Of Ruins and Romance
On her penultimate day at University, Kassandra Winters inadvertently overheard herself described as “…too shy, too plain, a bit ungainly if you must know and rather on the plump side, not at all what’s needed for such things…Kassandra would be far more suited to a job in an archive office…” Worse still she was subsequently knocked flying by the exceedingly tall and drop-dead gorgeous man to whom this description had been delivered. Adding insult to injury she ran into the same man the next afternoon and, justifiably upset by what she had heard, refused to indulge his somewhat perplexing determination to engage her in the oddest conversation and gave him short shrift.
Fast-forward two years and contrary to expectations, Kassie is not hidden away in an archive office. She is in Rome; employed by one of that city’s famous International Schools, as well as a tourist agency. One day, while escorting a group of visitors around the ancient Roman port of Ostia, she bumps into the same man — the man whose seemingly random remarks still puzzle her — and he introduces himself as Gabriel St Germain. This unexpected encounter leads to a job offer, the role of assistant tour guide for a three-week tour of ancient sites in and around Rome. Unable to resist such an opportunity, and against her better judgement, Kassie agrees.
Kassie has intrigued Gabriel St Germain since he ran into her, literally, outside her professor’s office. Despite her rushing off the following day, giving him no chance to apologise for what she had heard, Kassie left a lasting impression and her face haunts his dreams. Never expecting to see her again, Gabriel is astounded when she appears right in front of him — as though destined to do so — in the middle of a ruin and, resolved not to lose her a second time, he concocts a plan to win her heart.
Gabriel’s old-fashioned courtship touches something deep inside Kassie and, although struggling to believe that someone as handsome as Gabriel could possibly be interested in her, she soon realises she has fallen irrevocably in love with him. It seems he returns her feelings and for a brief moment, Kassie allows herself to trust that they have a chance at a happily ever after. However, just as Kassie shares everything of herself with Gabriel, her world comes crashing down and those callous words uttered that fateful day return to torment her. Can Gabriel save their romance or will it fall in ruins, like the relics of antiquity that brought them together.
A Word from the Author
Rome and its fascinating history is an enduring passion of mine, and when the voices in my head decided they would quite like a modern romance – should I see my way to writing one – the setting was a given. Thus Of Ruins and Romance was born but, as I am always drawn to the past, my contemporary setting ended up with some antiquity thrown in. It seemed logical to draw on my own experience of the Eternal City, and its surrounds, so other than one or two places, I have visited everywhere mentioned in the book. My hope is that anyone reading it, experiences the same magic I feel whenever I hear the word Rome.
This story is about Kassie, a reticent young woman who never expected a great love to be hers, and Gabriel – the man determined to prove her wrong. Their initial meeting is not particularly auspicious, and although Gabriel’s seemingly random questions occasionally rankle in Kassie’s head, for the most part she has forgotten their encounter. Two years later they meet again, and Gabriel hatches a plan to win Kassie’s heart. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and their journey hits a few bumps as well as one very large crater.
Discovering Kassie works part-time as a tour guide, affords Gabriel the perfect opportunity to arrange for three weeks in her company, hoping this will be enough to persuade her of his feelings. Thus, their romance unfolds against the backdrop of a myriad of ancient sites, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. Part of my inspiration, was the chance to visit all these incredible places without leaving the comfort of your armchair.
This novel was refreshing to write as, for once, I did not need to consider language, technology, and methods of transport or communication. I do believe however, the romance has an old fashioned quality to it, as I prefer not to use explicit terminology in any setting. Perhaps this makes me the exception rather than the rule, but it is a deliberate choice. My introduction to romance novels, when I was a teenager, was Mills and Boon and, while many consider them to be passé, I enjoy a gentle blossoming of love, leaving something to the imagination, as opposed to having it rammed down your throat (so to speak…). That’s not to say things run smoothly, Gabriel will have his work cut out for him – Kassie is no pushover, despite an undeniable attraction.
(Rosie Chapel, September 2017)