Emma Denny has won the Romance Includes Everyone competition, run by Mills & Boon and the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) to find new romance novels featuring LGBTQI+ protagonists.
As the winning entry, Denny’s currently untitled historical romance novel will be published by Mills & Boon. Its synopsis explains: "The story follows Penn, the son of an Earl, who escapes on the eve of his arranged marriage for one last night of freedom. Outside his confines, Penn meets a tracker called Raff, who assumes Penn to be a heartbroken servant and helps him to escape. What Penn doesn’t know is that Raff is the brother of the woman he is supposed to marry, and desperate for freedom himself. As they flee Penn’s homeland, neither can deny their attraction. But their newfound precious freedom cannot last, as their true identities are revealed and Penn’s father readies an army to bring him back."
Denny said it was "an absolute dream come true" to win the award, adding: "I am thrilled to have won and so excited for everyone to meet my characters—and hopefully fall in love with them as much as I have. For me, LGBTQI+ romance is important because it gives queer people like myself the much-needed opportunity to see ourselves reflected in the books we read. But even more important is to see stories where the tension or drama doesn't necessarily come from your queerness, but from the trials and tribulations of falling in love. I adore romance fiction, and think it's important that everyone is able to indulge in the genre, no matter who they love."
The competition was open to anyone who writes romances focusing on LGBTQI+ characters, including published and unpublished authors who are both agented and unagented. It was launched as part of Mills & Boon’s commitment to building an inclusive list that serves as "the home of romance for all readers".
Entries were judged Mills & Boon senior editor Becky Slorach, senior marketing manager Kirsty Capes and senior publicity manager Joe Thomas, as well as the RNA's diversity and inclusion officer, member of the Rainbow chapter, and romance author Liam Livings, and member of the RNA’s Rainbow chapter and HarperCollins author Brigid Coady.
The judges said: "The Romance Includes Everyone competition was a real passion project for the teams at Mills & Boon and the RNA, so we were delighted to see such a huge amount of varied and accomplished submissions celebrating LGBTQI+ romance. The quality of the manuscripts submitted made picking a winner very difficult, but the judges were utterly captivated by Emma’s historical romance. It’s the perfect mix of adventure, emotion and passion between two characters that we instantly fell in love with, so we are delighted to welcome Emma to the Mills & Boon list and can’t wait to introduce readers to Penn and Raff."