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Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

Dockside - Susan Wiggs

Several years ago, my mom was addicted to this series by Susan Wiggs. It's set in a small town on Willow Lake, so it fits my current Booklikes-opoly prompt perfectly. The series alternates between winter and summer, so I picked this one because it's one of the summer books. 

 

Susan Wiggs, Debbie Macomber & Robyn Carr all specialize in this sort of series - romances which feature one specific couple that is part of a small-town ecosystem, with each book focusing on one pairing. The first one I read was Macomber's Cedar Cove series, which I read for years, although I think I petered out around book 5 or 6.

 

I stumbled on Robyn Carr's Virgin River series when I bought a cheap omnibus for my kindle, in the early days. It was either the first 3 or 4 entries in the series, which has now been adapted for television. I ran out of steam on this one, too, but it's been adapted for a Netflix series that looks pretty entertaining. 

 

The things that make these series charming are also the things that make them annoying. The small town setting is charming, but the books are universally centered around a couple finding love, as required by the genre conventions. Usually, they are white and heterosexual. They are frequently previously unlucky in love and can be a little bit older (widows, widowers, divorced parents, and single career women rethinking their lives are all staples)- these aren't the typical historical romance, where the female half of the coupling is usually very young. Like a Hallmark Christmas romance, this relentless centering of coupledom can become wearisome. They also aggressively tap into nostalgia for a small-town Americana that never really existed - and if it did exist, it was only available to a select (read: white, heterosexual, affluent) few.

 

What I like about them is the sense of community that they can demonstrate. They are basically soap operas, in book form, with long-form story telling. This intrigues me. They generally lack the moral complexity and dimension that would be required to make them really interesting, though. There is very little actual poverty - which you would find in a real small town. There is "picturesque" poverty - like the plucky, single mom who can't afford to buy her gorgeous teen daughter the newest and most popular fashions and has to scrape by, but always has soft, beautiful hair and a perfect teeth.

 

The problems featured in the books are usually easily resolved in one book - the stalker who follows the pretty new resident to town; the abusive ex-husband who needs to be dispatched by the hero; the angry step-child who just needs to be won over by the new, and better, companion, the financially troubled bakery that needs the marketing talents of the ad executive who has opened an office in town. Everyone is always very attractive. I can't help but wonder if a series that took a more complicated look at a small town would even sell, although I think I would be much more interested in that sort of thing.

 

This is a long post and I'm just rambling now. I'm not sure if I'm going to finish this book or not.