On Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of September, I headed down to Leighton Buzzard for the 2014 Festival of Romantic Fiction. I had a fantastic time and met lots of lovely authors and came away with a whole new list of books to check out.
I arrived on Friday and the first event I attended was Girls Night in with the authors Mandy Baggott, Jane Lovering, Jill Steeples and Rowan Coleman. They each did a reading which even had (very good) singing from one author, and then they answered questions. All I can say is if there is a zombie apocalypse, keep your grandparents away from Mandy and if you have a diary, hide it from all of them! There was also pink fizz and cakes – a lovely start to the evening.
I then moved over to the author party (while not being an author this party was for all festival goers honest!), despite being there on my own I was made to feel extremely welcome there, especially by Mandy Baggott, Rhoda Baxter, Rachel Lyndhurst and Linn B Halton. After more wine it was time for bed.
Saturday I attended three events – the first was an afternoon with authors Fiona Harper, Tracy Bloom (who also bought George Clooney with her), Liz Fenwick, Carmel Harrington and Katie Fforde who all did readings and answered questions.
I then headed off to afternoon tea and had a lovely time chatting with the authors at my table and listening to readings from some of the award nominees. Every author I heard a reading from made me want to buy their book! Good job I have a birthday coming up – Amazon vouchers for the win!
It was then time to go and get ready for the awards evening which had some great dancing and singing from a local theatre school before the awards began. The award winners in the categories voted for by Romance Readers were
- Best Romantic Read – One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson
- Best Historical Read – The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans
- Best Short Romance – Taming Her Italian Boss by Fiona Harper
- Best Ebook – The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
- Best Author Published Romance – Christmas Yves by Nicola May
There was also a new talent award chosen by professional authors and a publisher, this years winner was Caroline Rayner with Catherine Meadows as runner up – I might add they were both on the same table as me for afternoon tea, as was Fiona Harper so clearly I am a lucky charm 😉
After the awards, canapes and of course wine, Mandy, Linn, Kate and myself went for a curry only to find the restaurant was shutting and they turned us away – 11.15 on a Friday night, unheard of! Instead we headed to the kebab shop before heading to bed.
I had a fantastic time but was very surprised at the lack of regular readers like myself there, it was primarily authors. Having said that everyone was so friendly – as an example – Saturday morning I was sitting by myself in the bar when Kate Nash noticed me on my own and recognised me from the day before as being with the festival. She then promptly introduced me to two authors sitting at the next table – Terri Nixon and Glynis Smy who were only too happy to chat and made me feel very welcome.
I know the organizers are desperate for more readers to attend and I can’t understand why they didn’t. As a big romance reader I was thrilled to find this event in the UK and will definitely be going again. Maybe next year we can get more readers to attend. Out of interest, what would other romance readers be looking for at a festival like this, what would make you want to go?