Small town romance novels are as popular as ever, and with good reason.
They provide the comfort of a happily ever after with the bonus of a close-knit community.
Small-town romance series are even more popular; readers love the comfort of immersing themselves in that close-knit community for multiple books.
Reading these series is incredibly cozy, and writing them can be, too.
But what's not cozy? Struggling to choose tropes for your small-town romance novel.
If you're stuck on which tropes to include, I highly recommend the homecoming trope.
What makes the homecoming trope so great is that it can help you plot your romance novel using three main elements: the setting, the character development, and the romance.
Thinking about what makes the small-town uniquely "home" to your main character can help you identify major details like street layouts, types of local businesses, and even particular side characters, and how these relate to your character's past.
Thinking about how the homecoming trope affects your characters can also help you plot their development arcs. Often, main characters in homecoming small-town romances are at a crossroads, either reeling from the aftereffects of a dramatic and, sometimes, traumatic life event, or trying to decide which direction to take their life next. If that's your character, throughout the story they'll have to reckon with who they were when they left town, how they've changed, and who they want to be going forward. Thinking about what events could inspire this reflection is a useful way of plotting that development arc.
And if you want to intertwine your romance and character development arcs, you could use romance story beats to inspire your character's reflection. Maybe the meet-cute with the old flame reminds your character of who they used to be, or a date with the town newbie drives them to consider how they want to act both in and out of relationships moving forward.
If you're writing a historical small-town romance with the homecoming trope, you can't do better than reading The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan for research. It's one of the best historical romance examples of the homecoming trope and features a returning duke who has to confront the lies he told the town before he left, and repair the relationships that break when the truth comes out.
For those writing a contemporary small-town romance with the homecoming trope, check out A Dash of Salt and Pepper by Kosoko Jackson, which weaves the angst of a forced homecoming into a delicious contemporary romance about two chefs learning what "home" really means.