Thank you very, VERY much to the hardworking RNA committee who put on such a lovely lunch for us all and made it such a day to remember - and a huge congrats to all the winners and the shortlistees.
Started with an easy journey in to the city and I was there early, so I had a little wander round the church (built in 1872 and a nice example of Victorian Gothic).
Then I was moseying down Kensington High Street towards the hotel (in the centre of this pic, behind the back of the bus)
when I bumped into lovely Eileen Ramsey; so we went for a coffee, then on to the Royal Garden Hotel for the awards. Red carpet up to the doors - and this was what greeted us at the entrance.
Quite a lot of us changed our shoes (walking through London in heels is pretty daft), and here are Julie Cohen's fabulous shoes.
Had a glass of pink champagne, saw my lovely ed Sheila Hodgson from M&B and agent Dot Lumley:
(many thanks to my pal Roger Sanderson for taking this pic - that's me, Sheila and Dot ) and then chatted to lots of friends (just to name a few of them - Jane Jackson, Fiona Harper, Kate Thornton, Claire Hook, Sara Craven, Katie Fforde, Biddy Coady - oh yes, and I had a quick word with Freya North and she was highly amused to discover that the other prizewinning book in her year as award-winner also had a guitarist hero and sleepwalking as themes!).
In addition to above friends, caught up with some of the RNA Love Story of the Year shortlistees - here are Natalie Rivers and Nina Harrington.
(Now, I did see Louise Allen and Jan Jones before lunch, too - talked about a lunch date with Louise, admired Jan's gorgeous necklace and agreed a conf workshop - so where are my pics? Arrgh! Too much talking and not enough reportage, there. Apols for letting you down.)
And it was NOISY. Must have been 250 people there, at least. Writers spend most of their time, um, writing. So when they're let out, they talk a LOT. And it was lovely to catch up. Being an author is very a isolated profession, and normally my days are spent with my dog and the characters in my head. So it was lovely to be chat with others who share the same dreams and doubts - if you're a writer, right now you're nodding and know exactly what I'm talking about. It was especially lovely to meet friends I email often but only get to see three or four times a year.
Katie Fforde, our chair, gave a lovely welcoming speech.
Then it was time for lunch (well, of course I have pics of lunch. Remember whose blog this is!). Starter: trio of melon with a pineapple, chilli and coriander salsa.
Main: pot roasted guinea fowl with a port wine jus, confit cabbage cake and fondant potato
Pudding: the RNA 50th anniversary dessert (chocolate tart, stem ginger, and best of all crème brulee served in a tube of white chocolate - my two absolute favourites together, there - that's it on the left, sigh...).
Barry Norman made an excellent speech - very warm, appreciative of the writer's craft. (Well, he's one himself and is married to the author of my all-time favourite historical novel. I did think about trying to say hello and being a fangirl over his wife, but chickened out...) Lovely, charming man:
The awards themselves - I had several friends up in the categories and wanted them all to win. But a big congratulations to all the winners (and those on the shortlist - being shortlisted is the really big thing):
RNA People's Choice: Louise Douglas with Missing You
RNA Love Story of the Year: Nell Dixon with Animal Instincts
RNA Lifetime Achievement Award: Maeve Binchy (who couldn't be with us but made a lovely video speech)
RNA Romantic Comedy of the Year: Jane Costello with The Nearly-Weds
RNA Lifetime Achievement Award: Joanna Trollope (pictured here with RNA president Diane Pearson)
Harry Bowling Prize: Debbie Johnson (there was a runner-up, but he was too shy to make a speech)
RNA Romantic Film of the Year: An Education (Lynn Barber, the writer of the book on which it's based, accepted the award)
RNA Romantic Novel of the Year: Lucy Dillon with Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (very pleased for her as I LOVED this book - and I was charmed that she mentioned her dogs in her speech)
At the end of the lunch, M&B gave us a lovely goodie bag with a hardcover copy of 'Loves Me, Loves Me Not' and some chocolate (perfect combination, I reckon).
And then finally I got to see my mate Nell and congratulate her properly on being the first person to win the RNA Love Story of the Year TWICE - yay, Nell!
Chatted with more friends for a bit (and Fi Harper and I enjoyed looking at each other's bracelets and comparing charms - Pandora are just soooo pretty), then went for a cup of tea with Carol Townend to talk history; then home to flop on the train (and enjoyed the first half of Trisha Ashley's "Chocolate Wishes" - good read and just what I needed after an enjoyable but tiring day).
Today: I'm pretty tired from travelling and I don't spring back quite as quickly as I did pre-kids. Guitar lesson was a gentle one (I bribed Jim with a Maltesers Bunny - if you haven't tried one yet, DO - or maybe I should say don't, because they're a bit moreish and I'm aware of my growing reputation as a bad influence when it comes to Radley and Pandora). This afternoon will be tidying up the Essex book. (But I did write the outline for the Venice book on the train, yesterday, so now I know exactly what I want to see in Venice and where the gaps are for research purposes.)