[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Leigh Duncan posting on the site tday! She’s talking all things small-town romance.]
I love small towns! The one I grew up in consisted of a single street with a church at one end and a bank at the other. In between, citizens attended Saturday matinees at a theater with a real balcony, shopped for birthday presents in the five-and-dime, grabbed a bite to eat at the only restaurant for miles around, or lingered at the lunch counter while the pharmacist in the lone drug store filled their prescriptions. As if that wasn’t enough exposure to small town life, from second grade all the way through high school, I spent summers helping out on my grandmother’s farm in a community so tiny, it aspired to be called a town. Is it any wonder, then, that whenever I outline a new series, I almost always choose a small town for the setting?
I might fill this town with a café, an ice cream shop and a bridal salon and have the hero and heroine stroll along Main Street, like Bradley Suttons and Sarah Standor did in A Country Wedding. My small town might be situated along the northern California coast where tourists and locals alike enjoy hiking and water sports. Or it could be a quaint, seaside village known as America’s Top Wedding Destination, like Heart’s Landing in A Simple Wedding. Wherever my fictional small towns are located, four important characteristics—let’s call them the Four C’s—make them popular with both authors and readers of romantic fiction.
A Sense of Community. Imagine a wedding where the minister has known the bride and groom their entire lives. Maybe he baptized them when they were infants. Perhaps his desk was next to the father of the bride’s in the fifth grade, and he sang in the church choir with the groom’s mother. He probably sat at their grandmother’s table dunking cookies into a glass of milk. Now, imagine an entire town filled with people so strongly connected. What a rich backdrop for a story! Introduce a newcomer, like Jenny in A Simple Wedding, and suddenly a simple romance turns more complex. Not only must the heroine win the hero’s heart, she has to make the entire town fall in love with her, too.
A Common Purpose – Most small towns revolve around one, or at the most, two industries. The continued success of that business is important to every resident. It means workers can pay their bills and take their families out to dinner at the local diner. In turn, they provide jobs for everyone from the owner of the café to the high school student who busses tables. The importance of the local industry plays a pivotal role in A Simple Wedding, where the town’s reputation and the success of businesses throughout Heart’s Landing depends on everyone working together to provide “the perfect wedding for every bride.” Which is why, when Jenny can’t seem to make up her mind about a single detail in her wedding plans, her indecision puts all the business owners on edge. No wonder they turn to the one person who provides a steadying hand for this wishy-washy bride. There’s only one problem—Jenny harbors a secret that could ruin Heart’s Landing’s reputation…and her relationship with the town’s most eligible baker.
Intriguing Characters – In fiction, as well as real life, no small town is complete without a cast of characters who add flavor and interest to the mix. At least one person in every community doles out unwanted advice like candy at Halloween. The police chief might be gruff or kindly, but he absolutely knows who has a skeleton hidden in his closet and who doesn’t. Each neighborhood has a nosy neighbor—or three—who takes pride in knowing everything from whether or not little Bobby aced his math test, to which eligible bachelor has been shopping for diamond rings at the jewelry store. I recently experienced this first-hand when I visited a B&B in a very small town. The inn’s owner made it perfectly clear that stopping for a lengthy chat every single time I walked through the lobby was non-negotiable. By the time I checked out, she knew more about me than I knew about myself! Someone like that would make a perfect addition to Heart’s Landing. I can’t wait to write her into the next book in the series!
Coming Home – One of the greatest appeals of small towns is the sense of coming home they give us. The freckle-faced teen behind the counter at the ice cream parlor helps us recall our own childhoods. The quiet, tree-lined streets remind us of simpler times, back when finding enough discarded coke bottles to earn ourselves a soda on a hot, summer afternoon was the most pressing problem in our lives. In A Simple Wedding, the heroine Jenny lives in Los Angeles where she’s a harried assistant to her movie star cousin. Her life is hectic, but ever since she was a child, Jenny has dreamed of a having her very own Heart’s Landing wedding. When she arrives in the town where romance drips like dew from the gingerbread trim on houses and businesses, Jenny experiences the sense of coming home that permeates most small town romances. And through her eyes, we get it, too.
Life in a small town has many benefits and few drawbacks. Today, I’ve only discussed a few but, for me, these four—Community, Common Purpose, Characters, and Coming Home—are key to the sense of contentment and joy I feel every time I visit a small town, whether it’s in a romance novel or real life.
About the Author:
Leigh Duncan is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels, novellas and short stories. An Amazon best-selling author and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, Leigh lives on Florida’s East Coast where she writes women’s fiction and sweet, contemporary romance with a dash of Southern sass.
A Simple Wedding by Leigh Duncan, out now!
Fall in love with Heart’s Landing, a romantic wedding destination, in the first book of a Hallmark series.
Jenny always dreamed of getting married at Heart’s Landing. But when she finally visits the charming small town, she’s there to make wedding arrangements for someone else: her cousin, who also happens to be her boss and a famous movie star. To keep the event secret and avoid a media circus, Jenny pretends she’s the one getting married.
Nick is intrigued by this bride-to-be who starts visiting his bakery every afternoon for sweet treats and conversation. He has to keep reminding himself that she’s already spoken for.
As Jenny deals with her cousin’s ever-changing demands, she tries to hide her attraction to Nick. Planning this wedding couldn’t be more complicated…and what will happen once the truth comes to light?