I had a great time at the Savoy yesterday they Romantic Novelists' Association’s award lunch yesterday. Two prizes were given out: the Romantic Novel of the Year and the Romance Prize (for shorter Romantic fiction). And since I was told off (twice!) for not blogging much recently, I'm going to give you all the details whether you want them or not!
I met my writing buddy Liz Fenwick for a drink (non-alcoholic, thank you very much) and a chat before we went to the Savoy. Liz is moving away soon (sniff!) so it was good to have a chance to catch up before she disappears off to some far-flung place on the globe. We walked through the park to the River Entrance of the Savoy and discovered we had to dart through an obstacle course of sprinklers along the way. Thankfully, we made it to our destination without getting watered.
Once we got there, the posh shoes went on, the all-encompassing handbags (now containing comfy, not-so-posh shoes etc) got checked into the cloakroom and we went in search of the bar. I was very relieved to hand my New Writers' Award trophy back. I had been terrified I would either lose it, forget it or squash it and for ever be in the RNA's bad books. Let's just say I've been having a few scatty moments in the last fortnight and it is not impossible that either one, or all three, of the possibilities are mentioned could happen to that trophy while it was in my custody.
We sat down to lunch (I really feel that, since we were at the Savoy, perhaps I should say "luncheon") at 12:30 p.m. The ballroom there is beautiful. Huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling and there were candles on every table. The walls are the colour of clotted cream with ornate plaster moulding in white. And all around the room are what look like doors which are in late with mirrors to reflect the light. Definitely the grandest place I've ever had lunch.
On the menu was:
- Onion and tomato tart tatin with orange and melted goat cheese.
- Stuffed breast of chicken with wild mushrooms, potato cakes with almonds, mousseline of spinach (more about that later), baby winter vegetables.
- Treacle and raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream.
- Savoy blend coffee and petit fours.
I was sitting next to Natasha Oakley, who was nominated for the Romance Prize for her wonderful book "Accepting the Boss's Proposal". We chatted about the joys of Magic Knickers and wondered what on earth mousseline of spinach was. We weren't even that sure when the main course arrived. I'm tempted to believe it was a smudge of green stuff that was underneath my chicken, but Natasha was sceptical.
The Romantic Novel of the Year went to Rosie Thomas for her book "Iris & Ruby ". The judging panel said it had been a very hard decision, but had settled on this novel because of its emotional intensity.
The guest speaker was Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, wheelchair athlete. She has 11 gold Para-Olympic medals and has won the London Marathon six times. Not only is she is a very accomplished sportswoman, but she is an avid reader. She said when she was asked to be on the judging panel for the Romantic Novel of the Year she expected the books to be of the sort that made up maybe 25% of her reading. She was surprised to find that actually it was more like 95% of the sort of books she usually readsa , and it opened her eyes to what a broad genre Romantic fiction is.
The Romance Prize was awarded next and it went to Marrying Max by Nell Dixon, published in the People's Friend Story Collection. Nell was flabbergasted and overjoyed all at the same time. She really hadn't been expecting to pick up the prize, as she had written the only non-Mills & Boon in the bunch. I was really pleased for her. Nell is a lovely lady and she deserves every bit of her success.
Time flew by and before I knew it things were winding down. I managed to say "hi" to fellow new M&B authors Heidi Rice and India Grey before everyone drifted off in separate directions. I had a quick drink and a chat at the bar with some of the M&B editors. By then my feet were screaming and I gave in and got my comfy shoes from the cloakroom. Bliss. As an added bonus on the way to making my feet go "ahhh", I met Julie Cohen and her adorable son in the cloakroom. I've read a lot about him on her blog and it was nice to meet the famous young man in person. He certainly is a cutie.
The day ended up with a bit more "socialising" in a pub close to the Savoy. I must admit, I wimped out and went home early, leaving the drinking to those who had more stamina than I, but it was great to chat to people I'd seen in passing all day but hadn't had a chance to speak to.
Now, after a very glamorous and social day, I'm back to my normal writing life – no makeup, a tracksuit and no one to talk to but my voice recognition software. Yes, the writer's life can be solitary, but when we get together we know how to party.