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 April...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?