Romance author Brenda Novak shares what she loves about contemporary small town romance and the evolution of her Whiskey Creek series with her latest release, "Come Home to Me."
What’s not to love about a good contemporary romance? And there are so many great series featuring small towns being published right now. For the past few years, I’ve been thoroughly immersed in writing a number of connected books set in the fictional “Gold Country” town of Whiskey Creek, based on such places as Sutter Creek, Jackson and Angel’s Camp located along Highway 49 in California, not far from where I live. In my series, about a tight-knit group of men and women who’ve grown up together in this quaint place, friendship reigns supreme. But as rooted in history as Whiskey Creek feels, with its wooden boardwalks and refurbished Victorians, it’s filled with very realistic and modern characters and all the drama that entails—including a woman who has vague memories of another mother when the mother she grew up with refuses to talk about it (When Snow Falls), the town “mean girl” who is humbled and then redeemed (Take Me Home for Christmas) and a bad-boy character from one of my suspense trilogies who comes to Whiskey Creek and brings a bit of danger with him (The Heart of Christmas, coming this November). And in the book that’s out right now, Come Home to Me, we have two women keeping secrets—the biggest secrets of all!
I not only like writing small-town romance; I like reading it! Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove is probably one of the best-known towns in the contemporary romance world. Equally well-known is the fact that Cedar Cove is actually based on Debbie’s own hometown, Port Orchard, Washington. I’ve heard the books referred to as “the address books,” and from 16 Lighthouse Road to 1225 Christmas Tree Lane, these stories each focus on the residents of a particular home. But, of course, we meet just about everyone in town and see their lives and relationships change over a twelve-year period. I love the combination of emotional drama, domestic calm and genuine humor in the characters’ ongoing stories.
The town created by another favorite of mine, Sheila Roberts’s Icicle Falls series, is also in Washington State and also derives its inspiration from a real place—Leavenworth. The focus in this series, too, is on family, love and friendship, and Sheila brings her own unique vision to her town and characters. Her often laugh-out-loud humor, her insight into people and relationships and her practical wisdom all contribute to making these books the totally delightful reads they are. Life in Icicle Falls is definitely a series that keeps bringing me home to this wonderful community.
Jill Shalvis has been lucky with her Lucky Harbor series; she’s on her ninth book! The thing I like best about Jill's books is that you can pick up any one of them and immediately know who wrote it by the sense of humor. Once in a Lifetime gets laughs due to heroine Aubrey Wellington, who sets out to make amends to a list of people she's wronged. Who doesn't have a list of mistakes? And, of course, hero Ben is the toughest wrong to get right.
Then there’s RaeAnne Thayne’s close ranching community of Pine Gulch, Idaho. The people who live there have captivated readers from the time the first Cowboys of Cold Creek books came out in 2006. Now at twelve books and counting, the heartwarming, emotional series is set in one of RaeAnne’s favorite spots, the western slope of the Teton mountain range. The Cowboys of Cold Creek series is filled with genuinely drawn characters, spectacular scenery, a little mystery and a great deal of heart.
San Francisco may not be a small town but Barbara Freethy claims a spot in my “favorite contemporary series” list because the community she’s created in her Calloway series gives me the down-home feel that’s so important in these types of stories. Her books are focused on a family consisting of eight siblings, many of whom are San Francisco firefighters, and they combine romance with a little bit of mystery and adventure. My favorite hero is Aiden, the rebellious smokejumper, who reunites with the girl next door in On a Night Like This, the first book in the series.
I could go on! There are a lot of really great contemporary series out right now, but with This Heart of Mine, which is coming out next year, I’ve got to get back to Phoenix Fuller, who’s just returned to Whiskey Creek, having served sixteen years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. If only the man most dreading her return knew what was in store for him… ;-)
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