#TBT: The Novel Strumpet Attends the Historical Romance Retreat

It was late Spring/early Summer 2015 and my friend Kelly (GotFiction/Author’s Write Hand) alerted me to a new Reader/Writer Retreat that was going to be taking place in late Summer/early Fall of 2016.  It was going to be held in an historic hotel, with historical romance authors, and opportunities to don historical costumes.

Let’s see…

Authors.

Books.

Costumes.

Historic Locale.

Of course I immediately went to the website and bought my spot.   Yes, I registered over a year in advance for an inaugural book retreat.  I took a leap of faith.

Man did it pay off in spades!

I mean, I go to a lot of conventions and book related events throughout a year and have seen the good, the bad and the downright ‘ugh’.  So while I was expecting to enjoy myself and have a good time, I wasn’t expecting to have my socks (or stockings as the case may be) blown off.

They’re still singed.  And I mean that in a good way…

So here is my recap of the Inaugural Historical Romance Retreat:

The Hotel:

The retreat was held in the lovely Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA.  While the area it is located in, isn’t all that great:

The hotel itself is magnificent.

Our room was quite swanky:

The lobby was so nice, nearly everyone spent a good amount of time hanging out there:

There was just so much beautiful architecture, informative placards and old photos everywhere so you could see the history of the Davenport.

And the rooms the events were held in!  But you’ll see those as I run down…

The Retreat:

Thursday – I Arrive:

After arriving and checking in, I headed straightaway to pick up my registration bag and goodies.  This was the moment I knew this retreat would be special:

 

The welcoming committee was already in costume.  L-R: Renee Bernard (founder), Erin Bentley (who gave me some amazing costuming advice) and Deborah Marvelle (founder).

The first thing that was different from other reader retreats/conventions was no name badges.  Instead, authors wore flower corsages so you knew authors vs. attendees.  Attendees were given a really nice tote bag, and a Great Charm Quest booklet along with charm bracelet.  The idea was that each of the authors donated a charm for the bracelet, and the attendees would go round to have each author sign the booklet and you had to guess which charm was theirs.  What a wonderfully creative idea (and heavy bracelet)!  This meant each reader would, in theory, meet each author and get their signature in a keepsake book.  And we got to keep the charm bracelets!

The rest of the day was spent hanging out – doing some work, ugh – and catching up with Kelly until time to attend the first event.

Thursday – Movie Night:

Held in the Bing Theatre we were treated to The Law and the Lady.  The movie house was very nice with some interesting details:

They handed out vintage candy (the Violet Mints were rather disgusting I’m sorry to say) and old Harlequin Romances which were AMAZING:

 

It was fun, but we’d all been up since before the crack of dawn so were ready to crash.

Friday – Morning Panels:

First full day of the retreat and I decided to go with my later Victorian ensemble that does not call for a bustle.

The first event I attended was a talk on games people played in the late 18th c. through the 19th c.  Some were real doozies and I wish I could remember them all.  I remember there was one where you chase people around with a newspaper and whack them with it.  LOL!

After that panel, Kelly and I headed to another room for a Regency Match Game.  I figured this would be something where we talked about Match Making in the Regency era (after all it was a Historical Romance Retreat) or we might match characters to books…but it was better.  It was a version of The Match Game with questions geared toward the Regency:

I even got to play and won a prize 😀

We broke for lunch, then we headed into different rooms to meet with authors in little groups – or that was the plan.  It didn’t quite work the way it was supposed to in our room due to a kerfuffle with the setup, but that was really the biggest hiccough for me the entire time.

After the author chats it was time for High Tea.  I was expecting what I’d seen before at book conventions: paper cups with black tea or herbal.  Couple of scones, maybe some nuts.  I should have known better:

Friday – High Tea:

I almost wept when we all swept into the room.  (one cannot walk when in historical attire, one must sweep..he he he).

Renee and Delilah did not hold back!

Everything was delicious, including the costumes:

Kelly was quite excited 😛

After tea and some more downtime, I changed into a different Victorian inspired ensemble

and then it was time for…

Friday – Gaming Night and Absinthe & Abigails Party:

At the entrance we were given vintage coins to play with, or turn in for raffle tickets to win some sweet gift baskets:

Each table on the gaming floor was set up with games they would play in the Regency Era.  I chose Bankafalet for my first one – which is basically ‘21’.  You can read about it here.

After all the games ended and the baskets were raffled off, we adjourned to the Absinthe and Abigails Party where we were given shots of drinks enjoyed in eras gone by and some were beloved by our fave authors.

The absinthe had actual wormwood.  I don’t know if I’m disappointed or not that the one sip I took didn’t introduce me to the Green Fairy and/or my Muse didn’t raise her head.

There was a warm rum drink that Charles Dickens is reputed to have enjoyed, that I never need try again.  An apple cider drink that allegedly Jane Austen adored, but tasted like medicine and a hot chocolate based off a Victorian recipe that was divine.

Then it was off to bed.

Saturday – Book Signing:

The morning was free, so Kelly and I grabbed a decent breakfast and just relaxed until the book singning at 1pm.  This was held in the Grand Pennington Ballroom, where we would be having the Grand Ball later that night.   I didn’t dress up for the signings, but some people did.  It was a lot of fun, since the atmosphere had been so intimate to this point, you already felt a rapport with the authors and that made walking the signing lines all the more enjoyable.

Ava Stone

                                                                Sabrina York

Anthea Lawson

L-R: Elizabeth Hoyt and Madeline Hunter

Shana Galen

Cecelia Grant with the best marketing sign ever!

Laura Lee Guhrke

L-R: Julia London & Deb Marlowe

Elizabeth Essex wins for best dressed!

Eileen Dreyer

Lila DiPasqua

Robyn DeHart

Victoria Alexander

Katherine Bone

Elizabeth Boyle

L-R: Darcy Burke & Anna Campbell

Mary Balogh

Renee Bernard

Attendees in Costume

There was around a 3 hour gap again, so Kelly and I headed down to the park that was close by and came across a waterfall!

Then we headed back so I could dress for the ball.  This time I went Regency.

Saturday – The Grand Ball:

There was a lovely buffet outside the ballroom with a chocolate fountain, which is what Heaven is made of:

 

The ball itself was a little lackluster mostly due to the fact that the music was for waltzing and there were a lot of single ladies. 😛   They did attempt one Regency Dance that someone tried to call, but I have no idea what era or area they pulled it from. Let’s just say that after doing this type of dancing for 10 years at the Jane Austen Evening, I admit I got quite flustered and eventually gave up trying to understand what was going on and left the dance floor. However, there were many costumes to admire!

Sunday – Goodbye 🙁

The only event was a morning gathering so they could give away the Golden Prize – admission, travel and hotel to next year’s retreat – and thank all the authors.  It was a lovely send off.

LUCKY WINNER!!!

So the event was over, but I had around 6 hours to kill before my flight and discovered there was a botanical park close by.  So a six minute Uber ride took me to the most magical place:

It’s like the Huntington Gardens here in L.A., only without the Art Museums and IT’S FREE!  Just look at this gorgeousness!

There was a rose garden which made me tear up a little – I mean that literally – I’m cliché but I LOVE roses!

But then…then…I stumbled upon this:

WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?   It’s like the gardens you’d see on grande estates in Europe!

Not a shabby way to spend my remaining few hours in Spokane.

Then it was time to head back to L.A. and the daily grind once again.  Booooooo….

So overall I give it an A-/B+, which for the first year is outstanding!

My only issues:

  1. The Author Chat I attened was horribly disorganized.
  2. The Grand Ball was not very exciting since there wasn’t really a lot to do unless you knew how to Waltz (and I don’t, or at least, not well).

Other than those things you’d think they’d been doing this for years already.  It was magic, it’s going to become my new “must go” book convention.  I don’t know what possessions or body parts I’ll have to sell to keep going, but worth it!

Up next for the Strumpet…LA Times Festival of Books, YALLWest and the mother ship SDCC!

What about you?  Attend any good conventions lately?  Which ones are you looking forward to?

 

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