Marie Laval discusses Place as Character


Thank you so much Anne for welcoming me on your blog today to talk about the setting of my second historical romance, The Lion’s Embrace, which is published by MuseitUp Publishing.

Where is the Lion’s Embrace set?

The novel is set in Algeria in 1845 and takes my heroine Harriet Montague and my hero Lucas Saintclair on a journey from Algiers to the magical Hoggar mountain range and Tamanrasset in the far South of the country.

Have you been there or anywhere similar?

I always dreamt of travelling to Algeria, where my mother was born and brought up. The stories about her childhood were so wonderful and vivid they captured my imagination, and I often felt I had actually been there myself, gazed at the Mediterranean sea speckled with sunlight or felt on my skin the hot, red Saharan dust swirling in the Sirocco wind.

What aspects of the place excited your writer’s mind?

Everything! I was particularly attracted to the natural beauty and mystery of many of the locations Harriet and Lucas stopped at, such as the lush Saharan oases and the incredibly beautiful Hoggar mountains. I also love the architecture of palaces in the Algiers Kasbah, with their carved doors, intricate mosaics and secret gardens, and that of the ksars, fortified villages of the Sahara.

I must also mention the rich history of the country and its people. From the rock art, which depicts a Sahara teeming with wildlife and people in the Neolithic period, to the tales of the Garamantes’ lost kingdom and the tomb of legendary Tuareg Queen Tin Hinan near Abalessa, the setting just lends itself to endless romantic adventures. It was very hard for me to choose.

Does the place act as an unnamed character in your book?

Definitely. The landscapes and the climate play a crucial part in the novel, not only because of the emotions they arouse in the characters and the way they shape the events, but also because of the legends they have inspired over the centuries.

The Lion's Embrace

The Lion’s Embrace

For example, the Tuaregs have many beautiful tales, poems and music inspired by their natural environment. In the old days, the telling of traditional stories was very important, and every tribe had a ‘bag of tales’ which contained a handful of stones, each representing a particular story. When his people gathered around the campfire in the evenings, the tribe’s story teller would pull a stone out the bag and know straight away which story it related to…

‘The Lion’s Embrace’ is available from Also from And

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17 thoughts on “Marie Laval discusses Place as Character

    • Hello Myra and thank you for your comment. The more I researched the background to the story and the history of the country, and the Sahara in particular, the more fascinated I became. As for the Saharan rock art and the Hoggar, they are just breathtaking.


    • Thank you Helena. Settings are so important, aren’t they? They just have to appeal to you on many different levels. The Sahara always made me dream, ever since I read the great novels of Roger Frison-Roche and the short stories of Isabelle Eberhardt, a wonderful, very unusual writer who was completely ahead of her time!


  1. Maria, I certainly agree that the setting can take on the qualities of a character in a book. It certainly sounds like that would be the case in your book. Good luck The Lion’s Embrace. Great title, btw!


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