Romance on the shortlist
Jules is a software developer from the United States and she has come to Docklands for Christmas but there’s more brewing beneath the surface.
She drops down from her high-rise for a coffee by the water. Cargo is her favourite haunt.
There’s a romance about the café that she likes: the sea views and the open sky, but that’s not all.
Like many of her fellow residents, she’s been inspired to settle here, to throw away her old life.
Max, who runs a vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, helps with her decision.
She realises that something is lacking. Could it be seafood platters, champagne and a tree in blue and silver?
The story is fiction, but it could belong to any of a number of locals.
Sandy Barker is the proud author of The Christmas Swap, published in 2020 by Harper Collins. She’s a Docklands resident herself and is onto her eighth romance novel.
The bright and bold are attracted to the setting and it’s beginning to turn up in novels (“she’s not moving here for him. She’s moving here for her”).
“I write travel romances based on my travels. The characters travel because they’re stuck in life,” the author said over a coffee at Cargo, also her favourite Docklands haunt.
It’s not quite Miami but the place appeals to sensibilities of the global traveller.
“I’m from Perth. We lived in Seattle. There were lots of waterways and marinas. We can see sunrise and sunset from our apartment and smell the brine off the river.”
Sandy comes alive when she talks about her characters and the dilemmas of the modern career girl. “They’re all different,” she said, but added that they had one thing in common – many were resistant to love.
The vice-president of a public relations firm in A Sunrise Over Bali, released in June, travels from Miami to Bali. She’s sassy and hard-nosed and it takes her ages to let down her guard. A teacher from Sydney travels to Santorini …
Sandy studied English, taught drama and works at Pearson four days a week as an educational publisher. She writes in the morning perfecting her first-person present voice.
“I’m talking directly to the reader,” she said, throwing in parenthetical thought for good measure while avoiding info-dumping dialogue and head-hopping point-of-view.
She’s very careful with vernacular and cadence and checks to make sure her American characters say, “hold on” while her Aussie ones prefer “hang on.”
Her ironic patter has attracted attention, particularly her main character in The Dating Game who writes witty recaps of reality TV shows for a living.
The book has just been short-listed by Romance Writers Australia in the category of contemporary romance. •
Caption: Romance writer Sandy Barker in her element at Cargo.