It’s not the destination—it’s the journey.
There are many out there who dismiss the romance genre as formulaic because its essentially defining feature is that there will be a HEA (Happily-Ever-After). How, critics ask, can you retain your feminist creds, your intellectual status, your literary chops if you pick up a book where you already know how it ends?
Well… tell me this. How many times do you plan a vacation where you have no idea of your destination? Not that often, I’d bet. My guess is that you’d say it’s the journey that matters, not the final result. And it’s the same with the romance genre. Sure, we expect that the two main characters will end up together. But the paths taken to reach that point are literally infinite in number. Just ask Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen), Claire Randall (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), Kate Daniels (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) or any of the literally millions of romance heroines how they arrived at their HEAs.
Some of those paths are so well-travelled that the scenery is boring and the tour has become a cliche. Others, though familiar, still offer plenty of exciting, gorgeous, and just plain romantic scenery along the way.
“I did not see that coming.” —Said nobody at the end of a romance novel ever.
The Romance Novel Rehashed: Cliche or Trope?
The difference between a cliché and a trope is that tropes still work. Let’s say you just want to read a good, old-fashioned romance. The trope boils it down:
And the best part? This actually works. Through countless iterations, substitutions, shades, and the occasional glittery hoo-ha and/or vampire, romance stories are fun, satisfying, and endlessly varied.
For a look at a writer who not only nails the romance novel tropes but makes them her own, please see Cindy Dorminy’s new release, In A Jam.
BLURB: In a Jam by Cindy Dorminy
Some sticky situations have a sweet solution
Andie Carson has to do three things to inherit her grandmother’s lottery winnings—sober up, spend a month running her grandmother’s Georgia coffee shop, and enter homemade jam in the county fair. If she can’t meet those terms, the money goes to the church, and Andie gets nothing. She figures her tasks will be easy enough, and once she completes them, Andie plans to sell the shop, take the money, and run back to Boston.
After a rough breakup from his crazy ex-fiancée, Officer Gunnar Wills decides to take a hiatus from women. All he wants is to help make his small town thrive the way it did when he was a kid. But when wild and beautiful Andie shows up, Gunnar’s hesitant heart begins to flutter.
Gunnar knows that Andie plans to leave, but he’s hoping to change her mind, fearful that if her coffee shop closes, Main Street will fold to the big-box corporations and forever change the landscape of his quaint community. But convincing her to stay means getting close enough to risk his heart in the process. Even though Gunnar makes small-town life seem a little sweeter, Andie has to decide if she’s ready to turn her world upside down and give up big-city life. One thing’s for sure—it’s a very sticky situation.
My Review: 5 stars out of 5
She had me at her opening line:
Some might consider waking up in the drunk tank rock bottom. I call it Thursday.
Andie Carson isn’t your usual romantic heroine. She’s defiantly damaged Boston Southie, and just fine with that. With the help of her favorite boys (Jack Daniel and Sam Adams) she can handle anything life slings at her, even Thursday. What she’s completely unprepared for, is the discovery that the beloved Granny she thought dead for years had actually just died, leaving her millions in lottery winnings. There’s just one catch: to get the money, she has to give up her boys—Jack, Sam, and all their friends—and run Granny’s coffeeshop for six weeks. And go to church. And most of all, figure out the secret ingredient in Granny’s prize-winning jam recipe. And she has to do all that by leaving Boston and moving to Georgia.
Even as author Cindy Dorminy ticks off the required romance tropes—from the Meet Cute, to the Goal/Issue that drives them apart, to the HEA (happy ever after) required of all romances—she not only makes them her own, but she makes them hilarious.
Take, for example, the required meet cute, which occurs as Andie stops to use a gas station bathroom, despite her own misgivings. “I need to pee fast and get the heck out of here while I still have all my teeth.” But ‘blood’ splattered against her new car has her running back to the gas station, where the attendant helpfully points out the smoking-hot officer reading the Muscle and Fitness magazine—
Bam, those soft-green eyes compliment his tan skin, and he has a dimple too. Have mercy. I am in heaven. They sure know how to grow them down here.
‘Oh, thank God. I’d never get this kind of service in Boston.’ I’m impressed with this town’s emergency response time. It is very, very satisfactory.
‘Can I help you, ma’am?’ His words slide off his tongue, slow and sweet, like George Clooney with a twang.
Yes. Yes, he can.
Like all good Southern fiction, the real story is in the supporting cast, and In a Jam certainly delivers. From the elderly (but unusually tech-savvy) sisters stalking Andie in hopes of catching her fall off the wagon that will mean her inherited millions will go to the local church, to the bewildering array of family relationships common to every small town. “‘Family,’ I say as I wave to Mel. ‘Yeah. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t shoot ’em.'”
The setting was also perfect. You could feel the heat of a Georgia summer, sympathize with the residents’ love of their decaying little town, and picture Andie unwillingly falling for the shabby coffeeshop that only serves regular coffee. “Well, there’s black coffee, coffee with two creams, cream and sugar. Actually, lots of options.”
Sure there are one or two bones I’d pick with her. Hunky hero Gunnar was supposedly a PhD candidate at Northwestern, but doesn’t show much evidence of the brainpower that would require. Andie’s relationship with Messrs Jack and Sam is never really explained, nor is her ability to go from regular blackout binge drinking to complete sobriety really that likely. But this isn’t Days of Wine And Roses, it’s My Cousin Vinny meets Sweet Home Alabama.
What I loved most about Andie is her ability to separate people from their motives, slowly and surely converting a town full of resentful characters into friends, as she eases ever closer to the realization. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with that matters.”
I can’t recommend enough that you take this journey with Andie to her quirky little southern Georgia town. You’ll love the trip, laugh a lot, and find out how bird poo can look like splattered blood. Bless your heart.
***I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
Book Title: In A Jam
Author: Cindy Dorminy
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Length: 296 pages
Release Date: Red Adept Publishing, LLC (April 10, 2018)
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