This Monday saw the party for this year’s UK Romantic Novel Awards. It was fun, warm-hearted and full of interesting ideas from inspiring people. Made me feel quite sentimental — indeed, cautiously hopeful for the human race.
The Awards are in their 59th year — which makes them older than the Booker, the Costa and even the renowned RITA awards by the Romance Writers of America.
I have to admit that they are, however, a Johnny-come-lately compared with the Prix Goncourt. That started in 1905!
To put them in the English language contest, however, the big beast is the Booker, the one with a substantial cash prize, a literary pedigree, glittering associated events and the sort of controversy that makes headlines. It was originally sponsored by Booker McConnell and began in 1969.
Costa started in 1971, then sponsored by Whitbread. Quite an overlap with the Booker, both in authors and chart-listed books, the Costa throws the net a bit wider, recognising enjoyable reading as a criterion.
Romantic Novel AWARDS, Going to the Party
I first went to the Awards party when I was scooped up by one of my publisher’s Best Sellers and pretty much taken along to The Lunch under close guard. It was very big, very formal, very noisy. And glamorous. Wow. It took place in the Savoy Ballroom, which could give the Versailles Galerie des Glaces a run for its money. And the speeches went on for ever.
I was terrified. But household names like Anne Weale and Penny Jordan were super kind to me. Over the years since, I’ve attended as a general helper, short-lister, committee member, Chairman (scary), PR support and Friend of Short-Listed Author(s). And this time Libertà sponsored the Shorter Fiction Award.
Possibly a bit less formal — tables of enthusiastic editors and well-wishers cheered as their favoured candidate’s book appeared on the screen. The speeches seemed crisper and funnier, too, and the occasion bowled along briskly.
Reuniting authors fell into warm embraces — and the odd glass of something — and the emotional temperature settled at somewhere between wishing-well-to-all-the-world and rollicking.
Romantic Novel Awards — the Winners
This year there were 7 Romantic Novel Awards up for grabs, covering the gamut from high drama to light-hearted comedy, historical, contemporary and the fantastical, plus an Outstanding Achievement Award to our own Liz Fielding. The winning books — and several of the runners up, too — have gone straight onto my wish list.
After a truly awful year and nasty health issues, she made what must have been a heroic effort to get to these RNA Awards. She was clearly stunned to win.
You could have warmed your hands at the genuine enthusiasm with greeted the announcement of her triumph. For once, you felt, the universe had nodded in the right direction and everyone at the party approved.
We will hear more from her on this blog in the future.
A new award, for the debut novel, was won by Joe Heap with what sounds like an original, genre-crossing story, The Rules of Seeing.
It went straight to the top of my wish list, only slightly speeded on its way by his admission that he couldn’t have written a story about romantic love were it not for the love he receives from his girlfriend.
(Cue collective “aaaah” from the audience. Well, I told you it made me feel sentimental.)
Romantic Novel Awards, Feeling the Love
Chairman Nicola Cornick paid a lovely tribute to Liz Fielding on her Award. She recalled how Liz had created an unmistakable voice in much-loved novels, for Harlequin Mills & Boon and others. They were fun and flirty, yet with profound emotion at their heart.
Nicola also had a personal memory of being gathered up by Liz, just as I had been by Anne and Penny, when Nicola was a trembling newbie at an AMBA (Association of Mills & Boon Authors) meeting.
Out now, and yes, I’ve already read it. It’s a time-slip with some truly terrifying moments in two dramatic stories — and one seriously mixed-up heroine. Couldn’t put it down. It’s fabulous.
Romance Authors rock. How lucky I am to be one of this fellowship.
A great evening of celebrating my kind of novel with friends old and new. Above all the delight of sharing of the joys of travelling hopefully, kindness and respect.