"Location, location, location," is a common and almost hackneyed phrase in real estate literature. Your agent may even throw it at you when you ask for advice about buying a home. However, what does "location, location, location," actually mean? Why repeat it three times?Writers, particularly writers of historical romances, have definitely been getting the message that the sales value of a novel set in Regency England (preferrably a desirable location in London, with easy access to Tattersall's, Bond Street, and Gunter's) is the most likely to appeal to the largest number of potential historical-romance buyers. Is it that other locations have fewer 'positive influences' than those provided by the lady patronesses of Almack's?
Mostly, "location" is repeated to emphasize that it is extremely important to the resale value of your home. The idea is to buy a house that will appeal to the largest number of potential future homebuyers. A careful choice of location can minimize potential negative influences on future resale value, and maximize positive influences.
Our discussion began when Eric posted a notice about a conference to be held next year:
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ITALIAN STUDIESOn the listserv we did come up with some examples of historical romances set, or partly set, in Venice, including Lydia Joyce's The Music of the Night, Claire Thornton's The Defiant Mistress and Susan Wiggs' Lord of the Night. I also found some pictures of Venice for those who'd like a closer look at the real estate in question, from the Royal Collection's online exhibition of Canaletto's paintings of Venice.
Colorado Springs 3-6 May 2007
We seek proposals for our panel on “Venice in the Literary Imagination” for the upcoming American Association for Italian Studies conference, taking place in Colorado Springs from 3-6 May 2007.
"Venice has loomed large in the imagination of writers from the medieval period to postmodernity. Papers which examine the city's literary significance might explore such areas as aesthetics, gender, identity, leisure, politics, or travel, or representations of the libertine, libro d'oro, Carnevale, political prisoners, the Rialto, or the terra firma. We welcome research on authors of all periods and genres." (more details on the panels proposed for this conference can be found here)
It's still the case, though, that settings such as Venice remain relatively rare in romance. All About Romance, for example, has a page devoted to 'special settings', and while they include Venice, they don't include Regency London, which is, presumably, all too common. There seem to be a variety of reasons why this might be the case. Is it that readers prefer the familiar setting of Regency London? Is it that, particularly for the writer of historicals, it's more difficult to find the source material on other locations (in a readily accessible language) in order to carry out the research? Is it that publishers think that historicals set in more exotic locations won't sell? Harlequin Mills & Boon have been acquiring Roman-era romances recently, however, so clearly some publishers are willing to take a chance with a more unusual location for a historical. Is it that some settings have negative connotations for readers? Hsu-Ming Teo's article, 'Romancing the Raj: Interracial Relations in Anglo-Indian Romance Novels' suggests that:
these love stories were symptomatic of British fantasies of colonial India and served as a forum to explore interracial relations as well as experimenting with the modern femininity of the New Woman. With the achievement of Indian independence in 1947, British interest in India as a locus for romance rapidly declined, thus demonstrating that these novels were never concerned with India but with British lives and British colonialism. [...] The colonial order was necessary for the production and sustenance of romantic fantasies. With its demise, the Anglo-Indian romance genre withered. These romances were never primarily about India but about the Englishness of love and the racialization of romance whereby white love stories were cast into dramatic relief against the background of an Orientalized India.It's certainly true that some locations provide a touch of the exotic, whether it's the desert in sheik romances (and plenty of the kingdoms over which the sheiks rule are entirely fictional, as illustrated by this map), or, for Harlequin readers living in Eastern Europe in the immediate post-Cold War era, romances set in American locations, since for them America was 'a place which symbolizes the possible wealth and affluence that the capitalist system has to offer':
The novels are fantasies of the ability to transcend economic class, a world where women enjoy working in privileged positions in the economic system of capitalism and men are the masters of this system, the power figures who take care of those less wealthy than themselves. Lack of money is never a problem in the world of Harlequin romances, and romance itself is inseparable from an abundance of wealth and possessions. The appeal of such fantasies to readers living in emerging capitalist markets like Poland and Russia is obvious.(Darbyshire 2000)I suspect that there are many factors affecting the popularity of certain settings, but it does appear that there is a greater variety in the settings of contemporary romances than in the historicals. As we've mentioned before, Harlequin Presents 'are set in sophisticated, glamorous, international locations', and there are certainly plenty of contemporary romances in settings from Ireland to the Australian outback.
Do you have any ideas about why the locations are more varied in contemporary romances than in historicals? Do you find certain historical settings and eras offputting?
- Darbyshire, Peter, 2000. ‘Romancing the World: Harlequin Romances, the Capitalist Dream, and the Conquest of Europe and Asia’, Studies in Popular Culture 23.1.
- Teo, Hsu-Ming, 2004. 'Romancing the Raj: Interracial Relations in Anglo-Indian Romance Novels', History of Intellectual Culture, 4.1.