The Rec League: Small Town Competitions

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookThis is another request from our Submit Your Rec League post and it comes from Anne:

Characters who compete in local competitions like the neighborhood garden award or a county fair baking competition. Bonus points for a rivalry with a dastardly neighbor that both main characters love to annoy.

This one was a little tricky for us, so any and all recommendations are welcome!

Tara: The leads join a weekly cornhole game in Beautiful Dreamer by Melissa Brayden, but that’s just one scene.

Sarah: My brain is exhausted so I’m extra bad at this today: the farmer’s market Harlequin?

Nicole Helm?

YES Nicole Helm – I’m foggy bc brain:tired but I think they’re competing in one of the books. (GO ME)

Shana: Is that All I Have? That was the first book I thought of too, but I couldn’t remember if there was a competitive element.

There’s definitely at least a rivalry between their two farmstands, and that book is super cute!

Sarah: Hey, wait, do you think the Talisman’s Hie counts as a neighborhood competition? 😛

Shana: Do sports romances count? Roller Girl by Vanessa North has two women competing on the same roller derby team.

Or there’s that Cathy Yardley book where the heroine is entering a GoT cosplay contest.

Oh! That Adrianna Herrera book!

Sarah: Oh that might work! Oh, the other Yardley book, the first one, has a coding competition but that isn’t quite the same as baking/gardening/neighborhood competition.

The cooking show one?

(Amanda please note how hard we are trying here. GO US)

Shana: This is SO hard!

Sarah: It seems like such a perfect idea for a romance, too: sort of a cozy competition romance

Shana: Oh, the coding competition is a good call, that was a much bigger part of the plot

Mangos and Mistletoe, that’s the Herrera book. F/f about a baking competition.

Level Up is the Yardley book about two coders working together, it’s like a cooperative board game in book form.

Amanda: I appreciate all of your brain power!

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting ( A | BN | K | AB ) has two small businesses competing for a local award.

Shana: Now I’m hungry for baked goods, and I blame you, Amanda.

Amanda: I’ll shoulder that blame!

Which romances would you recommend? Let us know below!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kit says:

    Pretty much every episode of Midsomer Murders!

  2. 2
    JenniferH says:

    From the Momment We Met by Marina Adair (#4 in the St Helena Vineyard series) is set in a small town and has a competition for the best restoration of an historic home.

  3. 3
    HeatherT says:

    THE DUKE WHO DIDN’T by Courtney Milan revolves around a local contest, although it is missing the dastardly neighbor.

  4. 4
    a traveller says:

    It’s a sub-sub-plot, but one of my favourite scenes from Lucy Parker’s Act like it is when not-Cat Richard gets fascinated by the pumpkin competition at the fundraiser they go to.

  5. 5
    Vivi12 says:

    In THE SWITCH, the hero and heroine each try to have their theme idea for the spring carnival chosen, more of an unofficial competition. But once you loosen the rules there are many similar competitions like THE HATING GAME,which isn’t really the same…

  6. 6
    Emily C says:

    Not really a cute neighborhood competition, but Conventionally Yours is an enemies-to-lovers MM romance about competitive gamers on a road trip together. They compete at a local game shop and on a popular vlog for the game (which is a fictional card game called Odyssey, but I think sort of based on D&D or Magic. I am not a gamer so there may be closer parallels). The road trip is taking them to a national game convention and competition.

    The competition and gaming is a big part of the story and they play each other but also a variety of other competitive gamers. The romance was sweet and I really enjoyed the passion for gaming, even though I’m not part of that world or ever done any gaming.

  7. 7
    Cara says:

    Oh I know one that qualifies!

    The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton features one my favorite scenes of all time, where our hero the duke and all the local villagers compete in the “annual harvest foot-and-ale race.” Basically, everyone races barefoot through the village course and has to chug a beer at 8 regular stopping points throughout. First one to reach the finish line (or anyone who reaches the finish line) gets a kiss from his maiden of choice. It’s not a village baking contest, but it’s hilarious and the rest of the book is too. One of my favorite HR comfort reads.

  8. 8
    PamG says:

    I have a few suggestions, none of which is a 100% match for request. So, in order of my affection for each book:

    The Christmas Contest / Scarlett Wilson
    A pair of Christmas fanatics compete in a radio contest to win money for charity. Very light and fluffy, a tad bland, no Grinch types, but otherwise very like the description.

    The Rebel and the Cowboy / Sarah Mayberry
    A young woman is competing with her ex for a public art commission in a small western town, She meets a local rancher/musician who supports her efforts. Sparks ensue. The ex is not a neighbor, but he is a convincing villain. Competition is unconventional, but undeniable.

    Rock Bottom Girl / Lucy Score
    Heroine reluctantly returns to hometown after personal upheaval, is coerced into coaching the high school losing girl’s soccer team, and finds support and eventually more from a colleague. This one definitely has a villain.

    A Taste of Heaven / Penny Watson
    My personal favorite, though it departs from the description. Widowed heroine reluctantly participates in a cooking reality show where success depends not only on culinary talent, but also on the contestant’s ability to work with others. Her chief rival and sometime partner is an alpha grumpasaurus. Mature protagonists and a great supporting cast.

  9. 9
    Tara says:

    The Talisman’s Hie was awesome in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series!

  10. 10
    cleo says:

    You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – YA f/f about a high school senior competing for prom queen. Liz Lighty think’s she’s too Black, too poor, too queer and too nerdy for homecoming queen but is determined to win anyways because she needs the scholarship money. She falls for one of her fellow contestants and they both hate the resident mean girl (AKA racist Regina George) who’s also competing. The romance is kind of understated. It’s silly and over the top and I loved it.

  11. 11
    Ms. M says:

    @Cara The foot-and-ale race sounds decidedly like a beer mile. I wonder if Maggie Fenton is a runner?

  12. 12
    Pear says:

    I faintly remember some competitions around the high school reunion in Getting Out of Hand by Erin Nicholas, which is the start of a series set in a small town in the Midwest. The hero has returned to his hometown and maybe ends up trying to compete with his former classmates in some contests? I also think the heroine was working on a candy recipe but that may have been less competitive and more small business related.

    No idea if any of the other books contain competitive elements.

  13. 13
    JudyW says:

    I don’t know if this hits the mark so closely but I remember in Judith Ivory’s book Indescretion there was an archery competition which was spectacular and very memorable. The nasty neighbor didn’t apply but I think a intolerable fiance was upstaged. Loved that book. It’s a bit like a historical take on “Romancing the Stone”. Or I thought so.

  14. 14
    Kris Bock says:

    How about a demolition derby? Felony Melanie and The Big Smashup is a young adult prequel novel to the movie Sweet Home Alabama, set when the characters from the movie are teenagers, by scriptwriter Douglas J Eboch. Melanie is determined to enter the demolition derby with the boys. The sheriff is their nemesis

  15. 15
    OK says:

    So late with this, but in case it helps a little, Solace Island by Meg Tilly has a baking stand in a small town/island setting. The villain is VERY villainous, and there’s a second book that’s also set in the same small town but has a different set-up but a lot of the same charm. It doesn’t have reviews commensurate with how much I enjoyed it. It hit ALL the buttons for me – humor, mystery, action, and likable characters who don’t let their hang-ups ruin their relationship.

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