Romantic Scotland, England, Ireland, France. Germany?

Where would you set a romantic adventure?

My writing has taken me to medieval England, Normandy and Scotland, to Jacobite Scotland and Victorian Cornwall. All very dramatic settings full of fascinating history.

But whilst I'm still working on my medieval Scottish WIP, my mind has wandered to other countries to write about. For example, I over the years, I've visited many historical sites, castles, cathedrals and towns in Germany. (An intriguing place to visit is Speyer Cathedral, with its long history and crypt!) 

Speyer Cathedral - (c) Wikipedia
With lush, wild landscapes, independent towns and cities, meandering rivers and dark forests, you'd think it an ideal setting for romantic shenanigans. Knight against knight; tribal clashes; prince against prince.

Of course, most readers will automatically associate Germany with WWI and II. And it must be remembered. But that's not the only history Germany has to offer, nor should it remain the only part of German history people should know about. Let's go back in time.

Knights, rulers in their own lands overlooking strategic river positions or trade routes, set their own laws, pretty similar to the Highland clans pre-Clearances. So why are there so few romances set in what is now called Germany but which over the centuries used to consist of tribes, nomads, then free towns, feudal lordships and principalities (if there are any in the English language)? With so many Saxon romances about, why doesn't anyone trace them back to their places of origin, the North Sea shores of central Europe? (I'd be happy to be proved wrong there.) 

Our history goes way back. If you research the Teutonic Knights or delve into the intrigues of the Holy Roman Empire, you'll find so much stuff that just cries out to be written. I have visited many sites linked to the Holy Roman Empire – cathedrals, crypts, exhibitions. It's a fascinating web of political intrigue, and there are some noteworthy periods that would be ideal for a budding romantic adventure.

Bad Mergentheim, longtime
 seat of the Teutonic Knights
The overlapping borders with (and, at regular intervals, enmity to) France adds to the appeal, I think. Intrigue over intrigue spanning centuries. Speaking of which, discover the Carolingians! And make sure to meet the Salians and Merovingians... :-)

The Highland Clearances or the Irish Potato Famine were cruel eras, full of savagery and survival of the fittest, yet they spawned thousands of romances on the back of the hardship endured. Many were about the protagonists emigrating overseas, where they settled happily ever after. But we know it wasn't a peaceful settlement, yet it is still popular with readers.

So where do we draw the line? I'm talking about pre-1900 setting here. The World Wars have their separate place, and their bitter-sweet romances as well.

Would you read a romantic adventure set on the Rhine, the Neckar or the Moselle? In the Middle Ages or perhaps during the Romance period? 

Two warring families holding court in their strategically placed castles. One fair maiden... 

Schloss Heidelberg (c) M. Smolka

Treading on Dreams...with author Jeff Gardiner

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, 
we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” 
A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’

Today, I welcome editor and author, Jeff Gardiner. He has established a firm foothold in the writing world over the last couple of years. Apart from successful publications with Crooked Cat, Eibonvale Press and Tirgearr Publishing, he has just signed a 3-book deal with Accent Press. Many congratulations!

But more about Jeff later. First of all, he talks about Love and Obsession...

Love and Obsession

My contemporary romance, ‘Treading On Dreams’, explores two themes: obsession and unrequited love. These two experiences are sometimes linked. Obsession can lead to the humiliation of your romantic desires being unwanted. Unreturned love can lead to an unhealthy obsession that turns into something darker: stalking, unreasonable behaviour, or worse…

In ‘Treading On dreams’, Donny is a sensitive, romantic eighteen year old who’s never had a relationship. He leaves home for university and shares a house with the very desirable Selena. As an inexperienced and insecure young man, Donny is not one of those arrogant egotists who assumes every girl wants to sleep with him – unlike Jaz, their landlord. Donny is shy, keeping his feelings to himself, which only feeds his dreams and fantasies.

So what is the difference between being in love and being obsessed? Is there a difference? Donny doesn’t give in, even as he gets to know Selena’s fiancé, Melvin. Instead, Donny decides to continue developing his friendship with her, while keeping his romantic and lustful feelings internalised. This, however, isn’t always a good thing.

Love can be a consuming – and sometimes debilitating – emotion at the best of times. When things are wrong, or exciting, then it can be difficult to concentrate on other parts of your life. Allowing one thought, fear, hope or desire to control you or stop other aspects of your life from developing is far from ideal. But when we’re enslaved by our romantic desires then it’s impossible to function normally. We probably all know someone who gave up on their friends to concentrate on that one ‘special relationship’, only for that relationship to break down and leave them isolated and lost. Equally, if you put all your hope in one person, only to be rejected – however kindly or sensitively – then this affects everything else in your life.

WB Yeats wrote a poem called ‘Never Give All the Heart’, which ends with the couplet:
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

Yeats was obsessed with Maude Gonne, an Irish Nationalist revolutionary and his muse for so many poems. He proposed to her unsuccessfully four times, and had to watch her marry another man. Only when that marriage broke down was his love finally consummated. He proposed yet again, only to be rejected once more. So desperate was Yeats that he even proposed to Maud Gonne’s 21 year old daughter, but was turned down by her.

Now that is romantic tragedy! You couldn’t make this stuff up. So perhaps the answer is to not give ‘all the heart’.

Love is horribly complicated with no simple answers. Sometimes you have to make a judgement and take a risk. Who knows what that other person is really feeling? Who knows what the future holds? Perhaps all you can do is follow the old clichés about listening to your heart and seizing the day. It’s what poets, songwriters and authors have been trying to explore over the centuries.

If you want to know if Donny has more success with Selena you’ll have to read ‘Treading On Dreams’. The title of the novel comes of Yeats’ most famous poem, which is a sentiment aimed directly at Maud Gonne herself:

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

My best advice is this: make sure you at least have a dream. All you can do is everything in your power to make that dream come true. If it doesn’t then at least you tried your best – and you never know – perhaps the person you’re dreaming of is having similar dreams to you. There’s only one way to find out…


Read an Extract from TREADING ON DREAMS:

‘Women, eh?’ Jaz shook his head. ‘Don’t try to understand them, mate, that’s a mug’s game.’ Jaz told him once they were ensconced in the snug bar of The Huntsman with two pints of Guinness each lined up before them. ‘My theory is that women fall into two categories: lizards and androids.’
‘But that’s the problem…she’s not either. She’s beautiful, intelligent, fun to be with and sensitive.’
‘Bloody hell, man, you’ve got it bad, ain’t you? You’ve started moping. Gotta stop that, right now.’
‘You’ve got to stand back and realise she’s just another human being no better than anyone else.’
‘That’s handy for you, eh? If they’re all just lizards and androids, then it’s easier for you to discard anyone after the conquest.’
‘It’s got its benefits. I don’t get hurt.’
‘But then you never get into a relationship.’
‘Well…nor do you…but at least I get some satisfaction.’
‘I suppose I got too hopeful and wanted it so much. It would only end in agony or ecstasy and knowing my luck…’
‘Hate to say this, but you’ve got to forget her.’
‘And how am I supposed to do that then?’
Jaz’s suggestion made him angry.
‘Join the foreign legion?’ Jaz returned without pause.
Donny smiled at the thought of marching across sun-baked deserts, alone, perspiring, battle-weary and dying of thirst. Being close to death might be the answer.
‘I’m gonna leave you to it,’ Donny said, feeling light-headed.
‘Nah, don’t be soft, mate.’ Jaz held him down in his seat. ‘One more.’
‘No. I have an essay to finish.’ He struggled from Jaz’s grip and stood up. Ignoring the comments behind him, he reached the pub door and stepped out into the cold night breeze. The fresh air almost knocked him over.
Taking a deep breath and concentrating on not gagging, he meandered home.
As he quietly closed the front door, he wondered if Hazel was around and heard a rustling coming from the kitchen. The door stood ajar but instead of walking straight in, he peered through the gap. A figure moved around inside: Selena. He watched her kneel down putting laundry from her basket into the washing machine, but what mesmerised Donny was the fact that she had been careless enough to let her dressing gown fall apart to reveal her breasts and white frilly knickers.
Intoxicated and helpless, he forced his eyes to stay in focus and those few seconds seemed like an hour. Gazing entranced, he noticed a small birthmark just below her left breast—a beauty spot. That image would be forever in his memory. From now on, he would be able to close his eyes and imagine her perfection.
Then the moment passed and she turned away, pushed the clothes into the machine, stood up, still with her back to him, and tied up her dressing gown, before turning round now with her modesty covered.
He discovered he was trembling and she was walking towards where he stood. Like being hit round the head, he realised he should move from the doorway and he practically leapt backwards, running back to the front door managing to open it and close it again to seem like he had only just got home. He heard her give a slight start and their eyes met as he clapped his hands together to pretend to be shaking from the cold.
‘Hello, Donny. How are you?’ She folded her arms in front of the breasts he had finally glimpsed and could think of nothing else other than the image of her naked before him. Eventually, he managed to control himself.
‘Oh, hi. You okay?’
She nodded. ‘Can we chat sometime soon? I’ve got to go to bed now, but soon, eh?’
‘Er, yeah.’
He still couldn’t rest his mind or clear the erotic images rampaging through his whole being. The frustration of not being able to look for longer or that he might never see such a sight again; of never knowing the contentment of holding her and fulfilling his arousal with her in his arms, obsessed him completely.
In a powerless rage and consumed with agony, he allowed the fantasies and pictures to slowly overcome him and burst in an ecstasy within him, until eventually his mind cleared into a blank and shrinking numbness and, without the need of tablets, he crawled into the lonely darkness of sleep.

Links for ‘Treading On Dreams’ (currently only 99p/99c):


About the author:

Jeff Gardiner is a UK author of three novels: Treading On Dreams, a tale of obsession and unrequited love (Tirgearr Publishing); Myopia, which explores bullying and prejudice; and Igboland, set in Nigeria during the Biafran War (both published by Crooked Cat Books). His work of non-fiction, The Law of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock, has recently been published by Headpress.

He has also recently signed a three book contract with Accent Press for his ‘Gaia’ YA trilogy, which begins with Pica, a novel of transformation and ancient magic.

His acclaimed collection of short stories, A Glimpse of the Numinous, published by Eibonvale Press, contains horror, slipstream and humour. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.

For more information, please see his website at and his blog:

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, 
we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” 
A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’