Lists are fun, right? Even though magazines are pretty much six feet under, blogs still do them. Podcasts still do them. So I thought I’d regale you with a very reader-centric list. A behind-the-scenes, how-the-sausage-gets-made list.
THE EX SPY WHO MAYBE LOVED ME is book two in my Swan Cove series. Swan Cove happens to be a fictional small town in coastal Maine. How’s that a list, you ask? Well, I’ve written three other small town series—all in real places. Everything setting-wise was handed to me on a silver platter. For Swan Cove? I got to make it all up.
Which meant starting with a list of ‘what should be in my epic, perfect small town’?
I mean, that’s one of the joys of the trope, right? You have expectations as a reader, and the author needs to deliver all your faves.
There are twenty-one things on my list. This is only a three book series. Obviously, they didn’t all make the cut (like the adorable carved wooden toy store). I also realized that there weren’t even pages to include:
- a gastropub
- a brewpub
- an Irish pub
- a classy lounge/bar above a barbeque joint
- a romantic trattoria
- an ice cream and donuts store
- a bakery
- a chocolate shop
- a wine bar
- a taco and burrito walk-up joint
Honestly? There were two more food/drink-related ideas, but this is getting embarrassing. Nobody wants to watch characters just chew their way through a romance. But I do love each and every idea.
The Irish pub got used repeatedly. The trattoria you won’t see until book 3. The chocolate shop makes an appearance in this book, as does something not on my original list: an end-of-the-pier chowder takeout.
What else does the ideal small town contain? Well, I wrote down dog park, but that morphed into a pet groomer/kennel where an important side character works. A rare book store, featured in this book as, yes, a place of employment for the heroine’s friend. And for those doubters who ask how can a tiny town keep a rare bookstore in business? 1) it’s fiction, lol. For all you know, the owner’s an eccentric bajillionaire who keeps it as a hobby, and 2) (the real answer) lots of online orders.
Don’t worry – of course there’s a yummy bakery/coffeehouse. It practically opens book three with a head-to-head faceoff between the hero and heroine, fighting over the last coffee cinnamon crunch scone.
The fun thing I did in THE EX SPY WHO MAYBE LOVED ME was to put an even smaller town inside my small town. Sort of. Swan Cove’s largest single employer is Cygnet Labs, where my heroine, Dr. Blake Montgomery works. It’s a self-contained ecosystem (think the Google and Facebook campuses in California) with golf carts to zip from building to building, gourmet cafeterias, cleaners, gyms, basketball and tennis courts, you name it. Why? Because if you like a small-town, isn’t it more fun to have double the goodness? The lab has all its own quirky characters, fabulous baked goods, and, of course, juicy gossip.
So welcome to Swan Cove. The ultimate small town—I think. Where what wasn’t named by the Montgomerys is owned by them. Or, as my hero Wyatt Keene, the ex-spy says,
He’d been here less than a week, and he’d heard from basically everyone he interacted with on the greatness of the founding family. Basically, a combination of Washington, Constantine the Great, and Jesus.
“Yeah, yeah. This entire town sprang from the Montgomerys like Athena popping out of Zeus’s skull.”
NYC is exactly what scientist Blake Montgomery needs. A little decadence and a whoooole lot of anonymity, well away from the prying eyes of her charming, touristy small town of Swan Cove. Now, at the end of a whirlwind trip, she has one final thing to cross off her to-do list: a sexy fling. And the hot, green-eyed stranger at the Maine airport bar might be her perfect one-night stand. Until, of course, he shows up in her town the very next day.
Wyatt Keene is just an average guy—now. But four days ago, he was a black ops intelligence agent who spent fifteen years being someone—anyone—except himself. For one hot night, Blake makes him forget he’s supposed to start his life all over again…as himself. Talk about mission impossible.
Except suddenly Wyatt and Blake are not only stuck in the same town together, but also sharing the same office, and there’s no escaping their scorching hot chemistry. Wyatt’s trying to convince everyone, especially Blake, that he’s just a normal guy—whatever that means. But nothing spells danger like trying to start a relationship with an ex-spy who hasn’t quite left his old life behind…
Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance, including the Naked Men and Aisle Bound series. Christi can always be found whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.