The Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) has announced the line-up for its Joan Hessayon Award for new writers with two Avon titles in the running.
Canelo, Simon & Schuster and Bookouture are also represented on the 14-strong shortlist for the prize which aims to encourage fresh talent in romantic novels. Genres featured on this year's newly unveiled shortlist include historical romances, contemporary suspense stories and romantic comedies with themes including the atrocities of war, living with mental illness and women's suffrage.
Lorna Cook’s The Forgotten Village is battling it out for the prize with fellow Avon stablemate The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer. Also vying for the prize is Christina Pishiris’ Love Songs for Sceptics, Books and the City (Simon & Schuster), Kitty Wilson’s The Cornish Village School – Breaking the Rules (Canelo Escape) and Arlette’s Story (Choc Lit) by Angela Barton. Francesca Capaldi is also nominated for Danger for Daisy (My Weekly Pocket Novels) along with Wendy Clarke’s What She Saw (Bookouture), Alice J Miller’s The Price to be Paid (Books To Go Now) and Evie Dunmore's Bringing Down the Duke (Piatkus Fiction). The Sins of the Sire (Tirgearr Publishing) by Emily Royal has also been recognised as has Liz Taylorson’s The Little Church by the Sea (Manatee Books) and Rosie Travers’ The Theatre of Dreams (Crooked Cat Books). Completing the shortlist is Bound to Her Blood Enemy (Wild Rose Press) by Tora Williams and Jenny Worstall’s Love and Lies (D C Thomson).
The New Writers' Scheme has been run by the RNA since 1962. Manuscripts submitted under the scheme are from unpublished authors and are read by an experienced writer or editor. Any manuscript that is subsequently published as a debut novel is eligible for the Joan Hessayon Award. All eligible books are judged by a panel of RNA members who are already published authors, and this year the final round judges are Amy Durant, publisher of Sapere Books, and Sara-Jade Virtue, special sales director and brand director for commercial fiction from Simon & Schuster.
Alison May, RNA chair, said: "The New Writers' Scheme epitomises the RNA's commitment to supporting new writers. It's incredible to consistently see so many NWS members achieving publication and this year is no exception. The novels in the line-up for the Joan Hessayon Award demonstrate the huge talent of this group of authors and show that romantic fiction is as exciting a genre as ever.”
Imogen Howson, vice chair of the association, said: “It’s exciting to see another batch of debut authors graduating from the New Writers’ Scheme. As always, our thanks go to the readers who so generously give their time and expertise to the scheme, and most especially to Dr David Hessayon who sponsors the Award in honour of his late wife, Joan.”
The prize is sponsored by gardening expert Dr David Hessayon in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and supporter of its New Writers' Scheme. The Award will be presented at the RNA's York Afternoon Tea on 14th September at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, York.