Saturday, 22 April 2006
To the Savoy Hotel, for the awarding of the Fostergrant Reading Glasses Romantic Novel of the Year 2006. This is one of the high points of the romantic novelists' year, and tends to involve more seriously heavy drinking than either the RNA Summer or Winter Parties (but not as much as the Annual Conference, but then that lasts for several days).
Published authors usually have their publishers buy them tickets, and they sit surrounded by their editors and other key players from the company. Those of us who pay for our own tickets can express a preference for whom we sit with, but in the end we are in the hands of the RNA committee, and in particular those of the indefatigable organiser of the event, RNA vice-Chairman Catherine Jones.
My luck was in. I actually ended up on Catherine's table, together with, among others, former short-listed author Linda Taylor, and two very pleasant people from Darley Anderson Literary Agency, Elizabeth Wright and Lucie Whitehouse.
The food was good. Asparagus with a cured lemon sauce (we did wonder what had been wrong with the lemon before it had been cured), loin of lamb (not quite as tender as the new season lamb from Stourhead that I cooked last Sunday but still yummy in a herb crust), and a dessert featuring thyme sorbet, which I loved, but others found a little too unusual.
The main business of the event was the awarding of the Fostergrant prize, complete with a cheque for £10,000. Five of the seven nominees were there at the savoy, the exceptions being Ashleigh Bingham, who lives in Australia (I believe that she is a little frail, and probably could not face the journey) and Nicholas Sparks. The winner was Erica James, for Gardens of Delight. She has been on the shortlist four times before. I was rooting for The Ship of Brides, by Jojo Moyes, not least because she has been known to read this blog. Jojo was sitting at the table next to mine, and was incredibly gracious about Erica James winning when I commiserated with her.
The Fostergrant isn't the only prize awarded at the Savoy. The RNA also awards a (smaller) prize for the best category romance of the year, and this went to Contracted: Corporate Wife, by Jessica Hart. I was hoping that it would win. I have to confess to having not actually read it (nor any of the other shortlisted books, I'm afraid), but what I liked about Contracted: Corporate Wife was the colon in the title. As regular readers may have noticed, I am all in favour of punctuation in book titles (apostrophes don't count), and titles with colons are thin on the ground (I note that the French takeover of Time Warner Book Group has been good for punctuation, as they have been renamed Little, Brown).
There were speeches as well as prizes. The chairman of the judges, Dr Susan Horsewood-Lee, did go on a bit, and to be honest was not a patch on last year's chairman, Danuta Keane (who wrote a rather depressing piece for Mslexia, which was reproduced in edited form in a recent edition of the Independent). Stanley Johnson, father of the more famous Boris, gave a rambling talk about not very much. Luckily there was still plenty of wine on the table so this did not eat into critical drinking time.
Then it was all over, and we made our way to the Coal Hole for the proper business of the day.