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?