A sense of home...
Susan: I grew up outside of a very small town. Even though we were a mile and a half away, the church – church events – linked us in to the town and its residents.
There were (on a good day) a hundred fifty people in our congregation. It was possible to know everybody’s name and a little about their family history. It was also possible to keep up with births and deaths, graduations and weddings.
At the time, I thought knowing intimate details of the lives of your neighbors was the normal way of things. Then I moved into a city (small city but still a city) and quickly learned city people keep to themselves.
But I miss those days of knowing everyone, cheering for everyone, praying for the sick, celebrating successes. Some days I feel like I live on an island.
And I think that’s why we all love small-town books so much. We’re all longing for that sense of home – a place where we fit.
A shared history...
Barbara: A sense of belonging usually makes small communities more tightly knit. Families spend more time together. Kids grow up with each other, attend the same schools, go to the same parties.
Links like that between folks result in an emotional "shorthand" where a phrase or even a word evokes an entire chain of shared memories—good or bad. Either way, events from a hero or heroine's history result in a story that makes us want to keep turning the pages.
In my upcoming release, HONORABLE RANCHER, Ben Sawyer met the girl of his dreams on their first day of kindergarten, only to lose her to his own best buddy. All his life, he's forced to keep his longings to himself. When his friend dies an army hero, Ben knows he's lost Dana forever. As his conscience—and the entire town—reminds him, he can never dishonor his best friend's memory by romancing the man's widow...
Of course, this is a romance, and eventually my hero and heroine become a couple. Yet long before that point, they build a complex life together. A shared history is one of the many things that draws readers to small-town romances. Folks make friendships that will never be broken. They create memories that can live forever. And, as Ben and Dan discover, they look out for you because you're one of their own.
Susan: That sense of belonging and shared history resonate with readers, but small towns are also a gold mine for writers. LOL There’s always a nosy busybody who can tell the heroine the big secret she shouldn’t know. A community gathering (anything from a barn dance to a church picnic) can get the hero and heroine together, maybe even to plan it. A diner can provide a spot for an accidental meeting! And funerals give authors the opportunity to allow characters to show their true emotions.
And a chance to come full circle...
Barbara: So far, I think I've hit every one of the above but a funeral. LOL Busybodies and matchmakers play big roles in my books, too. They seem to have a place in a small-town romance.
That feeling of belonging we’re always searching for also holds true for people who have been away for a while. Though they've left the community, they have lasting connections to the folks back there.
Many readers love the emotional tug of a reunion story, especially those books where the hero or heroine returns to their hometown. The character gets to do what we sometimes wish we could—have an opportunity to change the past. Grab a second chance. Or just come back and be greeted with open arms. Because...of course...there's no place like home!
Susan: My hero, Chance Montgomery, in NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS, returns to his home not sure if he’ll be greeted with open arms or if he’ll find the ramifications of the family secret have made him into the town laughing stock. Pine Ward is another of the “bigger” small towns, where Chance’s family has been the primary employer for decades and everything he did became fodder for the gossip mills. Even the woman hired to be nanny for his twins has a history with his family.
But he soon realizes, as Barbara said, there’s no place like home and I think that’s the big draw for readers. That sense of home.
What about you? As a reader or a writer, what’s your take on the appeal of the small-town romance?
Comment for a chance to win one of three prizes: 1. THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER (the first book in the First-Time Dads duet) and KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST from Susan, or 2. A RANCHER'S PRIDE and THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER (the first two Flagman's Folly books) from Barbara, or 3. a $10 Amazon gift certificate!
Susan Meier is a busy mother of three, volunteer at Hospice and lousy golfer who is currently working on her 49th book for Harlequin/Silhouette. You can find her on twitter as @susanmeier1 and Facebook or at susanmeier.com.
Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom. She would love to have you drop by her website: www.barbarawhitedaille.com and look for her on Facebook and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/barbarawhitedaille and https://twitter.com/BarbaraWDaille