It's not really a festival until you have your mettle tested by an event that you chose to blog on only to find that it ticks only some of your boxes, scrapes its nails down the walls of your brain in other ways, and it all happens after a ferocious argument with a car guard because your car has been completely parked in while he stood and watched it happening.
That event this festival is Let Love In with Michele A'Court and Soraya M. Lane. In my hugely flustered state I arrived filled with Assumptions (very non PC, we're not supposed to make those any more) and Expectations (they are still OK). I assumed there would be no men in the audience - I was almost correct, there were three. My expectation was that this event would be light-hearted and entertaining, and it was - but with more of a feminist slant than I expected or wanted.
Romance writing is a huge market and Soraya candidly confessed that she makes very good money out of it from novels like Hearts of Resistance (2018). In the United States alone at any one point in time there are 29 million readers of Romance and 35% of all fiction written in the States belongs in that genre. Both authors felt very strongly that when men put down Romance fiction writers they are simultaneously putting down all those readers as well.
Soraya gets a lot of positive feedback from readers - mainly older women who urge her to write faster as they are running out of time to hear more of her stories about women of their generation. I was developing such a head of steam by that stage that I found this vaguely ageist. In her novels Soraya is a fan of flawed characters who show development over the span of the story. Nothing wrong with that. She has a talent for dangling the "happy ever after" carrot after she has "twisted the romance knife in even deeper".
Michele has just published a book on 42 contemporary New Zealand love stories in How We Met (2018). These stories are not only about how couples met and fell in love, but also about how they have stayed together. Even though all the couples denied still being romantic, it was clear that they still were, only in different ways from when they were in the first flush of new love. Michele found that couples who fell in love sometimes remembered it very differently, but in the act of talking about it, they often managed to recreate that feeling all over again. Her book underscores that there are many different ways of loving.
At last someone said something positive about men - Michele confessed that many of the men that she interviewed were very proud of sustaining relationships, it was every bit as important to them as it was to the women. And both Soraya and Michele said that men also read their books, maybe not many, but it is a start.
By then I had calmed down a bit. And I very nearly asked a question: What did they think of the title of this event "Let Love In" which implies that we have some kind of control over falling in love. It's never been like that for me. It's just come barrelling in uninvited. But I missed the opportunity and my moment passed.
Ah well, There Will Be Days Like This.