Romance novels are generally anchored in a strong sense of place, and to call a romance novel “regional” is a bit redundant. The places are as varied as the people who write the stories. While many romance stories are set in big cities, it seems that most are set in small towns. There are reasons for that.
In many contemporary romance novels, especially in the romantic suspense genre, cities are often associated with danger. Witness protection programs aren’t usually created in other big cities. Instead, the threatened individual (almost always a woman and typically with a child or children) are relocated to a small town.
Cities are also the scene of failures, and the hero or heroine returns to home in a small town, where he or she invariably find romance. Related to this is the sense of small towns and rural areas as the home of unchanging values, where people know each other and usually leave their doors unlocked.
In fact, romance stories are often as much about the romance of the small town or village as they are about the romance of people.
A more practical writing reason exists for the romance of the small town. These stories are often published in a continuing series, and the locale provides a sense of continuity for both the writer and the reader.
It was almost by accident that I discovered two Christmas romances set not only in small towns but also in areas I was more than familiar with – Louisiana and the part of Mississippi just north of the Gulf Coast. This is where I was born, grew up, and went to the beach. This was home.
Christmas Like This by Carina Taylor
Christmas Like This by Carina Taylor is part of the author’s “Love Like This” series of novels. It’s set in the fictional town of Lambert, Louisiana, “somewhere on the way to New Orleans.” If I had to visualize a town it was like or based on, I might say Lafayette, down in Cajun country.
Marla and Trey are co-workers at a marketing firm, and they are like oil and water. They don’t get along. They play pranks on each other. They criticize each other in meetings and presentations. The tension they create in the workplace are almost unbearable for everyone else. So their boss gives them an assignment – planning the upcoming company Christmas party for employees, families, and clients, and do it together or face being fired.
What begins as almost open warfare begins to change, as Marla and Trey begin to learn more about each other. Christmas Like This is a fast, entertaining read. If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll recognize the tensions and animosities people like Marla and Trey can create.
Comfort Crossing Holiday Collection by Kay Correll
Comfort Crossing Holiday Collection by Kay Correll is set in the fictional town of the title, located “just north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” It includes two Christmas novellas.
In “The Christmas Cottage,” Holly Thompson is a veterinarian who wants nothing to do with Christmas after a personal tragedy the year before. A friend arranges for her to be a substitute vet in Comfort Crossing while the regular vet visits his family for Christmas. She stays at a cottage owned by the man next door, Steve Bergeron, who’s a home builder and has an eight-year-old son. Steve has his own relationship issues; his wife left him when their son was one because she wasn’t interested in being a mother.
To welcome his temporary renter, Steve and Josh have fixed up the cottage for Christmas, which is exactly what Holly doesn’t want. And Josh and then Steve keep inviting her to Christmas-related activities. Before long, Holly is enjoying Christmas again and Steve is falling in love. (Note: while this is billed as a “clean” romance, there’s a non-graphic overnight stay.)
In “The Christmas Scarf,” Missy Sherwood has returned to her home in Comfort Crossing, her dreams of being a country singing star dumped never realized. Her old boyfriend is happily married with a child, and her mother, while glad to see her, already has a full house for Christmas.
Missy runs into Dylan Rivers, part of an old high school foursome who had dreams of singing careers. Dylan works for builder Steve Bergeron (see story above) and he’s thrilled to see Missy back. She was the girl he was in love with but said nothing while she dated his best friend. He quickly gets Missy involved in helping with the annual children’s Christmas pageant.
Missy discovers her feelings for Dylan moving rapidly, and Dylan has no doubts in his mind. And then Missy gets a call from Nashville – a big country star wants to hire her as a backup singer. It’s the break she’s been hoping for ever since she left Comfort Crossing.
Both stories in the holiday collection suggest that it just might be possible to go home, or find home, again.
Top photograph by Marisa Daeger via Unsplash. Used with permission.