Jul 30 2012 3:00pm

Getting Away from It All: Hotels as Escape in Romance Novels

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

“I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza.”

Using a hotel as a plot point is not new to fiction; Eloise, the star-studded movie from 1932 Grand Hotel, The Shining, “Hotel California,” etc. But when it’s used in romantic fiction, the hotel becomes almost another character, a catalyst for the growth and change of the characters.

When a hotel is a character, it primarily serves as one of two purposes: Either the hotel is some place that is an escape from some event, or a chance for a character to channel the rebuilding of their razed lives in a literal way.

In the first example, the hotel is usually glamorous, an ’escape from it all’ kind of place where the sand is sparkling and the drinks are plentiful. Usually, there’s also a hot guy to accompany the hot weather and the cool beverages.

One of the most well-known of this hotel example is Terry Macmillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back, where the eponymous heroine takes off for a spur-of-the-moment Jamaican vacation and meets a guy who’s half her age. Stella gets her HEA back at the end of the book, too.

Monarch Beach by Anita HughesIn Anita Hughes’ Monarch Beach, the heroine takes off for a St. Regis resort in Laguna Beach with her mother and her son after finding her husband in flagrante delicto with his sous-chef.

I tried to play the responsible daughter, but the idea of a luxury getaway was tempting: just pack all my problems in a suitcase to be unpacked at the end of the summer. I could lie on white sand, watch Max splash in the waves, and pretend Andre had stayed in Ross to take care of the restaurant instead of to screw his Swedish chef. The image of the two of them entwined together popped uninvited into my head.

The heroine of Farrah Rochon’s Pleasure Rush also craves escape, but not from a relationship gone bad; Deirdre Smallwood wants to escape what she views as her humdrum image, and seduce a bad boy football player while on vacation in Hawaii. It takes some tough talk from her sister-in-law to figure out just what she needs to do to relax:

“[T]aking care of them had been her main objective for so long, she didn’t know how not to focus on them.

“You need to stop worrying about everyone else and concentrate on you for a change.” Paige said. “You’re in Hawaii, girl. Let your hair down. Do something crazy.”

“I didn’t put on any sunscreen before I left my room. That crazy enough for you?” Deirdre inquired with a fair amount of sarcasm.

Her sister-in-law let out an exasperated snort. “I mean it, Deirdre. You need to stop hiding from life and start living it.”

That grande dame of romance, Danielle Steele, offers the Hotel Vendome, a run-down hotel in Manhattan transformed into a luxury hotel. Residing within are the hotel’s owner and his daughter, Heloise, both of whom have to learn how to love again after Heloise’s mother runs off with another man.

Heartbreak Hotel by Jill Marie LandisIn the second example, a person—usually the heroine—stakes her hopes and dreams on refurbishing a hotel after her own life has fallen apart. In Jill Marie Landis’s Heartbreak Hotel, for example, after her husband’s sudden death, the heroine discovers that both their marriage and their presumed wealth were a sham.

”Forced to start over, Tracy puts everything into resurrecting the Heartbreak Hotel, a long-abandoned turn-of-the-century inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She’s determined to never again believe in anyone but herself–until the night mysterious loner Wade MacAllister checks in."

Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot Bay also has a heroine who wants some reinvention for herself and her daughter:

When a hurricane roars through Lacey Armstrong’s home on the coast of Barefoot Bay, she decides all that remains in the rubble is opportunity. A new hotel is just what Mimosa Key needs, and Lacey and her teenage daughter are due for a fresh start. And nothing, especially not a hot, younger architect, is going to distract Lacey from finally making her dreams a reality.

In Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Call Me Irresistible, the reinvention isn’t a voluntary choice; after causing the destruction of her best friend’s wedding, Meg Koranda finds herself forced to work at a hotel to pay off her hotel room bill since her parents—and anyone who could possibly help her—have cut her off. But she does reinvent herself, and gets her HEA in the person of Ted Beaudine.

What hotel romances are your favorites?


Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site, as well as an author. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son, and has a massive collection of hotel soaps in her closet.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Vacation-set romance makes for good beach reading, so I'm always up for a good hotel/escape story.
Cathryn Cade
2. Cathryn Cade
Love this premise. I will definitely choose a book set in a fun vacation setting, especially if there is romantic suspense attached.

Hawaii is the star of my new series, and readers have been telling me they feel as if they're on the Big Island. I started writing the series because I was looking for Hawaiian romance and could find very little, so wrote my own.

I hope many other romance authors join me, as I'd love to read more stories set in Hawaii.

Cathryn Cade
Cathryn Cade
3. Allan Donald
Really hotels are having a great impact over the movies. Plenty of movies are having hotel scenes in it, which are integerally related to the content of the story. Some movies also had the story related to country house and other heritage hotels.
4. carmenlire
Tempt Me At Twilight features hotelier Harry Rutledge and Poppy Hathaway.
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