Shorter Romantic Novel Award

I meant to use my next blog to cover a few hints on Finding Your Voice but the short list for the Shorter Romantic Novel Award elbowed it out of the way. (In case you didn’t know, the Romantic Novelists’ Association announced the short list for their suite of awards for romantic fiction last Monday.) For Libertà Books are sponsoring that award again this year.

As you may imagine, the whole hive are proud enthusiasts for the genre, both as writers and readers. So many, many congratulations to our short listers.

The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award

A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Kate Hardy, Mills & Boon True Love
The Warrior Knight and the Widow, Ella Matthews, Mills & Boon Historical
The Day That Changed Everything, Catherine Miller, Bookouture
Second Chance for the Single Mum, Sophie Pembroke, Mills & Boon True Love
The Return of the Disappearing Duke, Lara Temple, Mills & Boon Historical
Cinderella and the Surgeon, Scarlet Wilson, Mills & Boon Medical

The Shorter Romantic Novel Award

Witches' Sabbath by Paula AllardyceWhen the RNA started in 1960, awarding an annual prize was one of its two objectives. Publishing was very different then, and I would say that at least two of the Main Award winners in that decade would fall into today’s Shorter Romantic Novel Category: between 30,000 and 70,000 words. That includes one by a favourite author of mine, Paula Allardyce, called The Witches’ Sabbath. 

But in the noughties it became clear that a significant proportion of RNA Membership felt disenfranchised. Mills and Boon had become virtually a monopoly publisher of short romance in the UK. No Mills & Boon had appeared on the main award short list for more than thirty years – the whole writing lifetime of many authors.

Our then President, editor, author and reader extraordinaire, wonderful Di Pearson, offered to sponsor a prize specifically for the shorter novel. The first one was awarded in 2003.

Di maintained this for 5 years, chairing the judging panel herself and writing the short list adjudications herself.

At the same time Mills & Boon presented the Betty Neels Rose Bowl to be held for a year by the award winner, in memory of one of their most beloved writers.

Her books, largely hospital-set romances, still endure, 20 years after she died.

Indeed, while writing this I found another serious Betty-enthusing website. It’s lovely. The woman was truly unique and her writing has a gentle, practical tone which is timeless.

Sponsoring the Shorter Romantic  Novel Award

chatting about authors and booksAs sponsors, we at Libertà Books are not invited anywhere near the judging panels. Frankly, that is a relief. For one thing, the world of short romantic fiction is still relatively small.

Chumocracy has become a well-recognised and justifiably despised concept over this last year. All of us want to steer clear of that.

show or tell? inspirationFor another, well Di Pearson was an editor and knew how to read for quality and potential reader engagement. Whereas I just throw myself into the story. Not a good basis for measured judgement.

But we did want to help celebrate the shorter romantic novel because it is still a bit of a hidden gem. And there are times when no other sort of book will do.

This is where some people say “escapism” — and sneer. But, in this time of Third Lockdown, I’m all for escapism. It doesn’t mean you deny reality. How could you?

It means you go somewhere else for a brief period of time, where you are completely absorbed, where the good end happily and you have the time to get your breath back before plunging back into The Fight.

The Shorter Romantic Novel and Lockdown Me

I found Mills & Boon in the library at a time when I had just moved to my secondary school and was absolutely at sea in that new world. The joy of M&B was that the author made it clear what the rules were. And however scared the heroines were along the way, they got a happy ending. It was restful and comforting.

Fast forward to 2020. We are only allowed out for essential food purchases and no visitors are allowed. Oh that’s fine, I think. I am used to working on my own, with just a screen for company all day. I shall write squllions of words and not be bothered.


I was climbing the walls within a week.

Even reading old friends from the shelf didn’t help. I couldn’t concentrate. So I went, as I have so many times before, to short romantic fiction from reliable friends like Liz Fielding and totally new discoveries like Katherine Addison.

And yes, I could concentrate on those shorter books because it was generally one single story and it was very intense. My concentration lasted until I found out what happened.

Slowly, I got my equilibrium back. I also knew a lot more about elves in modern popular fiction, always a bonus.

And yes, back I went into the fray.

I set some seeds and actually got them through to blooming.

Eventually, I tied a scarf round my lower face (before we were told to wear masks, mind you) and hit the supermarket. It was quite bright outside, so I added sunglasses. “Is that you?” said a friend and neighbour, startled. “Wow, love the terrorist chic!”

I was coping again.

And a good part of that was down to short romantic fiction.

Many thanks to all our short listers, whose books I am now going to bundle into like nobody’s business.

Also to you, dear wonderful authors who, just sometimes, break us out of that cycle of despair. Here’s to you.

Sophie Weston Author

16 thoughts on “Shorter Romantic Novel Award

    1. Sophie Post author

      Yes, indeed. A lovely wide selection, which I am already bundling into like a labrador off the lead.

      And thank you for covering for me yesterday, too. The internet connection was garbage all day.

  1. lesley2cats

    Yes, huge congratulations to them all. I am still envious of those who can write romantic fiction. I tried, but I just couldn’t. Sophie knows, and luckily both she and another friend, Hilary Johnson, told me so and told me I should write in a genre I knew. But I lose no opportunity to praise and support the writers in the genre to others, as I consider the wider public’s opinion is ill-informed and lazy. Sorry, I’ll shut up, now.

    1. Sophie Post author

      I hope I didn’t say you couldn’t write romantic fiction, Lesley! I might have said you loved your marvellous cast of characters and it seemed a pity not to let them off the leash. But that was wholly in the context of Mills & Boon and came from editors saying to me, “Keep the minor characters under control.”

      And indeed, you are a great reader-supporter of the genre, and much valued for it.

  2. Sarah Mallory

    A wonderful selection of novels on the short-list, even more to add to the teetering TBR pile! Well done to all of them, and keep up the good work, because they are very necessary: as Sophie says, there are times when no other sort of book will do.

    1. Sophie Post author

      They really are truly necessary, aren’t they, Linda? I am so grateful for them over this last year.

  3. Liz Fielding

    Many congratulations to all those on the short list this year. These lovely books are like having a hug and I’m really looking forward to reading them all.

  4. Elizabeth Bailey

    Congratulations to all on the shortlist and to Liberta for sponsoring. I had to go to Google for chumocracy. Never thought of chum, was going choo.. choo? yes, you don’t want any of that! Some choice choices there, Sophie.

    1. Sophie Post author

      A new-to-me word I very much like, chumocracy, and intend to use freely in the context of our present leaders.

      (Also apolaustic, which the Birdwatcher found in C P Snow and I feel hits the nail squarely on the head. It means dedicated to enjoyment, self-indulgent. Am sure I can shoe-horn that in somewhere. With the pretentious buffoon and his classicist pretensions, it is somehow just so right.)

  5. Joanna

    On behalf of Sophie, apologies to all for her lack of replies to comments here. Her internet connection has fallen over and she’s not able to get onto the blog. But she’s with you all in spirit, at least.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Thank you, Joanna. My connection is now back and my router is no longer blinking evilly at me.

  6. Gail Mallin

    Congratulations on the short list. Some enticing titles there. I agree that sometimes you want a read which you know is going to have an uplifting ending. Enough dark days at the moment without making yourself feel depressed!

  7. Sophie Post author

    Ah, I remember when you won the forerunner of this prize when Di Pearson first set it up, Julie. That was such a cracker of a book, too. Is it out there as an e-book now?

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