Settings for Romance

How do you decide where to set your Romance novels? Are there certain areas of the country that are inherently romantic? Do you choose only areas with which you're familiar? If you haven't been to the place, do you schedule a research trip?

It seems to me that a lot of Romances take place in the South. Could be that Scarlett O'Hara thing. A lot of Romances are also set in Texas. Must be that cowboy thing.
What about big cities? Since I live in L.A., my tendency is to set everything here just because I know the city so well. I don't have to jump on the Internet to find out what the weather's like in late April (actually, we just had a heat wave last weekend with 90 degree temps!). I'm also toying with Boston, since my sister lives there and I've been there a few times myself.
If you decide to set your story in a place you've never visited, how much research do you do? It's surprising how much you take for granted about your city of residence. I've done searches on plants and flowers just so a character can collect the right flowers in one scene. Not sure how much misinformation bothers readers. One well-known author set a book in Carmel, CA and had the characters lying on the beach in their bathing suits. No way! It's freezing up there on the beach. It didn't bother me too much - I just snorted and went back to reading.
I know the Scottish Highlands are popular settings with a lot of authors (a lot of authors on this blog!). Did that start with Braveheart (or maybe just thos men in kilts)? One of the most beautiful drives I ever took was when we (husband and two boys) drove from the Lake District in the northwest of England to Edinburgh. We weren't exactly in the highlands, but we were driving on mountain roads where every turn revealed a vista of emerald green valleys and sparkling rivers rushing toward lochs. Definitely inspiring.
Victoria Holt set a lot of her Gothic Romances in Cornwall in the southwest corner of England. When I read her books, I believed Cornwall to be the most magical place on earth. Of course, the first time I went to England I had to take a trip to Cornwall to picture all my favorite VH heroes and heroines on the rocky coast or wandering the moors! That vision of Cornwall will always remain in my head.
What are some of your favorite settings for Romance novels? And what was the biggest gaffe you ever found in a book set in an area with which you were intimately familiar?


Vonda Sinclair said...

Nice post, Carol! Beautiful pics too! Yes, I'm a big fan of setting stories in the Scottish Highlands. :-) It's a magical, mystical place. I set them there before I'd ever visited. I just had to do a lot of research. Once I did visit, I changed a few things but was glad I got most of it right. I also set stories in the southeastern US a lot because I know the area. I feel more intimidated by other settings and places I haven't been, like say the west coast. :-)

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I've tried to respond to your post several times, but the comment thingy and I don't get along! I post, and it deletes it. :) Page not found, kind of thing.
I love your forested picture!!! I want to go there! I'm writing about the Canadian Arctic right now and have to do a lot of's frozen, barren wasteland, not my idea of a fun place to visit! :) But it will make for a different setting and it's necessary for the plot line. And just think...the more two people snuggle in such an environment, the warmer they are!

Lexi said...

I tend to set my stories in places I've been or I know I'm going. I once set a romantic suspense in Thailand because I was there on vacation. I have a set of stories set in a fictional town near Seattle. I haven't gotten there yet, but I have every intention of going and then I'll give those stories the attention they deserve.

I have another series I set in the Highlands of Scotland, in a place I have been to, but this is what I did. Out of the blue, I e-mailed one of the local B & B's with some of my questions and explained that I'm a writer. They helped a lot and still do. When I went to Scotland last year, I stayed in their B & B. It was great fun!

Carol Ericson said...

Vonda, any time you want to set something on the West Coast, let me know. I'll let you in some insider stuff, like Sept/Oct can be a lot hotter in L.A. than June, when we often get a thick marine layer for most of the day keeping things cool and overcast.

Terry, I'm glad you got in! Brrr - the Canadian Arctic - but you're right, lots of opportunities to snuggle by a fire.

Lexi, I read about your trip to Scotland and your visit with the locals. That's so cool (and enterprising of you).