World Building in an Established World: Guest Post by Rosanna Leo

I’d like to thank Jessica for hosting me. Not only are we pub sisters at Liquid Silver Books, I’m a huge fan.

One of the reasons I admire Jessica’s work is her ability to create worlds. In Tyburn, she swept us away to historic London. The reader feels and smells and tastes everything the characters do.

World building is just as important in a contemporary romance, although it may not feel the same. After all, in the cases of contemporaries, the “world” or setting is one we recognize. It is generally the world in which we live, although it may feature more glamorous aspects.

I am always conscious of making my readers feel they’ve entered a new world in my books, even if it is similar to one they’ve encountered. In my latest romance, The Stand-In, the world is modern-day Toronto, Canada … my home town. The action takes place at banquet halls, churches, pubs, strip joints and downtown office towers. These are places we know. The characters are ones you might encounter on the street. The situations, plausible. So how did I endeavor to make this world unique?

Detail, detail, detail.

While not beating the readers over the head, I try very hard to engage their senses. When hero Patrick enters his old friend Jake’s office, he waxes poetic about the designer leather furniture. It is my hope that you not only smell the fine leather but that you feel it cushion you as he sits in the expensive office chair. When heroine Winn tries on the poufy coral dress for her first wedding date with Patrick, I try to describe it in such a way you will feel the soft caress of exquisite fabric.

World building also comes through in how characters speak to each other. In a paranormal or sci-fi romance, an author might employ interesting patterns of speech. She might create her own language, in fact. In contemporary romances, I like to see dialogue that sounds natural, the way I might speak with a friend, using slang and colloquialisms. It really helps a story flow. There is nothing more stilted than speech which is inappropriate to the situation.

Every fictional world has rules, and the same goes for romances set in modern times. There are certain things you do, and others you just don’t. In describing the way a character works and plays, think about what you would do in the same situation. Do your characters uphold those unwritten rules of behavior? If so, then you’re on your way to creating a great world.

I hope you enjoy The Stand-In. Thanks for reading.

The Stand-In

She’s the best bridesmaid money can buy.

Failed actress Winn Busby is at the end of her rope. With no money and no prospects, she accepts the one job she never thought she’d see on her résumé. Professional bridesmaid. It should be easy. If only the idea of weddings and vows didn't give Winn a case of the hives. Her role becomes more challenging when she's told a reporter will shadow her work for a men's magazine article. 

Working for Player Magazine is Patrick Lincoln's worst nightmare. A former political journalist, he used to write thoughtful columns for one of Toronto's most respected papers. That is, until he was blackballed for allegedly sleeping with the boss's wife. Overnight, Patrick becomes the city's most reviled bad boy. And now he's forced to write a seedy expose on, of all things, a bridesmaid.

Patrick begrudgingly accompanies Winn to a series of strange weddings. As they are forced to work together, he learns there is more to the stand-in bridesmaid than puffy dresses and pretty speeches. She, in turn, begins to question whether or not Patrick actually deserves the derision of his peers. As much as they fight their attraction, it begins to threaten their work and their sanity. 

For so long, Winn has felt second-best. A stand-in. She finally meets a man who believes in her value. But can she let go of the past and accept him?


She glanced at her computer screen again. “Let’s see. Ah, yes. We’ll have you meet with Winn. And by the way, she’s lovely. She has the perfect look for this job. Accessible and fresh, but not intimidating. You’re in luck. She’s in the building right now.” She texted a command into her phone. “I’ll have my assistant send her right in.”

In the time it took Margie Kent to flash her very pearly whites, a knock sounded on the door. These stand-ins were prompt. He supposed that was good in any business.

“Come in, please,” Margie called.

Patrick lifted his gaze toward the door and watched as a pear-shaped blonde entered. Christ. Margie had called this woman unintimidating. He knew a few dozen men who’d be intimidated into next year by her girl-next-door sex appeal. Chin-length golden hair framed her pleasantly round face. Amazing cheekbones. Bright blue eyes and a body that looked made for squeezing. Just the thought of pressing that luscious flesh made him hard. If she was a high-class call girl, and if he had to pay for love, he might be tempted to pull out his wallet. He cleared his throat and thought of the day Jason Dietrich fired him, just to make his boner disappear.

Margie did the introductions in her singsong voice. “Winn Busby, this is Patrick Lincoln.”

She stuck her hand out. “A pleasure to meet you.”

As he shook her soft hand, Patrick waited for the old “that Patrick Lincoln?” but it never came. Thank God. Someone who didn’t know of his ruin.

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Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author with Liquid Silver Books. Several of her books about Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters have been named Night Owl Romance, Two Lips Recommended Reads and Top Picks at The Romance Reviews. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair. Her next contemporary romance, Vice, will be published Sept. 22/15 by Samhain Publishing.


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Jessica. Glad to be here.

    1. Thank you for stopping by with such a great post! I'm looking forward to visiting Toronto in The Stand-In. I've never been, but it looks lovely!


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