The Historical Romance Retreat Was a Huge Treat!
From Thursday, 22nd to Sunday, 25th September, 2016, historical romance was the name of the game at the inaugural Historical Romance Retreat in Spokane, Washington State’s second city. 300 avid readers and excited authors invaded the very swish Historic Davenport Hotel to showcase a genre that pays its dues to the past, while it has a very exciting future ahead.
A couple of years ago, I received an intriguing invitation from historical romance author Renee Bernard, asking if I’d come to a reader event on the US West Coast, targeted specifically at the dedicated historical fan. I was delighted to say yes. Since then, Renee and Delilah Marvelle, her partner in crime, have worked like children in a Victorian factory to put together one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to.
The 50 author spots soon filled up and even better, the 250 reader spots almost booked out, too. You’ll notice immediately the generous reader to writer ratio. Renee and Delilah were determined that readers and writers would have plenty of time and opportunity to hang out and talk about their favourite subject, historical romance. To ensure this, the convention wasn’t over-scheduled. There were a few big, fun events but otherwise, things stayed pretty loose and relaxed. The elegant lounges of the Davenport echoed to discussions of Regency etiquette and the eternal Highlander versus Duke argument.
The venue was spectacular. A late Victorian masterpiece, just perfect for a weekend of historical high jinks. It was wonderful to see how many people dressed accordingly. A lot of wonderful participants brought multiple costumes. One of the fun things at every event was checking out the brilliant imagination and craftsmanship on display in the clothes!
The retreat opened with a reception where the authors were introduced like movie stars (this treatment, I’m delighted to say, continued all weekend). Then we all bustled across the street to see a fun old movie, The Law and the Lady, at the 1930s Bing Crosby picture palace. You can imagine the locals’ expressions as all these historically attired ladies tramped through the middle of their town. Just as an aside, Bing Crosby was brought up in Spokane so he’s a big presence here still.
Friday was devoted to author chats and a scrumptious high tea (more wonderful costumes). And then that night, everyone attended a Regency gambling night followed by an absinthe party. Saturday afternoon was a huge book fair, then a grand ball where everyone got to dress up and try Regency dancing. What fun! Sunday morning, everyone got together for a very emotional farewell. The weekend had forged hundreds of new friendships and given so many of us the opportunity to catch up with old friends or people we only know through social media.
The atmosphere throughout was absolutely buzzing. The readers were incredibly enthusiastic about the convention and historical romance, and it was such a high being there each day and meeting them. Everywhere you went, you heard laughter and happy chatter. I caught up with so many people I haven’t seen in years (my last trip to the States was 2010), or people I only know through Facebook and Twitter. There were even a couple of Aussies present – a bookseller from Brisbane and a librarian from Melbourne who had been sent by her forward-thinking management to check out what’s going on in this popular genre.
The authors included Mary Balogh, Madeline Hunter, Elizabeth Essex, Sabrina Jeffries, Deb Marlowe, Katherine Bone, Cindy Nord, Laura Lee Guhrke, Elizabeth Boyle, Christina McKnight, Victoria Alexander, Valerie Bowman, Tessa Dare, Rose Lerner, Elizabeth Hoyt, Julia London, Linda Lael Miller, Karen Hawkins and Lorraine Heath. For a full list, check out the gallery at the Historical Romance Site: http://www.historicalromanceretreat.com/gallery
Would I go again? In a heartbeat! They’re going to run it again next year, check out the website for details: http://www.historicalromanceretreat.com/ The plan is to have a different list of authors each time over a cycle of a couple of years, so the readers get a chance to meet a wide variety of their favorites and the event stays fresh.
So if your bag is historical romance, why not pack a bag for the 2017 retreat? I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful time!
Some more photos! Here I am at the signing and with sparkling Elizabeth Boyle (with photobombing James from the Post Ale House) and with second HRR mastermind, Renee Bernard.
Some of the HRR authors, Sabrina Jeffries, Julia London and Laura Lee Guhrke.
Around and about the Historic Davenport in Spokane during the HRR.
This article originally appeared in the Australian Romance Readers Association newsletter, October 2016