Melissa Oliver has won the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award for new writers with her debut The Rebel Heiress and the Knight (Mills & Boon Historical).
Judges, including RNA chair Alison May, praised the novel for its “very real characters” and called it ‘”an excellent example of its genre”.
In The Rebel Heiress and the Knight, widow Eleanor of Tallany Castle knows her people are broken by the taxes demanded by King John. So when she’s ordered to marry Hugh de Villiers, a knight loyal to the king, she’s furious. As gallant Hugh begins to heal the scars of Eleanor’s abusive first marriage, she’s even more determined to keep her secret — she is the outlaw the king wants to send to the gallows.
May commented: “The Rebel Heiress and the Knight is a fantastic debut, combining action, intrigue and engaging emotion. In an incredibly strong year for the Joan Hessayon Award, with an unprecedented number of contenders, choosing a winner was a real challenge, but Melissa Oliver’s debut blew us away with the quality of the writing and the emotional depth of the romance depicted.”
The book was selected from a list of 21 contenders: all authors whose debut novels were accepted for publication after passing through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.
Each year 300 places are offered to unpublished writers in the romantic fiction genre. As part of the scheme, they can submit a complete manuscript for critique by one of the association’s published authors as well as attend RNA events which offer opportunities to meet and network with publishers, agents and other published authors.
The £1,000 award is sponsored by gardening expert Dr David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.