By Jean Hovey & Stephanie Jones, writing as Alicia Hunter Pace, author of Sweet Gone South
Welcome to Merritt, Alabama.
We didn’t start out to go there. For reasons we still don’t quite understand ourselves, we started out writing about elves—not Christmas toy making elves, but pointed eared willowy magic spell casting elves. We don’t read a lot of fantasy. We’d only seen Lord of the Rings once. What might have started out as a whim lasted a novella and two big fat books. Industry professionals liked our elves, but didn’t know what to do with them. They were too funny and there wasn’t enough action. Apparently elves are supposed to save the world and be somber about it—which is understandable. World saving is a serious business. (So is toy making, but that’s another subject and one we probably won’t explore.)
But we couldn’t be somber so we decided we had just better take our funny bone on the road. And the oddest thing happened. We fell in love—with our characters certainly, but that wasn’t new.
As it grew, we became enchanted with the small southern town we had created. For the first time, we truly understood how the setting can be every bit as much a character as the hero and heroine.
• Football is practically a religion and, though the Merritt High Bobcats haven’t won a State Championship or a homecoming game in years, the citizens are hopeful. There’s a new coach in town.
• Sooner or later, everyone shows up at the Diner. If Lou Ann takes a liking to you, she’ll bring you a bowl of banana pudding with a side of local gossip for free.
• Every spring, Etheline Martindale confounds cemetery owner Tiptoe Watkins when she insists on planting pumpkins and corn on her daddy’s grave.
• The table decorating contest at the annual Christ Episcopal Flower Guild Christmas luncheon is serious business. Members wait for years for a chance to participate because somebody has to die for a spot to open up.
This is the backdrop for four book club friends who never seem to get around to discussing books at their meetings. They juggle careers, Junior League, and the smooth talking southern men who orbit around them. They love a party with a theme, margaritas, and each other.
In Sweet Gone South, master chocolatier Lanie Heaven has won national acclaim for her third generation family business, Heavenly Confections. She hasn’t been so lucky at love and, thanks to a long trip down a bad road, she’s not looking.
Single parent Judge Luke Avery needs some help with his toddler, but none of the women lined up at his door with casseroles will do. It seems that as time passes, their skirts get shorter and their lipstick brighter. But his love is dead and buried and he hasn’t got enough heart left to bring about a resurrection.
Neither Luke nor Lanie are prepared when attraction comes knocking.
We hope you’ll drop in to check on what’s going on with Luke and Lanie. Merritt will make you welcome and we think you’ll love it there.
We do. It’s an awful lot like the towns we grew up in.
What do you love (or miss) most about your hometown? Share in the comments!