Author Sophia Bennett has won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s highest accolade, the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year, for her YA title Love Song (Chicken House).
This is the second time a YA title has won the award in the RoNA’s 57 year history. Bennett won the Young Adult Novel of the Year category and her book was then nominated, along with those of the six other category winners [see below for full details], for the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year. For the first time in the awards’ history the shortlist included both traditionally and independently published authors. It was a double first for novelist Kate Johnson, who was named winner of the new category, Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel Award, for Max Seventeen and is also the first self-published author to win a RoNA. Authors Barbara Erskine and Adele Parks won Outstanding Achievement Awards.
A judging panel read the seven category winners’ novels before meeting to discuss the winners. Judges included Matt Bates, fiction buyer for WH Smith Travel, journalist and novelist Fanny Blake, Ron Johns, bookseller and publisher, and Caroline Sanderson, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Worcester and associate editor for The Bookseller.
A RNA spokesperson said Bennett’s novel “was a unanimous choice among the judges, who were impressed by the strength and authenticity of the main character’s voice”. The association considered the title to be “well-written with plenty of detail, and great sensitivity in some of the scenes”.
Sophia Bennett received her award from presenter Prue Leith
The judges said: "Love Song is an intelligent and thoughtful read which handles the all-consuming emotion of a first crush rather beautifully."
Eileen Ramsay, chairman of the RNA, said: "This is the second year that a YA novel has won the overall award, demonstrating the growing appeal of YA fiction. This wonderful story celebrates the sensitive treatment of first love. Huge congratulations to a very deserving winner."
David Headley, m.d of Goldsboro Books, added: “The diversity of this year's winners, including for the first time, a self-published author, confirms romantic fiction as an exciting and still innovative genre, which continues to delight readers.”
Food writer and novelist Prue Leith presented Bennett with her trophies and a cheque for £5,000 at an event on Monday evening, compèred by author and broadcaster Jane Wenham-Jones.
Awards for Outstanding Achievement were also given on the night to novelists Barbara Erskine and Adele Parks. Erskine, whose book Lady of Hay (HarperCollins) has been in print for 30 years, thanked both her father and her late agent Carole Blake, whom she said had moved "heaven and earth" to get Lady of Hay published. Parks said the RNA was "such a warm community", and "takes a few knocks from the outside from those who don't understand what it's about". She said: "Romance writing is about the most important thing in the world: the people you love."
All of the winners on the night - (left to right) Kate Kerrigan, Scarlet Wilson, Kate Johnson, Janet Gover, Debbie Johnson, Adele Parks, Penny Parkes, Barbara Erskine and Sophia Bennett
Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners:
Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year: Debbie Johnson, Summer at the Comfort Food Café (HarperImpulse)
Epic Romantic Novel of the Year: Janet Gover, Little Girl Lost (Choc Lit)
Historical Romantic Novel of the Year: Kate Kerrigan, It Was Only Ever You (Head of Zeus)
Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel: Kate Johnson, Max Seventeen (independently published)
Romantic Comedy Romantic Novel of the Year: Penny Parkes, Out of Practice (Simon & Schuster)
RoNA Rose Award: Scarlet Wilson, Christmas in the Boss’s Castle (Mills & Boon Cherish)
Young Adult Romantic Novel of the Year: Sophia Bennett, Love Song (Chicken House)