V-day is rapidly approaching and it doesn’t matter if you’re single or in a couple – you’re probably stressing over it! I have experienced a full range of emotions on Valentine’s Day over the years – as a singleton I worried about dying a spinster and wondered if I could get a last-minute date, and in a relationship, the pressure was on to make that special occasion absolutely perfect. And when it all became too much, I have also dismissed Valentine’s Day and all the hearts and roses as ridiculous, over-rated and commercialised.
I had my Valentine’s treat a little early this year, and it was fabulously, deliciously, indulgently romantic… my boyfriend whisked me away to Paris for a long weekend! As we strolled hand in hand along the bridges of the Seine, elegantly sipped red wine in a little bistro beneath the shadow of Notre Dame, and shared kisses and crème brulee, the so-called city of romance soon had me unashamedly caught in its grip. We did our very best to sample every cheesy delight Paris had to offer on the romantic front, and it made me wonder, how important is mood, atmosphere and setting to a Mills& Boon romance? How does an author create that perfect setting for her hero and heroine that has them tumbling into each other’s arms by the end?
When you eagerly flip open one of our books, you may expect to be instantly transported to a faraway, fantasy world – perhaps a sheikh’s opulent harem, the luxurious penthouse suite of a billionaire, or an isolated Caribbean island resort. Or you might want to go back in time – to sink into the rich furs of a medieval Highlander’s bed, or be swept around a Regency ballroom by an eligible Lord. Or perhaps you look to find the extraordinary in the everyday – gazing into your dreamboat’s eyes over coffee in a London café, or melting into the arms of a dishy doctor after a long shift at work. In Romance for Cynics (Nicola Marsh, Modern Tempted, February 2014) a couple of Valentine- phobics compete for Most Romantic Couple as part of a PR stunt. As they share a romantic picnic in the park and a dance at a Valentine’s Ball they outwardly laugh at the cheesy commercialism, while secretly falling in love… Perhaps the chemistry was always there, but did all the traditional trappings of romance kick-start the effect?
In reality, it is the raw emotional engagement between the hero and heroine that keeps us avidly turning the pages – but it is the setting that draws us in; a unique and special ingredient in really making the story a romance. The icing on the cake, perhaps…
So what do you think of Valentine’s Day? Are you a hopelessly cheesy romantic, addicted to the tacky cuddly bears and heart-shaped cards? Like me, have you found yourself suddenly falling for this day of romance, despite the clichéd feel of it? And what kinds of romantic settings and locations would you like to see more of in our books? Let me know what you think!