Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy.
One of my great pleasures in writing a new story is researching the setting. If I’m really lucky I get to visit the place I plan to set my book. In pursuit of research, I’ve visited Ireland twice for my paranormal series, the Italian Amalfi coast, which features in a contemporary romance, Finally Home, due out from Carina in September, and the Island of Jersey in the English Channel for Unbreak My Heart.
The setting research for my most recent release, Oceans Between Us, proved a bit of a challenge, as the story included so many places. It starts in London, then moves on to a small Cornish fishing village. I had no problem with these settings as I live in England. The action then goes to New York, a city I’d love to visit, but haven’t yet. I had to depend on the Internet for my research, and my son’s observations as he’d recently visited NY. My hero and heroine finally end up in his home town on the Italian Riviera in Riomaggiore one of five small towns that make up the Cinque Terre or five lands. These are beautiful multicolored towns that are stacked precariously up the cliffs in small bays on the rocky coast.
I would have loved to physically visit this area of Italy as it looks stunning, but time and finances didn’t give me the chance. Instead I turned to the internet again for details on Riomaggiore. What a treasure trove of information there is available to writers on the web! I even found a video shot by a tourist who’d walked around the town, giving a virtual tour.
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Of the tropes found in romance fiction, if you are anything like me you’ll have certain hot button plot devices or issues that you’re drawn to. I’ve discovered from analysing the films and books I enjoy that my hot buttons are reunited lovers, especially childhood sweethearts who are parted and then find each other again, the classic Cinderella trope, marriage (or engagement) of convenience, friends to lovers and unrequited love. I also love babies and children in sweet romances. Most books and films that include these elements in the plot appeal to me.
One of my favorite films is Pretty Woman, a classic Cinderella story. More unusual is the reverse Cinderella story like Notting Hill where the roles are switched. Hugh Grant is the Cinderella Character to Julia Roberts rich and famous actress. I still enjoy it this way round if it’s done well, but I prefer the man as the ‘Prince’.
In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, there are many other much-loved romance plots that have been done numerous times but never get old (as Harlequin will vouch for!). Here are a few I can think of, but I’m sure there are many more: secret baby, amnesia, man in love with best friend’s younger sister, the ugly duckling, kidnapping, mistaken identity, reformed rake/playboy, revenge, forbidden love/Romeo & Juliet, tortured hero, boss/secretary (probably falls under Cinderella), Beauty and the Beast. Many of the best romance novels seem to take one of these tropes and give it a twist to keep it fresh.
I also have to admit to loving heroes who have a nerdy side even if they try to hide it. And something that gets me every time is a hero who reveals his vulnerability. I love a wounded hero!
What started me thinking about classic plots devices was the realization that I’d included most of my favorites in my latest release Unbreak My Heart, without setting out to do so. At its heart, this is a story of childhood sweethearts who are reunited and rediscover love, but I blended in an engagement of convenience, friends to lovers and Cinderella.
What are your favorite romance tropes to read and write? Are they the same? Are there any you don’t like?