Love, Life, and South Jersey

When Melissa Jacobs started her second novel, she decided she needed a change. Instead of writing in her mother’s basement, which is where her first book, Lexi James and the Council of Girlfriends, was born, she rented a studio overlooking Collingswood’s historic downtown.

Collingswood has a cameo in Love, Life & Linguine (HarperCollins, $12.95), which Jacobs set in South Jersey. “I was surprised at how much the region had changed,” says the Cinnaminson-reared author, who ran her own public relations firm in Philadelphia before returning to New Jersey four years ago to write full-time. “Gone were much of the woods and farms, replaced by residential and commercial developments. The geographical schizophrenia seemed a perfect setting.”

The novel’s protagonist, Mimi Louis, does battle with a changing landscape as she tries to save her father’s diner from aggressive developers. The region’s two sides—farmland and developed land—also have roles in Mimi’s love life. One suitor is a farmer who supplies independent restaurants with fresh produce, while the second is an SUV-driving, designer-shoe–wearing developer who’s more likely to dish dirt than to dig in it. “And the thing is, I want both,” says Jacobs of the conflicts she shares with her heroine. “I want my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and I want my farm-fresh tomatoes.”

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