Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where Do You Want to See the Characters Romance?

What role does the setting of a romance novel play in reader’s enjoyment of romance novels? I don’t know the answer, but I have been pondering this question for some time. Setting for the purposes of this blog post, refers to the geographical place where the novel is set—let’s leave the period in history aside for now.

On the one hand, for some readers a romance set in in the Sahara dessert will not bode well for the development of romance between the main characters while for others, this would be the ideal place to force the couple to rely only on each other for survival. How well the characters cope with the challenging circumstances is all up to the writer.

Setting the story in harsh physical circumstances could reveal the characters’ strong and weak attributes and it could curb or help the romance develop. But, can the romance compete with the constant thirst and heat exhaustion experienced by the characters? What about a setting in the Antarctic?
What if the writer used the cold, miserable and unforgiving circumstances as a setting for a romance novel? Take for instance Antarctic Affair by Louise Rose-Innes who used this setting to write a compelling romance. Do these external struggles influence readers into buying the book or cause them to pause, reconsider and move on to the next book on the shelve?

Images of white beaches with palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze fit the idea of a romance novel better. Places readers associate with traditional honeymoon destinations seem to be the preferred setting —or part of the setting— for most romance novels. The Trouble with Mojitos by Romy Sommer. These are relaxing settings where the characters can concentrate on their relationship without the interference of nature’s whims. Granted, a storm or two could spice up the setting, but it remains a traditionally romantic setting.
Examples of popular romance novels utilizing this setting is

If the cover of a book revealed the novel was set in a location you abhorred, would you pass on picking up the book or would you be lead by the blurb on the back despite the place where the novel was set?

by Yolande Pienaar
Author of Gogga op 'n Harley, Katelknaap vir Carlien, Speelgoed


  1. I love exotic settings. That's why I loved Louise's novel. I'm also not that greatly affected by the setting when choosing a book but more by the story.

  2. I agree with Kathleen. I'll try new settings even if it would't be my choice of holiday destination, if the characters and the story look good.

  3. Great post, Yolande. Location can sometimes be as important as the characters. In fact in some cases, the setting takes a life of its own.