Most of the time the setting is a backdrop for the storyline, but one novelist's settings literal took over, and that was James Michener. I read his Tales of the South Pacific, Caravans, Centennial, and Hawaii. In Hawaii (even the title was about the setting) he began the story when the islands began to develop undersea. He introduced the Pacific Ocean: "Scores of millions of years before man had risen from the shores of the ocean to perceive its grandeur and to venture forth upon its turbulent waves, this eternal seas existed, larger than any other of the earth's features, vaster than the sister oceans combined, wild, terrifying in its immensity and imperative in its universal role." This is before he begins his description of how the islands themselves formed and how life came to the islands.
Hawaii is still considered one of the must-visit exotic places on earth for many travelers, so it is romantic. Weather, although most often perfect, can be dangerous for these islands, and then there is the volcano at the heart of the islands adding even more danger to paradise. Michener tells of these dangers, too, and then perhaps the most danger comes from inhabitants. He tells the stories of the first Hawaiians' trip across the ocean in outrigger canoes to discover the islands, the discovery of the islands by Europeans, the arrival of missionaries; interesting storylines, but once established, the setting never leaves the reader's mind. Michener's settings are so strong, I can always remember them, but not so much the actual storyline.
Developing the setting for fantasy and science fiction is called world-building, and it is a fun endeavor, and I have read many of these world settings that are inspired, intriguing, and dangerous, but the successful ones are most often based on some historical format and bits and pieces added to the storyline here and there, not like the huge chucks Michener so successful used.
For other views on the most inspiring, romantic, or dangerous settings, please visit other participating writers are listed below.
* Diane Bator
* Geeta Kakade
* Connie Vines
* Marci Baun
* Beverley Bateman
* Ginger Simpson
* Margaret Fieland
* Fiona McGier