This week I’ve been hobnobbing with readers and writers at the Historical Romance Retreat at the historic (what else would it be) Mission Inn in Riverside California. This year I dragged Beloved along if only so he could see this amazing building.
More about readers and writers in a moment, but first, an aside. The Mission Inn was built between 1880 and the 1930s in a hodgepodge of stages. Its style can only be called Victorian faux mission-style except for the Spanish Courtyard, the Rennaisance ballroom, and the Japanese garden and that room with the Buddha. And Writers Row where every room has an author’s name. It boasts to resident parrots, three fountains, two chapels (one with Tiffany windows), and hundreds of original works of art and antiques. None of the guest rooms are “standard.”
Now imagine that setting and dozens of attendees swanning around in costume: Regency, Edwardian, Highlander, and so on. This year I brought Beloved who has been a good sport about being poked and prodded by Period Finery for his outfit for the Grand Ball and donning various outfits for various parties.
Wednesday night’s general reception featured basic costumes. Thursday afternoon’s tea brought out the Edwardian/Victorian/Regency dresses, but Thursday night’s Harlots and Highwaymen had an, er, rather different feel. It featured historical games of chance played with old English pennies that could be traded in for raffle tickets. Beloved cleaned up on pennies and then scored a basket that netted Jane Austen’s Map of London, three books and a heap of swag from Bath England. It made me happy anyway.
Both Thursday and Friday featured breakout sessions. While Beloved learned about sword fighting I made note cards. I didn’t accompany him to the Hellfire Club, but we partnered learning how to tie a cravat. Friday night it was Speakeasy night. I’m always happy to turn on my inner flapper and shimmy like my sister Kate. Beloved rocked a bowler hat.
The Grand Book Exhibition is a highlight. These attendees are super readers and they know their stuff. This is what I come for: “I love your books.” I’m on tiptoes the first time and floating after two or three. Being face to face with readers is priceless. The organizers have a gift for creating opportunities for informal chats between authors and their readers. It is a tremendous joy.
By Saturday night at the Grand Ball, I was ready to celebrate. Alas, now we have to return to the real world.
Caroline Warfield’s Regency and Victorian romances follow inter-related families through their own struggles and joys. Her heroes and heroines may seek adventures and endure trials at the four corners of the world, but they always find their way home to happily-ever-after. Her most recent Soul Mate novel is set in Canton in 1840. It features a duke on a mission for the queen, who meets both his past and his future in the form of true love. Love, she believes, is always worth the risk.