(Originally posted Feb 2012 at Book Lovers Inc)When you think of places in the world that inspire romance, does Antarctica come to mind? I admit that, to me, it definitely does not, and never has. But after reading Natalie Anderson’s Melt, I’m left to wonder why it’s never previously occurred that it’s a great place to set a contemporary romance.So I’ll begin this review with the setting used for the majority of the tale: Antarctica. Anderson’s descriptions of the location are so detailed that I was wondering whether she’d actually been there before! ^_^ From the methods of transportation to and in Antarctica to the facilities on location to the social activities that the inhabitants partake in…it all felt alive and lived-in. It felt like the kind of place that the two main characters could realistically develop a romantic connection. It was also pretty fun to note how numerous aspects of the book reflected the setting. The cold, barren landscape perfectly reflects the seeming emotional deficiencies of the main characters. It’s small considerations like that that make me smile. ^_^Rather than the setting being the preventative to romance, it’s the characters themselves. The two leads are very much flawed and scarred when it comes to emotional connections and interpersonal relationships. As the author notes during the story, “[Hunter] cared deeply about humanity, yet caring so deeply for another person was foreign to him.” And Emma has spent a lifetime being left behind by those who were supposed to love and protect her. Unsurprisingly, the two characters being shoved together in a very limited space leads to amusing scenes, given that they share an immediate attraction.I’ve found that stories of novella length must necessarily leave out some elements of the storytelling–back story, in-depth character exploration, complex plot, something. I’m always particularly concerned when a novella is a romance, because so much of the believability factor–when it comes to the romantic entanglements of the main characters–relies upon careful, sometimes lengthy development. In this story, I thought the connection between the two protagonists was crafted well through dialogue, both within each of the two and between them. There were a number of scenes that seemed like inconsequential bits of conversation, but actually brought out important elements establishing the deeper attraction between Emma and Hunter. It also helped that this story zeroes in on the two characters, not adding a secondary cast and subplots that would just take up valuable space.And speaking of space….I’ll just say that, if there’s any place to have sensual tension between two people, it’s in a confined space. This book uses that tension extensively, but the payoffs are hot enough to…well, to melt ice!There were little details here and there that made the characters feel real, and others that gave slivers of insight into the emotional make-up of Emma and Hunter. Emma, seemingly serious and “all-work,” has her e-reader loaded with steamy romance. Hunter, supposed playboy, gravitates to Emma at a party to avoid having to interact with the “interested and available” women seeking him. She loves hyperrealist art; he uses flirtation as a crutch. Like I said before…it’s the little things!So, can a story set in the coldest place on earth be hot stuff? That would be a solid yes. Melt is a good choice for a quick, uncomplicated read that sports a little something different from the usual contemporary romance tropes.