About four years ago, I started entering contests hosted by Harlequin Love Inspired in an effort to get my manuscripts in front of a particular editorial team and hopefully receive a publishing contract. This quest morphed into becoming a student of all things Love Inspired. What’s this line of sweet romances all about, anyway? What keeps readers engaged and consistently buying these books? I’ve learned a lot, not only from reading the line, but also from submitting to the editors and receiving valuable feedback, as well as speaking with other authors who’ve published repeatedly with Love Inspired.
Puppies, firefighters, law enforcement, cowboys, natural disasters, Amish communities, small towns … these are just a few of the characteristics that consistently show up in Love Inspired novels. The longer I mingled with this fantastic community of editors and authors, the more I realized their casual references to a specific aspect of pop culture were lost on me.
Gilmore Girls? What’s that?
Lauren Graham? Isn’t she the actress from Parenthood?
It was clearly a delightful, fictious slice of Americana that I was missing out on. I felt like everybody was drinking coffee at Luke’s Diner without me. So began my quest to
binge-watch six seasons I mean, um, check out a couple of episodes on Netflix and see what all the fuss over Stars Hallow, Connecticut was about.
Now that I’m well-acquainted with all things Gilmore Girls, I must say that my friends at Love Inspired have drawn some great parallels between what works in the show and what also drives a compelling sweet romance. Without further ado, here’s my list of 10 reasons why sweet romance readers love a place like Stars Hollow.
- Luke’s Diner (and Luke! AKA, the flawed and loveable handsome hero sporting a plaid shirt, baseball cap and ever-present five o’clock shadow).
- The gazebo: every small town needs a cute gazebo, don’t you think? *Spoiler alert* also the perfect setting for a romantic first kiss.
- A quaint bed and breakfast: gives the heroine a place to work and tackle all manner of hospitality issues (when she isn’t being a single mom or drinking coffee at Luke’s diner).
- Unique cast of characters that emphasize other characters’ strengths and weaknesses. The vast differences between the residents both unite and divide the community, which fuels tremendous interpersonal conflict and keeps the plot rolling.
- Noticeable contrast between the wealthy and the middle class: this age-old divide has served as the subplot for about a zillion different novels, movies and TV shows. I suppose because it works. In both sweet romance novels and Gilmore Girls, the different expectations and obstacles keep the viewer/reader engaged. It makes us feel empathy and root for the heroine to succeed.
- Fantastic, witty dialogue: whether on the screen or in a novel, well-crafted dialogue is key. Funny, poignant, and well-timed wins every time.
- Emotional baggage and gritty backstory: I love a good backstory and a hero and heroine who are really wrestling with their flaws and the wounds of their pasts. Sweet romance and Gilmore Girls have both. And I love it!
- Coffee. Need I say more? The references to this exquisite beverage are abundnant in the show. Here’s one of my favorites:
9. A simmering romance developing at a comfortable pace. While there is certainly a time and a place for a whirlwind courtship, Luke and Lorelai’s relationship builds over several seasons. It’s plausible, entertaining and keeps the audience engaged.
10. Strong female friendships: Gilmore Girls features three generations of Gilmore women. Their friendships with other women are often a crucial part of the plot. I value my friendships with other women, even though sometimes those relationships are challenging, and I love how this plays out in fiction and TV, too. A strong female friendship adds another layer to a plot and makes for well-rounded characters.
If you haven’t already heard, Gilmore Girls is returning to Netflix next week. While many Americans will commemorate the day after Thanksgiving with Christmas shopping, visiting family, watching football and eating leftovers, there will be a vast segment of the population glued to their devices, eager to enjoy every minute of this show’s new content. Curious? I recommend checking out the Gilmore Girls Facebook page for more details.
Your turn: do you watch Gilmore Girls and are you excited about its return?
Photo credit: Freddy Castro via Unsplash