This book and the next I’ll be discussing have several aspects in common with my Romance One draft. It’s reassuring to see this, because it lets me know that my ideas are well within the genre. For example, in Stranded with The Rancher (next post), it’s a storm that brings together and isolates the couple (as in my Romance One), and some time passes between the initial meet, and the realization that they belong together, a plot timing I like to use. However, if there are too many similarities, I start to worry that I need to change my story. In Hometown Girl Again, Katherine is starting a campground after inheriting property, and running into several challenges. The heroine of my Romance One is also starting a campground after inheriting property, and running into some similar challenges.
Fortunately, there are several differences. Most significantly, Hometown Girl Again is a second chance romance, which I’ve never considered drafting. And Alex, a wounded vet, is nothing like my hero. Katherine is starting a glamping park – she’s restoring vintage trailers, updating them with modern conveniences like toilets and air conditioners, and renting them out for people who want a retro camping experience without all the hassle of being hot or buying a sleeping bag. (There are several effective descriptions of how uncomfortably hot it is, and, since there are heat warnings here, I sympathize.)
My heroine is more interested in accommodating tent campers, but both stories include the realities of running a campground, which I enjoy reading and writing about (also see my review of What We Find for a fringe benefit of running a campground). Katherine and my heroine inherit their properties in different ways, and my heroine has to mortgage the property to pay for the campground construction – leaving her vulnerable to an unscrupulous lender. Yes, she falls for the man who has come to repossess the property. Don’t worry, he’s actually a decent sort and it all works out.
I really should finish that book.
Hometown Girl Again is a 2017 book by Kirsten Fullmer, from Augustine Press. They publish independent authors (whatever that means), don’t seem to have website, and perhaps they are responsible for the cover illustration that incorrectly features a modern trailer.
Katherine grew up poor, without a father, lived with her mother until her mother died, and now does nothing except work as a librarian. She does not appear to have any goals or hobbies, and does not date. When an uncle she barely knew dies, she inherits significant cash and a large piece of property, outside the small town her mother is from. While spending a summer there with her uncle, ten years ago when she was nineteen, she fell in love with Alex, but he left the town and her to join the army. Now he’s back in town too, wounded, and working as an electrician.
Katherine cannot sell the property she inherits until she has lived on it for ten years (the old “will with conditions” plot element). The portion she inherits does not include the house – that portion went to another relative – and she wants to invest the money she’s received, to provide future income. She decides to quit her job, learn how to restore vintage trailers, and turn the property into a glamping park where people can stay in vintage trailers. On the one hand, I love Katherine’s can do spirit, and the details about trailers, having owned a tent trailer and a motor home. On the other hand, it took a lot of suspension of disbelief to accept that someone who has apparently never so much as replaced a door, or has any interest in household maintenance, would decide to rebuild trailers. Even basic repairs like fixing a drawer are considerably more complicated in a trailer, which I know from having owned a tent trailer and a motor home, and spent a lot of time and money fixing them.
Katherine is strong, independent, resourceful, and smart, and she buys her trailers partly restored, but I’m wondering why she decided to restore vintage trailers for a glamping park when there does not seem to be anything in her past or character that would suggest this as an interest. This seems like a character issue with an easy fix. Katherine even owns a copy of The Long Long Trailer, which suggests some previous interest in RV living, but that’s not mentioned when the campground idea is introduced, and it could have been.
Fullmer, like her character, has obviously done research on trailers, and she knows installing an air conditioner in a trailer that never had one is not an easy job. Despite all the great details on trailers, there are several unfortunate errors, such as references to wheel chalks, which should be wheel chocks, and Katherine mentions that her recently acquired 1950s era Spartan Royal Mansion (a real trailer model, and as described) is the same trailer as in the film The Long Long Trailer, when in fact the trailer in that film is a (similar) Redman Champion New Moon.
New Moon trailer, in a scene from The Long Long Trailer, 1954, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Katherine needs to get the park built, which includes installing power at the sites. And there’s only one electrician in town. Actually, two, but Alex’s dad assigns Alex to the job, because everyone in town wants Alex and Katherine to get back together. Putting in the power is a couple of weeks’ work, which is lots of time for our couple to rediscover their attraction for each other. The course of true love is helped by Alex’s new therapy dog, and shared close-quarters tasks such as installing air conditioners in trailers that never had them.
Katherine and Alex have trust issues, with each other, and in general, but there are never any major obstacles to their relationship. The writing is generally flows well, and I love the line “Made no never-mind to him.” Last heard that expression in the film Paper Moon. The dialogue is crisp, although several times characters agree by saying “Rodger” instead of the more common “roger.” The sexual tension is handled well, with humour, and remains sweet. As in many romances, there’s praise for families, but also acceptance of less traditional family structures. For example, Alex’s parents are divorced, but it’s no big deal. The story of Katherine’s missing father is handled with an interesting mix of liberal and conservative attitudes, but, relative to current attitudes on display in the United States, it’s a hopeful example of compassion and open-mindedness.
There are a few small plot holes. For example, it’s not clear what Katherine does for food while she is living at the campground and apparently not coming into town, and since the property has neither water nor electricity, I’m wondering how she has internet access to set up her website. The details of using a generator and bottled water are appreciated, but underscore the lack of information regarding food and internet. However, the larger plot structures and the character development are solid. (This is where my story is weak. It helps me to read how similar story elements, such as a repair in close quarters, or settling down to watch a movie, are used to advance a plot and a relationship). Although fifth in a series, the references to other stories are subtle.
Overall, this is a gentle sweet romance, sentimentally pro-family but not obnoxiously so, with two people whose relationship helps them heal wounds and achieve individual goals. That’s how I like my romances. The story telling is strong enough to distract me from my usual suspicions of second chance stories. I’ll have to check out the other books in the series, and by the author, though I suspect the campground setting of this one will make it my favourite. I also liked seeing how another author handled setting up a campground, and that my own campground romance is a different path to the happy ending.