Tag Archives: romance

The language of lurve

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

HeartWise words as always from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.

And what better day than 14th February to look for love online? If all we find is chocolate, I doubt there’ll be many who are disappointed…

First off, who exactly was St Valentine? According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (which you can read as part of Oxford Reference Online by logging in with your Westminster Library card)

“The commemoration formerly observed on 14 Feb. appears to refer to two Valentines: a Roman priest martyred on the Flaminian Way under the Emp. Claudius (c.269) and a Bishop of Terni (Interamna) who was taken to Rome and martyred, and whose remains were later conveyed back to Terni. Though the surviving accounts of both martyrdoms are clearly legendary, there are indications that each contains a nucleus of fact; and it is just possible that the kernel of truth in the two legends refers to a single person. The traditional association of St Valentine’s day with courtship and the choosing of a ‘Valentine’ of the opposite sex is connected perhaps with certain customs of the pagan festival of Lupercalia (mid-Feb.) at Rome, or with the natural season, not with any tradition concerning either saint of the name.”

So far, so dull. The first recorded association of love with St Valentine is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”

Or, for the non-Medieval scholars among us –

“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”

Ophelia mentions the day in Hamlet

“To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine”

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the custom of sending Valentine’s cards really caught on. You can find some charming examples of Victorian valentine cards at The Scrap Album and read about how one American family sent them in Susan Coolidge’s children’s novel What Katy Did. Rather less charming was the custom of comic valentines. In Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford, Laura the shy post office clerk-heroine received one

“With the picture of a hideous female handing out penny stamps and some printed doggerel which began:
‘You think yourself so lad-di-da And get yourself up so grand’
and went on to advise her always to wear a thick veil when she went out, or her face would frighten the cows. Underneath the verse was scrawled in pencil: ‘Wat you reely wants is a mask.’ She thrust it into the fire”

But how to celebrate Valentine’s Day now? If you haven’t booked a nice restaurant, it may be too late but there’s still time to cook a meal for the special someone in your life. Check out the Home & Garden section of the Gateway to Websites for some recipe sites. Why not try out the Movie Night Valentine’s Menu on the BBC site?

And of course you can’t have a movie night without movies so why not check out the Westminster libraries DVD collection for an appropriately romantic film. If you fancy a comedy, this RomCom list on IMDB might give you some ideas. Or maybe one from this list of gay romantic films. If you think that a weepie is the way forward, you can’t go wrong with Celia Johnson’s doomed love for Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter (a must for Archers listeners). And for ambient music? Well, we at Treasure Hunt Towers will be playing the Walrus of Love, Barry White but in the unlikely event that he doesn’t float your boat, why not have a look at Naxos Music Library which allows you to stream nearly 2 million tracks ranging covering every conceivable genre from reggae to opera. Just log in with your Westminster library card.

And for those of us who are on our own on Valentines Day? Well, why not adapt this charming Japanese custom for the benefit of your friends, colleagues or even [whisper it] the staff of your local library?

 “In Japan and Korea, Valentine’s has become almost an obligation for women to give chocolates, known as giri-choco, to all of their co-workers. A reciprocal day on 14th of March known as White Day has emerged in recent times whereby men are supposed to thank those who remembered them on Valentine’s Day with white chocolate or marshmallows, hence white day.”



Victoria Library blog

Victoria LibraryWe have been busy little bees at Victoria Library recently – there’s been so much happening we haven’t had time to post about each event, so we thought it was about time we did a big summary of what we’ve been up to!

Over the past few months, the library has been humming with activity. In addition to numerous health activities organised by Kate the health information worker, we have had a fair few authors visiting to tell us all about their work.

We kicked off the autumn library season with a writing session led by Sharon Kendrick, a Mills and Boon author keen to share her experiences of writing.

Immediately after, we had a talk on the little-known Victorian gentleman archaeologist Alexander Hardcastle by Alexandra Richardson.  The talk was extremely informative and gave a hint of the amount of work an author has to put in to gain such a thorough understanding of a little known subject.

Bringing them up Royal, by David CohenThen we had David Cohen (a writer, psychologist and journalist) come in and talk about the childhoods of the royals since 1066, including the erratic, negligent or even cruel parenting that was sometimes involved.
As you might imagine, this hidden aspect of the life of royalty drew quite a crowd of interested participants. I imagine it might be an even more popular talk if we hosted it again, given its relevance to this week’s news…

We next had the Roehampton University Writing Society giving readings from their latest anthology. Consisting of a mixture of poetry and prose, the crowd was mostly keen students but included some intrigued members of the public.

Chocolate cakes at Victoria Library

Subsequently, we had two authors come in to talk about their upcoming works and about how to get published: Sunita Pattani and Sweta Srivastava Vikram (authors of My Secret Affair with Chocolate Cake and Mouth Full respectively). One of them was so happy with the library that she decided she’d like to hold her book launch here too. Without so much as a break for fresh air, we then had Sunita come in to deliver her talk to a full house (so full in fact that we had to close off the study room just for the event). Given the nature of the talk – how you can eat chocolate and still be healthy – we managed to persuade Starbucks to supply us with a chocolate cake. Needless to say the launch was a massive success with over 40 attendees (and just enough chocolate left over to keep the staff happy).

Open University Open Day at Victoria LibraryIn between all of these events, we also had the Open University come in to deliver information sessions, weekly Healthy Westminster sessions, ESOL classes, our regular book groups, employment workshops and of course, keeping the library running smoothly!

We also held quite a few events for children:

Our Halloween Party was a great success, with more than 20 children attending in fancy dress. We played themed games, awarded prizes for the best costumes, and received many compliments from parents and carers  – plus the children all took home a skeleton and some sweets!

This Christmas sees us joining forces with Westminster Music Library for a children’s Christmas Extravaganza on 13 December. We will be singing carols, giving out mince pies, have a lucky ticket draw for the parents and carers and a special visit from Santa Claus.

Author Sunita Pattani and Victoria Library Manager Ann FarrellThank you to all our customers for your continued support – we look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks, borrowing books to read and music to play or listen to at Christmas.

[Nick and Georgina]

Romancing the town

One of Sharon Kendrick's titles for Mills & BoonThe past week has seen two very popular events in our libraries. Both Victoria and Mayfair libraries were delighted to host a Mills & Boon writing workshop led by Sharon Kendrick, one of their most prolific authors. We have hosted similar workshops before and they are always full – this was no exception. Everyone had a great time and the talk was fast – almost frenetic – at times. People came out commenting on just how much had been accomplished, as shown in the following thank you note:

“Many thanks to the Victoria library in Westminster  for arranging a Mills and Boon session with well-known author Sharon Kendrick. I did not know what to expect as a friend encouraged me to come along and I really loved the session. Sharon is very charismatic and she managed to convey her passion for writing in the room through sheer experience and enthusiasm. We got a plan and tips to create our characters, backgrounds, settings. I was really thrilled when she gave me a signed copy of her latest novel! It was a lovely personal touch!
The session was free of charge and effort was made to make everyone feel welcome.
Well done Victoria Library!”

If you fancy yourself as a Mills & Boon writer, look out for future sessions on our News & events page, or follow us on Twitter.


Romance is not dead

Mills & Boon titles in Westminster LibrariesThe Mills & Boon writing workshop at Mayfair Library was well attended by fifteen women (one man made a hasty exit after five minutes!), and there was a buzz in the room as the trials and tribulations of love between alpha male heroes and feisty female characters were dissected and analysed.

The group was made up of aspiring writers, some with books already started, and the tips given by author Heidi Rice for the potential Mills & Boon New Voices included:

  • make sure you have a central conflict between the two characters
  • don’t confuse the plot with other minor characters
  • target your writing to one of the many M&B series
  • do your research properly
  • don’t patronise your readers
  • don’t include children in the plot or if you do make sure they don’t feature too strongly
  • watch your morals – one night stands are ok but cheating on your fiancé is not acceptable

The comments afterwards from those attending were

‘very interesting’
‘very useful and I really enjoyed it’
‘I have got the confidence now to submit my first few chapters’

The deadline to upload the first chapters of your romantic novel onto the website for the Mills & Boon New Voices competition is 10 October.


Westminster Music Library holds its very own Royal Wedding party!

As we are still waiting for our official invites (we concluded that they must have got lost in the post), we decided to have a warm up with some early royal wedding celebrations in the Music Library.

Singing romantic songs for the royal wedding, in Westminster Music Library

A happy bunch of over 20 “guests” listened to words of wisdom from Shakespeare – “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” – to Pam Ayers – “He never leaves the seat up” – on the virtues and pitfalls of love, romance and marriage. We sang along to some cunning adaptations of favourite wedding songs: “Katy, Katy, give me your answer do….” And pondered whether an expensive white frock would indeed look sweet or in fact be a bit of a nuisance on a bicycle made for two.

Our resident pianist entertained us with some romantic music – was that smoke getting in your eye or was it a tear? And finally we raised our glasses and wished the happy royal couple a long and lasting marriage, and left the final word and the best advice on marriage to Ogden Nash:

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong admit it;
Whenever you’re right shut up.


Romantic romps and steamy seduction – in the library!

They were all at the party: the cowboy’s adopted daughter, the dangerous lord, the seductive miss, the reluctant duke, the inherited bride, the midwife and the millionaire.

Mills & Boon workshop at Victoria LibraryTipping the waitress with diamonds, Jordan St Clair (dark and dangerous), scanned the room, noting the presence of the doorstep twins and Australia’s most eligible bachelor, as she discussed Lady Arabella’s scandalous marriage with Prince Voronov’s virgin and the shy duchess.

“I’m a free spirit”, she boasted; “no sweet surrender with the millionaire for me!”

The mother of the bride scowled. “Reckless! The wedding charade! Rescued in a wedding dress, and a stormy Greek marriage – what are things coming to?”

The hellhound king, courting Miss Vallois, made sparks fly with Mr Mayor while she was sleeping in the count’s bed. “I admire Flora’s defiance, from single mum to lady in one passionate night’s miracle!”

The adversary retorted: “Oh, she passed the interview with a playboy; it was a miracle for the girl next door. But now she’s under the Spaniard’s lock and key, bound to the barbarian!”

Right, that’s thirty Mills & Boon titles misused; just 3,318 to go!

But it’s all very well making fun of Mills & Boon – could I do any better? Undoubtedly not. I should have joined the wannabe romance-writers who met at Victoria Library the other day to learn a few tricks of the trade from the experts. This session was booked up as soon as it was advertised on the library website, so it was no surprise that it was full of eager scribblers, with a presentation by two Mills and Boon editors and a Q&A which also involved the company’s marketing coordinator. The participants got an early look at book covers for a new line of books, and were asked to comment.

The Librarian's Secret Scandal, by Jennifer MoreyThey can get their fill of romance books in Westminster Libraries – with a ‘ROM’ fiction section in every lending library filled with more than just Mills & Boon, and with many available in Large Print – there’s no excuse for the participants not to get to know their genre. The shelves also include the shortlisted books for the 2011 Pure Passion Awards from the Romantic Novelists Association. And if they exhaust those shelves (unlikely), they’ll find more romantic fiction on the shelves of the teenage ZONE sections too.

There were no reports of any romantic liaisons during the session… yet. But with The Librarian’s Secret Scandal on order at this very moment, and yesterday’s exhortation in the Guardian, it seems the location might be just the ticket.