Saturday, February 09, 2008

Weekend Wind-Down - Mills & Boon Centenary Launch Party

This weekend at The Pink Heart Society our very own Trish Wylie, Natasha Oakley and Fiona Harper bring you tales from London where dozens of authors and editors and media people and marketing people and and and... well - it was time to officially launch MILLS & BOON'S CENTENARY YEAR!!!

And what a swellegant, elegant party it was...

From the stilted ladies dressed as pink flamingos to the candy floss stand to the little ice cream cones to the pink cup cakes to the flavoured champagne to the glittering ensemble of guests - all told it was a night few will stop talking about for months to come. Mills & Boon was celebrating it's 100th birthday and to a rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday To You', authors, editors, marketing people and Harlequin head honchos all the way from Canada all got together to sing with GUSTO... and oh my did we authors scrub up well!!!

And this was a party two years in the making! Held at The Wallace Collection in London, a truly stunng building with a priceless art collection and the kind of room you see in big budget movies bathed in a soft pink glow just for Mills & Boon from the moment you approached and saw those little flames burning by the door you kinda knew it was worth all the shopping angst, the feet squeezed into new shoes and the amount of time you spent getting ready (even if your fellow PHS chums gave you a really flipping hard time about it!) Because inside was a room full of authors all polished up like never before. Okay, yes we do the AMBA visit to London every September but I don't think we've ever scrubbed up as well COLLECTIVELY. And it was a who's who of authors in there I tell ya...

Now as I'm running out of my hotel room very shortly to catch a flight home I'm gonna leave you with a pic of some glamorous authors with but ONE of the lovely waiters and I'll come back later on with a tonne of the pics the very gorgeous and glamorous Fiona Harper took - so bear with me... And there'll be an extra blog tomorrow when we have photographic evidence of what happens when you let five authors loose in London on a sunny Friday...

Lets just say it involved food, wine and photo ops in Trafalgar Square...

Part Two...

Okay, so thanks to travelling time and computer problems it’s taken me a little longer to get back here than was originally planned… Apologies for that…

By now many of the very beautiful authors from the party have already blogged some of their memories from the party – see Liz Fielding, Fiona Harper and Michelle Styles for their perspectives and pics (Liz’s in particular has both the flamingos and lots of the lovely waiters..) But I’m gonna throw up more pics and more impressions from the night for you lot here and I’ve made lots of the pics nice and large so you can get a good look see.

It’s a rare thing in the UK to have so many marketing people, booksellers and members of the media in the same place at the same time so this was one of the most fascinating parts of the night for me. Usually we all know the majority of the people in the room – but at this party, from the second you stepped into the glorious room – there were about a gazillion unknown faces. And as the name tags were all the same colour it was a tad difficult to know who you were surrounded by unless you leaned in to read someones chest in the nice soft pink glow of the light. The waiters however – cough – not so easily missed. In fact some of us have volunteered to help with the recruiting if there’s ever a party like this again. And even taking the open necked shirts, undone bowties and devilishly twinkling eyes out of the equation, the dedication with which they tracked down every woman in the room to bestow a long stemmed rose on them really did earn them kudos in my book. The way they lingered with a smile that extra few seconds having bestowed it was rather endearing too ;)

Having arrived fashionably late (which Natasha and Fiona both complained a lot about despite the fact I came out beautifully curled and WITH the invitation we were told to bring *cough*) we made an attempt to head for the champagne. And there were different FLAVOURS of champagne which were YUM – I had raspberry when I finally managed a glass (Natasha and Fiona seemed to have more success with that but you’ll have to ask them about the flavours they chose). BUT one of the joys of having a Valentine titled book out in February in Centenary year meant I was girl-napped by some of the guys from the PR Company to do the meet and greet thing… I even got to talk to the BBC on camera for a documentary they’re hoping to put together (thank the heavens for nice curly hair and new outfit!!!). But my being thrust into the media thanks to the titling and timing of that book is a whole other story unto itself…

Stepping up to the podium first was the London offices boss Guy Hallowes (who ran the Australian offices for a long time I believe) and he gave a lovely speech about the history of Mills & Boon and the days of teas at the Ritz. Including a story about one lady from a woman’s magazine who was asked for advice from time to time on the kind of things that *modern day women* were talking about by Mr. Boon. During tea, naturally at The Ritz – he asked her what her stance was on oral sex. At which point the room had rather miraculously gone silent! One can but imagine what her reply was…

But in his possession Guy had a copy of that very first Mills & Boon romance - Arrows from the Dark by Sophie Cole – a book of priceless value and one I know was only discovered last year, hidden away in a box in the company warehouse and found by chance as they were moving and clearing out. Now how great a story is that and how horrible would it have been if someone hadn’t opened the box and known what they were looking at! Guy read from inside the cover where it said about it being first printed by Mills & Boon in 1908. He also mentioned how much trouble he would be in if he lost it!!! I for one wouldn’t have been able to relax cos anyone who knows me knows I can’t be trusted with so much as a set of car keys – or a long stemmed rose for that matter, cos I *cough* needed TWO handed to me *cough*. He then raised rounds of applause for the authors Penny Jordan. Lynne Graham and Anne Mather, who although not present for the party, have EACH sold 100 MILLION copies of their books – how AMAZING is that??? This was followed with more applause for the authors who all work tirelessly (in theory I might add here cos I'm pooped at the minute…) each year to produce the kinds of books that kept and still keep the company in business… I got a little teary eyed at that point…

Guy then introduced UK television and media celebrity Alan Titchmarsh – a novelist in his own right as you’ll see if you visit his website (in fact Guy said if he was writing romances they should have a talk afterwards…) – who not only praised the authors for being brave enough to write about love but also gave us all tips on how to care for our roses ;) He was a honey. And was given a rousing round of applause afterwards.

Next up was Harlequin Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes who had flown all the way over from Canada to congratulate M&B on its Centenary and to tell us about the continuing growth of the romance market in the USA and worldwide and the exciting things the company is doing with the MIRA imprint. ( And she was presented with the most beeeauuuuttttiifffulll bouquet of flowers!)

Guy then brought our resident tenor for the evening onto the podium to lead us all in that HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU for Mills And Boon and the socializing began in earnest…

While guests partook of yet more champagne, some of the candy-floss from the stand at one end of the room, little ice cream cones filled with sorbet, the delicious pink cupcakes, chocolate coated strawberries and the like, the gorgeously dressed authors got to mix with the disgustingly stunningly beautiful editors and meet members of the marketing team they’d never met before (waves to Ian who I bumped into by accident and is in charge of the Irish end of all that. We had a jolly good chat about the Mills & Boon book business over here and were joined at one point by a lovely lady from the Borders bookstores…)

There was a group photo of all the authors for posterity – which I somehow managed to miss out on typical me! Meanwhile I got to meet a really fun group of gals from a national newspaper I’ve had a little something to do with lately – but that’s all I can say about that! And then, despite the fact I was constantly passing fellow authors like ships in the night all evening I FINALLY got to do the rounds and do some catching up – the talk peppered with much anticipation of the RWA Conference in San Francisco this year… poor town is about to be INVADED from this side of the pond by the looks of things! CAN’T WAIT!!!

Aaaannndddd at the end of the evening we all left with lovely Mills & Boon Centenary goodie bags filled with special edition calendars and cards and pens and books and magazines and CHOCOLATE (yes – they know the way to our hearts don’t they?!)

All told – and as you can tell from the pics – it was ONE HECK of a night! And such an immense honor to be a part of Mills & Boon’s Centenary year. When I was but a starry eyed eighteen year old dreaming of writing for Mills & Boon it never in my wildest dreams occurred to me I’d be there, surrounded by heroines and friends and heroines I can now call friends while we celebrated what is now a national institution in the UK.

Here’s to another 100 years! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MILLS AND BOON!!!

H's & K's
Trish (with extra h's & k's to Fiona who took all the pics!)


  1. I'm home!

    There is some disagreement as to whether the ladies on stilts and dressed in pink feathers were flamingoes or swans. My vote was for swans.

    AND Trish tonged her hair. A lengthy process! (That's an example of British understatement btw.) Fiona and I are still in negotiations as to who is going to write the heroine who gets half way round only to have the gas run out ....

  2. Congratulations to Mills & Boon and all the authors on this big celebration.

  3. Tonged her hair? What, pray tell, is that? Tongs are what we use to dish up salad...can someone translate from English to American? LOL!

  4. okay, the British girls have had an msn meeting and we have absolutely no idea what you'd call them Jenna. They heat up. She then twizzles her hair round it to make curls ....

  5. I think they're talking about a curling iron :-)

    Sounds like a really fun night!


  6. Curling iron sounds about right Jen!

    And it really, really was!!!

  7. Much better imagery. I kept seing her tossing her hair with salad tongs.