I’m a city girl—born and raised in San Antonio—but lately I’ve been on a small-town contemporary reading kick. I’ve read Barbara Freethy’s first Angels Bay book, Suddenly One Summer, and Susan Wiggs’s Summer at Willow Lake, Toni Blake’s One Reckless Summer and now Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne. (Notice something else similar about all those books? Hey, I’m a teacher, summer is my favorite time of year!) I’m a bit behind on Robyn Carr’s Virgin River books and Meg Benjamin’s Konigsburg series, but I love those books, too.
So what is the appeal of the small-town romance? Here’s what I think. Feel free to add your own.
1) A slower pace. I know I’m not alone in running dawn-to-dusk during the school year. I’ve been known to hit the grocery store at 6 AM before heading to school, squeezing in as many errands as I can after, then coming home, cooking a healthy dinner, keeping house and finding time to write! But in small-town stories, there doesn’t seem to be this urgency. Yes, the characters keep busy and have responsibilities, but everything is calmer. No rush-hour traffic. No business meetings that run late. No crowds at the grocery store (unless they’re there to gossip!)
2) Traditions. My city has traditions, too. We have Fiesta and parades and fireworks on the Fourth (except this year—danged drought!) But people don’t feel as compelled to be a part of them as characters in small-town romances do. For instance, in the book I’m reading now, Blackberry Summer, the elementary school puts on a Spring Fling production, and most of the town goes. Doesn’t that sound cool? It reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie books, where they’d have the spelling bees and the singing school and other things that everyone in the town was a part of.
3) Everybody knows your name. This can cause lots of delicious tension in a small-town romance, especially when the hero and heroine are just getting started. Do they approve? Disapprove? Other people are invested in the relationship. It’s not a book, but I love the show Gilmore Girls. When Lorelei finally slept with Luke, and came downstairs to the diner wearing his shirt, then wondered why no one in town was talking about it…what a neat twist to the nosy neighbor trope!
4) Family. I come from a close-knit family, but it’s small. I love to read about family dynamics in small-town romances, because they seem to play a large part. Even if the characters don’t have a large family by relation, they have close neighbors or other people who love them and want their happiness.
5) Idyllic settings. Small towns are generally born out of an author’s imagination, so they can be set on the California coast or in a small town in the Rockies or on a lake in Ohio. The characters can make a sustainable living running a bead store or an art gallery or a sporting goods store while living in this beautiful place.
So what do you think the appeal of the small town romance is? What are some of your favorites, and why?
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