Back in April, I wrote a blog about my good fortune in being invited to be one of the judges for the Historical Writers Association Gold Crown Award, and this week I’m writing an update. We have been busy! As soon as I’d said ‘Yes’, dozens of books thudded down onto my doormat, and this is what my study floor now looks like:
My study has turned into an Art Installation of books! There are about ninety Historical novels in alphabetical order, and the books standing upright are there to stabilize them.
The range of the novels has been impressive and I’ve been introduced to some interesting writers I hadn’t come across before, and I’m looking forward to reading more of their books. I have been writing book reviews for over twenty years and one thing I noticed when reading the HWA 2021 entries is how the narrative seems to be changing, especially regarding blockbusters with strong heroes in various bloody and brutal theatres of war: Viking, Greek, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval etc. Here, female characters are of minor importance, occupy little space and they are lucky if they survive.
This year, the HWA award has thrown up a number of gripping books written by both men and women where how women fight to survive and attain their objectives in times of war, plague, etc is equally important to what the men in those novels are doing; the dangers women face are different from the ones men face, but equally challenging. I like these new books: having both sexes on stage allows more emotional complexity which, in turn, makes the characters more three-dimensional. Is the narrative is changing?
However, my post today is about what is happening in the competition now. The HWA Gold Crown Award is currently considering the long list which will be announced on August 11 followed, in due course, by the short list. Things are hotting up.
But first: a complete surprise. The HWA had originally planned a London lunch meeting of the judges to discuss a possible long list. I was really looking forward to meeting my fellow-judges and talking about the books. Alas, Covid put an end to that. Instead, the meeting was virtual.
So the HWA generously decided as a ‘Thank you’ for all our work, to send each of us a Regency Hamper! We were asked if there was anything we particularly didn’t like. I said no to alcohol (it doesn’t agree with me – pity, but there it is).
The Regency Hamper arrives: I open the box
I was not expecting the Regency Hamper, pictured above. It is seriously classy: I’ve had flowers before, but never a hamper! I was thrilled.
This is what I saw when I opened the hamper itself: some Ultimate English salted caramel fudge “bloody gorgeous” appeared amid the shredded paper.
There was a small box tucked down the side of the hamper which read: PLEASE PUT ME IN THE FRIDGE TO CHILL. Whatever was it?
When I opened it, the item read: CARAMELIZED RED ONION NIBBLE NOSE CHEDDAR CHEESE
The cheese is wrapped in a dark red waxy cover and I put it in the fridge on a pretty Victorian Saucer. I’m sure it will be delicious. The hamper contained a whole lot of scrumptious things which I probably wouldn’t have bought for myself but which I’m thrilled to have. For example, I love Elderflower Pressé and I am delighted to have it instead of something alcoholic.
Fudge, Short bread, crackers
The hamper also included a number of savoury things, like Verduijn’s black pepper crackers with a hint of sea salt; Four Angels “tastes heavenly” Classic Shortbread Biscuits – which are simply delicious; and some West Country Legends Sea Salt & Rosemary “dive in and savour the flavour” cheese straws.
(I am very impressed by the shout lines! I am currently wrestling with shout lines for my e-book covers and Regency Hampers’ suppliers seem able to produce them effortlessly! Could I use ‘A treat for all your senses’ for my next book? Probably not, alas.)
Left to right: a small gooey chocolate cake; at the back, a bottle of Elderflower Pressé; the upright gold box contains chocolates; and at the front is a box of simply delicious small, juicy, pale pinky-purple grapes.
How did Regency Hampers know that I love strawberry jam? The Cartwright and Butler strawberry preserve comes in an old-fashioned Kilner jar. It suggests having the jam with fresh scones and clotted cream – I wouldn’t dream of having it with anything else! I’m planning a small tea party in my garden as soon as the weather allows.
Left to right: Strawberry preserve; Taylor’s Assam tea, the Sea Salt & Rosemary cheese straws.
Taylor’s Assam Tea is, naturally, a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership and holds a By Appointment to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales Suppliers of Beverages award.
When I’d emptied the hamper, there was a Gift Message which said: Thank you, from the HWA. The hamper is an attractive rope basket, you can carry things steadily up and downstairs in it and I think it will prove useful.
However, our job as judges is by no means over. We still have important work to do. Once we know the long list, our job is to make sure that we’ve read all of the books on it in readiness for the short list!
So, my grateful thanks go to the HWA for their lovely and luxurious present – I really appreciate it.
Not only are the Regency Hampers’ items delicious and of top quality, they are beautifully presented and it gave me great pleasure to unpack the hamper. www.regencyhampers.com
My original blog from 25th April, 2021 is below.
I am delighted that Crossing the Tamar by Elizabeth Hawksley is now in e-books.
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