A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Many of us probably know that line from the theme song of the old TV show “Cheers.” I found myself humming it recently, and not even realizing why at first, but then it hit me: It was because of the books I was reading.

No, they didn’t take place in a bar. They weren’t set in 1980s. And they didn’t so much as mention any of the show’s famous cast mates…but they were all very community-based stories. Each part of a multi-book series, and all of them bestselling and beloved by readers.

One of the most popular of these is Robyn Carr’s “Virgin River” series. The novel I read wasn’t the first of them. In fact, I think Redwood Bend may have been about the 16th book in the series, and I could tell that the author knew well by now the community she’d created. The secondary characters all had extensive backstories and, by the end of the novel, I could imagine the layout of the town and the surrounding areas. Actually, I take back my comment about the books not being set in a bar — there is a famous one in this series (“Jack’s Bar”), and a number of important scenes do, in fact, happen there!

Another community-based book I read recently was RaeAnne Thayne’s Blackberry Summer. It’s a story that was set in a small Colorado town called “Hope’s Crossing.” Being that this was the first book in the series, I got to see the initial building of the characters and could sense the set up of other potential conflicts to come in future novels. I believe the 3rd book in the series was just released, and I know if I were to open it up, I’d be able to imagine myself immediately in that town again — with the quilters and the bead shop and the longstanding resentments between certain townspeople. It’s fascinating how quickly a reader can get to know a town and feel like an adoptive member of it…

The final novel of this type that I’ve been reading is the quickly growing “Eternity Springs” series by Emily March. I read Heartache Falls, the 3rd book, which is another story that takes place in beautiful Colorado. One of the things that drew me to this particular novel was that, while it was a romance, the couple in question was married and dealing with the hope of reuniting after a period of separation. I liked that there was some latitude within the series for different configurations of romantic tension like that.

In any case, I’ve really been enjoying these various community series stories, and I can see how readers who fall in love with the characters and setting in one book, find themselves drawn back again and again.

I know there are many more contemporary romantic series novels out there than just the three I mentioned. And, across the genres, I know that there are tons of really successful series stories. (My MM friends have written a number of wonderful ones!) Have any of you read a series that you particularly loved? What drew you to it and kept you coming back? :razz:

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is a chocolate addict, a music junkie and the USA TODAY bestselling author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all from Kensington Books, as well as a number of light romantic comedies, including THE SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION (2013) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called THE ROAD TO YOU -- was just released in October 2013!
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19 Responses to A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    A friend told me I should read Lisa Kleypas’s Friday Harbor series, because My Miracle Interrupted magical realism books are set in small village. I love Kleypas’s Friday Harbor books. In fact, the last one is on my kitchen counter, waiting for me to read. I’ll have to try the series that you mention.

    Marilyn, does this mean you’re writing or planning a small town series?

  2. Misty Evans says:

    I don’t read many of small town stories, Marilyn, probably because I’ve spent most of my life in one. But I do enjoy romantic suspsense stories tht follow a particular family or happen in the same town, like some of Carla Neggers’ books. I also enjoy contemp romance stories like Susan Elizabeth Philips’s Chicago Stars series where, again, there are siblings as main characters and the setting is familiar.

    I can’t wait for Edie’s next installment in her Miracle series. The first story was so good!

    • I totally agree with you about Edie’s series, Misty!! I just finished Stardust Miracle late last night ;). And I’ve loved those SEP books as well! I haven’t had a chance to read her last few yet, but I know there are several characters in common between the novels. Thank you for suggesting Carla Neggers. She’s an author I’ve heard about for years and haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading. I really love romantic suspense, too!
      Hope you have a wonderful weekend. 😛

  3. Amy R says:

    I love series books. I can never let go of characters! I don’t mind if they are set in a small town or a big city – as long as there is a connection among the characters. Most recently, the contemp romance series I have enjoyed are from Jill Shalvis (Lucky Harbor) and Bella Andre (Sullivans). I do like it when characters from one story are involved in the next story – not just connected by the setting. I am a big romantic suspense fan so I like when brothers or families or partners are all connected in a series. I love Misty’s Super Agent books because we see the characters in the first book (like Conrad Flynn) grow into different roles, etc.

    P.S. I have Stardust Miracle and On Any Given Sundae on my Nook waiting to be read. Looking forward to those! 🙂

    • Amy,
      Oh, great suggestions! I’ve read and really enjoyed Jill Shalvis’s novels and I have one of Bella Andre’s books on my Kindle and am really looking forward to reading it :). As for Misty’s books, not only is her Super Agent series awesome (I *adored* Conrad!!), but her Witches Anonymous books are fantabulous, too!!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …An Austenesque Chat & Ziplining Around the Web

  4. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Marilyn,

    I don’t look for series in a small town, but am okay it that’s the setting. I love series! It’s great to keep characters going or connect to new ones. I haven’t read the books you’ve mentioned. Thanks for the new reads to look for!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Blog Tour for Family Blood Ties series – Vampire in Denial and Vampire in Distress!

    • Dale,
      I’m glad they sound interesting to you! They were all series stories that I’d heard about (in Robyn Carr’s case, for *years*) and finally just got around to reading. I like stories in a variety of settings, too — small towns are great, so are big cities — but, you’re right. It’s the character connection that draws me back, even more than the setting ;).

  5. Eliza Daly says:

    I haven’t really read any small community series but these sound great Marilyn. I started reading one a few years ago and read a few of them but then my reading list got so insanely long, and I had so little time for reading, I never continued the series. I wonder if someone might know what it’s called. It took place in the Carolinas I think or the Southeast anyway. A priest was one of the main characters and a small boy. This is going to drive me crazy until I think of the series so please help if you can. 🙂 I think small community series can be a lot of fun because they tend to have quirky characters which I love. I grew up in a very small community and we had several quirky residents.

    • Eliza (love seeing you here as your YA-writer self!), I know *exactly* what you mean about the insanely long reading list…LOL. And I’m so, so sorry not to know the series you’re talking about!! I remember reading a book called Carolina Moon, which was lovely (a women’s fiction story), but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t part of a series…and there was no priest ;). Oh, wait!! Maybe I do know… There’s Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series — might that be the one?! I have a couple of the books but haven’t read them yet. I believe it centers around a small-town church somewhere in the Southeast.
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …An Austenesque Chat & Ziplining Around the Web

  6. Liz Kreger says:

    The books I like tend to be set in large cities, but if the author can make the setting realistic … I’m hooked. Since I’m such an Urban Fantasy reader, my books tend to be connected by character than by setting. An exception is Ilona Andrews’ series. Their world building is so unique and fascinating that if they had different characters for each book, I’d be perfectly happy. I agree that Edie’s Miracle series does a really nice job with a small town setting … as does her previous books. I guess you’re a small town girl at heart, Edie. 😉

  7. Hi Marilyn! I really enjoy stories set in small towns, too. I’ve got three of Robyn Carr’s in my TBR pile right now. I love Jill Shalvis’s Lucy Harbor series, too. Her books always make me smile.

    Happy weekend to everyone!
    Robin Bielman`s last blog was …Fu Manchu

    • Robin,
      I have to read that Jill Shalvis series! I’ve really liked her other books, but Amy R. mentioned it, too. (Adding to my towering TBR list!) Hope you have a fabulous weekend!! 😛

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