Location Location Location
We talk about our favourite places to set a romance, whether it's a bustling urban jungle or a tranquil town in the countryside. What's your favourite romance setting?
Heidi Rice - I Heart London
Of course I’m going to plump for my home town as the ideal romance location… I love to set books in London, partly because I’m a bit lazy when it comes to research and I know this city – or certain parts of this city – like the back of my hand.
But okay, it’s not just laziness that attracts me to London as a setting. It’s those hidden gems about this place that people who don’t live here don’t know about – because London is really two cities.
It’s the iconic city tourists love and flock to in their droves, blocking Millennium Bridge to take yet another photo of the Shard or Tower Bridge, cramming onto Oxford Street and Regent Street to be ripped off by over-priced chains and finding a tiny oasis in John Lewis if they’re lucky, or stopping to stare at the strident heritage beauty of The Mall and Buckingham Palace, the phallic pomp of Nelson’s Column or jumping aboard the world’s slowest ferris wheel and then getting trapped for hours on The London Eye… And all of that’s great, don’t get me wrong, those iconic symbols of this city are kind of cool when I make the rare effort to actually see or do them.
But they’re just places, things, inanimate objects, experienced without context… The real romance of London – and the city’s other heart – is its people – that thriving melting pot of humanity… Their diversity, their energy, their drive and ambition, their humour and their heartache…
To see and appreciate that, you need to maybe jump on the Overground and head to Shoreditch with its hipster shops and internet cafes. You need to go to work in Canary Wharf and see all those sharply dressed businessmen and women racing towards the tube on a Friday afternoon as if their lives depended on it – captains of industry dwarfed by skyscrapers.
You need to hang out watching the sun set over the Regents Canal as the cyclists dart in between the pedestrians on the canal path avoiding catastrophe by millimetres.
Or stroll through Stoke Newington on a Thursday evening after work to down a strawberry daiquiri in a pub garden and maybe pop across the road for Naples favourite pizza or the best Kerala Indian outside, well, Kerala.
You need to get the ultra cheap seats for a West End show and take a packed night bus home through Bloomsbury and Lincolns Inn. Or go to a gig at the Union Chapel – and dance your heart out in a virtually derelict crypt strung with fairy lights.
And all that’s just going on in my tiny corner of this vast city.
The most romantic thing about London, ultimately, is the people you meet here, and the people watching opportunities it represents in all sorts of cool and varied locations. There are millions of love stories just waiting to be told here and the more I watch and participate, the more I see, and the more my imagination explodes with the possibilities.
Heidi's latest novel, Summer at Willow Tree Farm, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
Avril Tremayne - I Heart Sydney
I’ve said a time or two that if I were ever to write a story set outside a city (not likely but hey, never say never) it would end up being a fish out of water story – such is my love of urban life.
There are certain things that all great cities have in common. Top of my mind are: a diverse, multicultural population; great restaurants and cafés; cool bars; assorted festivals; theatre and sport events; historic areas; interesting architecture; and beautiful public spaces.
But some cities weave a little extra magic, which makes them especially perfect for a romance novel. And my home city of Sydney, Australia, is one such city.
Part of Sydney’s appeal is its physical geography – there aren’t many places that can rival Sydney’s harbour and white sand beaches for gorgeousness; part has to do with its iconic structures (hello Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge), which provide a focal point for so much activity; and part is climate-related – long hot summers, ridiculously mild winters, perfectly delightful springs and autumns.
But its lifestyle is what clinches the deal in my opinion, and that’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Combine the city’s natural beauty, the landmarks, the climate…and you end up with a distinctly ‘al fresco’ experience that means you don’t even particularly mind going for a run, since you can generally do it year-round under a vivid blue sky in a lushly vegetated park that’s being enjoyed by picnickers, horse riders, cyclists and the occasional wandering black swan.
Two of my editors (one in the USA and one in the UK) have specifically requested I make more of my Sydney setting, because it’s such an aspirational location – that’s an advertisement in itself, isn’t it?
But too me, hyping up the Sydney quotient isn’t a simple case of whacking in a reference to the Sydney Opera House; it’s more about the hidden gems that give a Sydney its personality – a sense of bantering humour; the nuances of a particular suburb; its obsessions – like food and coffee and real estate; a feeling that if you happened to be in a Sydney pub for as Sunday afternoon drink at the bar, the conversations between my characters are precisely what you might hear (and it’s true, you might).
So I urge you to take a stroll around Sydney – in person if you can do it, but via the pages of a Sydney-set romance if you can’t. There’s fun to be had, I promise you!
Teri Wilson - I Heart Paris
Ooh la la! Is there any place on earth as blissfully romantic as Paris?
Spoiler alert: No. There isn’t.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Paris last year for the 2016 Les Romantiques book festival. It was an event for readers and writers of romance, the first of its kind in Paris. Of course I accepted the invitation. How could I not?!
I traveled to Paris with my good friend Julia London, who was also invited.
Instead of getting hotel rooms, we rented an apartment in the Latin Quarter district near Notre Dame Cathedral. The apartment was absolutely gorgeous. So Parisian! My room had big French doors that opened up to a spectacular view, and we had a whitewashed piano in the living room. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to stay in a real Paris apartment instead of a chain hotel.
We walked to the book festival every day and passed shop windows full of whipped meringues, homemade French marshmallows and tiny delicate cakes. We passed the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore and Notre Dame, with its gargoyles and stained glass windows. On the weekend, our little neighborhood hosted a farmer’s market and we tasted fresh cheese and fruit from the French countryside.
The book festival was wonderful, even though my three months of French Rosetta Stone language tutoring didn’t exactly make me fluent enough to chat with the French readers. But they were lovely, and I did know enough French to communicate with the cab drivers, who would mock my accent and then give me mini-French lessons during the ride.
During time off from the festival, we saw a breathtaking French fashion exhibit at the textile museum and visited the Palais Garnier Opera House, which was hands-down the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. We even visited a tiara museum, because yes, that is a thing that exists in Paris!
We drank champagne at the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Élysées, ate macarons at Ladurée and learned all about French wine at the cave in Le Bon Marché. On our last night in Paris, we had dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower, where they serves a cocktail called the Belle Eiffel that’s the exact color of the sunset as seen from the restaurant windows.
Paris is magical place. I left there so inspired. My book Royally Romanov, which I wrote upon my return to the U.S., is a contemporary retelling of Anastasia, but it’s also a love letter to Paris…the most romantic city in the world. I can’t wait to go back someday. .
Vanessa North - I Heart Small Towns
I’m a small town girl, born and raised in a tiny rural community in Western Massachusetts, and raising my own family in a place where Atlanta’s suburbs give way to horse farms and quiet living. In the five years I’ve been a published romance author, I’ve set a few books in famous cities like New York and Paris, but when it comes right down to it, I love writing small towns. Rural communities are tiny microcosms of society—but they’re also frequently cocooned from the rest of the world, a perfect place to force characters into the proximity they need to get over themselves and under each other.
My favorite part of writing a small town romance is how the setting becomes a character. The town a rowdy drunk on Friday nights? A gossipy old lady running the till at the only gas station for miles? Or is it a lifetime of memories shared in a single glance between old friends?
The characters an author chooses to populate the town give it a shape and a life that make it as much a character in the story as its people. An oceanfront town in the Carolinas with a quaint boardwalk will have a different feel than a farming community in the foothills of the Berkshires or a lake town in central Florida, but all three can provide depth and a feel of close-knit community.
Small town romances also offer loads of opportunity to explore some of my favorite tropes—hometown boy or girl returning either a hero or in disgrace, second chance at romance, city mouse/country mouse, enemies or friends to lovers, and more. These tropes can be a powerful foundation for any kind of story, but in a romance they make me swoon. Using the quirky characteristics of a small town, and the cocoon away from the outside world, you can really explore these tropes with nuance and depth.
When it comes to romance, I guess I’m just living proof that you can take a girl out of her small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl..
Vote for your favourite setting and/or tell us about the animals you think we should have added to the #PinkHeartPoll in the comments or by using #locationlocationlocation on Social Media to join the #PHS community's discussion.