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Archive for September 20th, 2015

Meg Benjamin: Small Town, Resort Town
Sunday, September 20th, 2015

I write small town contemporary romance, along with what sometimes seems to be most of the Romance world. I started with Konigsburg, Texas, and then shifted to Salt Box, Colorado, in a shift that mirrored my own actual move from San Antonio to Denver. But when I say I write about small towns, I need to make an important distinction. My small towns may not be what cross your mind when you think of small towns. My small towns—both of them—are resort towns.

What’s the difference? Basically, resort towns have a different set of objectives from the average small town. Both Konigsburg and Salt Box depend on appealing to outsiders. Tourists are responsible for a large part of their economies, and this has an interesting effect on the way the towns function. Resort towns, in my experience, tend to be more outgoing, more open to new ideas and fashions. They have to keep attracting outsiders, which means they have to change with the times.

And yet they’re still small towns, meaning people know each other and support each other in the way many other small towns do. It’s this combination of sophistication and tradition that fascinates me, I admit. And the actual resort towns my books are based on—Fredericksburg, TX and Steamboat Springs, CO—are favorites of mine.

My latest book, Finding Mr. Right Now, is about a collision between show business and a small resort town. Saltbox, Colorado, is a summer and winter recreational resort that has to put up with the invasion of a reality show, Finding Mr. Right. The locals are friendly but a little taken aback by the outsiders, and a lot of the disagreements between the two groups take place at the Blarney Stone, a local bar loved by locals and visitors alike. Here’s a quick scene where Clark Denham, the owner of a local hotel (and hero of Saltbox Book 2, Love in the Morning, releasing on January 5) tries to explain the origins of the town’s name to some slightly confused Hollywood types (any resemblance to the story of how Tin Cup, Colorado, got its name is purely coincidental):

“Salt Box.” Monica turned to Clark Denham. “Why is it called Salt Box? Is it the name of a mountain?”

He gave her a lazy smile. “Do you want the real answer or the classic answer?”

“Can’t I have both?”

“Sure.” He picked up his beer. “The real answer is nobody knows exactly.”

“And the classic answer?”

“…is a story, of course. Starts when the town wasn’t a town yet. Just a stagecoach stop and a potential stop on the railroad that was supposed to go through and didn’t.” He took another swallow. “Sorry—off topic. Anyway, the people who lived here decided they needed to be an honest-to-god town, which meant they needed a name. With me so far?”

Monica nodded.

“Anyway, they figured they’d let the people in town vote on what name they liked best. So they asked people to write down their suggestions and put them in an empty salt box at the general store.”

Paul raised an eyebrow. “I think I see where this is headed.”

“Yeah, well, keep it to yourself. You’ll ruin my concentration.” Denham gave him a dry smile. “So they had a couple of weeks for everybody to come up with their suggestions for a name and put them in the salt box. Then they called a town meeting so they could have a vote to choose the name everybody liked best.”

Ronnie frowned. “But they should have given people time to think first. I mean, they should have told them the names everybody came up with and then let them kind of talk it over. Because at first they might not have liked some of the names, but after a while they might have decided, okay, that’s not a bad name after all. So everybody would have been happy.”

Denham’s mouth edged into another smile, this one friendly. “That makes a lot of sense, but I think the people in town just wanted to get the whole thing over with. Decide on the name so they could get a post office and then move on.”

Ronnie gave a little puff of disapproval. “Patience is a virtue.”

Denham blinked, then took a breath. “Okay, so we’ve got the townspeople all coming together at the general store. Gonna choose a name and get cracking on having a real town. Civilization here we come.”

Monica leaned forward. “And?”

“And they upended the salt box to get all the suggestions, but there was nothing there.”

Ronnie’s eyes widened. “Nothing? No names or anything?”

“Not even salt?” Paul murmured.

Monica gave him a quelling glance.

Denham shook his head. “Nothing. Nobody had suggested anything. So they decided to name the town after the box. Sort of a reminder that community spirit isn’t always too reliable around here.”

“But that’s sad.” Ronnie’s eyes were suspiciously bright. “Why didn’t somebody suggest something when they found out there weren’t any other suggestions? Maybe name it after their wife or their girlfriend or something. Didn’t they even care about what happened?”

“That’s one possibility.” Denham took another swallow of his beer. “Of course, it’s also possible that nobody could think of anything good enough, and they were afraid to suggest something bad.”

“Or maybe they all figured somebody else would come up with something, so they didn’t bother. That happens a lot.” Saltzman, the bar owner, grinned at Ronnie.

“Maybe.” Her eyes still looked faintly tearful.

Monica sighed. “It didn’t turn out too badly, Ronnie. I mean, Salt Box is a unique name. It’s a lot more memorable than some places I’ve been.”

“Thank you.” Denham bowed slightly in her direction. “I feel that way myself. Better to live in Salt Box than to live in someplace called Highland Park Acres. The town’s got a flair for the unexpected.”

And here’s the blurb for Finding Mr. Right Now:

mbFindingMrRightNow72lgReality can be hotter than fiction.

The Salt Box Trilogy, Book 1

Monica McKellar, associate producer of Finding Mr. Right, is desperate. One of the show’s bachelors has bailed one week before shooting starts. She not only needs a replacement ASAP, he has to get the temperamental bachelorette’s stamp of approval.

Fortunately there’s a hot guy right under her nose who’s a perfect fit. Unfortunately, he pushes all her hot buttons. Until the show’s over, her hands—and every other part of her body—are tied.

When Paul DeWitt signed on to write for the reality show, “Bachelor #10” wasn’t supposed to be in his job description. He fully expects to be cut early on, which will free him to focus on the real object of his attraction. Monica.

Instead, he’s a finalist, and they’re all packed in an SUV climbing the Continental Divide, headed for Salt Box, Colorado. Where stampeding horses, vindictive tabloid editors, and one capricious bachelorette’s waffling over suitors may conspire to end Paul and Monica’s romance before it even starts.

Warning: Contains hot sex on the sly, cold nights, creaking wicker couches, and a gypsy wagon that gives a whole new appreciation for the pioneers.

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