Rappahannock rolls out the red carpet to celebrate romance

‘This has been a big success, and we hope to . . . get even more people on board’

Who would have ever thought that people would flock to Rappahannock County to find romance?

In fact, so many fervid fans of romance novels descended on Gadino Cellars for Saturday’s “Romancing Rappahannock” author-reader book signing event — featuring nine of the country’s top romance writers — that not one but two lines formed from opposite directions just to get through the front door.

By John McCaslin
Not one but two lines formed outside of Gadino Cellars in Washington for the chance to meet nine of the nation’s top romance writers during the first-ever “Romancing Rappahannock” event. By John McCaslin

And it wasn’t the only opportunity for the bestselling authors and their loyal readers to get up close and personal during the county’s first-ever romance connoisseur immersion event, which lasted two full days and drew visitors from as far away as Arizona, California and Washington State.

And they came in the throes of winter, no less.

“The weather has been great!” insisted author A.L. Jackson, who hailing from Seattle thought nothing of the sleet, rain and fog. “I’m infatuated with the South.”

“This is such an amazing event, I don’t know if it’s been done anywhere else,” said author Katy Regnery of Connecticut, who signed numerous of her books alongside Cincinnati wordsmith Mia Sheridan, who has seen two of her bestselling titles recently optioned by Hollywood filmmakers.

The celebrated authors, all continuously churning out novels for their many fans, write in every genre: historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, dark romance, erotic romance — their steamy, sweaty book covers plastered with bare-chested men tipping cowboy hats and unblemished couples locked in loving embrace.

Romance, if you didn’t gather, sells.

Especially with women, who for this inaugural Romancing Rappahannock experience — its creating force Greenfield Inn Bed & Breakfast innkeeper Audrey Regnery, who meticulously planned the weekend for more than a year — far outnumbered the men.

There were numerous activities for the authors and their fans, most flying in or driving long distances for the unique Rappahannock lovefest: lunches and dinners, wine tastings, a VIP tour of the Inn at Little Washington, romance trivia, Saturday morning scavenger hunts in Washington and Sperryville, and raffles for gift baskets brimming with love.

“This is such an intimate, unique place, with so much small-town charm,” praised Kansas City author Pam Godwin, who like the majority of attendees was visiting Rappahannock County for the first time.

“We don’t have the history that you have,” agreed writer Emma Scott, who lives in San Francisco. “And it’s so beautiful here.”

By John McCaslin
Pam Goodwin greets throngs of fans at Gadino Cellars on Saturday, where she and eight fellow romance authors happily signed books. By John McCaslin

“I love it,” said Memphis author Ilsa Madden-Mills, who like the other writers has seen her books climb way up the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists. Her novel “Dirty English” actually hit #1 in the Amazon Store, the plot: “A tattooed British street fighter, he’s the campus bad boy she’s supposed to avoid, but when he saves her from a frat party gone bad, all her rules about sex and love fly out the window.”

“I would give this book a million stars if I could,” one review read.

As they signed their books at Gadino, the authors spoke of inspiration they get when visiting places like Rappahannock. For example, Madden-Mills described driving along the county’s rural roads and wondering, “Who lives in a house like that, and what could their story be?”

Best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills, who saw her book “Dirty English” climb to #1, was charmed by the rural character of Rappahannock County. By John McCaslin

“It’s a dream, it’s a gem,” said author Kate Stewart, a native of Dallas. “It’s one of those places where if you only drove through the town you wouldn’t know what you’re missing on either side of the road.”

The authors during their visit heard from Liz Johnson, president of Washington-based Mountain View Marketing, who taught an Effective Branding & Outreach Workshop. She addressed keys to a successful brand strategy and shared the best days and times to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

She also discussed the subliminal value of color in branding, and provided a customized study of eight colors ideal for romance novels with their corresponding subliminal values that the authors can use for strong target market capture and engagement for their future book covers.

“This has been a big success, and we hope to do it again, and get even more people on board,” said Audrey Regnery, who if you didn’t guess is mother-in-law to Katy Regnery, author of the New York Times and USA Today best-selling Blueberry Lane Series. Katy has more than 40 romance titles under her belt, and was honored with the 2015 Kindle Book Award for romance.

Best-selling authors Mia Sheridan (left) and Katy Regnery, the latter collaborating with her mother-in-law Audrey Regnery of the Greenfield Inn Bed & Breakfast on the successful “Romancing Rappahannock” event. By John McCaslin

“I didn’t do it alone,” Audrey stressed. “Without the 30 businesses that participated it would not have happened. I am really glad that we could bring in the businesses and everyone benefited. That’s what my intentions were.”

About John McCaslin 449 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.