Several months ago I stumbled across a description of Lady Jane’s Salon, Manhattan’s only romance reading series. That sounded just my cup of tea so I contacted one of the four organizers, my fellow Regency writer Maya Rodale, and asked how I could get on the roster. Turned out this salon, in only a few months of existence, had got pretty popular: I had to wait six months for a slot.
The group meets on the first Monday of each month and, as befits an organization of New Yorkers, the location is nothing so mundane as a library or bookstore. The location is a bar in Soho called Madame X. The décor can best be described as Victorian brothel: dim light, shabby old furniture and a preponderance of red velvet. I loved it. And so, apparently, do others. I arrived early but there was already a decent crowd and by seven o’clock it was standing room only: about a hundred romance readers, writers and publishing professionals chattering like magpies. But only before, after, and in between the readings. While I and my fellow readers were on stage the concentration of the listeners was all one could wish, rapt silence broken only by pleasing laughter at the right moments and gratifying applause at the end. I couldn’t have asked for a better audience for my selections from The Wild Marquis – and in such a romance savvy crowd I could read some of the naughty bits without blushing (much).
So. Gossip column time. Who was there?
I was joined on the roster by N.K. Jemisin. A selection from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her debut fantasy, whetted my appetite for a book that’s in a genre I don’t pay much attention to. At RWA in D.C. last year Kate Noble and I, being members of the small and exclusive group of “N” authors, waved at each across the aisle at the Literacy signing. She has been nominated from a RITA and her new book, The Summer of You, has been winning all sorts of rave reviews. Hearing a chapter of this charming Regency historical told me why. It was definitely Regency night because the last reader was new Avon star Sarah MacLean. I’d already read Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake and adored it. So I wasn’t at all bored to hear her read the brilliant first kiss scene. Nine Rules has made it to the New York Times and USA Today lists this week, a very totally deserved success for the best historical romance debut in years.
I was thrilled that my wonderful agent, Meredith Bernstein, came downtown to see me. From Avon: Carrie Feron, Tessa Woodward and my very own Esi Sogah, looking stunning is a low cut black and white dress. I chatted with Leis Pederson and some other nice ladies from Berkeley and Mary-Theresa Hussey from Silhouette. I’m told there were also people from Orbit and Scholastic in the room.
I was very happy to meet Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens (Don’t miss her recent release To Sin With A Scoundrel). We’d been emailing back and forth and while the internet is wonderful for forming connections, and even friendships, there’s nothing like being in the same room with one’s friends. Ditto historical novelist and non-fiction writer Leslie Carroll, whom I know from the Beau Monde loop. She’s about to move to Vermont so I should get to see her in the flesh (why does that phrase sound a little creepy?) more often. I’d met Sara Lindsey in DC. She’s doing a library degree and taking a rare book course so we chatted about that mutual interest. Despite her intended avocation, Sara isn’t at all prim and neither is her recent debut Promise Me Tonight. Stacy Agdern invited me to sign my books for stock at Posman Books in Grand Central Station. We sat at the bar for a while and talked books and writing. It’s always a treat to see the lovely Wendy La Capra, who will herself be reading on that stage one of these days.
I ended the evening (quite late) on the outdoor porch in back of the bar with three of the four Lady Jane organizers: Ron Hogan, Hope Tarr and Leanna Renee Hieber, talking books and industry gossip. Among other things we agreed that American historicals are past due for a come-back. Why should Edith Wharton hold the monopoly on the Gilded Age?
I wish I had pictures but, although I packed my camera, I was too busy gabbing to take any. If anyone has any I'd love to get copies.