Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Regencies and Romance in Manchester!

Manchester Central Library has become a hotbed of passion and romance! Last week saw the launch of Mills & Boon’s Book Exhibition celebrating their centenary (isn't the corset wonderful? It was created from M&B covers by artist Ros Burgin for the M&B Exhibtion.

The library staff decided to expand on this theme and hold its very own Regency Day on Saturday. Regency Pleasures and Pastimes was the library’s celebration of all things Regency. The library staff raided the bookshelves and archives for books on Regency costume, customs, music and history and used these as the backdrop for their Regency-based activites - they had singers performing Regency songs, displays of embroidery, fan-decorating and Regency doll-dressing for the children, accompanied by Regency refreshments (I can recommend the cloudy lemonade). I think the cut out dolls are super - I have a couple now taking pride of place on my bookshelves!

All this took place in the main body of the library, and quite an audience stopped to listen to the wonderful singing. There were displays of some of the library’s reference books, showing dance steps and positions (and a wonderful little booklet of Cotillions printed for a dancing master) as well as beautiful fashion places from the period. Then, in the Conference Room, I teamed up with Harlequin Mills & Boon author Nicola Cornick to give a talk on Writing the Regency Novel. There was a vase of beautiful pink roses on a table between us, a fabulous marble fireplace at our backs and we discussed various aspects of the Regency novel with a friendly and interested audience (including one or two familiar faces).

After setting the scene by explaining a little about the Regency period, Nicola discussed the character that more than any other typifies the Regency hero – the rake. Many of Nicola’s own heroes are rakes, reformed by the love of the heroine, but only after the requisite amount of suffering! One thing we are both agreed upon: fascinating as rakes may be and however much we love to read about them, in real life we would not care to be involved with men whose lives revolve around racing, gambling, drinking and womanising!

Nicola and I are both passionate about working for historical accuracy in our novels and I spent a little time explaining how I try to recreate the spirit of the Regency times, reading about the period, exploring the music and literature to get a feel for the use and flow of the language.

It was a pleasure to discuss this fascinating topic with Nicola and we also gave a few hints and tips to the aspiring writers in the audience. I only hope they enjoyed it all as much as I did.

Our presentation was followed by jay Dixon’s talk on Georgette Heyer, whose historical romances sparked the whole Regency Romance genre. With captivating insights into the writer’s life and works, jay explained how Heyer explored various writing styles and created the Regency novels that are enjoyed by millions of readers world-wide. Like many other writers, I discovered Heyer in my teens and my love for her work is as strong as ever – I still return to her books as my “comfort reads” when I need to pamper myself!

You can read more about the exhibition and Regency Day on my website, www.melindahammond.com


Jane Odiwe said...

It sounds as if you had a lovely day-the corset is amazing! I love cut-out dolls too-they're a great way of teaching children about Regency fashion and history in general if you can find authentic ones.

Inspire said...

I wish I could have been there. Sounds wonderful.

Nicola Cornick said...

Melinda has done a wonderful job of describing the exhibition and the Regency Day and I'd just like to add how much fun I found the whole experience and how grateful I am that Manchester Libraries give such whole-hearted support to the Regency genre. They are great!

Georgie said...

The event sounds great. It's fun to be able to hear from the experts in person and the cutouts area great visual references.

Jan Jones said...

Oh oh oh - I want a cut-out Regency doll.

Melinda Hammond said...

Jan - that was might reaction! I loved the cut-out Regency dolls (and the fan decorating looked good, too)