I love vivid settings in romance and am particularly fond of foreign settings. When they’re done well, I learn more about a country, feel as if I’m there, but still enjoy the story. Long before I ever visited Greece I fell in love with the country – or at least one of the Greek Islands – by reading Mary Stewart’s The Moon-Spinners, set on the island of Crete. I haven’t visited Crete myself, but feel as if I actually know what parts of it look like thanks to Ms. Stewart’s words. What I carried with me, for years, were the windmills of Crete.
After I read The Moon-Spinners for the first time, I knew that someday I wanted to visit Greece, and at least one Greek island. And I also knew that I wanted to read more books set in Greece – both the islands and mainland.
The Special Settings section of AAR’s Special Title’s Listing includes six books set in Greece, three by Mary Stewart. I’ve tried five of the six books, but have enjoyed the three by Ms. Stewart the most. In addition to The Moon-Spinners, the list includes Ms. Stewart’s My Brother Michael and This Rough Magic.
Rike gave a DIK review at AAR to Mary Stewart’s My Brother Michael, set in Delphi. Rike notes of Delphi that: “It’s a truly magical, mystical place. Whatever your own religious persuasion is, there you’ll find it very easy to feel close to a higher being, and understand perfectly well why the Greeks built a sanctuary for Apollo on that very mountainside.”
Rike finds that My Brother Michael perfectly captures Delphi’s spirit. I have to agree, but also feel it captures part of the spirit of Athens. At one point early on the heroine is sitting in a café in Omonia Square thinking about some memorable aspects of Athens, in particular the noise and bustle and traffic around the Square.
This Rough Magic takes place on another Greek island – this time Corfu. I read this soon after I finished The Moon-Spinners, and became enchanted with the heroine – an out-of-work London actress – and with the setting of Corfu. Much of the action takes place near and in the water (including some memorable scenes with dolphins). But Ms. Stewart’s descriptions of the cliffs dropping sharply to the beautiful blue sea have me longing to visit each time I read the book.
One of the first historical romances I read – although I didn’t know at the time that I was reading romance – was Jane Aiken Hodge’s Greek Wedding. The book is set in 1821 during the time of the War of Greek Independence. The heroine, Phyllida, travels to Greece to locate her brother who left to fight with Lord Byron. The author packs a lot of history into the book, while creating interesting characters, and a romance I still think about from time to time. In fact, I’m long overdue for a reread.
You’ve probably noticed a theme with all of the books I’ve mentioned so far: Most were written a long time ago (some well over 50 years ago). I do keep trying to find more recent books set in Greece. I jump at the chance to review any book set in Greece, hoping that it’ll be another new favorite. Sadly, there haven’t been a lot in the last few years, and most I’ve encountered recently I haven’t cared for. However, a few recent mysteries have fit the bill.
At the recommendation of some AAR readers, I read The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly, First published in 2007, this mystery is set in 1928 on Crete, and features archaeologist Laetitia Talbot. With the mix of a Greek island, a post-WWI time period, and archaeology, it was a natural for me.
But my favorite, recently published books that take place in part in Greece are Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mystery series. Lady Emily inherited a villa on Santorini when her husband died. In most of the books Lady Emily spends at least a chapter in the villa. In And Only to Deceive, the first in the series, Lady Emily describes her impressions of the villa: “The villa completely surpassed my expectations. It sat near the village of Imerovigli on top of a tall cliff overlooking the caldera and the remains of the volcano that had sunk the center of the island in ancient times. Inside, the house, with its bright white rooms, wide arches, and huge windows, was unlike any building I had seen.”
I love the feel Ms. Alexander gives for the island setting, and continue to hope that she’ll eventually set a full book there.
I’ve done all right in recent years with mysteries set in Greece, but long for more romances set both on various islands and on the mainland. Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What did you think of them? Do you like Greece as a setting? And most importantly, have you read any good romances recently set in Greece?
– LinnieGayl AAR