Author Jill Kemerer is pictured with her book "Small Town Bachelor," a Christian-themed Harlequin romance that she recently published.
Jill Kemerer of Waterville has reached a major life goal. A longtime writer, she has finally had a novel published, by Harlequin. The official release date was April 1.
Small-Town Bachelor, set in the fictional town of Lake Endwell, Mich., is the story of the romance between Claire Sheffield, who has lived in the rural town most of her life and has dedicated herself to working with zoo animals, and Reed Hamilton.
Reed is “hot enough to melt the ice sculpture sitting on the second shelf of the walk-in freezer.”
Claire “had unusual eyes — a ring of indigo surrounded by the palest blue — and a sweet smile. The kind of smile a guy could let go to his head, if he was the type to consider having a wife and family. Which [Reed] wasn’t. Not even close.”
Reed is a Chicago construction executive who traveled to Lake Endwell to be best man at the wedding of Claire’s sister and his younger brother. A tornado wrecked the town, Reed was injured, and Claire and Reed grew close.
The book’s publication “was a big deal for me. I’d been trying to get published for seven years, and I was writing at least two books a year,” Mrs. Kemerer said. But she had an agent, and a Harlequin editor wanted revisions to her proposal for Small-Town Bachelor. After that was submitted, “I’d just been waiting and waiting.”
Harlequin romance novels have a reputation for containing plenty of love and lust, with a good amount of steam, but the publishing house has a much wider range.
Mrs. Kemerer’s book is in the Love Inspired line, which, according to Harlequin, markets “contemporary inspirational romances that feature Christian characters facing the many challenges of life and love in today’s world.” Six Love Inspired titles are published every month.
"Small Town Bachelor," a Christian-themed Harlequin romance that was written by Waterville author Jill Kemerer.
For Love Inspired, according to Harlequin, “You believe hearts can heal. Love Inspired stories show that faith, forgiveness, and hope have the power to lift spirits and change lives — always.”
Asked how the steamy aspect is addressed, Mrs. Kemerer said, “Everybody asks that. There is no ‘steamy’ allowed.”
About as close as it gets to steam is this line from page 40: “She touched his hard, muscular biceps. Big mistake. Warmth pooled in her stomach.”
Harlequin has guidelines for Love Inspired books, including an emphasis on “emotional intimacy rather than sexual desire” and a “mandatory faith element that is integral to the story and shows rather than tells, avoiding didactic, preachy tone or doctrinal language,” according to the Harlequin website.
“There might be one or two kisses,” Mrs. Kemerer said. The novels are “very clean, targeted as heartwarming romance, and I believe that’s true. We follow strict Christian Booksellers Association guidelines, so you’re typically not going to find any drinking, swearing, no references to luck, just nothing that would offend most Christians, basically.”
You will see “relatable heroines in everyday life finding love in the arms of a strong, honorable man,” the website says. “Love Inspired heroes should be strong and smart, with a core of tenderness, and the heroines should be their equals.”
“These books feature imperfect people,” Mrs. Kemerer said. “Some of them struggle with their faith. All of them are going through some kind of faith journey during the book, and that’s what makes [Love Inspired] really different than regular romance, is that there is that spiritual arc going on, too.”
When Small-Town Bachelor was on the editor’s desk, her career as a writer “was getting really depressing,” Mrs. Kemerer said, as was her life. “My father has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and early last year that really came to a head. Everything felt terrible.”
Her husband, Scott, had been “my patron of the arts. It was full-time [writing] for seven years with zero pay.” He is a sales manager for 84 Lumber. They moved to Whitehouse about two and a half years ago, and previously were in Monroe. Their two children are students in Anthony Wayne schools.
They attend Resurrection Lutheran Church in Maumee, which is in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
While waiting for her editor’s decision, Mrs. Kemerer started to look for a regular job. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be discouraged and depressed all the time.’ I thought God might have something else for me.
“In May  I was just going about my business, and there! I did it! I got the call [that Small-Town Bachelor would be published] and I just bawled, I cried. I was so overwhelmed, you know, and it was a wonderful, wonderful feeling, but it was really emotional.”
Mrs. Kemerer doesn’t expect that being a novelist will make her wealthy, but “you can make a good living that way.” Mrs. Kemerer’s second novel, Unexpected Family, is on the calendar for September, and she recently signed a contract for a third book. “They’re all set in Lake Endwell,” she said.
“I think I will always write Christian romance. I’m not saying that’ll be the only genre I will ever write, but I think I’ll always write that, and I’ve wanted to get in with the Harlequin line for years, so if I could have a career with them forever, that would be pretty amazing, you know.”
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