It’s the middle of August. It’s hot and often humid. A time when a hammock looks pretty good. This portrait of a woman doing her correspondence while sitting in a hammock under the trees is a cooling view. Perhaps there’s a breeze.
What if, instead of dutifully looking through her letters, the woman reclined with a book? Fast forward to 2018. I suggest pleasant hammock reading on a summer’s day can be found in a genre called Women’s Fiction. No thinking required. The stories are somewhat formulaic. The endings are positive. And the challenge for the female protagonist is no more than she can bear.
Today’s featured author is Carolyn Brown, the author of eighty-five books in the genres of Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Cowboy Romance, and Women’s Fiction. It’s clear from the categories that her books are a far cry from the literary and historical fiction I usually read, but sometimes a bit of fluff is welcome.
THE STRAWBERRY HEARTS DINER is a fun read. You can tell just by looking at the cover that the book is mostly cheerful. The story is about the women who own and run the Strawberry Hearts Diner, its name a play on words. The diner offers all manner of good food, the most delectable being strawberry tarts, preferably consumed on the premises. No one for any reason can take more than two tarts out of the diner. The recipe, of course, is a closely guarded secret known only to Nettie, co-owner of the diner.
The diner is located in a small Texas town called Pick, because another small town had already snagged the name Strawberry. Primary characters besides Nettie include Vicky Rawlins, and her daughter Emily. The male characters take a secondary place. And then there’s the bad guy, developer Carlton Wolfe who wants to buy all the property in town for a real estate development.
It may seem like I told you the story, but I didn’t. There’s another character, Jancy Wilson, who finds her place in Pick in a process of redemption.
If The Strawberry Hearts Diner is heartwarming, The Ladies’ Room adds a dollop of humor to the mix. Once again the setting is a small town. This time it’s Tishomingo, Oklahoma, an actual place. In the book Tishomingo is a town where everyone knows everyone and goes to church on Sunday.
When the story opens, Gertrude Martin is dead, yet her voice is heard as a driving force throughout the story. She is/was a person who didn’t suffer fools and pretty much did as she pleased.
The story opens at her funeral. Trudy, the primary character, finds herself in a stall of the church ladies’ room when her two gossipy cousins stroll in. Not only does Trudy find out what they really think of her, she discovers her husband is having an affair with a woman half his age. Both while she remains undiscovered in her stall.
After the funeral, everyone goes to the reading of the will. Great-Aunt Gertrude left everything to Trudy. As the book unfolds, “everything” turns out to be more than Gertrude’s crumbling house and large bank account.
Will forty-two year old Trudy leave her husband and get a life? Will she find love? Did I mention that Women’s Fiction generally has a happy ending?
Correspondence by Theodore Robinson. Public Domain.
Strawberry Tart / Cakes of France by Kamel15. Creative Common Attribution.
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.