I live in a small town. I’ve lived in my small town of less than ten thousand people for the past twenty years. Before that I lived in another small town. And while there are some advantages to living in the city (and hey, I’ve written books set in cities from NYC to London) there’s a lot to appreciate about small towns and books set in smaller communities.
I like the fact I can know my neighbours, that my children have grown up and completed their schooling with kids they knew back in church playgroup days. I like the fact that people participate in their churches and support local businesses and community events. I like the fact that as a writer I can explore some of the nitty-gritty of what makes community and relationships work – and not work – and how events can have ripple effects for generations.
So there’s a lot to love about books set in small towns, especially when you combine elements of family, friendship, food, faith and romance in a gorgeous setting. I’m pretty sure that’s partly why TV shows like Virgin River and Sweet Magnolias are so popular. There can be a degree of ‘escape’ in an idealised setting, where you’re a valuable part of a community.
When I first visited the beautiful Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario, Canada, I didn’t realise that I’d one day write a series based on this area. I had one book, Muskoka Blue, about a girl from a city (Sydney, Australia) escaping to a small town on the other side of the world to find healing after tragedy. But I underestimated the power of Muskoka, and how many stories could potentially be based around this area, which is why I started a new series that spins off the setting used in Muskoka Blue.
The first book in the new Muskoka Romance series is called Muskoka Shores. This is both the name of my (fictional) small town in Muskoka, and the name of the (fictional) resort where my heroine, Serena Williamson, works. It was fun to incorporate various elements of both my visit and my own experiences of small town life. For example, on our visit to Bala, Muskoka (where the author LM Montgomery has a museum dedicated to her life and works – well worth a visit!) my husband and I were lucky enough to attend a Cranberry Festival – which just may have made its way into my book. Other fun things on our visit, such as visiting a cranberry farm, enjoying ‘Chilli at the Church’ and an unexpected encounter with the town crier, might’ve also made an appearance. Couple this with things I’m familiar with – local church events, friendships, family and neighbour connections – and it’s wonderful to see how a story can start to come together. (Want to see pics from my visit? Check out my website here.)
Muskoka Shores will be followed by November’s release of Muskoka Christmas, with more books to come based around a group of young women and their forays into romance. I’m loving the interactions between these ladies – they’re real, relatable, and people I think you’ll love getting to know.
Here’s a bit more about Muskoka Shores:
Serena Williamson loves working at Muskoka Shores, the fancy resort on Lake Muskoka, and making couples dreams come true. But after returning from a celebrity wedding to find her own hopes crumbling to dust, she sets out for self-improvement, and to prove her ex was wrong. But when a misunderstanding concerning the new assistant church minister leads to more self-doubt, can she ever really trust a man again?
Joel Wakefield is looking forward to a fresh start for himself and his sister in this beautiful small town beside Lake Muskoka. He hadn’t counted on meeting a curvy cutie with a gift for hospitality and a gracious heart. Can he show her that it’s what is inside that truly counts?
Let’s chat: Do you enjoy small town romance? What aspects of a small town do you like seeing in fiction? If you live in a small town, what are some of your favourite things about your town?