My debut contemporary romance, “Arranged to Love”, is set in some fabulous places – Sydney, Chennai India, and NOWRA???
Yeppers, Nowra is not your typical location for a romance. It’s a town of approximately 34,000 people two and a half hours south of Sydney. Nowra is surrounded by some of the richest farming land in NSW – this is dairy country, my friends. It’s also a renowned wine region although the biggest employer in the area is government courtesy of the two military bases and the brand new jail.
Nowra in and of itself is, I will admit, nothing to really write about. There’s some beautiful old houses (I can highly recommend Meroogal (http://www.hht.net.au/museums/meroogal) – an historic house that was handed holus-bolus to the trust and never been touched since. Only women have lived there, so it’s a different and fascinating look into life in a small town in the 1800s). The showground is lovely and the walks that lead from it are interesting, particularly the one which takes you by some of the caves that people lived in during the great depression.
But for the most part, Nowra is a surburanised place to live with shops – that’s pretty much all it has to offer.
There’s prettier towns in the Shoalhaven. Kangaroo Valley is gorgeous and Berry when it’s not teaming with tourists is delightful. The first town I lived in in the area, Sussex Inlet, is a cute little place with a weird dicotomy of caravan parks and massive mansions built on canals. And then there’s Jervis Bay, with its world famous crystal blue water and crisp white sandy beaches.
But Nowra is a town I know really well, having started my short-lived journalism career there. I lived there for two years, worked there for four and came to enjoy the atmosphere of the town.
In my book, I’ve used a number of real-life places. The Parkhaven Motel (which in the book I call the Parkside), for example, was at that time pretty much the closest thing Nowra had to a flash hotel. Also, the restaurant did serve good food.
Another place visited in the story is the Bridge Hotel. It was the haunt of us journalists at the end of the week and yes, we did a lot of drinking and pool playing there. The jukebox was right near the pool table and it made for a great night out.
The offices of the Nowra Gazette, where a lot of the action of “Arranged to Love” is set, is completely real. It was an old fire station, converted into a newspaper office. The South Coast Register (as the paper is really called) is one of the most highly regarded papers in the industry. No less than one of the top dogs at News Limited took copies of the Register over to an international newspaper conference in France once to show what a small town newspaper can do. It’s won multiple awards and even I managed to win an award for journalism when working there.
The description of the office – where the journalists sit, the stairway up to the sales floor, the window in that stairwell that shone an annoying perfect beam of light on Jack Faulkner’s golden hair the first time Maddie saw him after seven years apart – all that is real.
Except for the golden god of a man coming in and sweeping me off my feet. Dammit.
The final setting of many of the scenes in Nowra is Maddie’s home. This I stole from a good friend (who was also my first editor at the Register). I loved the little house the first time I saw it.
It’s in one of the tiny little gatherings of houses (it’s not worth calling them villages – not sure they even qualify as hamlets) that pepper the roads between Nowra and the coast. This particularly little hamlet – called Terara – grew up around the market gardens that once dotted that part of the Shoalhaven River.
Interesting tidbit – Terara House, the grand house in the area, was where Archer (the first winner of the Melbourne Cup) was trained.
I always thought Terara was a fabulous place to live – Nowra’s only a few kilometres away so you weren’t missing out on anything, but you also felt like you were in another world, with maybe a twenty houses in total in four little streets.
Particularly in this little house, which was not much larger than a trailer home, had just three rooms (bathroom, lounge/kitchen and bedroom) and was overwhelmed on the large block but a grove of trees.
There was a real sense of intimacy in that house, which too my mind made it the perfect place to pit Maddie and Jack against each other and watch their defences fall apart.
Perfect - except when the wind blew the wrong way, and the stench from the wheat processing plant comes across the river – absolutely horrendous.
A detail I DID NOT use in the novel.
Really, the Shoalhaven area and Nowra has everything you could want, within a short drive. Want to get into the mountains? Escarpment’s right there (with one of those really fabulous, windy roads that makes you both sick and exhilerated at the same time). Want some fish and chips, cooked within moments of being hauled off the fishing boat? Greenwell Point is just down the road there.
So yes, when it comes to being the setting of a romance, Nowra definitely has some things going for it.
Particularly when you set it in a newspaper office. All those reporters, all that adrenalin, all those opinions, all those passions? Tailor made for a bit of nookie, my friends. Tailor made.
And now buy the book...
All her life, Madhuri Singh has been sure she’ll make an arranged marriage with an Indian man. But when the opportunity arrives at the same time a past lover returns to her life, Maddie finds herself torn between her culture and her desire.
All his life, Jack Faulkner has been obsessed with being the one his father chooses to take over the reins of Faulkner Publications. When it seems it’s finally within his grasp, he finds himself face to face with the one woman who can make him forget everything.
What will win out – the dreams they’ve always held for their futures, or the passion that even after seven years apart cannot be contained. Will they remain blinded to the truth – that they will only be happy if they can be together?
And now buy the book...