Travel Inspires Romance Novels

Between my old “day job” and my inherited wanderlust feet, I’ve done a great deal of traveling–and can’t wait to get out and do some more! Travel gives me a broader perspective and helps me come up with new ideas for plots and characters for my romance novels.

Inspiration for a romance  novel on the Bitterroot River.Travel doesn’t have to be far. My husband and I took a walk a few weeks ago and I snapped this photo on the Bitterroot River. A romance novel could evolve from this picture. Or a romantic suspense. What if the fisherman found a dead body? Or a woman crying by the river? What happens then?

Or maybe he’s the villain in the piece?  Let your imagination run wild. I know I will. Once I’m done with my California Romance series, I know I’m thinking about a series set in my home state of Montana.  I’m just not sure where exactly to place it.

Inspiration for romantic suspense

A traveler could break down near this hardscrabble ranch on Montana’s Eastern Front. Will she find welcome or danger? Maybe she could help the son bring the ranch back to life and discover love in the process.

Grizzly bear paw print inspires romantic suspense

A grizzly bear paw print definitely leads to romantic suspense.  For the man or woman? What if its a woman and her child and the rescuer is a forest ranger?  Or a nerdy scientist from the University of Montana? So many possibilities…

Make sure you always have a good book when you travel, as well as lots of paper to make notes and a camera. Take some time to stop and see, really see, the amazing world around us.

As writers, we hope to evoke the world around us or invent worlds of our own for you to visit for a while.

Fishercap Lake, Glacier National ParkOne of my favorite places is Glacier National Park. Sooner or later I know I’ll have a story that takes place in that craggy country.  There are plenty of animals to invite into my stories, including the bull moose in the lake to the left.

California Romance beach

In the meantime stop by and visit the land I’ve created in the California Romance series (California Sunset and California Wine). Costanoa is quite beautiful this time of year.

Writing sun when snow is on the ground.

9781440557286I’m penning a short story this week.  A high school reunion set at a local (Idaho) resort, if you use the word resort very liberally. And what’s been the hardest part, is getting the feeling of the story to match the warm June morning I’m trying to evoke, rather than the chilly and gray January day I’m experiencing.

I’ve brought out the suntan lotion to remind me of summers as a teenager, laying by the pool, slathering coco butter on my very white body. Trying not to burn. The smell of coconut overwhelming anything else on my senses.

But my mind keeps going back to one Martin Luther King holiday in January where I took my nieces up to a hot springs in historic Idaho City. The unheated changing room had me questioning my fun getaway, but once we were in the pool, everything was glorious.  The snow on the hills around us made the light from the pool sparkle.  And the girls and I giggled and laughed for hours.  Best. Day. Ever.

Today, I’m pulling out the hot dogs and going for a taste of summer to open up my senses.

So other LIR’s, what have you done to get yourself in the mood to write out of season? And, no, a trip to Hawaii is probably out of the question.  At least this year.

And – check out the reviews coming in for The Bull Rider’s Manager.  5 stars from Harlequin Junkie and Love in a Book Reviews.

 

What’s in a name? Elite places of London and their modest beginnings.

What’s in a name?

Elite places of London mentioned in my historical romance novels, and their modest beginnings.

By Suzi Love 

Like many historical romance authors, many of my books are set in and around London in the late Regency era, including my historical erotic romance, The Viscount’s Pleasure House.

Historical romance authors often have characters who live in elite areas, such as Mayfair, Grosvenor Square,

English: Millennium Hotel London Mayfair, Gros...

London Mayfair, Grosvenor Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and Berkeley, yet all these areas had more lowly, or more dubious, beginnings. Justin, my gorgeous hero, lives in Mayfair, yet he does most of his erotic business at his Pleasure House in one of the less socially esteemed areas of London.

Mayfair, London, is one of the world’s most elite and expensive addresses. But did you know that Mayfair began as a cattle market and was named after the annual May Fair held at what is now the trendy café precinct of Shepherd Market?

Not only did all the elite areas of Mayfair have modest beginnings, but their other claim to fame was for their licentiousness, despite Queen Anne’s attempts to ban it, and became ‘The Place to Go’ for the more outrageous pleasure activities.

Grosvenor Square, London, now has one entire side taken up by the huge, and well-guarded, US embassy. These days, the square is a favorite residential location for the rich and famous. But the Grosvenor family’s selling of the land in the late 1700s so large residences could be built, put an end to the fair always held there and attended by people of all classes. Evicting the fair started the ‘gentrification’ of the area.

The London Docks were originally one of several sets of dirty and dangerous docks in the historic Port of London. Eventually, the docks were removed but the area remained derelict until the London Docklands Development Corporation bought it in 1981 and built luxury hotels, residences for the wealthy, and turned the area into a world-renowned business and  financial centre.

Marylebone, pronounced Mar-lee-bone, was named for the church of St Mary

St Marylebone Parish Church

St Marylebone Parish Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

built near a small river or stream called the Tyburn or Tybourne. Hence St Mary-le-Burn became St Marylebone. The area is still famous for the many doctors who set up rooms in Harley Street, but the area started out as a lowly medieval village which only gained fame when fashionable people began to spread further out than central London.

I’ve only spoken here about London, but similar things happened in cities all around the world.

Have you read, or written, stories set in areas that were considered seedy in past era but are now very expensive and trendy?

New York, of course, springs to mind.

Where else do you know?

The Viscount’s Pleasure House is available at Crimson Romance eBooks, Amazon, iTunes.

The Viscount's Pleasure House

 

Pleasure Gardens by Suzi Love

An 18th century print showing the exterior of ...

An 18th century print showing the exterior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens and part of the grounds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suzi Love LogoPleasure Gardens by Suzi Love,

author of The Viscount’s Pleasure House. 

 

 

 

Public pleasure houses and gardens had existed for many centuries, so the idea of a 19th century Viscount making money from the Pleasure Garden and Bath House on his country estate was nothing new.

Although, the way Justin created extravaganzas in his pleasure gardens may have raised a few eyebrows in the late Regency era where morals were becoming ‘slightly’ more circumspect.

In Ancient Rome, the landscaped Gardens of Sallust were open to the public for many centuries  and included a temple to Venus and monumental sculptures.

In the 18th and 19th centuries in London, many pleasure gardens were opened, including Cremorne Gardens, Cuper’s Gardens, Marylebone Gardens, Ranelagh Gardens, Royal Surrey Gardens and Vauxhall Gardens.

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of the grander Pleasure Gardens contained large concert halls and hosted promenade concerts or a menagerie for family outings, but there were also many smaller gardens. Some were tea gardens for ladies, but other less publicized ones were outdoor entertainment areas for gentlemen and the women who entertained them.

Towards the end of the 18th century, pleasure touring around England became a popular pastime for the rich and leisured class, and ‘picturesque’ tourists encouraged the reshaping of gardens and  landscapes on country estates.

Capability Brown was often employed for garden redesigns and landowners began to follow the advice in William Gilpin gave in his book – for travelers to examine “the face of a country by the rules of picturesque beauty.

Extensive pleasure gardens, with irregular sight lines and prefabricated ruins of classical’ structures, were built all over England. These ideas were imitated in Europe and as far afield as the Americas, New Zealand and Australia.

 

Lithograph of Cremorne Gardens in 1862

Lithograph of Cremorne Gardens in 1862               (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So when Justin, Viscount Hawkesbury and the hero in The Viscount’s Pleasure House, needs money quickly to extend his search across Britain for his missing family, he opens the ‘Pleasure House’ on his own estate to the wealthy and bored upper classes of London. These men, and women, will pay anything and go anywhere to find different entertainment that will, for a few days at least, let them toss off their habitual state of ennui.

To Justin, his rich peers are plump pigeons, ripe for plucking. For three years he hosts lavish themed events at the Pleasure House with Arabian tents, harem dancers, and hot baths keeping these indolent aristocrats happy.

But for Justin, pleasure turns to disgust and he is eager to wave goodbye to that lifestyle. His plans, however, are thrown into disarray by the arrival of Lady Wellsby, a country-innocent widow, who is eager to learn as much as possible from London’s notorious Virile Viscount.

Viewing his Pleasure Gardens through Chrissie’s eyes reminds Justin of the beauty of his inheritance, whereas before he’d remembered only the cruelty of his father when he evicted Justin’s mother. Justin had imagined the estate was a means to find and retrieve his family, nothing more.

Gardens are meant to be enjoyed and their beauty slowly savored. Do you have any favorite gardens you visit to walk through and admire the beauty?

 

Want to read more about The Viscount’s Pleasure House?  The Viscount's Pleasure House

Please visit these places.

Crimson Romance ebooksAmazonB&N  – iTunesGoodreads

Bookworld AustraliaBarnes and NobleAll Romance

Want to read more of my historical research, especially around the late Regency and very early Victorian eras?

Please visit my website.

Or read my magazine – Suzi Love’s Web roundup – http://bit.ly/UzcVXC

Or read – Suzi Love’s Daily Gossip Newspaper – http://bit.ly/11iv1Ql

What Tough Girls Do –

I really root for the tough girls, the ones that can and do make it on their own every day through their personal brand of grit and smarts. So, when I wrote Bring It On, I wanted to portray that type of woman. One that never really needed or desired a man to control her life, and was determined to steer clear of the ones that wanted to.

Kathryn Delroy is smart, and strong, in many ways. A former track star, she isn’t interested or concerned with her looks, though she’s blessed with them anyway.

So what do tough girls like her do for thrills? Ha, well that’s the thing –there’s not a lot she can’t do. She grew up the little sister of a guy that was into sports, hunting, and lake life. She learned to wake board, snow board, and run like the wind; which is why she ended up a track star in High School and College. She could keep up with the boys and did. Nothing irritated her more than to be listed as one of ESPN’s hottest athletes – because they’d recognized her for the wrong reasons.

Okay, well one thing irritated her more –running into her brother’s best friend after ten years of silence and finding him just as frustratingly irresistible. To top it all off, she gets thrown into being his partner for all the team building exercises at a remote company seminar in Alaska. She finds herself literally thigh to thigh with him, then other parts get involved and well, things get carried away in the wilderness.

She learns what toughness really means when she and Thomas, the friend turned –something more, end up hunted by a hired killer because they decided to give in to fifteen years of pent up lust for each other.

How do you save yourself from someone that’s a professional at getting his man (or in this case woman)? And what do you do about the guy you tried to steer clear of and couldn’t when things get life threatening?

See how Kathryn handles it, in Bring It On.

 

That’s a big dude.

My Nora coverI’ve got a thing for big guys. “Big” as in tall and a bit broad. I’m pretty shrimpy, so I’m sure I’m compensating. My husband is 6’5″, 6’6″, 6’7″ (depending on which form of identification you look at) so it all balances out.

There’s just something really sexy about being physically picked up and carried off for some fun. When I was in college, I briefly dated a guy who was about my height, and I suppose not much heavier than me. I’m 5’2″. I just…well. I don’t know. He was cute. He was really cute, but the cavewoman in me had to throw him back. I think I saw him years later and he was working as a police officer. So, he was certainly fit enough, but jut didn’t ring my bells.

When I see a big guy, I think “VERILE!” and I get all giggly. That’s why most of my male protagonists tend to be tall and athletic even if American men tend to average 5’10”.

Nora, in My Nora (coming Monday), is a small-framed woman with an attitude that makes up for her size. Her love interest, Matt, is a big dude: around six and a half feet tall and over two hundred pounds. He’s powerful, but, uh…flexible. He’s not the typical oaf.

What can I say? I like what I like. Blame it on the estrogen. Here’s a bit of Matt in action.

Matt looked down into her piercing gaze and ground his teeth to fight off the smirk that was his longtime nervous tic. It wouldn’t do for her to think he was off his rocker during their first encounter. He didn’t even know her name and she’d lived on that property for several weeks.

“Mr. Vogel, did you hear anything I just said?”

Matt nodded slowly. “Yep. I heard you. No guns.”

“Good. I’m glad we understand each other.”

Oh, he understood her. “So, crossbows are okay? I’m not such a great shot with bow and arrow but my little sister has crackerjack aim.”

She just blinked those big brown eyes at him.

“Okay, so that’s ‘no,’ I’m guessin’.” He let a broad smile soften his face, hoping it’d put her at ease.
The very corners of her luscious lips twitched. That smile always worked on the ladies, but she was fighting hard.

She squinted at him and crossed her arms over her chest. “You guess right.”

“Okay, Miss … well, you have me at the disadvantage here. I don’t even know your name.”

“Fredrickson.”

He waited for her to offer her first name, but when she just stood there glaring up at him with her lips pressed tightly together, he gave up on it. “Miss Fredrickson —”

“Ms.”

Matt looked down at her ring finger and found it empty. “Okay. Ms. Fredrickson, our parcel of land abuts yours on the back border. We can try to stay on our side of the property line, but sometimes when you’re stalking a buck you lose track of where are. If you could just give us permission to hunt over here, we’ll try not to abuse it.”

“You’d better do more than just try to stay off my property, Mr. Vogel,” she hissed, eyes going to narrow slits and voice dropping about half an octave.

Matt thought the woman seemed extremely uptight and that he could probably fix that little problem for her with a couple of hours and a soft bed. Hell, he could probably do without the bed. It’d been a long time. He was a big guy. They could probably do it standing with no sweat off his back. He thought she looked like a screamer and chuckled at the thought.

“Mr. Vogel?” she pressed, looking annoyed now.

“Hmm?”

“Do we have an understanding?”

“Oh. Sure thing,” he said, smiling wider so his dimples showed.

She didn’t look convinced, but unclenched her jaw and unfolded her arms all the same. “I imagine I don’t need to show you the way out, then.”

“No, ma’am. I can find my way to the road plenty by myself.”

“Have at it then.”

“All right,” Matt said in a singsong voice, crossing through the open doors into the late-day sunshine and clasping his large hands behind his back. “Just holler if you fall again and need some help getting up,” he called back, chuckling while his new quarry fumed.

So how ’bout you? Do you like your heroes to fit a certain physical archetype? Does they match your real-life preferences?

Place as a Character in a Romance Novel

Vicarious travel.  Don’t you love it?  Especially, if travel involves a luscious romance.

Sheik in romance novelsPlace has been an important character in romance novels from the very beginning.  It was not only the handsome sheik leading warriors to abduct the heroine (and, of course, eventually fall in love with her), there were rich tycoons, pirates, ranchers with spreads the size of Texas…you get the idea.

A good writer can bring you to a sense of place in a few words. She or he can set the mood and give you a sense of anticipation about what’s to come. And for people who consider their lives ordinary and humdrum, being whisked off on a private jet to Paris sounds heavenly.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier has one of the most famous opening lines in literature, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Right then, you know that Manderley was going to be an important influence in the novel. And who can forget the hulking home that became a nightmarish prison to the young bride?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The opening words of A Tale of Two Cities immediately lets us know that the setting for the novel will have an enormous impact on the characters. Indeed, the French Revolution has served as the backdrop for many sweeping romances. One of my favorite movies is The Scarlet Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour (1982). I highly recommend it for a winter afternoon’s escape.

While I don’t begin my novel, California Sunset, with description, the Central Coast has shaped the heroine and provides one of the motivations for her actions. In the following scene, Annie, the heroine, is bringing her sleeping teenage son to soccer practice.  She knows she has a choice–stay in California and lose her job or move to New Jersey. In this passage, California tugs at her heart:

She took the southern route over the Coastal Mountains, climbing the switchbacks to Hecker Pass on Highway 152. The road always soothed her, even though its twists and turns required concentration. Glimpses of Watsonville’s morning-lit strawberry fields framed by the curve of the Monterey Bay lifted her heart as she ascended. The early spring air was clear, washed clean by the rain of the previous two days.

The landscape abruptly changed from sunlit ocean edge to secretive forest when she crested the summit. She always felt as if she was entering one of the fairy forests from Lord of the Rings. Maybe this was where the mountain knights lived. Maybe that wasn’t a patch of dogwood in the trees, but a knight’s white stallion. Song of India played on the car radio and she could almost believe in dreams coming true.

Almost, but not quite.

What book have you read where the place holds a strong spot in your memory? Let us know about it!

Blog post by Casey Dawes, www.stories-about-love.com

photo credit: mharrsch via photopin cc