First of all, let me say that a year ago if anyone had told me that June 2007 would see me (and husband—aka Him) opening the door of a lovely hotel room and finding a note on the table from Kate Walker, Romance Icon, saying ‘so glad you could join us...’ I’d have thought they were sending me up . But here we are, on a gorgeous day, checking into a gorgeous hotel for a very special weekend of celebrations.
Lincoln is beautiful—like the very best bits of York and Chester, with half as many people to share them with. We wander around the shops in the sunshine, and return up Steep Hill to the hotel. Steep Hill does exactly what it says on the tin—i.e. is very steep. Stupidly I have a bet with Him that I can get to the top first, and proceed at a cracking Girl Guide pace which nearly kills me but secures a victory (such things are so important in a marriage, I find). Triumph is very shortlived as we arrive at the hotel, hot and horribly sticky with exertion and find Kate, her lovely husband (the Babe Magnet) and numerous other writers of whom I’m terrifyingly in awe gathered in the bar. Kate—as warm and wonderful as ever, does not hesitate to introduce us to everyone, and romance writers, being the nicest people in the world, all proffer the kindest, most welcoming hugs and kisses. Find myself fervently wishing we had taken Steep Hill at a more gentle pace (and am ceratin they wish we had too!)
Flee upstairs for much needed cool shower and to get changed for the evening, and go back down an hour later to find the gorgeous Orangery, where we are to enjoy pre-dinner drinks, filling up. Straight away spot Kate Hardy and rush over to say hello—it’s been as a lovely result of this celebration that we’ve got to know each other over top secret arrangements about presents, and although we’re now pretty familiar with each other’s musical tastes, families, writing habits, chocolate addictions and ideal men, until this moment we’ve never actually spoken! Stand there chatting happily to her and feeling like I’m in a romance version of the World Book Day event at the children’s school when everyone had to come as a famous author, as a succession of my writing heroines (including Susan Stephens, Michelle Reid and Jacqueline Baird) drift past on the way into dinner.
The tables have book names instead of numbers—we’re on Game Of Hazard, which instantly proves to be great fun as we all introduce ourselves and admire the couple in the throes of tormented passion on our book cover (indeed, we admire it so much that we decide it would be an excellent idea to re-create it for the disposable camera placed on our table. Can see that Kate may be in a position for a bit of very lucrative blackmail once the pictures are developed.) The party girl herself looks stunning, and when she comes over to our table to say hello I make Him take a photograph of her glorious shoes for Amanda Ashby, who shares Kate’s perfect taste in accessories and will, I know, be both impressed by and envious of these....
After an utterly delicious main course we are invited to move tables, and I reluctantly say goodbye to Game of Hazard and head over to The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife, where Abby Green, Julie Cohen, Anna Lucia and Kate Hardy are hanging out. Shortly after I arrive pudding does too, and I feel this is one of those spookily perfect moments—a happy combination of crème brulee, writing goddesses and waiters coming round with champagne. The speeches begin, and because of the shedloads of talent in the Walker camp, mainly take the form of poems, which I intend to beg her to reproduce on her website as they are fab. They summarise perfectly, in various ways, the tone of the evening, but definitely need appreciating again for their own sakes (please Kate!).
After this Kate herself gets up, and it’s entirely typical that everything she says is in praise of others. Then, although this is her night, she continues a tradition she began some years ago and gives out heart necklaces to those of her ‘virgins’ (writers who she has supported through the RNA new writers scheme) who’ve achieved publication. Trish Wylie, Natasha Oakley, Anna Lucia are all presented with beautiful be-ribboned bags, and are given a hug by Kate. And then she is walking towards me, and even though I was never a virgin (what??), she has a bag for me too, and I’m overwhelmed with disbelief and delight. It’s an unforgettable moment, and an extraordinarily lovely gesture. Open the delicate gold box to find a necklace of flame-orange Venetian glass, perfectly chosen and utterly beautiful.
(A hug and a heart for Trish Wylie....)
Finally it’s our turn to show our appreciation to Kate. Kate Hardy has masterminded the purchase and presentation of our joint gift, and does a wonderful job of giving it to Kate and telling her how special she is. By this stage the batteries in our camera have long since conked out, but Susan Stephens has a ringside seat and captures the moment here! (you may have to scroll down..)
The rest of the evening passes in a happy blur, and takes on a slightly surreal aspect as the names on covers of favourite books suddenly come to life like the playing cards in Alice in Wonderland. I am so glad to have the chance to talk to Abby Green, who is my ‘big sister’ in the Presents family, having come in a couple of books ahead of me, and is every bit as lovely as her books. We move through to the bar and I sit with Kate Hardy and Michelle Styles and wish I had a notebook with me as they dispense wisdom and brilliant advice. But it’s getting late and I’m suddenly hugely tired...
Does it look a bit like we're fighting over him?)
After a gorgeous breakfast the next morning the multi-talented Trish Wylie is brave and patient enough to try to explain the rudiments of website construction to my husband. I know when I’m out of my depth and enjoy a lovely conversation with Julie Cohen’s gorgeous baby. Then it’s time to say goodbye... and THANK YOU to Kate and the BM for a wonderful, wonderful time.
He drives home and I doze. At some point as we speed through Derbyshire the sun breaks through and I reach up to touch my heart necklace. The glass is heavy and has absorbed the warmth of my skin. How appropriate, and how very typical of Kate-- a warm heart.