Monday, June 10, 2013

How Important Is A Setting?

Congratulations to "Cris", the winner of Alexia's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

First, I’d like to thank Just Contemporary Romance for inviting me to take over their blog for the next two days. It is a somewhat daunting prospect to be one of the first bloggers on this site. If what I say is mind-numbingly boring, please give this blog another chance with another author.

So, setting in a contemporary romance novel—is it important? After all, it’s not like fantasy or historical fiction where you have to bring a world or era to life. I bought a book recently just because it had a setting that intrigued me. Unfortunately, the story didn’t hold up to the inviting destination, but that’s the subject of another blog (or not). Setting is something I consider vital in my books. I often get an idea for a story based solely on a picture or some research that I have done. 

For example, when I was enduring cancer treatment a couple of years ago, a friend gave me a magazine called “Islands”. It was one of those journals that featured places I’ve never heard of, where ├╝ber-rich people go to escape us regular folk. It was the perfect thing to read at that point in my life, as it provided endless hours of escapist enjoyment, far away from the unpleasantness of my reality. One place that was showcased in that magazine was a resort called Nihiwatu on the island of Sumba, in Indonesia  (if you want to see for yourself what inspired me, visit their website: After reading the article I just knew that I had to send one of my couples there.
So, when Lalita, the heroine in Singapore Fling, discovers the truth behind her birth, she escapes to Sumba to think over the recent revelations. Of course, the hero Jeremy accompanies her and that is where the turning point in their relationship takes place.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lalita took his hand and led him along a path away from the beach, up the hill to a bamboo hut set right into the jungle. They climbed the stairs and as they gained the top, Lalita kicked off her sandals. The floor was strewn with red and white flower petals, candles in glass vases provided the illumination. In the center of the room a table was set up, low to the floor, two massive pillows on either side.

Lalita glided over to the table, melting onto one of the cushions. As she wriggled to get comfortable, the slit in the skirt of the dress opened, revealing her entire leg. Jeremy kicked off his shoes and joined Lalita at the table.

A waiter appeared a minute later with a bottle of wine and two silver dome-covered plates. Placing one before each of them, he then whisked away the domes. Jeremy stared down at his plate. Three large oysters sat on the half shell, embedded in ice. He glanced over to Lalita’s plate to find three ripe figs, cut in half, drizzled with honey. His discomfort increased. 

Lalita laughed. “I guess this is what comes of owning a resort that specializes in honeymoons.”  

“How did you find this place? Been here on honeymoon?” Jeremy tossed back an oyster while he waited for her reply.

“No, I’ve always come alone before. I read about it in a magazine. Aside from honeymoons, Steve has a program where you can spend a day or two helping the local community. Work at the school or help dig a well, that kind of thing. It’s completely different from what I normally do and you know what they say about a change being as good as a rest,” she finished with a shrug.

She picked up a half fig with her fingers, pulling the juicy flesh away from the skin with her teeth. Eyes closed, a trickle of juice and honey perched on the edge of her lips, threatening to run down her chin. Her tongue darted out, catching the drip before it could escape. Jeremy grabbed for his glass of ice water.
Another story I am currently working on was inspired by a photo my son took. It was a place I lived for eight years and hated almost every minute. I still have family there and thus the reason for my son’s visit. As I looked at his pictures, I wondered what it would feel like to return, to face all the reasons why I had left in the first place. A story was born.

For me, settings inspire the story. I know other authors start with a character or a phrase. Looking through my photo albums (yes, most of my travelling was done before the advent of digital cameras) I am struck with countless story ideas. 

Has a setting or destination every inspired one of your stories? Or have you read a book where the setting made you want to visit that place, or where it lingered in your mind long after the characters had faded? I’d love to hear what you think about settings in contemporary romance. I’ll be giving away one digital copy of Singapore Fling to one lucky person leaving a comment.

Alexia used to travel the world, meeting new people, experiencing new sights and tastes.  She’s lived in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, England, and France, as well as spending three months in Panama and two months in Russia. When life demanded that she stay rooted in one place, she took to vicarious voyages through the characters she created in her romance novels. Her stories reflect her love of travel and feature locations as diverse as the wind-swept prairies of Canada to the hot and humid jungles of Guyana. To discover other books written by Alexia or read her blog on inspirational destinations, Journey to Love at
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Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST June 11th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.


  1. I'll admit, my journey to romancelandia began with Julie Garwood's historicals-- particularly those Highland romances. And yes, the epic amount of Scotland-set reading I did inspired me to visit Scotland (and, of course, the Highlands) a few years ago. It was legend-- it's absolutely gorgeous!

    I don't look for a particular setting in my reading, but I definitely enjoy it when I read a book set somewhere I've been to or lived in and can recognise the places! And I've travelled a lot, so there's plenty for me to recognise out there :).


    1. Hi Cris,
      Yes, Scotland is a very evocative setting, especially for historicals. As so much of the country remains rugged and untamed it is easy to picture characters battling the harsh elements while also appreciating the magnificence of the landscape. Plus, coming across a distillery or two and sampling some of the finest Scotch whisky doesn't hurt either.
      Thanks for visiting today.

  2. Hi Alexia,
    I thoroughly loved your post--it was not boring in the least! And, I'm completely with you on the setting. Almost all my books are inspired by place. I'm so glad to see you've used some more unusual places like Singapore. I lived in Alaska for three years and have a series started set there. I wrote one story set in Liverpool, England. Now there's a destination that isn't first to mind when you think romance, but it was and is an amazing delightful city--even if you don't count all the cool Beatle sights!! So, I get the love affair with setting and can't wait to escape into your books.

    And--prayers and hugs for your bout with cancer, too. I hope things are going well for you now. I'm glad you turned a dark time into a beautiful scene in a book!

    1. Hi Lizbeth,
      Thank you for your lovely comments. My family and I went on a cruise to Alaska, I know it's not the same thing as living there, but I loved it, especially Skagway. The Alaskan people are amazing, too, very worthy of being characters in a story.

      I've not visited Liverpool, although I did live in central England for a while. I think it would be a challenge to romanticize a scouser, I can barely understand them.

      Thanks too for the well-wishes on the cancer front. I've come out of the tunnel now and everything seems fine. My advice: cancer sucks - don't do it.


    2. I'm envious of your time in England. I'm a huge Anglophile (who isn't, really?) and would love to spend more time there. I did take on a scouser as a character and loved dropping some odd Liverpudlian phrases. It's not a book that's seen light yet, but maybe someday! But--I think I'll steal your phrase: "A challenge to romanticize a scouser, I can barely understand them." Twisted around a little it could make a great tag line!

    3. A scouser hero, that would be an interesting read. My husband, although being from London, is a Liverpool football fan so I am subjected to endless hours of discussion after each game, only half of which I can understand. But I do know all the words to "Never Walk Alone".

      All the best,

  3. Hey Alexia,
    well my settings are a little more tame as, I guess, is my travelling. My heroines tend to come from New York or Seattle as it's easier to set books in places you know well. But I do envy the exotic travelling you and your characters enjoy. vicarious adventures work for me, too.
    happy voyages!

  4. Hi Nora,
    It is definitely easier to set a book somewhere you've been. Each place has a vibe that you just can't research and it's the little innuendos and local slang that really tell a reader you know what you're writing about.

    By the way, just this morning I discovered that the heroine in my latest wip is off to New York, so I'll be hitting you up for some "local flavour".

    Thanks for stopping by today,

  5. Ooh, I love vivid settings in a book no matter the genre! I think it's just as important in a contemporary as in a historical or fantasy. Just ask Nora how important I think setting is :) Happy to hear that you love settings as well, Alexia!

    For all of my stories, setting has been just as important as the characters. I write historicals and I like to have my settings shape my characters, influence their personalities, bring conflict to their goals. For my Victorian London romantic suspense series, I've tried to make it a "love letter to London" expressing my love for the city. Not all the places in my story are pleasant (or clean!) but I'm hoping I've made them vivid.

    Enjoyed the setting in your book excerpt, Alexia! And great blog!!

    1. You make a great point, Jacqui. A setting can influence a character's personality but also their mood. It's much harder to stay angry at someone if there is a gentle lap of tropical ocean waves in the background and the palm fronds are rustling in a light breeze, versus stuck in gridlock traffic on a hot and humid summer day when the air-conditioning is broken.

      Can't wait to read your books. I love London, having lived there for ten years, and Victorian London is even more special. I really appreciate you stopping by today when I know you've been super busy with your own guest blogging.


    2. Happy to stop by, Alexia! It was a pleasure to read your blog and ponder the topic of setting :)


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