It was early in my romance career that I discovered my first romance novel set largely in New York City — After Innocence by Brenda Joyce. It was a gorgeous, epic love story set in Gilded Age Manhattan between a young heiress who aspires to be a painter and the dangerous diamond smuggler she loves. But, after that, I struggled to find more romance novels — especially historically set ones — set in my favorite city. Funny, because good old NYC is the setting for so many of our best and brightest love stories when it comes to TV shows and movies. Here are five reasons why NYC is the perfect city and setting for a love story — especially a mass market paperback one that ends happily — and some of my favorite city-set romance novels.
#The Magic is (possibly) Real
Think about the iconic scenes of so many NYC set romantic comedies, particularly the ones starring Meg Ryan — the leafy streets of the Upper West Side in You’ve Got Mail, that scene in Katz’s Delicatessen from When Harry Met Sally, the grand finale at the Empire State Building in Sleepless In Seattle. They’re all places you could go to tomorrow; they’re just waiting for you and your own real-life romantic moment.
# It’s the city that never sleeps…
…And that means something is always happening. That’s probably why so many stories are set here! One of my favorite action, drama and suspense packed romance series are the Deadly books by Brenda Joyce. These 10 novels follow amateur sleuth and heiress Francesca Cahill as she races uptown and downtown solving crimes. One chapter she’s storming into the Mulberry Street office of swoonworthy chief of Police, Rick Bragg and teaming up with him to visit crime scenes all over town. The next she’s in a sumptuous gown at a glittery Fifth Avenue ballroom and flirting with the seductive Robber Baron, Calder Hart. It’s a glam life, but someone has to live it!
#There are amazing opportunities for heroines to be… amazing
When her husband bombs on stage at comedy club, Mrs. Maisel picks up the mic and discovers her own comedic chops in the hit Emmy show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. When her family’s magazine empire is about to be sold, Maxi Amberville rises to the occasion in Judith Krantz’s I’ll Take Manhattan. When her architect father is sick, Lady Eva Hyde shows up and takes over to supervise the building of the hero’s luxury hotel in Joanna Shupe’s romance, A Scandalous Deal (which has echoes of Emma Roebling’s real life — she stepped in to supervise the building the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband fell ill). In a crowded, busy city full of go-getters and eccentrics, most people don’t even blink when a woman wants to do something daring, which makes for some truly riveting reads.
#NYC is for ALL the Lovers
All it takes is a walk down the street or a ride in the subway to see that New York City is home to all different kinds of people — shapes, sizes, ethnicities, orientations, ages. Some are born and raised here, but others have come for the promise of this city—especially the promise of inclusion and representation. Alyssa Cole’s novella That Could Be Enough portrays a gorgeous romance between two African-American women set in the early days of our nation. While a novel like Pride by Ibi Zoboi retells a classic love story (ahem, Pride and Prejudice) set in a rapidly gentrifying, modern day Brooklyn neighborhood. And the contemporary romance When Katie Met Cassidy depicts two women exploring their feelings for each other without worrying what everyone will think in the safe, welcoming community in the city’s West Village.
#The Fabulous Fashions
Let’s face it: when it comes to a love story so many of anticipate the undressing scenes. But when the characters aren’t between the sheets, they’re out and about, fully clothed. And in New York City, the fashion capital of the world, they’re really stylishly dressed. Whether it’s Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and The City, the ladies of The Devil Wears Prada or my own dressmaking heroine in Duchess By Design, the heroines in NYC romances often have some really fierce and fabulous frocks. Because when an amazing heroine is enjoying a real-life romantic moment in the city that never sleeps, she’ll want to be well dressed for it.