Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Setting the Scene: Barbara Wallace

I am not a native New Yorker.  I’m not even a native upstate New Yorker.  I do however, love New York City.  Maybe it’s because so many movies and television shows are based there, but I find there’s something uniquely magical about the country’s biggest city.  I think that’s why so heroes and heroines find their way there.

Because New York is such a popular setting, I like to make it a point in my stories to find locales that take readers to a part of New York they might not be as familiar with.  In The Billionaire’s Fair Lady, that spot is Bryant Park.

Ready for a brief history lesson?  Doesn’t matter, because you’re getting one anyway. 

Photo from Wilkipedia
Bryant Park is a small park on Fifth Avenue, behind the New York Public Library.  Today, it’s a chic gathering place, host to Fashion Week, and home to the famous Bryant Park Carousel.  This wasn’t always the case.  In the early nineteenth century, this uptown park was actually a potter’s field.  When the city rezoned to accommodate its new reservoir, the potter’s field was rezoned as well, becoming Reservoir Park. (There’s no mention in the history about what happened to the bodies they buried; I’m hoping they too were ‘rezoned’.) 

Over the years, the park became many things including the site of a Crystal Palace Replica and an Union Army Encampment.  In 1884, the park was renamed Bryant Park after William Cullen Park and incorporated into designs for the new Public Library building. 

Picture from Wilkipedia
By the 1970s however, the park fell into disrepair.  It took a multi-reclamation project to bring the area back to its former glory.  The new design featured gardens, statues, a “reading room”, public chess tables and of course, a French carousel. 

When it came time for the characters in Billionaire’s Fair Lady to have a family-style outing, I specifically chose Bryant Park over that other, more famous New York Park.  There were several reasons.  First, everyone knows that other park.  I thought I’d be a bit different.  Second, geographically, the park made sense.  Success-driven Mike Templeton lives and works in Manhattan.  When it came time to entertain a toddler, it’s only natural that he would select a location he was familiar with. 

Mostly, however, I chose Bryant Park because it represents the world my heroine, Roxy O’Brien, wants to be a part of.  In my mind, I see Central Park as accessible to all the residents of New York City, while Bryant Park, with its statues of Gertrude Stein and piped in French music, represents the upscale side of the Big Apple.  A place of culture and money.  Okay, in real life the park is open to everyone.  But to my heroine Roxy, who’s struggling to make ends meet, the park represent a life style that is beyond her reach.  It is no accident she visits the carousel with Mike after her makeover either.  For the first time in her life, she is uptown and fitting in.  As a result, the visit becomes a turning point, both in how she sees herself and how she sees her dashing lawyer. 

The question then becomes, can Roxy stay in the world Mike Templeton shows her?  Or will she find herself back on the wrong side of town and worse – with a broken heart?  You’ll have to read The Billionaire’s Fair Lady to find out!  (Or, comment below for your chance to win a free copy!)

Have you ever been to Bryant Park?  How about to New York City in general?  If so, what’s your favorite part of the city?  I’m always on the lookout for new and unusual parts of the city. 

Barbara Wallace is the author of seven Harlequin romances as well as the best-selling Entangled romance Weekend Agreement.  To learn more about Barbara and her books, visit  You can also follow her on Twitter at @barbaratwallace or on Facebook at



  1. I discovered Bryant Park when I was in NYC for RWA nationals a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with it! I'm especially crazy about the outside reading room.

  2. I've never been to New York or Bryant Park... Always did wanna go to Central Park to see the Alice in Wonderland statue.

  3. I love Bryant Park. The New York City that you see in media is all concrete canyons and crowded streets, but hidden away are all sorts of parks. There's the huge Central Park and then all these smaller neighborhood parks like Bryant or Stuyvesant or Tompkins Square.

  4. I must admit I've never been to NYC but it's on my list of places to visit. I really enjoyed hearing about the park's background. Thanks for sharing.

  5. My husband and I have been to NYC six times. All of them were either going to or coming from Europe so most don't count. All of the trips in early January. We did stay for a week one time. We rented a car and drove around New Jersey, and across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and went out to Long Island. We enjoyed looking at the Christmas windows along 5th avenue, the huge tree in Rockefeller Center, shopping at Macy's, the Empire State Building, and really enjoyed a guided bus tour.

    Another trip we went to the Cathedral of St. Patrick, ate out at a cafe with six other people and paid more for our parking than the eight of us having a reasonable priced meal. No wonder cabs are so popular!

    It's cold in NYC in the winter because it's humid as well. I'd love to be able to get back in either the spring or fall. I would love to explore some of the parks.

  6. I've been there. I like Central Park.


  7. I recently found a new hidden gem - Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Couldn't believe there was a castle in the middle of the city. I'm also dying to check out Rockefller Park which is on the other side of the Hudson, and I hear, quite beautiful.

    You should have seen me in NYC during RWA. I was geeking out while in Central Park because of all the stone bridges. Those are always the crime scenes on Law and Order!

    Thanks for hosting me. I always enjoy visiting this blog - both as a reader and a writer.