Setting Matters

Hello everyone!

My name is Mandi Benet. I write steamy contemporary romance and I’m so excited to be a Soulmate author. I sold my four-book series, Love in the City, to SMP with each book set in a different, exciting city. The first book is set in Rome.

Love can bloom anywhere, of course, and I adore small town love stories, but I tend to like romances the way the movies do them, with a love triangle: Her, Him, A city. (Think Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Before Sunset, Bend it Like Beckham, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill.) Cities can be characters all on their own with a flavor and essence unique to them, and truly can enrich a story while helping ground it in the reality of this world. Yet setting is more than a backdrop for action. It can be an interactive aspect of your fictional world that saturates the story with mood and meaning and evokes the emotional response from your reader that you’re trying to provoke.

Why did I choose Rome for the setting of the first book in my series? For two reasons. One was because I couldn’t see how Rome and ro-mance couldn’t go together. The city’s history alone lends itself to all manner of lush and romantic tales. With its gorgeous vistas, historic piazzas, and the general ardor of the natives, it is one huge unending backdrop for romance. Couples with a penchant for lip-locked selfies have a multitude of worthy settings in Rome—its epic monuments, baroque churches, breathtaking vistas, thousand-year-old fountains, multi-hued sunsets behind the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and charming trattorias. And few things, I think, can stoke the romantic fires as much as holding hands across a candlelit dinner table in the remains of an ancient stadium, boating on the lake at Villa Borghese, sitting on the Spanish Steps watching all the kissing couples, and an evening stroll over the Tiber on Ponte Sant’Angelo where you will meet up with Bernini’s famous angels.

The second reason is that Rome happens to be my favorite city in the world, and part of the explanation for that is that I’m obsessed with history. And Rome just teems with it. More than that, it’s a gorgeous confusion of ancient and modern replete with all the tales of human existence, connected in time and place to the stories and history of the past. Where else can you stand in an ancient complex that hosts four Roman B.C. temples, along with the remains of Pompey’s Theatre, on whose steps Julius Caesar met his bloody end, not five miles from the high fashion stores on Via dei Condotti? The city is a writer’s dream, offering up endless locations and monuments that can figure in your story. Hey, if it worked for Henry James, it can work for you.

Because for any book, setting is crucial, adding vibrancy to the story, influencing character development and playing a vital role in the plot. Wherever you set your novel, whether at the convenience store at First and Main in a small town in Arkansas or in one of the neighborhoods of Montmartre, setting is one of the most under-rated tools you can use to create a fresh, original story about a familiar place.

In To Rome With Love, the heroine Gaby doesn’t go swooning from monument to monument declaring everything beautiful. She fully experiences this intriguing city, from the morning market at Campo dei Fiori and the route she jogs to the Colosseum from Via del Corso, to the gritty neighborhoods of Medieval Trastevere and working class Testaccio, each uniquely Roman in their own way yet also part of a whole, of the complex, exciting, awe-inspiring jumble of new and old that is Rome. Gaby’s staying in a Renaissance palace in Rome’s historic center that also houses one of the best and most famous private collections of Renaissance art in the world, run by the man she’ll fall in love with. Through that fact, we see her experiencing some of Rome’s cultural treasures while learning that Italy holds three quarters of the world’s such treasures.

Because setting is so integral to my novel, I’ve put together a list of some of the less well-known places that appear in To Rome With Love. Hoping you visit some of them!

    1. Galleria Doria Pamphilj – Renaissance palace and art gallery – Via del Corso, 305
    2. Campo de’ Fiori – farmer’s market – Piazza Campo de’ Fiori
    3. Palazzo Farnese – Piazza Farnese – an impressive cornice designed by Michelangelo
    4. Caffe Greco – Via dei Condotti, 86 – Keats and Mark Twain were regulars
    5. Da Enzo – Via dei Vascellari 29 – great hole in the wall restaurant in Trastevere
    6. La Pergola – Via Cadlolo 101 – 3-star Michelin restaurant, best view in Rome
    7. Trinity College – Via del Collegio Romano, 6 – Irish pub
    8. Trattoria Monti – Via San Vito 13a – near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II 


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10 Responses to Setting Matters

  1. Beth Carter says:

    What a great post. I’ve been to Rome once and it is a beautiful, historic city perfect for love and romance.

  2. Great post. I’ve been to Roma three times and can’t wait to go back. Good luck with your series.

  3. maggiermundy says:

    I will get there one day. It’s a long way from Australia.

  4. Oh, Mandi, you make me miss Bella Roma! You forgot one other reason to love the Eternal City, the gorgeous, irresistible, incomparable Roman men.
    I can’t wait to go back!
    Thanks for rekindling my desire, which is exactly what your delicious book did.
    Tema Merback
    Writing as Belle Ami

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