Essex author Lorna Cook has won the Romantic Novelists' Association's (RNA) prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers with her debut novel The Forgotten Village (Avon).
Cook was presented with her award and a cheque for £1,000 at the RNA's York Afternoon Tea at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, York on Saturday (14th September).
The judges for the award, which included RNA chair Alison May, vice chair Imogen Howson, Amy Durant from Sapere Books and Sara-Jade Virtue from Simon & Schuster, were unanimous in their decision to crown The Forgotten Village the winner, and praised the novel’s sense of history and romance.
May said: "The Forgotten Village is an engaging, moving and ultimately life-affirming story that casts light on a fascinating moment in history."
Virtue added: "Rich in mystery and passion, The Forgotten Village had me gripped from the first page, and didn’t let me go till the final conclusion. I was completely swept away by the heartache of Veronica’s story, and rooting for Melissa all the way through. Brilliantly researched, excellently executed, I absolutely loved it!"
Cook was inspired to write her novel when she found an article about the abandoned Dorset village of Tyneham in a national newspaper. It was requisitioned in its entirety and never handed back. Taken by the army in 1943 to use for D-Day training, today it is still owned by the MOD and remains unlived in. Set in 1943, The Forgotten Village sees "the villagers of Tyneham being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever."
The book was selected from a list of 15 contenders, all authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the RNA New Writers' Scheme. The scheme allows 300 unpublished writers to join the RNA each year and receive feedback on their novel. The Joan Hessayon Award is sponsored by gardening expert Dr David Hessayon, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers' Scheme.