One of the things I had to decide when starting this was where exactly the fictional Santa Elena was. My best guess, based on a few tidbits gleaned from the series, is somewhere between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. Any descriptions of the landscape, flora and fauna, etc., are based on what it actually looks like here, not what it looked like where the show was filmed in Spain posing as California.
As a native of this beautiful part of the state, I hope I'm able to bring a little taste of my home, and Tessa's, to the reader.
Now, a synopsis of the TV show, if you aren't familiar:
The really short version: imagine if Zorro were a woman.
Okay, you need more detail?
From TV.com: In 1817, Tessa Alvarado lives by day in Southern California as a young noblewoman of wealth. At night she is the Queen of Swords, a masked protector who uses whip and sword to punish evil. She is guided by her own unnatural dreams and by the Tarot prophecy of her governess and confidante Marta, a gypsy woman with mystical powers.
Maria Teresa Alvarado: ‘Tessa’ was born in California, the daughter of a wealthy Don. Sent to Spain at the age of twelve to be properly educated, she eventually took up fencing, training with a renowned swordsman. After learning of the death of her father, she and her servant Marta, return to Santa Elena. Once there, she learns her father’s death was no accident, and sets out to find those responsible. She takes on the secret persona of the Queen of Swords, who attempts to bring justice to the downtrodden. To protect her secret identity, Tessa is forced to act the spoiled, not terribly bright, aristocrat. She is smitten with Dr. Helm, but he only sees her as the vapid young Dona.
Marta: Tessa’s gypsy servant/governess. She practically raised Tessa, and followed her back to California. She has given up a life of her own to care for the motherless girl.
Colonel Luis Ramirez Montoya: the military governor of the Santa Elena Pueblo. The son of a mid-level bureaucrat and a minor noblewoman, he has no use for the wealthy Dons he ostensibly answers to. He was instrumental in the murder of Tessa’s father, though for what specific reason he targeted him, is never actually revealed in the short time the show was on the air.
Doctor Robert Helm: an Englishmen who serves as the doctor to Santa Elena. He’s rather a prized coup to Montoya, though that didn’t stop him from ordering the Doctor killed in the last episode when he became a little too troublesome. Helm served in the Peninsular Wars, resigning his commission as an officer and becoming a doctor when the war took its toll on him. He would seem to suffer from what we’d call today, post-traumatic stress disorder. He is half in love with the Queen, but thinks Tessa is a spoiled dilettante.
Captain Marcus Grisham: Montoya’s Captain of the Guard, a disgraced America military sergeant. He saw action in the War of 1812, and during that conflict, killed his commanding officer. Montoya is well aware of Grisham’s past, and uses that knowledge to good advantage. He is also the lover of Vera Hidalgo.
Vera Hidalgo: the much younger wife of one of the wealthiest Don’s, Gaspar Hidalgo. While she is very fond of her husband, she carries on an affair with the young, handsome Captain Grisham. She is also a friend of Tessa’s.