Writers are hoarders. We go through life gathering faces and names. Our ears prick when a lively conversation kicks up at the next table in the restaurant. We taste. We sniff. We seek out the details that will later find their way out our fingers and onto the page.
Like any good director, we’re also on the lookout for unique locations for our stories. When our cruiseship docked next to this 1820’s fort on Bermuda, I knew I’d have to work it into a book sometime. And I’ve done so in my novella in the upcoming Brava anthology Improper Gentlemen (July 2011)
Royal Dock has such good bones. There’s a stern seawall, the barracks and exercise yard, and an armory as well as the elegant Commissioner’s House. In my mind’s eye, I could see strapping military men swarming over the place. Earnest, upright fellows in their wool uniforms sweating under the Bermuda sun, but not complaining because it just wouldn’t be the thing.
Wherever the Engish went in the world, they took their culture with them and tried to recreate it in the new place. Bermuda was unique in that there was no indigenous population for them to displace when the first shipwreck survivors washed up on its empty shores in the 1600’s. Built in 1827, the interior of Commissioner’s House is a late Regency jewel of clean, classic lines.
Of course, the main point of visiting such places for me is to imagine the people who lived there. Obviously, my heroine would glide smoothly through this thick walled-structure.
I loved this interior courtyard with its splashing fountain and stone walls soaring to the open sky. A perfect place for my heroine to read her book of sonnets without being seen by the populace, but with countless interior windows opening onto it, it was far too exposed a space for a trysting spot.
And how will the hero make his entrance into Commissioner’s House? Through the double front doors as an officer of the regiment? By the back stairs as a blockade-running sea captain?
The beauty of choosing Commissioner’s House is that there is conflict already built into the place. Royal Dock was built largely by Irish convict labor. My hero will steal out of the airless convict ship, climb the iron girders on the corner of the House and slip into my heroine’s jalousy-shuttered window.
Since the theme of Improper Gentlemen is the romantic romps of proper scoundrels, I decided to place my hero far beyond the pale to start and in 1827 you can’t get much farther outside society’s circle of acceptance than an Irish convict. Fortunately, Aidan Danaher has several things going for him. He’s wickedly handsome, strong-willed, and possesses the Knack–a Celtic gift of being able to sway weaker minds without their knowledge. Think of it as a Jedi mind trick with buckets of Irish charm.
He’s determined to make the Commissioner’s daughter his. For more than just a star-kissed Bermuda night. And unfortunately, he can’t use the Knack to make that happen. Not entirely, anyway.
Have you ever visited a place and thought “This is a perfect setting for a romance?” Where was it? Why did it strike you as ripe for a love story?