Kent author Karen Aldous writes Contemporary Romance novels which have a key ingredient – a romantic setting! Published with CarinaUk (Harper Collins), The Vineyard and The Riviera were inspired by the beautiful rolling vineyards of Provence, but would the chilling Chateau de Chillon constitute a romantic setting?
What constitutes a romantic setting?
For me, a romantic setting is a place that evokes all the senses! Somewhere which not only captivates my vision but both excites, and invites me to breathe in the air. A scene so epic, so inspiring, I can feel its vibrations resonate so that I imagine myself walking hand in hand with a loved one, embracing an escapist existence. Most likely, a setting is basking in sunshine like the hills of Provence or Tuscany, not only arousing my visual senses but conjuring memories of fragrance like perfumes of lavender or pungent fruits. Golden sandy beaches will enthuse my ears with sounds of softly lapping shores or, rhythmic waves. Santorini sunsets will invoke further sensual sensations, such as warm rays of mellow heat caressing the skin or the drool of saliva savouring a Greek salad and let’s not forget the heady scent of sunshine itself, sipping a cool Rose wine from a cliff-side terrace!
Oh, the magic of the Mediterranean always does it for me as I’m sure it has for thousands, but, as a reader, I love to wrap myself up the warmth of beautiful memories and immerse myself in that shower of sunshine which only lasted a week. Even when I’m in the mountains, I prefer the sun to be glistening on the snow. Yes, I love a good story but, if it can also transport me away from gloomy bruised skies and whisk me to heavenly happiness, then, I can recalibrate my inner equilibrium. It works for me. And, I am sure, it is why I am driven to transport others to escape. By travelling and, arousing my own senses, it heightens my desire to write and thus, create characters who can live and breathe the air and soak themselves in the atmosphere of some exotic destination. I can then share the experience with others and enjoy writing the story with fabulous settings, because I like to read them.
Of course, exotic locations are subjective. Readers will reach for their own idea of escape and there is no pleasing every reader. But what a novelist can do is to create and evoke the reader’s senses and, make the setting so enticing, that the reader wants to go there and be carried to the scene. At the heart of my second novel, The Chateau is the Chateau de Chillon. A medieval castle on the edge of Lake Leman. This is a prime example of the dichotomy of what is considered romantic because it can appear quite eerie and haunting at times but stunningly romantic at other. The book was actually inspired by a dream; a woman was being repeatedly submerged in water by a thick rope at a castle doorway. The image of her gurgling for breath still plagues me. However, as I’d often been swept away by the sight of the Chateau and, Montreux in particular had beckoned me for so long, I was naturally drawn to tell her story from this Swiss enclave. And then, quite rapidly, as I asked myself questions, researched the Chateau’s history, the characters came alive and the setting became, well, romantic!
We love to read about two characters who fall in love but, also as readers, also like to fall in love with the characters, the place, the era, the hopes we have for the characters and their dreams. Yes, from writing novels I’ve learned so much about how as a writer, it is me directing the story and engaging the reader to feel the essence of the setting and its romance and now view it as an integral part of the writing process. A romantic setting is more about how the characters evolve in their environment and what it can add to their story. Both The Vineyard and The Riviera are set in the beautiful settings of Cannes and Provence on the French Riviera but I hope as a writer, I have not just laboured on descriptions of the lush landscapes or carped on about the cosmopolitan glamour of Cannes but have breathed life into the lives of the characters who live there and warmed you, the reader with a blanket of emotions in which to submerge – whether you sought a romantic setting or not. I think, it is therefore, the reader who decides what constitutes a romantic setting based on the novelist’s job to evoke their senses.