As to making the city part of the story . . . I think we gotta use scenery in a dramatic sense.
When two characters are talking, we layer in lots of stuff between their dialog and internal thoughts to make 'time' pass at the correct rate. Scenery is one of the things used as a pacing device.
When Justine is walking down the steps in the Coach House and she's really scared I put in description of what's on the walls and what the downstairs looks like so the reader can get a gut feeling of being scared along with her. That emotional response wouldn't have time to form if I took fifty words to move her from the upstairs to outside the door where she listens to the Tuteurs.
Likewise, when Jess and Sebastian have left Lazarus and sit looking out over the Thames, the description of the Thames spaces out realization and revelation. Lets it unroll slowly.
Likewise the underground journey in Forbidden Rose is meant to make clear that the rescue attempt is a long, perilous, uncertain, process. If I just said -- "and then they spent a couple hours bumping around in the semi dark till they found ... " -- it wouldn't let the reader absorb the emotion.
Scenery puts the characters in passing time.
|attrib esprit du sel|
In Forbidden Rose, that passage through the darkness is Orpheus rescuing Eurydice. Justine going down the stairs to face a great fear is every hero picking up his sword and going forward to meet the dragon. Sebastian and Jess sit face to face and talk, while the River Thames, which is their past, (Jess' mother used to take her there; Sebastian used to scavenge the banks,) flows beside them and away, carrying their past while they reveal it to one another.
The writer needs images. Contemporary paintings and drawings are great for this.
But it's not just about having the images in the writer head.
But that's not enough. The writer has to use the setting to accomplish more than "Isn't this exotic?" We have to make the setting tell us about the characters. We match setting to the characters' feelings and purpose. We make setting symbolic.
We supercharge the visuals. We make them full of feel.