Romantic Novelists' Association

Joan Hessayon Award 2021 – Contenders Announced

10 September 2021

Joan Hessayon Award 2021 contenders - pictures of authors and book covers

Joan Hessayon Award 2021 contenders - pictures of authors and book coversWe are delighted to announce the 2021 line-up for the prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

The contenders for this award are all authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Each year, unpublished authors are invited to join the scheme which allows them to take full advantage of everything the RNA offers, including conference sessions and opportunities to network and meet industry professionals and other authors. They are also invited to submit their work in progress for a critique by one of the Association’s published authors.

This year’s debuts show the wide range of stories encompassed by the romance genre, from the house just down the street to the sun-soaked beaches of Italy and that different world that is the past, these books deal with themes we all recognise and hold close to our hearts. In difficult times, these are the books that have comforted us and given us hope. They have made us laugh, cry and believe in a happy ever after.

Commenting on the contenders for 2021, RNA President Katie Fforde said, “One of the most exciting times in the RNA year is when the Joan Hessayon candidates are announced. These are the writers who have come through our New Writers’ Scheme and have achieved publication. The standard is always high and these ‘New Writers’ often go on to become best sellers. I know I’m not the only one who feels extremely proud of them all. They feel like our own and we all get huge pleasure of their success.”

The Award will be announced on 18th September 2021 at the RNA’s York Afternoon Tea at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, York.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

The full list of contenders for 2021 is:


Caroline Day, Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life, Bonnier, Zaffre

Penny Hampson, The Unquiet Spirit, Crooked Cat/Darkstroke

Helga Jensen, Twice in a Lifetime, Hera Books

Claire Marchant, The Secrets of Saffron Hall, Avon

Lucy Morris, The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance, Harlequin Historical

Nancy Peach, Love Life, One More Chapter

Zelah Roberts, Midsummer Man, Totally Entwined

Anni Rose, Recipe for Mr Right, Choc Lit Publishing

Kate G. Smith, You’ve Got Mail, Orion Dash

Suzanne Snow, The Cottage of New Beginnings, Canelo

Victoria Springfield, The Italian Holiday, Orion Dash

The New Writers’ Scheme has been run by the RNA since 1962 and is unique among professional writing associations. It aims to encourage fresh talent in the writing of romantic novels that reflect all aspects of love and life, contemporary or historical.

Manuscripts submitted under the scheme are from unpublished authors and are read by an experienced writer or editor who provides invaluable feedback. Any manuscript that is subsequently published by an RNA-recognised publisher as a debut novel is eligible for the Joan Hessayon Award. All eligible books are judged by a panel of experienced RNA members who are already published authors, and this year the final round judges are Rhoda Baxter, author and Chair of Authors North; Laura Longrigg, MBA Literary Agency and Sara-Jade Virtue, Simon & Schuster.