The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award:

Where the Story Starts, Imogen Clark, (Lake Union, Amazon Publishing)
Leah and Clio appear to have very little in common. One is the daughter of a barmaid and the other heiress to a landed estate. But theirs is a friendship that will answer questions that neither of them knew to ask, uncovering secrets that have been hidden for decades.

Where did the inspiration for Where the Story Starts come from?

I have had an unusual path to publication, having publishers come to me rather than the other way round. Where the Story Starts is my third book and my third UK Amazon Kindle number 1 bestseller. The book features an aristocratic family who live in a stately home not far from Morpeth. There wasn’t anything in the area that suited my needs, and so, by the power of the imagination, I transported a house from Wiltshire to Northumberland to serve my purposes. That’s the joy of fiction! You can do pretty much whatever you like. The second family in the story lives in Whitley Bay which I could visit easily, so that made my life less complicated.
One of the characters is a violinist in a large orchestra and is based, in part, on my childhood friend’s father who played in the Hallé. I remember him going out to work in his dinner jacket on a Saturday night just as we were all settling down to watch Doctor Who. My dad worked in a bank so I thought my friend’s father’s nocturnal job was very exotic and that has clearly stuck with me over the decades.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?

Where the Story Starts might not be a traditional romance but love can, and often does, strike where you least expect it. And so, it appears, do shortlists! I am delighted that my book has been chosen.

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A Convenient Marriage, Jeevani Charika, (Hera Books)
Chaya can’t marry the love of her life, because her traditional Sri Lankan parents insist she marry someone suitable.
Gimhana is hiding his sexuality and he’s running out of excuses not to marry. Marrying each other seems an ideal solution. Theirs was the perfect marriage … until they fell in love.

Can you tell us about your writing journey?
Like the characters, I am Sri Lankan. Like Chaya, I went to Oxford (unlike her, I got to marry the guy I fell in love with!).
Every writing career starts with one big idea. My big idea was about an arranged marriage between two people who would never be able to fall in love with each other. I had the idea in my early twenties, when my friends from Sri Lanka were getting married and a friend from Oxford told me a story about a man who was in love with another man, but couldn’t leave his wife because he was scared he’d lose his kids (this was the late 90s). When I was a grad student, I tried to do a bit of creative writing for fun. Gimhana arrived fully formed in the middle of a writing exercise, ice clinking in his whiskey tumbler. Chaya, with her weird tics and alphabetised medicine cabinet, turned up soon after.
This book first went through the NWS in 2007, November 2019 – A Convenient Marriage is now out. It has taken nearly 17 years from start to finish. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s ‘never give up on a project you believe in’.
This is the book of my heart. I hope you like it.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I wrote this book because I wished there were more mainstream genre fiction in which the protagonists looked like me. When I was submitting it back in 2006, it seemed too much to hope I’d even find a publisher for it, let alone end up on a shortlist alongside authors that I admire so much. I feel like I’m living the dream!

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I Owe You One, Sophie Kinsella, (Transworld)
When Fixie saves a handsome stranger’s laptop from certain disaster, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU. Fixie never intends to call in the favour, until her teenage crush comes back into her life needing her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

 

Where did the inspiration for I Owe You One come from?
While I’m planning my books and the plot, I frequent cafes to do my thinking. So I was at a coffee shop, with my notebook open and pen in hand, when a handsome American, sitting at a table opposite me, asked me to keep an eye on his laptop while he stepped out to take a call. I watched his laptop when he went out and came back, and he went on his way. I’ve never seen him again. And that’s where reality deviates from fiction. But this was the most amazing gift from the coffee shop gods. I realised this was the perfect way for my protagonists to meet!

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?

I am absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. This is a huge honour and I would like to thank all those who supported the book – I am very appreciative!

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Happiness for Beginners, Carole Matthews, (Sphere)
Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup. Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.

But Lucas is distant and Molly soon realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

Where did the inspiration for Happiness for Beginners come from?
The inspiration for the book is a real life farm called Animal Antiks. They provide alternative, animal-based education for children and young adults with learning or behavioural difficulties, autism and physical challenges and have been fantastic in helping me with my research.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m so proud of this book and am delighted that it’s been nominated for the prestigious RNA Award.

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A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft, (Avon, HarperCollins)
WANTED! Caretaker for Roundhouse Row.
WHERE? Nelson’s Bar village – no signal or Wi-Fi.
WHO? Escapee from cheating scumbag, entitled cousin and traitorous friends.
BENEFITS: Chocolate-box cottage, beach. Reunion with a man you once kissed.
NB: Scumbags, passengers and/or traitors may return…
APPLY NOW FOR A SUMMER TO REMEMBER!

Where did the inspiration for A Summer to Remember come from?
‘A Summer to Remember’ is set in Norfolk where many glorious family holidays were spent when Sue’s children were little. She hopes the people of Norfolk will forgive her for shifting the scenery around to make room for a headland in the salt marshes upon which she built the tiny village of Nelson’s Bar – most definitely a ‘not spot’ for phone signal and broadband both. In the interests of taking a character out of her comfort zone, it seemed the perfect place to plant Clancy, a city girl used to being permanently plugged into modern communication.

The spark for the story, which also formed a chunk of Clancy’s issues, was a Tweet. It depicted a couple caught in an intimate moment on the guy’s video conferencing software which, somehow, he’d managed to leave running. Because he was fully dressed it wasn’t pornographic but the activity in which they were engaged couldn’t be mistaken.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m over the moon that ‘A Summer to Remember’ has been shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award. The RNA has been a part of my life for nearly two decades, providing not just professional support but an army of friends, so it feels a particularly special accolade.

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A Walk in Wildflower Park, Bella Osborne, (Avon, HarperCollins)
Life’s not always a walk in the park …
Recently dumped Anna pledges to focus on her career, but someone thwarts every attempt. Could a mystery text trigger a new start?
Best-friend Sophie is a stressed-out mum with an infuriating husband and children who are a source of unidentifiable sticky surfaces.

Where did the inspiration for A Walk in Wildflower Park come from?
The setting for the book is inspired by Moseley Park and Pool near Birmingham which was once a private park. I am a project manager like Anna in the story and I have worked in an office most of my working life so had plenty of material for office shenanigans.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m hugely excited to be shortlisted for the third time, it is such an honour.

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Notting Hill in the Snow, Jules Wake, (One More Chapter, HarperCollins)
Viola Smith plays the viola in an orchestra but this year she’s been volunteered to help with a nativity. Single dad Nate Williams has enough on his plate with young daughter Grace, and helping with the nativity is the last thing he needs.
With sparks flying, Nate and Viola can’t deny their feelings. And as snow starts to fall over London, they find themselves trapped together in more ways than one …

Where did the inspiration for Notting Hill in the Snow come from?
I don’t have a musical bone in my body but my character Viola was inspired by two local friends who are both renowned classical musicians. They helped me with lots of the research and I discovered that the poor viola players are the butt of orchestra in-jokes for some reason.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m so thrilled to be shortlisted in such an important year for the RNA, its sixtieth anniversary. Since the day I joined this fabulous organisation, I have found myself among friends.

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Coming Home to Glendale Hall, Victoria Walters, (Hera Books)
Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. When she fell pregnant at just sixteen, knowing that her family would never approve, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate that had been her home, building a new life for herself and her daughter hundreds of miles away.

When her father begs her to return home to see her gravely ill grandmother, Beth is apprehensive at the thought of seeing her family again. With her daughter Isabelle, now a feisty ten-year-old, in tow, she plans to cut her visit as short as she can whilst fulfilling her duty.

Beth has worked hard to leave her past behind her, living in London with Isabelle and working hard to be the best single mother she can be. Returning to the Glendale Hall estate means facing her strict and unaffectionate mother, formidable grandmother, as well her teenage boyfriend, Drew, who broke her heart and doesn’t know that he has a daughter.

But Beth is about to discover that everyone has their own version of the past, and the story she thought she knew for the last ten years might well be a very different one to the truth. Will Beth be able to find it in her heart to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? Or will she end up running away all over again?

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I work part-time as a Waterstones bookseller.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m thrilled that Coming Home to Glendale Hall has been shortlisted! Thank you so much to the RNA for including my book in such a fabulous line-up. I can’t wait to celebrate with everyone in Mar

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