Staff profile

Dr Val Derbyshire

Impact Officer

Val Derbyshire speaking at a Public Engagement Event in Sheffield


Innovation and Research





I am an Impact Officer based in the University Research Knowledge Exchange Office and allocated to the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences. This means that I am engaged primarily in supporting researchers and academics in the College to demonstrate the impactful nature of their research, helping them plan their impact into projects, implement engagement projects, capture robust impact evidence, monitor progress on impact, evaluate outcomes and benefits, and ensure the appropriate profiling of impact. As part of this role, I provide training and resources to support the understanding of the impact and the overall aim is to ensure that the College derives maximum impact from its research endeavours.

I am also a researcher in English Literature, with a specialism in the literature of British Romanticism and the romance genre generally from the eighteenth century up to contemporary publications, with a specific focus on Mills & Boon romantic novels.

Teaching responsibilities

I provide training and resources around planning impact into research projects, including impact planning for funding proposals, how to engage with UK Government and Policy, public engagement and commercial impact evaluation. I have also gained extensive experience in teaching employability skills including CV development, successful job application and interview techniques.

Professional interests

Alongside my research interests, I also have an interest in pedagogy, higher and further education, student employability, graduate attributes and outcomes, event organisation and administration. I am very interested in public engagement and sharing research with the wider community.

Research interests

My research into the literature of British Romanticism considers the relationships between British Romantic-era writers and a number of visual artists. My research demonstrates how the artwork influences literary works and how in turn literary works of the period are influenced by the work of visual artists of the day. It shows how the literature of the period employs popular aesthetics, using them as narrative devices, in order to produce and enhance meaning in literary works.

I also have a research interest in Mills & Boon romantic novels, specifically surrounding the literary value of these novels. In particular, my research focuses on one of Mills and Boon’s most iconic authors, Penny Jordan, who wrote 187 novels for the company across a period of four decades. Jordan’s work is a good way of accessing contemporary fears and obsessions and charting an accurate depiction of social history as recorded through the texts. In addition to Jordan’s works, I am also considering a number of other authors who wrote over long periods of time for the company, including the works of Mary Burchell, Sara Craven, Roberta Leigh, Violet Winspear and a number of contemporary authors who still write for the company today. Extensive consideration of these novels has demonstrated that these are not just trashy throwaway novels but rather utilise a number of literary devices which render them into works of art.

Finally, I also have a research interest in student employability, graduate attributes and outcomes and have been working on a collaborative interdisciplinary research project in this area.

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

'Editing The Foresters by Elizabeth Gunning (1769-1823)', University of Birmingham Eighteenth-Century Research Network

‘The Futures Award at Derby: Developing an Opportunity for Students to gain Employability skills when they’ve never been employed’, Association of Sandwich Education Trainers, Practice and Research Network Meeting

‘College of Life & Natural Sciences: CLANS’ Big College Employability Challenge’, Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service Conference

 ‘Re-staging Romanticism: Engaging Publicly with the Romantics’ at the Romanticism Goes to University Conference, Edge Hill University

 ‘“Such is the Moral Beauty of Truth: Visible Virtue in the Works of John Thelwall and Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’ at the Second International John Thelwall Conference: “John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820”, held at the University of Derby

 ‘The Phantom Coach: The Longings and Letters of Alicia Maria Greame, A Woman for Sale’ presented at Women, Money and Markets Conference, held at Kings College London

‘“On Pirates and Prostitutes”: Charlotte Smith’s Rescue of Manon L’Escaut from exile on the Margin of the Text’ presented at the Romanticism Takes to the Hills Conference held at Edge Hill University

‘“Soft Transient Children”: Exploring Grief and Surviving Loss in the Sonnets of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)’, presented at the Medical Humanities Conference held at the University of Nottingham

‘“Suddenly Rich Men are Hard to Deal with & poor Authors must bear with rich booksellers”: Charlotte Smith’s Love-Hate Relationship with Cadell & Davies’, presented at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Society Annual Conference held at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford

 'In these Modern Times: Reading Harlequin Mills & Boon Romantic Novels as Signs of the Times’, presented at the Representations of Romantic Relationships and the Romance Genre in Contemporary Women’s Writing Conference held at Sheffield Hallam University

‘“You’re Never Going to Wake Up Anywhere Except in my Arms”: Reading Romance in Turbulent Times’, presented at the Art/Money/Crisis Interdisciplinary Conference held at the University of Cambridge

Experience in industry

I have extensive background experience in Higher Education, Further Education, event management, labour market research, administration, the public sector and student guidance and pastoral care. Experience in working within a framework of complex regulations and procedures with experience in governance in the public sector and not-for-profit organisations. I have an interest and experience in employability matters.

In the media

My work on Mills & Boon romantic novels has featured on several occasions in the media, including in The Guardian; the Yorkshire Post; and on BBC Radio.

I have also published articles on The Conversation around Mills & Boons (How to learn about love from Mills & Boon novels) and eighteenth-century literature (Beauty and the Beast was originally a feminist fable disguised as marriage guidance)

I have recently featured in a podcast about Mills & Boon author Penny Jordan: Episode 113- ”On Penny Jordan With Dr. Val Derbyshire” | The Categorically Romance Podcast (

Recent publications

Val Derbyshire, ‘“This Town is as full of enchantments as the White Cat’s Palace”: Whitby as a Locus for Writers’ Inspiration’ in Daath Voyage: International Journal in Interdisciplinary Studies in English, Vol. 6, No. 4 (December 2021), pp. 1-18 (

Val Derbyshire, ‘“A Tale of Two Smiths”: In Pursuit of the Picturesque in Emmeline, the Orphan of the Castle (1788)' in Placing Charlotte Smith ed. By Elizabeth A. Dolan and Jacqueline M. Labbe (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2021), pp.201-222

Val Derbyshire, Book Review: Charlotte Smith and the Sonnet: Form, Place and Tradition in the Late Eighteenth Century by Bethan Roberts (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019). Romanticism Journal. (Accepted for forthcoming publication)

Valerie Derbyshire, The Picturesque, The Sublime, The Beautiful: Visual Artistry in the Works of Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) (Delaware: Vernon Press, 2019)

‘“The Horror of the Abyss”: The Feminine Sublime in the Portraiture of George Romney and The Young Philosopher (1798) by Charlotte Smith’, published in the Romney Society Transactions Journal.  Winner of the McLean Eltham Essay Prize (Volume 23, 2018)

Completed critical entries for The Cambridge Guide to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, edited by Professor April London, University of Ottawa (forthcoming, 2019) for the following novels Elizabeth Gunning (later Plunkett): The Orphans of Snowdon (1797), Lord Fitzhenry (1794) and The Foresters (1796); Elizabeth Meeke: The Mysterious Wife. A Novel (1797); Joseph Moser, Moral Tales (1797); Agnes Musgrave, Edmund of the Forest. A Historical Novel (1797); Mary Pilkington: Edward Barnard; Or, Merit Exalted; Containing the History of the Edgerton Family (1797); and Ann Howell, Rosa de Montmorien (1787) (Accepted for final publication: forthcoming)