The first romance novel I remember reading is DARK PRINCE by Christine Feehan. Christine Feehan’s world of vampires, Carpathians, and magic blew my mind and got me hooked on paranormal romance. Next up, Victoria Alexander, Lisa Kleypas, and Julia Quinn enticed me into reading historical romance with jaunty tales about dukes, rakes, balls, and bluestocking heroines. I had never really been interested in contemporary romances until discovering Jill Shalvis, and then later on Susan Mallery. Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series and Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold made me a fan of contemporary romance and, specifically, romances set in a small town. I suppose it’s not really a surprise that I would adore these types of romances, since the small-town factor is exactly one of the things I’ve always loved about
There are a few fictional towns that I would love to live in: Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, Kendra Leigh Castle’s Harbor Cove, Kate Angell’s beach town Barefoot William, Carolyn Brown’s Dry Creek, and LuAnn McLane’s Cricket Creek. After reading SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE by Jill Shalvis and ALL SUMMER LONG by Susan Mallery, I was charmed by small town life that includes hardworking citizens, longstanding friendships, and the hint of romance in the air.
In SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, three sisters reinvent themselves in a town that soothes their souls and contributes to the mending of their relationships with each other. Things that wouldn’t seem possible before, suddenly seem possible in an environment that encourages personal growth and finding the amazing in the simple things.
In ALL SUMMER LONG, Susan Mallery writes about a down-to-earth firefighter heroine and a complex sweet and sexy hero that typify the great characters Susan Mallery populates her small town of Fool’s Gold, California with. Everything in Fool’s Gold seems to be endowed with a sort of positivity-on-steroids and Mayor Marsha is like a kind of Glinda the Good Witch with an almost extrasensory perception that keeps things rolling in the right direction.
There is a lot of debate among romance readers about whether or not characters have to be “likable” in order to enjoy a book. I don’t have to like everything about a character in order to enjoy a story, but I do need something to relate to – whether it’s something superficial, or whether it’s something deeper like relating to a character’s feelings or situation.
In FOR THE LONGEST TIME by Kendra Leigh Castle, the female protagonist returns to her hometown extremely wary, after being mistreated and looked down on by her peers when she was a teenager. What I love about this book, and this series in general, is the way Kendra Leigh Castle shows the wonderful side as well as the dark side of small town life.
When I think of books that highlight strong friendships between women, most of the books that spring to mind are ones set in small towns. In LOVE ME AGAIN by Jaci Burton, Loretta Simmons returns to her hometown of Hope, Oklahoma and experiences the highs and lows of friendship. Her former group of girlfriends from her high school days turn out to be more superficial and vindictive than she remembers. When her former friends attempt to gang up and hassle her, Loretta finds some much-appreciated backup from her new kickass female friends.
One of the things I love about FOR THE LONGEST TIME by Kendra Leigh Castle is the friendship that develops between protagonist Samantha Henry and art gallery owner Zoe Watson. Like Loretta from LOVE ME AGAIN, Sam is returning to her hometown with mixed emotions and she gets a mixed reception from locals. Things get a little emotionally overwhelming for Sam until Zoe befriends her and gives her a much needed morale boost.
In Susan Mallery’s town of Fool’s Gold, Jo’s Bar is an oasis for the female population to kick back, drown their sorrows, and get some unsolicited advice from girlfriends. Another staple of the Fool’s Gold series is a girls night in which female friends and family members circle around whatever woman is in a dark place – whether it be love troubles or something else.
LuAnn McLane’s Cricket Creek is a new series for me, but WISH UPON A WEDDING snared my attention immediately. In WISH UPON A WEDDING and MARRY ME ON MAIN STREET, friendships play a big part in the story and are a major part of the lives of the main characters. In both stories, a younger heroine gets support and much needed advice and a fresh perspective from a girlfriend who is a little bit older and wiser. It’s through these female friendships that the female protagonists seem the most real, and make the story much more compelling.
Terry Spear’s book HEART OF THE WOLF made me a Terry Spear fan right away. It’s books by Terry Spear and Jennifer Ashley that have made werewolves edge out vampires as my favorite supernatural creature. When some people hear “paranormal romance”, they think of magical shenanigans, vampire blood feuds, fated mates, seemingly impossible quests, and much more. Terry Spear delivers werewolf sexiness and pulse-pounding action-packed storytelling in equal measure. In her Silver Town Wolf series, Terry Spear provides all the paranormal strangeness and sexiness, but pairs that with all the delightful trappings of a small town.
The werewolves in Silver Town have regular jobs like that of shop owner and nurse, and meet get together at the local tavern or teashop. Heroines in a Silver Town Wolf” book aren’t anything exotic like a fae queen or sorceress, but they are strong, intelligent, and multifaceted. Likewise, a Silver Town Wolf hero might not be an intergalactic warrior or master vampire out to start or stop plans for world domination, but Silver Town is full of to-die-for werewolf reporters, sheriffs, and business owner hotties who can tackle a bad guy as well as clean the house and cook dinner. The wide selection of great female characters, fabulous nice-guy heroes, and balance of humor, mystery, and spookiness make Silver Town one of my favorite small towns.
Some romances featuring small towns:
MERRY COWBOY CHRISTMAS by Carolyn Brown
SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE by Jill Shalvis
PLAYING FOR KEEPS by LuAnn McLane
CHASING PERFECT by Susan Mallery
FOR THE LONGEST TIME by Kendra Leigh Castle
FINDING GLORY by Sara Arden
NO TAN LINES by Kate Angell
DESTINY OF THE WOLF by Terry Spear
BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY by Jessica Lemmon
PELICAN POINT by Donna Kauffman