The RNA announces WINNERS for the 2021 Romantic Novel Awards

Mike Gayle presented with Outstanding Achievement Award

MONDAY 8th March 2021: The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) today announced the winners for their prestigious 2021 Romantic Novel Awards, and Mike Gayle was presented with an Outstanding Achievement Award, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the field of romantic fiction.

Actor Larry Lamb revealed the winners of each category in an online event, compèred by author and broadcaster Jane Wenham-Jones.

The RNA’s awards are the only national literary prizes that recognise excellence in the genre of romantic fiction. In 2021 they comprise the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, the Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award, the Romantic Comedy Novel Award, the Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award, the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers, the Romantic Saga Award, the Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, the Libertà Shorter Romantic Novel Award and the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award. 

RNA Chair Imogen Howson said, “In a year when we have had to deal with anxiety, isolation, lockdowns, and some very surprising product shortages, romantic fiction has remained a source of escapism and comfort – an almost literal lifeline.

The Romantic Novel Awards showcase some of the very best of romantic fiction, and I am delighted and proud to be part of an industry that gives so much happiness to so many people.”

Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners
(Further information follows below)

Clare Pooley, The Authenticity Project, Bantam Press
Winner, The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award
(for the best romantic novel by a first-time author)

Kate Hardy, A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Mills & Boon True Love
Winner, The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award
(for the best shorter romantic novel)

Shirley Mann, Bobby’s War, Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK
Winner, The Romantic Saga Award
(for the best romantic novel featuring saga elements of characters overcoming social adversity, usually set in the past)

Carole Matthews, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Sphere, Little, Brown
Winner, The Romantic Comedy Novel Award
(for the best romantic novel with consistent wit and humour)

Louise Douglas, The House by the Sea, Boldwood Books
Winner, The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award
(for the best romantic novel with thriller, mystery, crime or suspense elements)

Christina Courtenay, Echoes of the Runes, Headline Review
Winner, The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award
(for the best romantic novel that includes paranormal or speculative elements) 

Milly Johnson, My One True North, Simon & Schuster
Winner, The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award
(for the best romantic novel set in the present world or society)

Catherine Tinley, Rags-to-Riches Wife, Mills & Boon Historical
Winner, The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award
(for novels set in a period before 1970)

Julie Houston, Sing Me a Secret, Aria, Head of Zeus
Winner, The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award
(for the most commercially successful and popular romantic novel of 2020 as voted for by book bloggers, librarians and booksellers)

Outstanding Achievement Award

Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a features editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan.

Mike became a full-time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, hailed by The Independent as ‘full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations’, and by The Times as ‘a funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic’. He has since written fifteen novels, including The Man I Think I Know, selected as a World Book Night title, and Half A World Away, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Birmingham with his wife, children and greyhound.

RNA President Katie Fforde said of the 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award recipient, “Mike Gayle is a writer who isn’t afraid to tackle the difficult subjects and does it with the same skill and storytelling ability that his more conventional stories have.  He never lets his reader down.”

Since its inception in 1960 the RNA has promoted excellence in romantic fiction and RNA Chair, Imogen Howson, commented, “This year’s shortlists showcase, yet again, the wonderful variety of romantic fiction, with books from publishers large and small, from some authors who are household names and others who may well be the next big thing. In difficult times, the sales of romantic fiction rise, and these books—with all their humour, drama, excitement, and romance—remind us exactly why.”

— ENDS —

RNA 2021 winner covers via this link: http://bit.ly/30amXGp

RNA 2021 winner author photographs via this link: http://bit.ly/38cEx0H

Photographs and cover images for Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Mike Gayle and guest presenter Larry Lamb:
http://bit.ly/2PDnkHz

For further information please contact: Katrina Power 07 963 962 538, katrina.power@yahoo.com or Pressofficer@romanticnovelistsassociation.org

#RomanticNovelAwards

A list of past winners can be found here:  http://bit.ly/2PDnkHz

Notes to Editors:

About the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA)

The RNA was formed in 1960 to promote romantic fiction and encourage good writing and now represents 1000 writers, agents, editors and other publishing professionals. The Romantic Novel of the Year Award was launched in the same year, and recognises excellence in romantic novels thereby enhancing the standing of the genre.

The RNA has always involved readers in judging the awards. Keen readers are asked to rate nominated books on a number of criteria including romantic content, readability, characters, plot, dialogue, style and ending.

About the Romantic Novel Award Winners



Clare Pooley, The Authenticity Project, Bantam Press
Winner, The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award, (for the best romantic novel by a first-time author)

 

 

The Authenticity Project was inspired by Clare Pooley’s own experience. Six years ago, her life looked perfect from the outside, but the truth was very different. She was horribly addicted to alcohol and her world was falling apart. Then she quit drinking and started a blog – Mummy was a Secret Drinker. Sharing her truth in those pages transformed her life, and the lives of thousands of people who read it. This got her thinking: what magic might happen if other people shared their authentic selves? And that led to the idea of Julian’s little green notebook: The Authenticity Project.

Clare Pooley lives in Fulham, London.

 

 

 


Kate Hardy, A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Mills & Boon True Love
Winner, The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award, (for the best shorter romantic novel)

 

 

 

 

 

In A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, architect Hugo is shocked when his late aunt leaves her house to butterfly expert Alice, a complete stranger – especially as the will states Hugo must help Alice turn it into a butterfly centre! They clash over everything – but the attraction between them is hard to ignore.

Kate Hardy has always been fascinated by butterflies – she remembers seeing the cases of specimens at Norwich Castle museum when she was tiny. These were collected by Victorian lepidopterist Margaret Fountaine, which is what inspired her to use a female Victorian lepidopterist as the background for the novel.

To research the novel, she went to see butterflies at Warham Camp and Wheatfen Broad, as well as the butterfly house at the Horniman in London. She was fascinated by the ‘nerdy facts’ she learned, which were shared by Hugo and Alice in the book, such as: butterfly skeletons are transparent, butterflies see ultraviolet patterns that humans can’t on flower petals, their body temp needs to be 30 degrees C before they can fly, glass is an amorphous solid (which means it moves) and when glass breaks the cracks move at more than 1000mph.

When Kate’s six week old daughter spent her first Christmas in hospital with bronchiolitis, Kate spent the long hours at her bedside writing her first novel. Baby Chloë recovered and the book was published on her second birthday, as A Baby of Her Own, by Mills & Boon Medical.

This book is now Kate’s 90th for Mills & Boon and this year is her 20th anniversary of being published by them. She has also written books for other publishers, and has sold more than seven million books worldwide, translated into more than 20 languages.

Kate Hardy lives in Norwich, Norfolk.

Shirley Mann, Bobby’s War, Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK
Winner, The Romantic Saga Award, (for the best romantic novel featuring saga elements of characters overcoming social adversity, usually set in the past)

 

 

 

This is the story of Bobby Hollis, a WW2 Air Transport Auxiliary pilot with a frantic schedule delivering Spitfires and Wellingtons. But when it comes to men and the secrets of her dysfunctional family, she finds controlling bombers easier than controlling her own life!

Shirley Mann was a journalist who worked across newspapers, BBC radio and television, only starting to write her first novel in her 60s. She was inspired by the wartime romance of her parents — her mum was a WAAF in Bomber Command and her dad was in the Eighth Army — but when she realised she hadn’t asked enough questions, she raced around the country talking to women in their 80s and 90s who had been in the services during the war to find out their stories. It was during this time that she heard about the amazing work of female ATA pilots, who flew everything from Spitfires to huge bombers. Shirley managed to get to meet the last remaining ATA pilot, Mary Ellis, just before Mary’s death last summer. This amazing 101-year-old shared her memories so that Shirley could authentically recreate the world of the female pilots whose ground-breaking achievements have done so much to pave the way for young women today.

Shirley Mann lives in Wirkworth, Derbyshire

Carole Matthews, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Sphere, Little, Brown
Winner, The Romantic Comedy Novel Award, (for the best romantic novel with consistent wit and humour)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Jodie Jackson escapes to the Isle of Wight to leave her past behind her. She’d like to turn back the clocks but will settle for some peace and quiet on her brother’s renovated houseboat. But when her old life comes knocking, Jodie is forced to face reality.

Carole Matthews was a finalist in three of the 2021 Romantic Novel Awards. Christmas for Beginnerswas shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award category. A second novel, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, was shortlisted for two awards: the Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award, and the Romantic Comedy Award, which it won. Both books are published by Sphere, Little, Brown.

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights, Million Love Songs and Happiness for Beginners. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.

Carole lives in Milton Keynes with her husband.

Louise Douglas, The House by the Sea, Boldwood Books
Winner, The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award, (for the best romantic novel with thriller, mystery, crime or suspense elements)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Louise’s winning novel, Edie blames Joe’s mother, Anna, for the tragedy that caused the bitter rift between her and her estranged husband Joe. Each frozen by grief, they are reunited in Sicily by Anna’s will, but Edie is determined she won’t be manipulated from beyond the grave.

Louise’s novel was inspired by family holidays to Sicily and a passion for Inspector Montalbano, both the literary and the television versions. The House by the Sea is set mainly in the real-life locations which represent the fictional towns and cities in the TV adaptations of the Andrea Camilleri books.

Louise Douglas lives in Blagdon, Somerset

 

Christina Courtenay, Echoes of the Runes, Headline Review
Winner, The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, (for the best romantic novel that includes paranormal or speculative elements)


Echoes of the Runes is the dual-time story of Ceri, a Welsh noblewoman taken hostage by a Viking in the 9th century, and present-day Mia, who uncovers secrets at an archaeological dig. When the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten, they must fight to protect what has become most precious to them.

Christina is half Swedish and found it a joy to write about the Vikings, as part of her heritage. The story was initially inspired by a Viking style ring she owns, which is an exact replica of one displayed at the Historical Museum in Stockholm. When she went to the museum to compare the two, she was very excited to see them together and was struck by the germ of an idea for her winning book. Christina’s agent, Lina Langlee of the North Literary Agency, is also Swedish and loved the idea behind the novel. As Christina worked on the story, suddenly there were Vikings everywhere —a fictional TV series, a big exhibition at the British Museum and several factual TV programmes caught her attention — it felt serendipitous.

Christina lives in Hereford.

Milly Johnson, My One True North, Simon & Schuster
Winner, The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, (for the best romantic novel set in the present world or society)

Milly Johnson was born, bred and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She studied Drama and Education at Exeter University before becoming a trainee accountant and at the same time, writing for a greetings card company, ghosting the hugely popular Purple Ronnie cards. Numerous other jobs followed, including sales, working in a furniture company, a mill, a plastics company making pooper-scoopers, and the offices of a cruise company where she was sacked for ‘having an accent better suited to the textile industry’.

Milly’s whirlwind marriage was becoming increasingly violent and abusive and after the birth of her second son, she found the courage to end the marriage and return to Barnsley. In 2004 Simon & Schuster published her first book, The Yorkshire Pudding Club.

With her readership building steadily, Milly found her way on to TV’s Come Dine with Me – and won. Her book sales rose 30%, she received hundreds of marriage proposals and a friend of a friend, called Pete, took her out for a coffee. They’ve been together ever since.

Now one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK, having written 17 novels and with millions of copies of her books sold across the world, Milly’s star continues to rise. In 2020, she was honoured with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Milly’s life, like her writing, shows that with drive and an indomitable spirit, life really can be magical.

Milly Johnson lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

 



Catherine Tinley, Rags-to-Riches Wife, Mills & Boon Historical
Winner, The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award, (for novels set in a period before 1970)

 

 

 

 

In Rags-to-Riches Wife, lady’s maid Jane Bailey’s life is turned upside down by the arrival of wealthy gentleman Robert Kendal, who takes her to visit her long-lost, aristocratic grandfather. Travelling together, they succumb to a mutual attraction. Society decrees they cannot marry, but how long can Jane deny her heart?

Catherine has a busy day job managing an NHS maternity hospital, so writes mainly at the weekends. She won a Rita Award in the USA for her first book, Waltzing with the Earl.

Catherine Tinley lives in Newry, Co Down in Ireland with her husband, three YA children, four cats, and her beloved dog, Carey.

 

Julie Houston, Sing Me a Secret, Aria, Head of Zeus
Winner, The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award, (for the most commercially successful and popular romantic novel of 2020 as voted for by book bloggers, librarians and booksellers)

 

 

 

 

 

Julie’s novel is the story of the four Sutherland sisters, who have led very different lives. But one secret and a slightly tense production of Jesus Christ Superstar in the village of Westenbury is about to bring them back together, as well as open old wounds.

Sing Me a Secret was inspired by Julie’s own venture into musical theatre.

Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me, Looking for Lucy and A Village Affair, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle Number1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

She lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

About the Award Sponsors

The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award

Bestselling author Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped her bring these to life. She’s been a porter in an auction house, tried her hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and she’s even been on a Ray Mears survival course. She loves being a writer; to her there isn’t a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. She particularly enjoys writing love stories. She believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories. www.katiefforde.com, @KatieFforde.

Katie Fforde said, “Discovering the stars of the future is a joy and I am thrilled to be sponsoring this award. There is so much talent here and so much promise of the joys to come. A beacon of light in a very difficult year.” 

The Libertà Shorter Romantic Novel Award

Libertà Books is a light-hearted website (libertabooks.com) where readers and authors share their experience, discoveries, favourites and occasional oddities. Run by four multi-published authors, it has evolved to cover advice on writing and, in the real world, well-received workshops for both experienced and aspiring writers. Limited to the virtual world in 2020, Libertà offered visitors a huge variety of blog posts, including a multi-part mystery serial set in today’s Covid world. Expect more interesting material in 2021.

Liz Fielding said, “The short romantic novel is like a hug – makes you feel human again and gives you hope.”

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award

Ian Chapman, CEO of Simon & Schuster UK and International, said “Jackie was kind, brilliantly astute, with a wicked, mischievous sense of humour. She was a consummate storyteller and made her craft look easy, like all great practitioners.  We have long made a solemn commitment to ensure that her legacy endures and are incredibly proud to partner with the Romantic Novelists’ Association again to sponsor the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller award to support her fellow writers, and our heartfelt congratulations go to Louise on winning the award this year.” 

The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, and the Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award

Goldsboro Books is the UK’s leading independent bookshop, specialising since 1999 in first editions, signed, collectable and exclusive books. Situated in Cecil Court in London’s West End, and – as of December 2020 – Brighton’s famous Lanes, it has gained a reputation for championing debut authors, as well as creating the UK’s largest book collectors’ club, and is influential in selling large quantities of hard-back fiction.

David Headley, M.D. of Goldsboro Books and founder of DHH Literary Agency, said, “This time last year, no one could have predicted how the book world would look 12 months on. However, if the last year, and this shortlist, teaches us anything, it’s that books continue to be an escape for people, even at the very worst of times; and that romantic authors continue to be some of the most innovative, funny and warm writers out there. Goldsboro Books is proud to be sponsoring both the Contemporary Romantic, and the Historical Romantic Novel Awards. Congratulations to Milly and Catherine.”

The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award

Sapere Books is a digital first publisher of romantic fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction, crime fiction and thrillers. Sapere Books launched in 2018 and specialises in reissuing novels which have gone out of print and developing relationships with both new and established writers.

Amy Durant from Sapere Books said, “We are thrilled for Julia as the recipient of the Sapere Books Popular Fiction Award. She was up against some very strong competition but is a very well-deserved winner.”


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