One of the jibes thrown at romance readers by those who don’t approve of the habit – and sadly there are plenty of them around – is that books that promise a Happy Ever After are unrealistic – that readers are being encouraged to have impossible expectations, viewing the world though rose coloured glasses. Everything – including love – has to be serious and damned hard work.
My answer to that is why? Romance readers are just as aware that they are reading fiction as readers who enjoy horror or the hunt for a serial killer - but somehow those genres are considered more respectable. Murder trumps love any day. Just because a romance might be an idealised view of the world why can’t it be considered an aspirational example of hope and optimism – even if real life is often a triumph of hope over experience?
I never make any secret of the fact that I read for escapism and I write to offer that to others too. I can get plenty of real life off the ten o’clock news, I expect a book I read for pleasure to offer me something else. Part of that escapism is the chance to live vicariously. The Riviera series – of which A Villa in Portofino is the latest - is about glamour and luxury as well as love and the scary suspense stuff. I’m never going to be a millionaire, or married to one, never going to own a yacht or a villa in the South of France, my hotel stays are unlikely to be as luxurious as the ones I bestow on my characters, I don’t have designer clothes or jewellery or expensive art on my walls, but it’s great fun to imagine and indulge and doesn’t cost anything. It’s not just material goods; I can have sunshine, marvellous food, flowers and scent. It’s all part of the package. Writing the series gives me the chance to explore a lifestyle I’m never going to have in real life. I hope it give the reader the same opportunity.