Below Northern Lights is LIVE!

Grab Your Copy Today!

Here’s what readers are saying:

“With its Scottish setting, a great hero & heroine and awesome side characters, this book kept me flipping the pages, waiting to see how it’d all turn out, and at the end, I was left with a big smile on my face.” — Cindi Madsen, USA Today Bestselling author

“Beneath Wandering Stars is one of my favorite contemporary reads of ALL TIME. To say my hopes for Below Northern Lights were high is putting it mildly. I am happy to report that Below Northern Lights didn’t just meet my expectations. It exceeded them on every score.” –– YA author and blogger

“In Below Northern Lights, Cowles recaptures the emotional weight of a family in crisis and the sharp pain and bittersweet realizations of young people coming of age…tender, satisfying, and entirely worth the read!” Evangeline Denmark, author of CURIO

“Below Northern Lights is a great story of finding yourself and rediscovering what you’re capable of. It’s a great story of resilience, perseverance, and hope.” — blogger, Life of a Literary Nerd 

20 YA Travel/Road Trip Novels to Satisfy Your Wanderlust (& How to WIN One of Your Choice!)

Perhaps it’s winter where you are. Perhaps you are wishing you could flee the cold, the snow, and the already-annoying renditions of “Jingle Bells.” I can’t give you an all-expenses-paid vacation (sadly), but I can help you escape to exotic lands and the open road with these contemporary YA novels, all of which have international settings or road trip plots.

Enter the YA Wanderlust Giveaway — the winner will receive a Kindle eBook gift (via Amazon) of any of the following titles (you choose!):

  1. Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch 

A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.



  1. Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe. A romantic and charming YA debut perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jenny Han.



  1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines.


  1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna can’t wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?


  1. Below Northern Lights by Ashlee Cowles (yes, that’s me)

Nineteen-year-old war veteran Lucas Santiago has a goal–to kiss a girl below Northern Lights–but that dream was blown up with the rest of his life. Lucas is grappling with the knowledge that he’ll never walk again when he learns his best friend, Seth, hasn’t returned from his solo trek through Scotland. Lucas and his sister, Gabi, decide to go after him, but one detour Lucas doesn’t plan on is meeting Skye—a young British veteran with a traumatic past of her own. The trio sets off on a road trip to search for Seth in the Scottish Highlands, where it becomes clear to Lucas that if he ever hopes to win the heart of an irresistible force like Skye, he’ll need to resurrect the fearless fighter he used to be. He’s falling hard for Skye, but can he again fall in love with life?


  1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Ginny Blackstone never thought she’d spend her summer vacation backpacking across Europe. But that was before she received the first little blue envelope from Aunt Peg.

This letter was different from Peg’s usual letters for two reasons:

  1. Peg had been dead for three months.
  2. The letter included $1000 cash for a passport and a plane ticket.


  1. Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

Going all the way to England for college–to Oxford, no less–would be exciting enough. But no sooner does Evie set foot on English soil than she falls for a boy who turns out to be a real prince–in fact, second in line to the throne of England. Edmund is wonderful, even though loving him can be a royal pain, from the demands of his family to the stuck-up aristocrat who thinks she should be the one to win Edmund’s heart. All that is swept aside, however, when the riddle of Evie’s past surfaces, and the new couple becomes obsessed with figuring out who the real Evie is, with the growing suspicion that the truth will be a shocker.


  1. The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

Seventeen-year-old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight. That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid.


  1. Girl Off the Grid by Kenzie Hart

NYC fashion blogger, Camille Caldwell, gets offered a dream job by her favorite magazine. They’re going to send her on an all-expenses paid eco-trip to Costa Rica. She doesn’t know what that means, but she assumes she’ll wear fabulous clothes, sip Piña Coladas on the beach, and have her photo taken “out in nature.” When Camille meet Adam Lloyd, a wildlife photographer, their feelings are mutual—they hate each other. Can these two stop fighting long enough to complete their assignment?


  1. And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz

Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather.


  1. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. Currently mad at each other. About to travel around Europe. Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship-it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun.

  1. Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles Beneath Wandering Stars

After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend–a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise?

  1. The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

Frannie and Louis met online when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face, and they don’t know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them really. Things just seem to mysteriously disappear. When they each receive surprising news in the mail, they set off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other.


  1. Just One Day by Gayle Forman


Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.


  1. Amy and Rodger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson


Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her dad recently died in a car accident, and her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut—just in time for Amy’s senior year. To escape from it all, Amy embarks on a road trip, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining her is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, but her feelings for Roger develop as the miles roll by….


  1. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev’s band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she’s abandoning their plans – and Colby – to start college in the fall. But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev’s already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what’s next?


  1. When in Rome by Lena Mae Hill

Cynthia and Nick are best friends, and she’s intent on keeping it that way. She’s always wanted a BFF, and she’s not about to compromise their friendship by doing anything silly, even if they are studying abroad in the romantic city of Rome together. Cynthia is there to see the world and experience all it has to offer, including boys.



  1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.


  1. In Honor by Jessi Kirbi

Three days after learning of her brother Finn’s death, Honor receives his last letter from Iraq. Devastated, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously sets off to California to fulfill it. At the last minute, she’s joined by Rusty, Finn’s former best friend. Rusty is the last person Honor wants to be with—he’s cocky and obnoxious, just like Honor remembers, and she hasn’t forgiven him for turning his back on Finn when he enlisted. But as they cover the dusty miles together in Finn’s beloved 1967 Chevy Impala, long-held resentments begin to fade, and Honor and Rusty struggle to come to terms with the loss they share


  1. Mosquitoland by David Arnold

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way.


Don’t leave yet! Did you enter the giveaway to win a Wanderlust YA eBook of your choice?

And if you enjoy Contemporary YA with travel, adventure, and romance, join by Book Club and get free books from me for life!


The Camino Continues!

I’m excited to share the cover of BELOW NORTHERN LIGHTS, coming November 2017! Isn’t it pretty? 🙂

As a spin-off companion to Beneath Wandering Stars (meaning it can stand on its own and you don’t necessarily need to read the first book to “get it”), BELOW NORTHERN LIGHTS follows Gabi, Seth, and Lucas’s adventures along a new pilgrimage route…in the Scottish Highlands! Here’s the synopsis:

Nineteen-year-old war veteran Lucas Santiago is grappling with the knowledge that he’ll never walk again when he learns his best friend, Seth, hasn’t returned from his solo trek through Scotland. If Seth doesn’t report back soon, he’s risking an AWOL charge that could end his military career.

Lucas has no desire to leave the house, let alone brave a foreign country in a wheelchair, following bizarre clues Seth left behind. But Lucas’s sister, Gabi—who has feelings for Seth—won’t take no for an answer. The one thing Lucas never expects when he agrees to Gabi’s harebrained scheme is meeting Skye, a young British veteran with a traumatic past of her own. Skye also has unwavering confidence and a thirst for adventure—qualities Lucas sorely lacks as he struggles to adjust to his new life.

The trio sets off on a road trip to search for Seth in the Scottish Highlands, where it becomes clear to Lucas that if he ever hopes to win the heart of an irresistible force like Skye, he’ll need to resurrect the fearless fighter he used to be. He’s falling hard for Skye, but can he again fall in love with life?

The Ultimate Pilgrimage

I’m fortunate, in that without being wealthy (or anywhere close), I’ve managed to do quite a bit of traveling, thanks to a combination of tax payer dollars (i.e. growing up in the U.S. military), school scholarships, and a general awareness of budget travel options and how to find good deals.

It dawned on me the other day that I’ve visited some of the most of the important pilgrimage sites of the Western world (this is what you do when you double major in history and religion): the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the setting for my debut novel, Beneath Wandering Stars); Rome, Italy; Lindisfarne, England; Constantinople/Istanbul in Turkey.

So what does one give such a travel geek for Christmas?

Why, the icing on the cake: a trip to the Holy Land, of course!

As a Christmas/Anniversary/Last Pre-Baby Adventure, my wonderful husband planned a surprise visit to Israel, perhaps the most important pilgrimage site of all and a fascinating part of the world where East meets West. ‘Adventure’ is exactly the right word. There’s nothing like traveling to Bethlehem when pregnant (so poignant, right?) only for your tour bus to hit a pole hanging off a cement mixer, shattering your window into a million pieces that cascade all over your pregnant body (not to worry – amazingly, I didn’t get a scratch)! Out of all 50 people on that bus, I chose the worst possible seat. Maybe I should have followed Mary’s example and taken a donkey.

Besides that incident, it was a safe, beautiful, and powerful experience, as you can see below.









Favorite Christmas Reads

The holiday season is the perfect time to curl up by the fire with a good book. It’s also a time of nostalgia, where I find myself returning to old favorites again and again. Here are a few of my favorite books to read around Christmas…what are some of yours?

icechildThe Ice Child by Evangeline Denmark

A brand new addition to my holiday reading list, this YA novelette has everything you could want in a winter story — magic, atmosphere, and a touching romance. Read my full review here.




littlewomenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

One of those childhood classics you keep reading the rest of your life. I love the 1994 film adaptation as well — the perfect movie to watch while baking Christmas cookies.




the-lord-of-the-rings-book-coverThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m not sure if other people feel the urge to read these books again around the holidays, but I do — probably because my first date with my husband was to go see the first LOTR movie when it came out in December 2001. 🙂



achristmascarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Christmas classic. I love this story more and more each time I read it.




Now grab a mug of eggnog or hot chocolate and get reading! Merry Christmas!

October Reads


“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

~Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables

Once again, Anne sums it up perfectly. I love October.  Changing leaves, spiced cider, Halloween–what’s not to love? And for the past few years, October has been one of those months where I always seem to receive some good news. It’s also a time when I’m in the mood for atmospheric books with a darker edge. This month I’ve been re-visiting one of my favorite Ray Bradbury novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I found along with Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road while perusing my favorite local bookstore. What have you been reading this October?