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Love & Gelato: A Guide to Sweet YA Romance

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Amazon.com: Love & Gelato (9781481432559): Welch, Jenna Evans: BooksSweet is in the title!

In the past year there has been an enormous call for escapist, feel-good fiction. Is anyone surprised? Whatever one's background or inclination, 2020 was quite the ride. I think we all found ourselves looking for worlds and stories that would allow us to just get away, and this universal craving has, unsurprisingly, affected the market. Agents and publishing houses everywhere are hunting for exactly this: cheerful stories, with just enough substance to avoid outright frivolity, that encourage readers to forget their worries for 300+ pages.

Are you looking to cash in on this latest trend (not to mention write something that, in itself, might be a pleasure to create)?

Well, I encourage you to check out Love & Gelato for an excellent guide to heartwarming escapism.

The story is about a young woman named Lina whose mother has recently died of cancer. When she's sent to Italy to live with a father she's never met, Lina soon discovers an old journal of her mother's that will serve as her guide to Florence, leading her on a journey that will make her fall in love not only with the city but also with the charmingly sweet boy next door. The book is full of great food, beautiful sights, and all the charms of Tuscany, along with a terrific cast of characters and a funny, sympathetic narrator with plenty of pizazz.

The thing that makes Love & Gelato work so well is its perfectly weighted blend of fantasy and reality. On the one hand, the story is a delightful daydream of romance in one of the most romantic places in the world, including the best of Italian cuisine, moped rides, gorgeous landscapes, and famous locations. The experience of reading the novel is like taking a luxurious trip without having to deal with irritating add-ons like sunburns, tour buses, and, of course, other tourists.

Sign me up!

However, the thing that makes this book stand out in a crowded market of travelogues and romances with European backdrops is that it weaves in a well-calibrated, emotionally satisfying emotional arc around loss, family, and the choices we make. The book tries hard never to get too serious, but the touch of real-world issues in an otherwise lighthearted romp makes the book feel honest and grounded.

Easier said than done.

The reality (no pun intended) is that pure escapism in storytelling doesn't actually work. A novel without conflict, drama, and a bit of suffering isn't a novel, it's just a series of nice events. In order for there to be a story, things need to go wrong. Characters need to want something they don't have, or strive for something difficult, and that necessitates some amount of struggle. Not to mention that it needs to be believable! But the trick with escapist literature is to make the light shine brighter and more reliably than the dark. The novel needs to be more fun than not. Pepper in moments of doubt and pain, yes, but have them surrounded by humor, laughter, and glorious sets.

And always, always give the reader the happily-ever-after they're there for.

Trust me.

COVID aside, escapism is a perennial bestseller. One could argue that all of fiction is escapism of some kind or another, whether it's the epic landscape of Lord of the Rings or the satisfying justice of John Wick. The vast majority of the stories that hit it big offer something that can't be found in the real world, something more, especially in romance. We long to believe in wild love and perfect matches and redemptive kisses in the rain. Life is complicated and happy, ride-off-into-the-sunset endings don't really exist, but that doesn't mean we can't dream about them and root for them and live vicariously through the characters who get to experience them. To write good escapism is to offer the gift of hope, the gift of a better world in which anything is possible, the gift of happy distraction.

And doesn't everyone want more of that?

Are you writing escapism? How do you plan to make it real while at the same time keeping it lighthearted? Let us know in the comments!

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