Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Author -- Brenda Gayle

Author Brenda Gayle's love of romance novels started when her parents purchased a cottage on a quiet lake just as she entered her teen years. A woman who lived close by was a voraciuos reader of romance novels and would give Gayle a bag of books each summer when she'd arrive. Now that Gayle spends much of her day writing business documents, she savors the opportunity to allow her creative muse to run free by writing deeply emotional stories of real women, real men and real romance. Please welcome Brenda to The Romance Dish!

Brrrr..... Turn Up the Heat! Setting as Character

As I look outside at the ever-growing mounds of snow and listen to the windows rattle from the howling wind, I am anxious to return to my current work-in-progress. It’s a contemporary romance set in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although the story takes place in February, the average temperature there is around 40 degrees F--absolutely balmy compared with the 14 degrees F Ottawa (Canada) is currently experiencing.

I hate the cold and it occurs to me that I am unlikely ever to write a book that takes place in a frozen climate. Or am I?

In a novel, characters are created with specific backgrounds and personalities to further the story. It is often through their human interactions that we understand the growth and development of the hero and heroine. How they respond to the physical environment (the setting of the novel) can be equally important. So choosing that environment must be done with as much care as creating characters.

My contemporary romance, SOLDIER FOR LOVE, is set on an island in the Caribbean. The heroine, Major Julie Collins, has just been promoted and given her first overseas command. The island’s government is recovering from an attempted coup and Julie’s troops have been brought in to help stabilize the country. She is an outstanding officer and when she’s in the compound where her troops are housed, she is confident and totally in charge.

When she’s kidnapped by a voodoo priest and taken to a remote section of the island, she’s forced to rely on the skills of one of her troops to rescue her. That Matt Wolf also happens to be the handsome Native American with whom she had slept before being aware he was under her command, causes her to question her abilities as a leader. She’s his commanding officer, but he seems to be in charge.

The story relies on the hero and heroine operating in an environment that is unfamiliar to them. They have to create the rules as they go along--including falling in love.

Could the story have worked in another location? Sure. The key to SOLDIER FOR LOVE is for the hero and heroine to be in a place where they don’t have their usual touchstones or reference points to fall back on. It is possible that the story could have worked just as well if it had taken place up in the Arctic, but it’s cold up there and I hate the cold.

Let me know your thoughts on setting. Do you ever read (or not read) a book just because of its location? Can you think of a book where the setting was integral to the story? One of today’s commenters will be chosen at random to receive a copy of SOLDIER FOR LOVE.

Brenda’s first book, SOLDIER FOR LOVE, is a Joyfully Reviewed Recommended Read. Although fictional, the setting was inspired by the geography, history and culture of Haiti. She is donating 25% of book and eBook royalties to Haitian relief and reconstruction as a way to give back to the men and woman who allowed her to share their world during the researching and writing of the book. For more about Brenda, visit her website at http://www.brendagayle.com/ or follow her on Facebook (Brenda Gayle) and Twitter (Brenda_Gayle).


  1. Hi Brenda!

    I loved the setting of "Soldier For Love." Setting does make a difference for me as a reader, although I admit I'm pickier with historicals than with contemporaries. Regencies, for instance, that have very exotic settings don't always work for me - although if Loretta Chase wrote it, I'll read it!

    But setting has to enhance the story and help fuel the plot. I don't like it as an add-on, just for the sake of being different.

  2. Hi Brenda! Thanks for dishing with us today!

    I don't go looking for exotic settings in the romances I read but, if the book is well written, an unusual setting will only enhance the overall story for me. As Vanessa said, though, it has to enhance the story, not just be thrown in to be different.

    It's 26F at my house this morning which makes a story set in the Caribbean sounds lovely!

  3. Hello and welcome, Brenda! We're so glad you're here with us today. I love emotional stories and SOLDIER FOR LOVE sounds like a good one!

    Like PJ, I don't go looking for an exotic setting, but if the storyline/blurb is something I'd like, then I would definitely buy it. Sometimes the setting can be as integral as the charcters themselves. And I would have to agree with Vanessa that I'm much pickier with historicals than contemporaries.

  4. Hi Brenda!
    Your book sounds wonderful! In all honesty i have never really cared much for settings in a book. I've always paid more attention to the time period. I'm really fine with any old setting. ^^

    Most of the books i think of where setting is integral to the plot are science fiction. A recent star wars book comes to play in my mind. lol


  5. Hey Brenda! It is great to have you with us today. I must say, when I saw your picture I immediately thought you were an old friend of mine, Susan. LOL! You look so much like her.

    The location of a story really doesn't influence my decision on whether to read a book or not. If the storyline sounds great (like yours does!), then I am all for what the writer is willing to give me, exotic locale or not.

    I think we are all ready for some warmer temps!

    Thanks for stopping by today!

  6. Hi Brenda!

    Thanks for sharing today. I don't often decide to read or not read a book based on where it takes place. I sometimes will buy a book if it takes place near my home, or somewhere I like to travel. Just makes the book that much more fun. =)

    The setting for SFL sounds great!

  7. I don't really choose to read a book for it's location, I read it because I think the story is interesting.

  8. Hi, Brenda and welcome!

    A setting doesn't have to be exotic to appeal to me. Of course, warm and tropical sounds pretty good to me right now-- not even 20 degrees here and the snow continues to fall.


  9. Thanks for your comments everyone, this has been a lot of fun. I guess I'm a bit of an anomoly (I always suspected, but now I've got proof).

  10. Hi Brenda!
    I'm not an exotic setting fan myself, but if the story interests me, then I will make exceptions. Like others have said, I am more picky about the setting when it comes to historicals.

  11. I like different settings. It would get rather boring if everyone was writing about the same place. I do like the setting to match the book though.

  12. I don't remember reading any books because of location. I'm more likely to choose a book because of the characters and storyline.