I recently took a trip to Italy with close friends, and as I strolled the streets of Rome or admired the views in small Tuscan villages, I couldn’t help wondering why I don’t find more romances set here. Alpha male Italians feature in the Harlequin Presents line, but it’s otherwise fairly difficult to find a good Italian-set romance. The history of the place would lend itself to all manner of lush and romantic tales, and having seen cities such as Venice, I can easily envision a swoonworthy courtship happening along the canals, or in the Boboli gardens or amidst the bustle and grand historic buildings of Rome.
Since I loved the romantic cities and sights of Italy (not to mention the food and wine!), I frequently thought of books set in Italy that I had enjoyed. My days in Florence and hiking in Tuscany brought me several Room With a View (E.M. Forster) moments. And, though perhaps a little melodramatic, Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs remains one of my favorite Italian historicals. Set in Renaissance Venice, this tale of a young woman determined to become a celebrated courtesan and the older man she falls in love with stuck with me long after I first read it. Having walked along the canals, walked the Bridge of Sighs, and toured the Doge’s Palace, I can more strongly envision Sandro and Laura’s world.
And what a deliciously romantic world it is! The canals of Venice as well as the piazzas and the architecture with hints of Byzantine and Moorish influences about it seems like the perfect setting for being swept off one’s feet. In addition to the Wiggs novel, I found myself remembering a Silhouette Shadows novel by Barbara Faith called A Silence of Dreams. Though I haven’t reread the book in ages, I remember it as a moody gothic romance with a Venetian setting that certainly added to the mood of the book. For more Venetian settings, Heidenkind compiled a short list and there are a couple on here that I certainly plan to explore.
When we came to Rome, I found myself adoring the city. I just loved wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of the place. I loved how one could walk through a busy modern city street, turn a corner, and suddenly see ancient ruins. I found myself daydreaming about scenes from Roman romances I had read. Sadly, there are all too few of these, but I have enjoyed books by Michelle Styles such as The Gladiator’s Honor and I also greatly enjoyed The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw. As I walked through parts of Rome, I felt as though I had wandered straight into the world these books’ characters inhabited.
However, as I think on Italian book settings, I feel one thing missing – the contemporaries. I know that there are a fair number of category romances set in Italy, but I have to admit that I have not read many of them. I tried a few Italian-set Harlequin Presents at various points, but most of them just fell flat for me. If anyone can recommend some good Italian-set category books for me, I’m a sucker for series romance, so I’m all ears!
The same goes for single title romance. I did enjoy The Rome Affair by Laura Caldwell, but that novel is more dark suspense than romance. Italy would lend itself well to contemporary romance and given some of my adventures in Italian train stations, humorous capers as well. If anyone knows of some good books with Italian settings, I’d love to read them so please post them in the comments!
– Lynn Spencer