A New Coronado-set Novel, “The Hotel Where We Met” - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

A New Coronado-set Novel, “The Hotel Where We Met”

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2019 2:20 pm | Updated: 2:36 pm, Fri Jul 26, 2019.

Bestselling British author Belinda Jones discusses the inspiration for her new Coronado-set novel “The Hotel Where We Met” - a romantic comedy with an intriguing time travel twist …

If I were to take a time machine back 20 years I would see myself visiting Coronado for the first time with my friend Jerry Shandrew, then publicist for the TV series “Baywatch.” Appropriately enough he was competing in an ocean swim and while all eyes were on the sleek competitors, mine drifted up the beach and I was heard to murmur, “Is that the ‘Some Like It Hot’ hotel?” Like so many before me, I was instantly enchanted. Fast forward 15 years and I was setting up home in a bayside apartment with my darling dog Bodie. When my mom visited from England I gave her a few days to relax and mooch around then laid out my plans to show her the rest of San Diego. She responded with a plaintive cry of, “I don’t want to leave the island.”

I had the same reaction when I too had to prise myself away and return to the UK. But then I found a way to visit Coronado every day - by writing a book set there. “The Hotel Where We Met” is actually my second romcom novel to feature the Hotel Del - the first was The California Club back in 2003, which proved to my all-time bestselling title for Random House. I had always thought there was so much more to say about the illustrious history of both about the island and the hotel, and it was just the kind of other-worldly, over-the-rainbow destination that could have you believing that time travel was possible…

The basic idea premise of the story is this: Chloe Sinclair discovers that the reason she has yet to meet her Mr Right is because he doesn’t exist. And he doesn’t exist because the right people in history didn’t get together. It now falls to Chloe to travel back in time and matchmake four generations of Montague men to ensure she can finally meet her beau in the present day.

All Chloe’s adventures revolve around the Hotel Del, which I describe as part historic landmark, part Californian fairytale. I had vague notions about secret doors being portals to different eras but I was never quite sure of the mechanics until I returned to Coronado to spend the week dog-sitting on Isabella Avenue, for a pup aptly named Story …

The owner’s house had a keypad door code and as I tapped in the numbers I thought, “What if the digits corresponded to a particular year?” So tapping in 1-8-8-8 would transport you to the Victorian era, 1-9-2-9 to Roaring Twenties etc. This worked a treat for the plot and also meant that every time Chloe returned to her hotel room, I could set the scene by describing the ever-changing furnishings, from wind-up gramophones to boomboxes, washstands to raincloud showers. At one point I wrote to Gina Petrone who hosts the fascinating Legendary Tour of the Del and asked if she could describe the hotel decor circa 1958. Minutes later, a series of black and white photos appeared in my inbox showing I Love Lucy style twin beds in the guest room and a lobby set with floral-print sofas! It made me feel as if I too was dipping back in time, but nowhere was that feeling stronger than at Clayton’s Coffee Shop.

From my dog-sit bedroom I could actually see Clayton’s across the street. I remember waking up on my first day with 4am jet lag and blearily unpacking while watching the diner come to life. At 6am I strolled across and slid into one of the red vinyl booths. It was still dark outside and there was only one other customer, chatting to the waitress in her vintage apron, and it gave me chills - not only feeling like I could be back in the Fifties, but also to think that someone could read about Clayton’s in “The Hotel Where We Met” and then come here and order a shake and fries themselves!

By day I would roam around doing my research, stopping in at the library or Coronado Historical Association to pore over the museum exhibits - wide-eyed with delight to find items from Marilyn Monroe’s personal wardrobe and her hand-written notes on the “Some Like It Hot” script on one occasion. Back at base I would call out, “Alexa play songs from ‘South Pacific!’” or “Play songs by ‘Wham!’” to set the tone. Two new favorites became a charmingly warbly version of “Singin’ in the Rain” recorded by the B.A. Rolfe Orchestra in 1929 and John Barrowman’s moving rendition of “A Thousand Years.”

You may know Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness from “Dr Who” and “Torchwood” or perhaps his hilarious cabaret turns at Comic-Con. I was lucky enough to interview him at the Drury Lane Theatre in London when he was a starring in “Miss Saigon,” that was 25 years ago but I only just learned that he first studied performing arts right here in San Diego! Between you and me, I have him pegged for the part of leading man Ross (an actor with Lamb’s Players) in the movie, with Emma Stone playing Chloe as she used to visit Coronado every summer to escape the Arizona heat! Well, if you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream a come true?

I do have one fabulous star turn locked down in the form of Jack Lemmon’s son Chris - I chatted with him and his lovely wife Gina at the sea-breezy Babcock & Story bar during the Coronado Film Festival and marveled as he channeled his father, as he does during his one man show “A Twist of Lemmon.” When I asked if he could recall the first time he visited the Hotel Del he said, “Of course, I was five years-old on the set of ‘Some Like It Hot!’” So now five-year-old Chris has a cameo in the book, as well as the 60-something man in a present day scene! That’s another of the wonders of Coronado to me - how beautifully the past and present intermingle. The Victorian buildings, the Art Deco movie theatre, the retro diners, the military jets zooming overhead, the San Diego skyline gleaming from across the bay…

I have been lucky enough to set books in idyllic destinations from Tahiti to Italy, Costa Rica to Cuba but for me there is no place like Coronado. I describe “The Hotel Where We Met” as a romantic comedy with a time travel twist but, in truth, it is a novel-length love letter to the island.

“The Hotel Where We Met” is available now on Amazon.com as both ebook and paperback and coming soon to audio with Quest.

You can view Belinda’s Coronado videos on Instagram @belindajoneswriter and on Facebook at Belinda Jones Travel Club.

READER OFFER: From July 24-28th, twelve of Belinda’s ebooks are at a special summer reading price of $0.99, including her dog-themed road trip memoir “Bodie on the Road: Travels with a Rescue Pup in the Dogged Pursuit of Happiness” which is typically priced $16.99 and brimming with ideas for stays and plays between Santa Barbara and Portland, OR.

*One of the years visited in the book is 1985 and Lamb’s Players are currently performing 80s musical “MixTape” until September 1, 2019.

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