Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Weekend With Mr Darcy

A Weekend with Mr Darcy
I know, I know… the unicorn normally has his horn buried in a sword and sorcery book! But with a heroine called Dr Katherine Roberts and a dedication in the front: “To the real Katherine Roberts for letting me use her name!” how could I resist reading this one?

The plot centres on a long weekend conference for fans of Jane Austen’s novels, at which Dr KR is invited to speak. (Heroine alert 1: The real KR doesn’t know her Austen from her Tolkien). There’s the usual mix of conference goers, from the hopelessly romantic Robyn Love in her floaty dresses (Heroine alert 2: The real KR has a secret bit of Robyn in her) to the grumpy Austen purist Mrs Soames (Heroine alert 3: The real KR is nothing like Mrs S!). There is also a sprinkling of men, who have their pick of the women, since they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, outnumbered. With its idyllic setting at a regency manor house deep in the Hampshire countryside, the scene is set for a modern Austensian romance.

Dr KR soon falls in love with darkly handsome Warwick Lawton, a writer of popular fiction who is at the conference incognito, since his real identity is a closely-guarded secret known only to his agent and publisher… he writes under a female pen name, Lorna Warwick. To complicate things further, Dr Roberts is Lorna Warwick’s No1 fan and has written her/him hundreds of fan letters, yet has no idea of Warwick's true identity when he sets out to woo her.

Meanwhile, Robyn is having romantic entanglements of her own as she falls for copper-haired Dan, who lives in the stables and rides like an Austen hero, while trying unsuccessfully to break up with her long-term boyfriend Jace. Neither romance looks likely to survive the weekend and continue in the real world, but maybe… just maybe in this kind of book… dreams can come true.

This story might not have a unicorn in it, but it has the next best thing – horses! My favourite scene is when one of the heroes rides a fine chestnut stallion into the dining room during dinner to propose to one of the heroines… but you’ll have to read the book to find out who proposes to whom, and what happens next.

Hopeless romantics, and any fans of Jane Austen out there, should definitely give this one a try. (Unicorn rating: contains mild scenes of an adult nature.)

Find out more at Victoria Connelly's website.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Belfast YLG Wendy Drewett Ireland Book Day

The unicorn’s excuse for a long gap in blog posts this time? The CILIP YLG Wendy Drewett Ireland Book Day in Belfast, at which my author was very kindly invited to talk about her new Pendragon Legacy series.

The book display

She flew out to Belfast via Manchester on Tuesday morning, taking not one but two planes. This meant I had to gallop very fast to keep up!

Finally landing at the George Best Airport with its view of the famous cranes, we then took a scenic drive through the city with friendly school librarian Tara Corcoran to the Belfast Royal Academy, where (revived from her early morning start by chocolate croissants and hot tomato soup), Katherine spoke to Form 1 in a magnificent if rather chilly hall, since a frozen pipe had knocked out half their heating system. After the talk, the children crowded around the signing table to keep warm, while the drillers got to work searching out the leak 25 feet under the playground. Amazingly, everyone kept smiling. (Katherine apologises for spelling some of the Irish names wrong... it's a well-known fact authors cannot spell, and that's why they need editors so much.)

After the school, we took a taxi ride to the Dunsilly Hotel in Ballymena, where a gala dinner with librarians and other authors soon warmed everyone up!

Wednesday morning kicked off (I didn’t kick anyone, honest!) at the Antrim Board Centre just down the road, where Katherine did a panel event with authors Diana Hendry (The Seeing) and Paul Howard (Bugville), chaired by Joy Court.

Katherine, Diana and Paul

This was followed by a packed day of talks, including an interesting session on digital reading and social networking with Bev Humphrey.

Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Liz Pichon (Tom Gates books) rounded off the morning with an entertaining talk on how she became an author, and demonstrated how she draws her characters:

After lunch we were treated to an interesting account by Professor Joan Swann of the shadowing process  for the Carnegie and Greenaway medals, a passionate case for graphic novels with Lucy Forrester from Peters Bookselling services, and another author panel with newer (and somewhat younger) authors Jane McLoughlin (At Yellow Lake), Dave Cousins (15 Days Without a Head), and Sarah Hammond (The Night Sky in My Head), chaired by Rachel Levy. The unicorn sees a head theme emerging here…

Jane, Dave, Sarah and Rachel

Then it was back to the hotel for another dinner with librarians and authors staying on to do school visits the next day. I was highly tempted to follow Sarah Hammond on her visit to the Giant's Causeway, but early next morning my author squeezed me into another taxi back to the airport, shared with the lovely Professor Swann, for the flight home.

More galloping for me - but thankfully not via Manchester this time!

The unicorn very much enjoyed his first visit to Belfast, and would like to thank all the lovely librarians who looked after Katherine so well. Authors are not easy to look after, and I should know.

Razz X.


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