Most of us have probably seen some variant of those library posters telling us that we can travel the world in books. It’s certainly true, but sometimes the experience can be more concrete than that. When I was in middle school, I spent a wonderful summer vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. By chance, I happened to bring along Sabrina by Candice F. Ransom with me. For those not familiar with the Sunfire series, this book has Revolutionary War Charleston as its setting. As I toured the city with my friend and her family, I could imagine myself back in the late 18th century with the threat of the British ever present. As we drove into the rural areas outside of town, I could imagine Frances Marion, the Swamp Fox himself, sneaking through the swamps on his missions. Reading a book set in the place I visited brought a whole new dimension to my trip and I loved it!
Since then, I’ve always tried to take books on trips with me that feature the settings of the places I visit. I have a weakness for books set in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia since the chances of me knowing the places characters visit is fairly high. When I went to Italy this past fall, I couldn’t resist packing along some books with Italian settings. Room With a View came out for the Tuscany portion of my trip and the experience of rereading Lord of the Night in Venice made the city unforgettable. I got to walk the Bridge of Sighs, walk the alleyways and piazzas, and ride along canals and as I did so, there were times when I could close myself and imagine that we stood in the 16th century Venice of the doges. I could almost envision Sandro and Laura falling in love and going about their adventures in the city.
And then there was Rome! That experience was a bit of an odd dichotomy for me. On the one hand, I had brought along The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw for a re-read as well as The Gladiator’s Honor by Michelle Styles, so I could walk among the various ruins or around the Coliseum and see long-remembered characters of Ancient Rome in my mind. However, I also had a little stash of Italy-set Harlequin Presents with me, so alongside the gladiators and Roman aristocrats, I could picture billionaires sweeping timid housekeepers and governesses off their feet. Quite the vivid experience!
My trick of taking along books set in my travel spots has only failed me once. When I lived in Austria in college, the only Austrian set books I could find to take along aside from the Thoenes’ excellent Vienna Prelude were some Barbara Cartland novels. Maybe I’m a little harsh, but I just didn’t want to wander the back streets of Vienna, bicycle in the Prater Park or linger near Stefansdom while allowing myself to be haunted by visions of stammering, wide-eyed twits and their overbearing Duke of Slut suitors. And don’t get me started on the books that romanticized Gypsy culture. I thought I would need bleach to get that out of my brain.
My next trip will be to Las Vegas with friends and I’m already putting together books in anticipation. I’ve watched CSI for years, so I’ll have all of that floating in my mind. In terms of books, I have the Girls’ Weekend in Vegas series from Harlequin sitting in my TBR, but that’s about all I can think of for reading material.
I love using books to enhance my travels and as soon as I know I’m going somewhere, I start seeking out novels set in that locale. What about you? And if you know of any good books set in Vegas, let me know. ;-)
– Lynn Spencer