so after giving me a healthy side eye, he found a safe spot to park. It was, of course, approximately seventeen miles from the bathrooms, and also utterly isolated. Which is how we came to spend a chilly night on the side of a mountain in rural West Virginia, flood waters rushing gaily past, sky black as pitch, serenaded by odd creature noises from outside the *very locked* car.

And you guys, it was fabulous.

Anyone can pull off flowers and candlelight and rose petals on the beach. Find yourself a person who will tolerate (ahem) or make awesome a trip like this, and you’ve got the HEA to beat all HEAs…to say nothing of the the glorious gift of a romance that can burn fiercely absolutely anywhere.

Even within the damp halls of a rain-soaked asylum.

One person who comments will win a $10 Amazon gift card!


Finding Mr. Right Next Door

For Lexi Dean, burning down her kitchen was disaster enough. Agreeing to move in next door with her totally off-limits best friend, Matt Freeman, until her house is livable again?

Utter madness.

They’ve always been close, but this is ridiculous. If she’s not bumping into him at the refrigerator, he’s at the front door giving her date the third degree. And slipping between his borrowed sheets? That’s about as distracting as listening to his shower run, because suddenly all she can think about is rivulets of water cascading down is spectacular body—the one he seems to be going out of his way to make sure she notices.

Not that it matters. He can flaunt his firefighter abs around her all he wants. They already share everything—their jobs, their friends, their backyard, even their dog—and that means only one thing: Lexi is not going to risk losing any of it by dipping a single toe in the temptation that is Matt Freeman.

Lexi may not know how to handle a fire extinguisher, but this is one fire that just might burn them both if they’re not careful…



Sarah Ballance

Sarah Ballance

Sarah and her husband of what he calls "many long, long years" live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they're asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. As it turns out, her characters aren't much better than the kids, but nevertheless, you'll find her writing sexy contemporary romance for Entangled Publishing until they throw her out. To learn more, visit

59 thoughts on “Romance is Everywhere…Even at the Asylum”

  1. Sounds likeyou had a very magical time touring the asylum! That was so thoughtful of your husband to plan it. The storyline in your book sounds interesting and I’d enjoy reading it. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Giveaway.

    1. Thank you, and thanks for commenting, Jeanne!

  2. Avatar Taylor R Williams says:

    What a great time – love exploring old buildings, how fun that it was a tour. Thank you for the fun page and the contest.

    1. I *need* to go back for the paranormal tour! 😀 Thanks for commenting, Taylor!

  3. Avatar Taylor R Williams says:

    What a great experience – love exploring old buildings, how fun that it was a tour. Thank you for the fun page and the contest.

  4. Avatar Lynn Brown says:

    I think it would be interesting to go through an asylum. Book sounds good.

    1. I want to see them ALL now, lol! Thanks for commenting, Lynn!

  5. Avatar Mary says:

    What a great blog post! As a traveler myself, I totally appreciate that feeling of anticipation and adventure!

    1. Exactly, Mary! I love that feeling. It’s around every corner and bend in the road. *happy sigh*

  6. Avatar Patricia Shea-Samul says:

    I love going to old, abandoned buildings. Always hoping I’ll meet a ghost!

    1. SAME! It was a hot muggy day and at one point I suddenly got so, so cold. A bit cliche that it was at the morgue, but it wasn’t just a chill. It was painfully cold. I really want to believe there was something there!

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    What an experience!

    1. It really was! Thanks for commenting, Chris!

  8. Avatar Shannon Monahan says:

    Several asylum’s are said to be haunted!So if you went at night it would be extra exciting!

    1. They do an overnight paranormal visit, and we are planning to go back for it! I don’t know if that stuff is on hold right now, but our plan when we talked about it was to wait for warmer weather. I’m all for ghosts, but not so much freezing to death in that gaping block of concrete. 😀

  9. Avatar Melissa Borsey says:

    That sounds like one crazy trip, you are both very brave and adventurous! Thank you for sharing!

    1. We’re up for anything…once. 😀 That, probably not to the amusement of my husband, turned into me wanting to hit up a few others nearby. I’ve got my eye on Waverly Hills next!

  10. Avatar Rhonda Blotzer says:

    I love history and going through old buildings. You can feel the presence of the past.

    1. You absolutely can! It’s always surreal, to walk the same ground. Thanks for commenting, Rhonda!

  11. Avatar gamistress66 says:

    ah, the things folks do for love. glad you enjoyed it.

    1. It sure never gets old when you’re up for anything! Thanks for commenting. 😀

  12. Avatar Jessica says:

    This one isn’t too far from where I live. They do night tours at Halloween. Scary!

    1. I cannot WAIT to do the haunted house! We haven’t yet been able to get back for that, but one of these years I am *SO* there! 😀

  13. Avatar Karyn Koehler says:

    I am a photographer and old building are the best to take photos of. Love the unique structures and feeling from the buildings. So awesome 🙂

    1. They really are! I have hundreds of pictures to sort through. I think I’ve been putting it off because I want to hold onto the hope of having caught something other than architecture, lol. 😀

  14. Avatar bn100 says:

    sounds fun

    1. It really was! Thanks for commenting. 😀

  15. Avatar Ginny says:

    Are you sure the look on the woman’s face at the camp site wasn’t due to anything that followed you both back from the asylum? Anything that was intrigued by the love so obvious between you two? 😉👻😱:D

    1. Now THAT is a fun thought! Although I guess if that’s the case it was friendly enough, seeing as how we weren’t washed off the mountain, lol.

  16. Avatar Jessica Zeidan says:

    Sounds like a good book will definitely have to check it out!

    1. Thank you, Jessica!

  17. Avatar JW says:

    thanks for posting

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  18. Avatar Lynette Locklear says:

    Sounds exactly like something me and my husband would do.
    I live in NC, I will be looking up the asylum.

    1. You can probably make a 1.5 – 2 day trip out of TALA from NC, depending on where in NC. We left home early, did an afternoon tour, spent the night locally, then drove home the next morning. We’re headed west to KY to Waverly Hills next. That one might be closer to you. I WANT TO SEE THEM ALL! LOL.

  19. Avatar Renee Olichwier says:

    Wow!! I have to admit to being a tad jealous. It sounds so exciting. Maybe one day I can do that too.

    1. It’s pretty surprising how many of these shuttered asylums there are, especially on the eastern half of the country. Once I started looking I quickly had a long list of travel plans. 😀 Hopefully there’s one near you, because it’s a memorable experience!

  20. Avatar Barb Nickelsen says:

    My sister and I stayed at the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, AZ a couple years ago and it was very creepy. We really did experience some weird phenomena!

    1. I would *love* to stay there! And you actually had experiences, which is GOLD. How awesome!

  21. Avatar Kim says:

    Interesting story. I’m looking forward to reading this book. I’ve been patiently, not so patiently waiting.

    1. LOL, SAME! Thank you, Kim!

  22. Avatar Kate Kenyon says:

    Nothing like a partner who supports you!!

  23. Avatar Kate Kenyon says:

    Nothing like a supportive partner! Sounds like a fun trip!

    1. It was. He’s definitely the best! 😀 Thanks for commenting!

  24. Avatar Cheryl Stiles says:

    Crazy love!

    1. It’s the best kind! 😀 Thanks for commenting, Cheryl!

  25. Avatar Lisa Kostoff says:

    I would love this! Even if I had to sleep in a tent! Sounds great.

    1. In the broad light of day, I’d be totally down for a tent. In the dark, I was afraid the car doors weren’t locked enough, lol! (I know that’s not a thing, but bears are crafty. *shudder*)

  26. Avatar Tina Alicea says:

    Such a cool story. Thanks for sharing. I never get to do adventurous stuff like this but sounds like so much fun in a weird spooky kinda way. Lol But especially great that you have a husband that will do adventurous things with you.❤

    1. My husband admittedly puts up with a LOT. I can’t seem to sit still. I LOVE hitting the road for new adventures and explorations. My saving grace (for him) is that I favor National Parks, historical sites, and other non-urban adventures. He does not like big cities or traffic, so staying off the beaten path works for us both. 😀

  27. Avatar Bernice Kennedy says:

    This sounds like a great experience. I am intrigued by the storyline. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Bernice!

  28. Avatar Sabrina Shields says:

    Love this story! My husband and I are currently preparing to purchase and start traveling in an RV so I’m always excited to hear about how people like traveling that way.

    1. RV life is AMAZING. Over a five year period (on several trips, not one long one) we took our six kids to 48 US states and parts of Canada, hitting dozens of National Parks and historical landmarks, all five Great Lakes, both oceans, the Gulf, and logging over 45,000 miles. I had to be talked into the RV part, but it was the *best* decision. It’s been about three years since we hit state #48 and STILL not a week goes by that I don’t hear the kids talking or laughing about something that happened on one of our trips! Feel free to email me if you’d like to talk travel, and CONGRATULATIONS! You’re going to have an amazing time!

  29. Thank you all for your comments! I almost think the asylums need to start arranging romantic weekends for couples, LOL. 😀 Anyway, I put your names in a random drawing, one entry per person, and the winner of the $10 Amazon GC is Kate Kenyon. I’ll be in touch, Kate, and thank you all again for hanging out with me at the asylum! I hope those of you tempted by Finding Mr. Right Next Door will love it! (I have to admit, I’m an Elsie in the making. My poor husband…)

  30. Avatar flchen1 says:

    Just wanted to say WOW, Sarah! What a trip! Congrats on the new release, and thanks for sharing about such an incredible time. You and your husband are living the life!

    1. Thank you! This book took its sweet time, but it was so worth it. 😀 And my poor husband…we actually traveled the entire country with him rarely exactly sure of where we were headed. I always ran the itinerary by him ahead of a given trip, but he didn’t need to remember it because I am the details person. So other than the fact that we’ve crossed the country so many times now that he could probably do it in his sleep (*sheepish grin*) most of our travel days involved waking up in a place we hadn’t seen before (because we parked in the dark, we never knew what the view entailed) and standing in awe of where we’ve ended up (most notably, the time we accidentally spent the night in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and woke in the badlands, the morning we woke up in Vail, CO in the SNOW, and the night we spent on the beach off the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon). He rarely asks anything more than how many miles we need to go that day, and I love that about him. He literally just drives where I tell him to go, and he’s as enthusiastic (after his coffee) as I am about every mile and destination. He’s the BEST! (And I’m probably his nightmare, LOL.)

  31. Avatar Glenda Hefty says:

    I truly enjoyed reading about your experience touring the asylum. You definitely should return for the paranormal version and tell us all about it! These days I experience everything vicariously, mostly through books. I enjoy mostly paranormal at the moment.

    1. Thank you, Glenda! My husband said if we go to the overnight thing I’ll probably end up with something attached to me (and he does not believe in ghosts) that will make me even harder to live with than I am now. 😀 But that paranormal visit is definitely on the list, and I’m SO looking forward to it!

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