Monday, May 13, 2013

Susanna reads the Ritas: Contemporary Single Title

In the challenge I set myself to read at least one finalist from each category of the 2013 Ritas, The Way Back Home, by Barbara Freethy, was my Contemporary Single Title Romance choice. And while it was a nice story, sweetly romantic and well-paced, it didn't succeed in overcoming my aversion to small-town contemporary romances. It's funny, I'm fine with small town or rural settings in other countries or in historicals, but an American small-town contemporary romance is almost guaranteed to have me snarling at some point in the story.

I fully admit it's not the books, it's me. I grew up in a small town. I left when I was 18. I live in Seattle. Not in the metropolitan area, not in the suburbs, within the city limits. I love my city and my life, and I loved spending my college years and early 20's in the very different but equally awesome city of Philadelphia. Don't get me wrong, I love my hometown too. I just can't imagine living there again. And I think because the urban vs. rural divide has become so politically and culturally fraught in the past decade or two, it's hard for me to relate to a story that's not just about a small town, but how awesome it is to live in one compared to a city. I literally had to put this book down mid-scene and walk away from it for hours after a character talked about how much better he felt about having his son in a small town school than their old home in San Francisco, because city schools are just so much rougher. The Seattle public school system is far from perfect, but Miss Fraser is having a MUCH better experience than I did in my small-town school growing up. As for behavioral issues...well, let's just say kids are just as likely to get into fights, get stupid drunk at parties, get pregnant, etc. in a small town as in a city. I'd be just as terrified thinking how I'm only four years away from having a teenager no matter where I lived. Nothing else in the book got me huffily indignant, but living in a small town just isn't my fantasy.

So...yeah. Small town contemporary American romances and I remain non-mixy things. I think this would be a lovely book for people not carrying that particular chip on their shoulder, though. (With the caveat that I winced a bit every time the hero was referred to as an ex-Marine, because I've always been told that former Marine is the preferred term for an honorably discharged member of that branch of the service. Also, I don't know what the publisher was thinking with that cover image. The story is set on a river in Northern California, and the heroine's family runs a white-water rafting business. Would it really have been that hard to find an image with some, you know, rugged hills, a fast-moving river, and some Western-looking trees? I may not want to LIVE in rural Northern California, but it's an incredibly beautiful place. I know, accuracy in romance cover images is a lost cause, but seems like it'd be easier with contemporaries.)


  1. I am sometimes reminded of Sherlock Holmes' observation that you can find as many nasty vile secrets behind the doors of farmhouses as you can in a big city (not a verbatim quote)

    1. Yup. I'd call Steubenville, OH a small town, f'rex.