Best-selling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Her latest book is,The Great Escape.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to many beautiful places. One of my fondest memories--sitting in a lovely outdoor café built into the side of a cliff in Granada, Spain, sipping a delicious glass of Rioja and watching the sun set over the magnificent Alhambra. So what if I was with my friend Helen instead of my husband or...say...George Clooney? It was still blissful.
I’ve eaten grapes off the vine in Tuscany, spent a chilly October day trekking barefoot across the Bay of Mont St. Michel. I’ve kayaked next to a playful sea otter in Alaska, gone bird watching at dawn in Costa Rica, wandered through the heather across a gloomy Yorkshire moor, and abandoned a worn pair of hiking boots along France’s Dordogne River.
Wonderful memories, each one, but as passionately as I have loved all these locales, my all-time favorite place is my own screened porch. It’s not one of those beautiful chintz and white wicker screened porches you see in Better Homes & Gardens, but it’s small and shady--and, okay, a little spidery--with a child’s plastic play kitchen set up in one corner and a piece of driftwood I picked in Michigan serving as a dining table centerpiece.
It’s not always quiet and peaceful. (Thanks a lot, you @^% leaf blowers.) Despite a ceiling fan, it can become unpleasantly hot once the temperatures hit the mid-90s. But it’s where my husband and I have our summer breakfasts accompanied by the hiss of lawn sprinklers, where I can enjoy a July rainstorm, and where I write on my laptop all summer long.
I sometimes pass my love of screened porches on to my characters. Kenny Traveler had a beautiful one at his ranch in Lady Be Good, and as I remember, that same porch serves as the background for a scene in another of my Wynette, Texas, books, Call Me Irresistible. In my newest book, The Great Escape, Lucy Jorik finds a refuge of sorts on the screened porch of an old lake house situated on a Great Lakes island. This is a house designed for families. Instead, it’s owned by our hero, a mysterious loner who couldn’t be more different from Lucy’s former fiancé, Ted Beaudine.
That screened porch and that island lake house mean more than a summer vacation to Lucy. They’re a place where she hopes to find herself--to figure out who she is beyond being the dutiful daughter of the former president of the United States. As I think of Lucy, of screened-porches and self-reflection, I wonder about all of you and hope you have a place where you can find your own peaceful retreat.