Vonnie Hughes on that Pacific microcosm: New Zealand


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Do you scan book blurbs for setting info? I do. Not gonna lie. If an author reveals a book is set somewhere in the South, I’m 50% more likely to take a closer look. If it’s set in North Carolina? Heck, I start reading sample pages.

I’m intrigued by settings. I’m one of those readers who likes to feel like the setting is a character in the story. While I’m reading, I surf Wikipedia to find out more about places (assuming they’re real) and often keep a Google map open.

I asked my friends to tell me about their book settings, ’cause I’m that kind of nosy. They’ve kindly obliged me. First up is Vonnie Hughes on her former stomping grounds.

New Zealand's Waitakere Hills, Courtesy Vonnie Hughes
Waitakere Hills – New Zealand, Courtesy Vonnie Hughes

Vonnie says:

“I’m a New Zealander, so even though I’ve spent the last eleven years in Australia, I still know New Zealand better than I do Australia. So I tend to set my romantic suspense novels in New Zealand.

“The land outside the cities is deceptive. Many a traveler has discovered that the meek and mild temperate weather changes in the blink of an eye, and that the gentle looking mountain peak in the distance hides crevasses and unclimbable escarpments. Likewise the placid rivers (“creeks”) can turn into raging rivers after only a day’s torrential rain. It might be one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to dangerous animals (there aren’t any) and be peopled with friendly folk, but like most inhabited places, Man is the main predator.

“Hence my first romantic suspense/thriller published by The Wild Rose Press. It’s called Lethal Refuge and has all the elements of quintessential New Zealand as its setting.
Lethal Refuge by Vonnie Hughes
“There’s the impenetrable bushland (a lot of the countryside is clothed in tight-knit trees and bushes so that a person gets lost every easily. It can be deceptive). I have attached a picture of the setting of Lethal Refuge to give you some idea of how idyllic the Waitakere Hills outside Auckland can look. Then look closer and you’ll see that after you’ve ventured six or eight steps into the bushland, you can become disoriented with the flick of an eyelash.

Lethal Refuge deals with the apocryphal New Zealand witness protection unit which has been compromised to the extent that no one—not the team psychologist, members of the unit’s committee, even the police team involved—are safe. Most of all, the relocatees, many of whom have testified against criminals, are in the worst danger, because someone knows their secrets and he’s killing to ensure his own safety.”

About Vonnie Hughes’ Lethal Refuge

LETHAL REFUGE is set in New Zealand. Celie Francis is plunged into the witness protection program (the Unit) after witnessing the aftermath of a murder. There, she is expected to trust complete strangers with her life, and trust is not something Celie does well after being abandoned as a child.

Brand Turner, the psychologist for the Unit, demands trust from the relocatees so he can ease them into their new identities, but someone inside the Unit is leaking information. He and Celie are menaced and they go on the run. Should Celie trust Brand with her life?

Vonnie Hughes is a Jill-of-all-trades (seriously!) and a New Zealander at heart. She writes contemporary romantic suspense and regency historicals. Chat with her on Facebook check out her backlist at Goodreads.