I love a good romance book. Of course I do, it’s my genre. You know what to expect with a romance novel: two people meet – a few difficult hurdles – then happy ever after. Perfection.
So you can imagine my excitement when a chance encounter in The Hague resulted in me meeting Kristin Anderson. Not only is she a fellow author, far from home, living in The Netherlands (just like me!) but she was also on the verge of launching her latest romance novel.
Needless to say I eagerly awaited my very own copy of The Things We Said In Venice and was thrilled to be invited to her launch at the American Business Centre in The Hague. So did the book live up to my swoonworthy expectations? Of course it did…and some!
I won’t give too much away, because there’s nothing worse than a book review which is actually a full synopses of a novel, but here’s a quick recap:
The Things We Said In Venice is about Sarah (American, straight laced, newly divorced and looking to heal her cynical heart in Europe) and Fokke, yes you read that right (Dutch, rugged, professional traveller and dealing with his own horrid heartbreak) who accidentally pick up each other’s bags in a ski lodge and fate brings them together.
A series of unfortunate events results in them getting to know each other alongside the stunning backdrops of some of Italy and The Netherland’s most beautiful cities, until they begin to realise that perhaps they don’t need to travel so far and wide to find happiness. That what they need is right there in front of them.
This book has it all: History, humour, romance, some sad parts, some exciting parts, and even a bit of sauciness – but what really struck me was its originality. For me it was refreshing to read a love story between two people in their late thirties and early forties. No angsty teens or soppy twenty year olds, but two wizened and cautious fully grown up grownups. What they wanted and needed from each other was more than sex or intensity, they weren’t after a ‘first’ anything, they needed to be able to trust one another and ensure their lives could fit side by side.
Regardless of the wonderful way Anderson writes and her innovative plots twists, her concept of ‘falling in love with your eyes wide open’ kept me gripped page after page, rooting for Sarah and Fokke to get it on and never give up on the power of love.
So where did Kristin Anderson get her inspiration from and what can we expect from this new writer moving forward? I was lucky enough to interview her and find out.
You paint Europe so beautifully. Did being an American in Europe influence your story line and is Sarah‘s passion for travel a reflection of your own experiences?
My experience of being an American living abroad definitely influenced my story line. I knew from the very first sentence that I wanted my novel to be about travel, and I wanted to approach travel from multiple perspectives: that of adventure, self-discovery, cultural awareness and of course, romance.
Even though I have lived in Europe for six years now, I am still amazed by the experience of travelling a short distance and being in another country. I don’t think this novelty will ever wear off. Sarah Turner, the lead character in my novel is infused with this excitement.
How do you think falling in love in your late thirties and early forties is different from the romance novels we read with teens and women in their early twenties?
I believe teen-romance and early-twenties romances are so popular as they explore a period of exponential growth in a young woman’s life: experimenting with who you are, setting your own parameters for interacting with the world and first-loves. There is a sense of fearlessness at this age and a fiery, devil-be-damned attitude that comes along with it. Even if you aren’t sixteen or twenty-one anymore, it’s quite easy to remember that passionate energy and relive those years through teen and early twenties romance stories.
Falling in love in your thirties and forties has a totally different dynamic. By this age, the chance that you’ve gone through at least one serious relationship break-up, or even a divorce, is quite probable. You have life experience and you’re no stranger to heartbreak. On the other hand, you potentially have more clarity on what you want out of life and are much less willing to compromise your values or dreams for the sake of another.
I intentionally made the characters in my novel more mature than the norm to explore a second chance romance. Sarah is divorced and on the verge of turning thirty-seven and Fokke is forty-two. Quite a few readers found this surprisingly refreshing. I think it’s possible to feel that rush of first-love excitement at any age, but all that life experience also means more barriers to letting yourself take the fall. These barriers make the plot all the more interesting to write about.
Will we find out if Fokke and Sarah live happily ever after, or if their past will come back to haunt them?
Is this question about The Things We Said in Venice or the sequel that is currently in the works? Either way, my answer is the same. As a romance writer, I believe in happily ever after, but even in fiction, life throws some serious punches that must be overcome.
Other than Venice, what part of Europe do you think is the most romantic?
I haven’t travelled nearly enough in Europe to answer this question, but I’ve noticed that water is an essential ingredient to a romantic setting. Here are three particularly romantic settings that have pulled me in: Walking along the Seine river in Paris with my love while sunlight played on the water’s surface, exploring a castle in the Luxembourg countryside in the rain and watching the moon rise over an Amsterdam canal. In all three cases, water was like a liquid cupid inviting me to let the love in. Of course it’s also a matter of the company you keep.