Romantic Novel of the Year finalists revealed

<p>Bestselling author Cecelia Ahern is among the six finalists for the Romantic Novel of the Year award. <br /><br />Her fantasy novel published by HarperCollins, <em>Thanks for the Memories</em>, about a blood transfusion that has unexpected consequences, was described by readers as &ldquo;an unusual story, full of originality&rdquo;. Some 80 keen reader members of the public selected the longlist, which was then whittled down to a shortlist by a panel from the Romantic Novelists&rsquo; Association (RNA).<br /><br />The award was set up in 1960 by the RNA to promote excellence in romantic novels and increase literary recognition of the genre. <br /><br />Independent publisher Allison &amp; Busby was nominated for <em>Sophia&rsquo;s Secret</em>; the judges described the book, by Susanna Kearsley, as: &ldquo;[a] most wonderful love story, a well-written, original and satisfying read&rdquo;.<br /><br />The winner will be announced four days before Valentine&#39;s Day. <em>The Bookseller</em> books editor Alice O&rsquo;Keeffe will join Fanny Blake, Books Editor of Woman &amp; Home, and Peter Crawshaw, who runs Lovereading.co.uk, to choose the winning novel.<br /><br />Lesley Downer, Linda Gillard, Julia Gregson, and Judith Lennox were also shortlisted for the award.</p><p>Downer, nominated for <em>The Last Concubine</em> (Transworld) said: &ldquo;I grew up with <em>Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice</em> and hugely enjoyed creating a romantic world of my own.<br /><br />&ldquo;I found it utterly gripping to write about a society that has no concept of romantic love. It made it all the clearer what a powerful and primeval force love is.&rdquo;<br /><br />Judith Lennox is hoping that the &#39;third time lucky&#39; maxim might count this year. Her family drama <em>Before the Storm</em>, from Headline Review, is her third book shortlisted for the award. &ldquo;So I&rsquo;ll be keeping my fingers crossed,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />The six shortlisted books are: <br /><em>Thanks for the Memories</em> - Cecelia Ahern (HarperCollins)<br /><em>The Last Concubine</em> - Lesley Downer (Transworld/Bantam)<br /><em>Star Gazing</em> - Linda Gillard (Piatkus, Little, Brown)<br /><em>East of the Sun</em> - Julia Gregson (Orion)<br /><em>Sophia&rsquo;s Secret</em> - Susanna Kearsley (Allison &amp; Busby)<br /><em>Before the Storm</em> - Judith Lennox (Headline Review)</p>