My inbox has been bombarded lately with travel deals: Ireland, France, Mexico. But until my editors approve that “research” trip to the Riviera I’ve been hinting about, I mainly satisfy my impulses to see far-flung lands with books. A romance in an unfamiliar location, whether it’s about natives or tourists, is one of my favorite things, and here are five that’ll let you travel without first tracking down your passport.
Sarah Mayberry’s newest, Satisfaction, is set in Melbourne, like many of her other books. Mayberry writes about her hometown with a native’s affection, situating her stories cozily within the small communities that make up every big city. This tale of a withdrawn bookstore owner falling for the proprietor of the tattoo shop down the street is steamy and emotional, and the title tells you exactly what to expect.
Books set in Ireland are nothing new for Nora Roberts (in fact, her latest trilogy, the Cousins O’Dwyer books, is set there as well), but one of the earliest is one of my favorites. Jewels of the Sun, set in the small Irish hamlet of Ardmore, introduces the pub-owning Gallagher siblings. Oldest brother Aidan and buttoned-up college professor Jude Murray dance warily around each other before stumbling, gorgeously, into love. I adore this book and come back to it regularly, and one day I’m going to bring it to Ireland with me.
Elizabeth Lowell’s deft handling of mystery has only gotten sharper over the years. Beautiful Sacrifice brings you to Mexico, where an archaeologist and a former ICE agent hunt for missing Mayan artifacts. There’s an undercurrent about the 2012 end-of-the-world mishegoss that gets a little silly, but a Lowell thriller makes promises and delivers on them.
Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief is to Paris as You’ve Got Mail is to New York—utterly of the place, and suffused with its charm. It shares more than a sense of location with that romantic comedy, with its clash between a mass-market chocolate billionaire and the artisan chocolatier whose expertise she wants to buy. The female protagonist, Cade Corey, has a lot in common with the nutbar heiress Katharine Hepburn plays in Bringing Up Baby, and it’s helpful to view her crazier antics through that screwball lens. This book will make you hungry, so I’d advise having someScharffen Berger on hand.
Her Singapore Fling by Kelly Hunter reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Lowell’s Donovan series, for those of you (uh, us) who’ve spent the last 15 years rubbing those paperbacks together to see if they’ll reproduce. There’s a rich lady in danger and the coolly lethal man she asks to help her; in this case, her estranged husband, who just happens to be a world champion martial artist. Setting the story in Singapore lets Hunter bring another level of complexity to the couple’s problems—he’s Australian, she’s Chinese—and they discuss his difficulty reconciling himself to her enormous wealth in a way that’s unusual for a category romance.
Where do you like your books to take you?