Sweet Home Carolina


Although the cast is off, I’m still working with one broken wing, so again, I’ll be pithy.

While living in North Carolina, I became aware of another dying American industry—cotton manufacturing. Because of the proximity to cotton fields, cotton mills populated the south from early colonial days. Entire towns grew up around a single industry, providing a way of life that disappeared once cotton was exported to cheap Chinese labor.

Granted, before unionization, the mill system was often little better than paid slavery, but they were jobs that fed the hungry and provided housing for centuries. Manufacturing provides opportunity for small businesses from mechanical part makers to restaurants catering to workers. Once the mills closed, those small businesses, and consequently the towns, died with them. Rural mountain towns with no farming, poor roads, and no other opportunity were hardest hit.

I admired the creativity and all-American ingenuity that went into finding ways of maintaining a way of life in the towns that survived. My story, of course, is entirely fictional and intentionally romantic, but it does reflect some of the desperation of a populace abandoned by industry. I don’t promise a lot of education with the story, but this is a sequel to SMALL TOWN GIRL, and I do hope readers will enjoy the ride.

How much reality do you like to see in your fantasy/romance?

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Sweet Home Carolina — 7 Comments

  1. Did you ever use a loom to weave potholders with those stretchy loops? That was another creative thing — thinking of something totally new to do with trimmings from shirt and sock manufacture, and repackaging them into a totally new income stream.

  2. That is such a good question, I had to think about it as I got the dogs walked and fed. I like some reality in my fantasy/romance . . . if it can be fixed. As soon as we drop into existential despair and postmodern “we’re doomed” I am out of there. I can listen to the news any time I want, I don’t need more angst in my fiction.

    Give my fictional protagonists the ability to fix the ills they see about them, and I am so there.

  3. I haven’t thought about those stretchy loom things in decades! Yes, I used to make potholders except no one ever taught me how to finish them off. I hadn’t realized they stemmed from practicality.

    I think you nailed it, Sherwood. Happy endings are the reason I write romance. The characters might have mountains of problems, but working together, they resolve them by the end. I see no point in futility!

  4. What I loved about Small Town Girl was that there was a real life tied into the love story. Both characters were intimately involved in finding solutions to the town’s problems and in finding ways to bring the community together because the mill closing was way beyond the ability of one person to fix. It’s all or nothing. And the love story reflected that.

    Good job.

  5. Brenda, you’ll be amused to know that it’s almost impossible to find all-cotton versions of those loops anymore. A friend of mine makes them occasionally because her mother adores those potholders and won’t use anything else. BUT — the current ones sold everywhere are cotton-poly mix. They are slick, don’t let you grip things as well, don’t clean, etc.

    My friend’s husband ended up finding all-cotton loops on line somewhere and ordered her a big bag. She may stop making them, now that her Mom is gone, but we all put in orders for colors that make us smile. I have some white, turquoise and fuchsia ones hanging in my kitchen.

    I still think American ingenuity can get us out of a lot of things, if costs like medical care and skyrocketing housing don’t undercut everyone. I enjoyed learning about a small town’s struggle to find a new way to use old talents, Pat. SWEET HOME CAROLINA was a good mixture.

    But I agree with Sherwood — I want to see progress with problems. If I want angst, I’ll read literary fiction. I want to see people working to improve themselves and their situations, even in a good romance. And no stupid misunderstandings, unless they make total sense for the established characters.

    You haven’t done a “stupid misunderstanding” yet, of the books of yours I’ve read, so not worried about that!

  6. Yes, all cotton loops are now rare. Be careful with the blends or the all-acrylic ones — high heat (as with use on a hot pot) will make the artificial fiber melt. They are still a staple of craft classes.

  7. Just discovered we have no way of logging in to comments. I guess I could go back to the home page and sign in but I just wanted to say thanks for the kind words. And melted polyester would be very uncool!