In their Things I learned from RWA 11, Jane at Dear Author mentioned that readers still love the sweet, small town contemporary romances. The responses, understandably so, ranged from what about cities and urban areas to those who love those stories. I have to admit, as someone who grew up in a small town (population under 800) and spent most of her childhood life in the small town, I am of mixed thoughts about these books. Now before I continue, the last small town contemporary sweet book I read was recommended because of the heroine’s chronic illness, and it’s not my usual reading genre. However, I understand the appeal (and the unappeal) of these books, and as a small town girl, well…frankly, I couldn’t keep quiet.
(We’ll also skip the sociological impacts and analyzing that could happen from these, too. *smiles*)
I like small town romances only if they’re realistic. What does this mean to me?
First of all, small towns are notorious for everyone knowing everyone else and everyone’s business. (Living in a trailer court in a suburb, I think this also applies for apartment complexes, and smaller communities within a larger one quiet easily.) That means if Molly, our heroine, decides to dye her hair red, then by golly everyone in town is going to know. I used to joke that if someone farted, the news would be across town in five minutes or less.
The small town news is also usually fueled by the “old ladies’ gossip network.” (One little old lady hears everything and so she calls all her old lady pals (or thirtysomething pals if they’re not “old ladies”. LOL!), who then calls everyone they know. In the small town where I grew up, I pretty much know the news within twenty four hours because I talk to my gran every day, and she tells me. So nothing, and I do mean nothing, is secret. (Facebook is also awesome for making this happen, because now I call gran and say “I heard or I saw such and such on Facebook” so then SHE has the news to spread. *big grin*)
I often joke with gran that if all the little old ladies in town had Facebook or cell phones, or back in the day AOL Instant Messenger, then news would travel much more quickly.
It takes a rare person who grew up in a small town who doesn’t want to get away from it at some point. Some of us never go back. (Some of us look for small towns in other places, because we like the laid back life without all the gossip.)
There is a lot of people helping people, but there’s also a lot of the not so good side of humanity. It’s a melting pot, just like the rest of America.
Does this sound like any where else? I mean seriously, there’s a lot of small town = good and wonderful in these books, that frankly, could be found in a close knit community in NYC or in a midsize town.
I promised I wouldn’t go all analytical, but really, I think what I liked about the book I read is how the characters cared for each other. There’s a real sense of “It takes a village” whether they’re dealing with one character’s chronic illness, or another character’s single parenthood. That’s the connection, and that’s what I liked. And honestly, that’s what I liked about the small town where I grew up. I know people pay attention. If gran wouldn’t get her mail for a few days, or someone else like a relative get it for her, then someone would check on her. Someone shovels/snowblows her sidewalk when winter gets bad. It’s a sense of caring for each other, and honestly, that can happen wherever you live, and it’s something that should probably happen more often.