Location, location, location! Falling in love with romance settings.

Hi, everyone! My name is Mollie Rushmeyer, and I’m a contemporary romance writer hailing from central Minnesota. I’m so grateful to be a part of this new blog with such a talented group of ladies, and I hope you will enjoy what we’ll be serving up!

The unexpected main character…

Sugar-sand beaches. Crisp mountain air. Golden country fields. Bustling cities. Exotic global locales. Oh, my. Don’t you just love a great story location?

As a writer, I put my heart and soul into picking the settings for my books. As a reader, I want the taste and feel of that location to draw me further into the story’s world.

Have you ever read a book where the setting is as much a ‘character’ as the hero or heroine themselves? The unspoken third main character? I don’t mean in an over-powering way. I just mean the setting both influences the mood and tone of the story and creates a wonderful metaphor for what is happening in the characters’ emotional journey. Sometimes the author does such a great job of showing you all the reasons to love this place — the hidden gems, the sights, the sounds, the tastes — you might find yourself falling in love with the setting as much as the characters.

A good example from classical literature is the brooding moors of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. They are an almost supernatural embodiment of both haven and confinement throughout the story.

“Loch Fada, Isle Of Skye” by James Barker via http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

One of my favorite books with a great setting is Carla Laureano’s Five Days in Skye, and it takes place—of course—on Isle of Skye, Scotland. The remote, breathtaking scenery mixed with the culture of the townspeople was a hit. I felt like the female lead needed the respite from her busy life to experience the healing that comes from quiet. And for the heroine to fall in love—I mean, come on, who’s not going to fall in love with a hunky Scotsman chef in his native land? Am I right? The setting became a catalyst to the love story.

So, how do authors choose their settings? How do they know what backdrop to put their characters against?

I certainly can’t speak for every author, but for me, I choose a setting for a specific reason. It’s either somewhere I find visually and culturally appealing but where I’ve never been before, it holds personal meaning, for the particular mood it creates, or it fits the events of the story.

In the first book of my unpublished contemporary romance series, the main character, Allora, travels to Europe to fulfill her and her grandma’s Dearest Dream Lists, something her grandma made her promise to do before she died. I chose places like the Highlands of Scotland and a place called Alnwick, England, because they have a special place in my heart.

See, one of the first ‘big girl’ brave things I ever did was travel to England and Scotland with a college group in my third year of college. We stayed in a castle in Alnwick. (So much less glamorous than it sounds! I have pictures of the bathroom to prove it!)

Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, England Image courtesy of Phil_Bird at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was a place where I hurt, I laughed, I was horrifically homesick, made friends, did things I never thought I could, and I was brave. Oh, so brave. I learned about not an inner strength, but an outer strength from the Lord who sees right down to my soul. And it may not seem brave to others, but it was for me. A gal from central Minnesota who hadn’t traveled but twice outside her own state, let alone across an ocean.

My point is that Alnwick is where my heroine learns to be brave too. It becomes her base for all of her travels and where she finds a wise confidante in an older tea shop owner. To look for more than just a list to fulfill her. To not be content with a life of what-ifs and should’ve-beens, but something more.

In the second book in the same series, I chose my childhood home for one setting — a little white house perched atop a peninsula reaching into the swirling amber of the Mississippi River. It is the place I dream of still. The first place I called home. Where I discovered a closeness to God in His creation. Hours spent sitting in trees hanging over the water with a journal or book in hand. I have lovely, bittersweet memories of this quirky house with winding attics, hidden places, and a 1950’s kitchen. I knew someday it needed to be a ‘character’ in a book.

Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, MN on Lake Superior. (From my family’s vacation last summer.)

I also chose places like the North Shores of Minnesota, Guatemala, and Greece for their beauty and the danger lurking behind it. All places have two sides of the same coin. The good and the gruesome. And in this series, I wanted to highlight the ever-growing problem of human trafficking in places around the globe. My characters will be affected in different and personal ways by trafficking, and the setting helps bring these issues to light.

It worked well to bring my character, Allora, in book one to an uncomfortable place for her, somewhere she needed to grow into a more selfless person—a safe house for trafficking victims in southern Greece. In book two, my heroine, Emma, will visit a missionary couple in Guatemala in search of a book her mother left her, but leave with a greater understanding of the conditions in which people around the world live.

The give and take, the affect and effect of setting can be a beautiful thing when done right. Sometimes a story is just a story. But sometimes the complexity and thought put into the setting can greatly enhance the story, the inner journey of the characters, and the romance taking place.

Thank you for letting me share today! I’m so excited to be a part of Romance Reader’s Cafe and hear your thoughts!

So, tell me, do you have a favorite setting from a book? Have you ever picked a book because the story’s location was a place you wanted to visit or found interesting?

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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A born and bred Midwesterner, Mollie Rushmeyer makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. From a young age, she loved putting words to page and dreamed of becoming an author. As an inspirational contemporary romance and women’s fiction writer, she loves to bring stories of hope to messy, prodigal gals just like her. 

She’s an active member of ACFW and is the Vice President of her local chapter. In her “spare” time she lives out her Lois Lane fantasies as a local print journalist, writes encouraging online content for Crosswalk and iBelieve, is an outdoors enthusiast, a passionate champion for the freedom of human trafficking victims, loves to sing and read, and enjoys full-time employment as a monkey-catcher… ahem, mommy.

You can connect with her more at:

https://molliejoyrushmeyer.com/
https://www.facebook.com/authormollierushmeyer/
https://twitter.com/mollierushmeyer
https://www.instagram.com/molliejoyrushmeyer/

By | 2018-02-05T17:12:10+00:00 February 6th, 2018|Mollie Rushmeyer, Uncategorized|13 Comments

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13 Comments

  1. Mikal Dawn February 6, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I do, I do!! I LOVE Regency and Medieval England! Probably for the romantic feel of the era (for Regency, anyway–also, I’m sure I was meant to be nobility in the Regency period, so though I know God doesn’t make mistakes, I need to ask why I’m in 2018 North America…lol), and the historical for the Medieval (or, if you’re the biggest Tamara Leigh fan like me, the romance that can happen in medieval stories). If I’m reading contemporary, I love almost any setting, but especially one I’m familiar with—which is why I wrote my first book (well, the whole series will be set) in Seattle.

    This is a great first post, Mollie!!! So thrilled to be here with you and the other ladies!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer February 6, 2018 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Oh, I love a good historical set in Europe! I loved Rachel McMillan’s The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, set in the 1910’s in Toronto, too. Such rich atmosphere. For modern, I’m always partial to a Great Britain setting. 🙂 I will confess that I have picked a book (okay, so many books) because it was set in England, Scotland, or Ireland! So great to be here with you ladies, too!

  2. Loraine Nunley February 6, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Hi everyone!

    Great post Mollie! I have a love of regency settings mainly because I discovered regency romance stories early in my reading life and I just love the atmosphere many of them set.

    As a writer I like to choose settings that I am a little familiar with (fear of writing the unknown, I think), but as a reader, I enjoy getting to visit places that I’ve never been to.

    That is so neat that you’ve been to Scotland. (I’m so jealous). 🙂 Scotland and Ireland are on my bucket list for places to visit so I have a tendency to pick up books with those settings as well.

    Does anyone have a location that they haven’t read in a romance but would like to?

    • Mollie Rushmeyer February 6, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Loraine! Ooh, that’s good question! I’d love to hear other peoples’ answers. For me, maybe a modern story on Prince Edward Island?! I’d pick that up in a heartbeat! I love Regency, too! That’s why, even in contemporary romance, I gravitate to writers like Beth Pattillo and Katherine Reay. They both weave in a lot of Jane Austen love. 🙂

  3. Beth Olsson February 6, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Great post, Mollie! Dani Pettrey made me want to move to Alaska. Alaska of all places! I hate the cold and dark. But the setting was perfect for all kinds of action and adventure– scuba diving, rock climbing, kayaking, snowboarding. An adventurist’s dream location.

    • Mollie Rushmeyer February 6, 2018 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Oh, that does sound exciting! I don’t know if I’d want to move there (I deal with enough cold here in MN), but I’d love to visit Alaska.

    • Loraine Nunley February 7, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      Me too Beth! That series also made me wish I was more of a risk taker. 🙂

  4. Denise February 6, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Loved this post, Mollie. Especially how you shared about the house on the Mississippi- I’m sure Joelle would say she had many fun memories of spending time there with you. Also, love the way you shared about your time in England- God has done so much in your life! I can’t wait to see what He has yet in store for you! Love you!!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer February 7, 2018 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Denise! I know, we had some great times playing at that house! Still miss it sometimes. Love you, too!

  5. Austin Ryan February 7, 2018 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Yes! I pick books all the time because of locations.

    And I’d pick up anything set in Scotland or Ireland. I’ve never been to Scotland, but I lived for a while in Ireland.

    Hmm, a romance in a location that I haven’t read? I’d have to think about that, although, like Mollie, I’d pick up the modern day PEI so fast! Great first post, Mollie!!!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer February 7, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      You lived in Ireland? That’s so cool! My husband and I would love to live in England for awhile, but you know, the real world. 🙂 Thanks, Austin, for commenting!

    • Loraine Nunley February 7, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Okay, now I’m jealous of you Austin. I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland. It looks absolutely fabulous. My husband has been there and he keeps talking about how he needs to take me there. Is it as green as the pictures?

  6. Austin Ryan February 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Yes, Ireland is every bit as green as in the pictures. And absolutely fabulous. Also, people are so friendly and … Irish. I loved it <3 I used to go for walks in the evenings, and I felt like I was walking through Pride &Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightley). So pretty!

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