Ashton wins inaugural Mills & Boon New Voices prize

<p>Mills &amp; Boon&#39;s New Voices competition for unpublished writers has been won by Secrets &amp; Speed-Dating by Australian author Leah Ashton.<br /><br />The winner&#39;s book is expected to be published by M&amp;B in mid-to late-2011. Ashton also won an Apple iPad and a Mills &amp; Boon editor for a year.<br /><br />Her editor mentor at M&amp;B Meg Lewis said: &quot;I am absolutely thrilled that Leah has won the New Voices competition. She has been a real pleasure to work with&mdash;so enthusiastic and responsive to editorial direction. Leah has a natural voice that&#39;s a joy to read and she has real potential.&quot;<br /><br /><em>Secrets &amp; Speed-Dating</em> was chosen from a shortlist of ten titles by a panel of four judges and a public vote, through the competition&#39;s website, www.romanceisnotdead.com.<br /><br />This year&#39;s judges were Heat editor Sam Delaney, author Penny Jordan, Mills &amp; Boon&#39;s managing director Mandy Ferguson and executive editor Tessa Shapcott. The top 10 were whittled down by public vote and on 26th October, each of the top four uploaded a pivotal extract from the book to the website for the public and panel to make their final decision.<br /><br />Mills &amp; Boon said the winning book centres around Sophie Morgan, emotionally bruised and not looking for a relationship. Her attraction to confirmed bachelor Dan Halliday can&#39;t be ignored, but she hasn&#39;t told him her biggest secret.<br /><br />Through the course of the competition, its website had 1.2 million page views, with almost 5,000 registered users making 10,344 comments. More than 820 writers entered this year&#39;s competition.</p>