My Favourite Holiday: Clifftop hideaway offers author Michelle Richmond a Golden State escape

MICHELLE RICHMOND is a bestselling American author.

The award-winning The Girl In The Fall-Away Dress is just one of her many acclaimed books.

Her latest, The Marriage Pact (Michael Joseph/Penguin £12.99), a psychological thriller about a newly-wed couple, is just out.

Michelle lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Michelle Richmond

IF you drive north on Highway One along the California coast, past the rough beach where the mouth of the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean, you come to a long, winding stretch of highway.

It’s as terrifying as it is beautiful, with the cliffs dropping abruptly to the sea.

For the last seven years, my husband and I have been making this drive at least once a year with our son.

The destination is The Sea Ranch, a planned community known not only for its seclusion, but also its nature-inspired architecture.

We rent a house – a different one every time – and we spend four or five days walking the densely wooded paths, swimming in one of the three outdoor heated pools, taking the sauna, and playing tennis.

It’s a health vacation for people who don’t do CrossFit or even yoga, a resort for people who prefer silence to socialising.

The Sea Ranch is not a sunny vacation. Don’t think surfers and bikinis, the smell of cookouts and suntan lotion. Think fog – lots of it –and the scent of eucalyptus.

Think whale-watching from your living room window, taking the hot tub under the stars. And lining up just after dawn at the community’s only bakery, Two Fish, for hot scones, croissants, and pastries that rival any you’ll find in the food mecca of San Francisco.

It’s not only a reprieve from the city, but also, in a year like this, from California’s scorching, record-breaking heat. When the hours stretch out, after we’ve had our fill of swimming, hiking, tennis, and books, I sit out on the deck with a blanket and a cup of coffee, and I write.

That’s how The Sea Ranch came to figure in a pivotal scene in my new novel, The Marriage Pact. Jake and Alice, tormented by a secretive, cult-like organisation called The Pact, flee to Sea Ranch to escape.

That’s what one does at The Sea Ranch: one escapes. When Jake turns to Alice and says, “We could live here. We could sell everything, disappear,” it’s easy for me to imagine.

Because my husband and I have that very conversation every time we come to Sea Ranch.

One day, I swear, we’re going to make it happen.

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