Writing Small Town Suspense with Jane Godman

Writing Small Town Suspense

Like many of my romantic suspense stories, my latest release, Colton 911: Family Under Fire , is set in a small town. It follows on from Linda O. Johnston’s book, Colton 911: Caught in the Crossfire, although both can be read as a standalones. The books are set in the fictional Arizona town of Cactus Creek  and I loved sitting at my laptop every day and disappearing into this new world. But what is it that gives small towns their enduring appeal, and how easy, or difficult, is it to set a series of thrillers in a place where most people know each other well?

Firstly, small towns have their own personality. The people have big hearts and tons of character and, unlike in a big city, they aren’t hidden away in a crowd. Everything is on show and that makes quirks and habits stand out. The people are what brings the small town to life, whether it’s the busybody who spreads the local gossip, or the restaurant owner who remembers everyone’s favorite order.   
Everyone knows everyone else. A little too well at times. They have long memories and they hold grudges. It’s no good trying to pull off an act in a small town. Fake engagement? Marriage of convenience? Pretending to be someone you’re not to get that dream job? Forget it.
Then there’s the history and the legends. Local ghosts, villains and horror stories…the whole town knows them word for word. They can help or hinder the characters when it comes to finding romance. 
Isolation, weather, quirky landscape features, local businesses and people…they all add color and depth to the story. Small town doesn’t mean dull town. And with so many interesting personalities, the opportunities to build a series and give the secondary characters a chance to shine just keep growing.

In this story, Cactus Creek is a quiet town that nestles in the embrace of beautiful Arizona scenery. Its western history and small town, desert location is now its economy. Its past is its future. And it’s a town where nothing is quite how it seems… 

At the start of Family Under Fire, FBI Agent Everett Colton is back in his hometown to investigate a murder. It’s December and the whole community is gearing up for the holiday season. Everett is feeling less than festive, and his mood is not improved when he comes face-to-face with Alyssa Bartholomew, the woman who dumped him four years ago. He is angry and confused to discover that they are now joint guardians of a baby girl.     

When he is forced to keep his new family safe from danger, Everett rethinks the situation and starts to appreciate that Cactus Creek may not be such a bad place after all.


I love writing small town romantic suspense…torturing my characters until the final page both emotionally and by throwing them into dangerous situations! I hope you enjoy the twists and turns of both the mystery and the love story of Family Under Fire.



JANE GODMAN is a 2019 Romantic Novelists’ Award winner and 2018 Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. She writes thrillers for Harlequin Romantic Suspense/Mills and Boon Heroes and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne/Mills and Boon Supernatural and St. Martin’s Press Romance. She also self publishes her historical and gothic stories.

Jane was born in Scotland and has lived in Germany, Wales, Malta, South Africa, and England. She still gets the urge to travel, although these days she tends to head for a Spanish beach, or a European city that is steeped in history. 
When she isn’t reading or writing romance, Jane enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, and enjoying the antics of her dogs, Gravy and Vera.  

 Connect with Jane Godman on the web:

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Colton 911: Family Under Fire




An unexpected family

A once-in-a-lifetime reunion in danger…


After a bitter breakup, FBI agent Everett Colton never expected to see his ex-girlfriend, Alyssa Bartholomew, again. Suddenly, tragedy reunites them—and makes them guardians of an orphaned baby girl. Everett suspects that her parents’ deaths were anything but innocent. When his instinct for danger proves correct, it’s his job to protect the child he’s grown to love…and the woman he never forgot.



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