Romantic Novelists' Association

Meet The Contenders For The Sapere Books Popular Fiction Award 2020

18 February 2020

Congratulations to the Contenders for the Sapere Books Popular Fiction Award

The Glittering Hour, Iona Grey, (Simon & Schuster)

1925: As the Bright Young Things tear through London on a tide of champagne and scandal, socialite Selina Lennox encounters penniless painter Lawrence Weston, changing both their lives forever. 1936: Alice is left with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover old secrets and devastating truths.

Where did the inspiration for The Glittering Hour come from?

The book was based on the experiences of my mother and grandmother, and writing it helped me make sense of some painful aspects of my family history and the effect the past can have on the present.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
As a writer my main priority is to create a story that will resonate with readers, so to be nominated in this category is a huge compliment and an incredible honour.


The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, Anstey Harris, Simon & Schuster

Cellist Grace lives a half-life, waiting for the ‘real thing’ to begin – until an incident in Paris throws her relationship with boyfriend David into stark relief. It takes a wise old man and an angry teenager to help her find herself, through the world of music that they share.

Where did the inspiration for The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton come from?

My husband is the internationally renowned violin maker Colin Cross. I wrote the first draft of this novel while working front-of-house in his shop and learning how diverse and interesting the world of stringed instruments is. We are a very musical family – my daughter is the singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan. My son, Joe, has a degree in guitar-making and my other daughter, Ella, sings like an angel although she never performs, except for her children and in any family singalongs (whenever we all get together). I am difficult to remove from the karaoke mic if I find one …

When we moved back to my childhood home of Deal in Kent after our kids had left home, I set up an office on the third floor of our house and would sit in there, late into the night, writing. One night, I looked up and saw, silhouetted in the light of the room opposite, a man playing the cello. The cellist was Matt Sharp, one of the UK’s leading cellists who plays with orchestras all over the world. I based all of Grace’s physical movements while playing the cello on Matthew and, when the book was finished, he very kindly took the role of technical adviser – reading through it to make sure all my cello information was accurate.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I am so thrilled to be shortlisted for this award. It’s such an honour and a lovely recognition for my agent and my whole team at Simon and Schuster for all the hard work they put into making this book fly.


The Flat Share, Beth O’Leary, (Quercus)

Tiffy needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

Where did the inspiration for The Flat Share come from?

The idea for The Flatshare stemmed from my own living situation: I had moved in with my boyfriend who is a junior doctor and was working lots of night shifts, and like Tiffy and Leon, we shared a space but often went days without seeing each other. It got me wondering what might happen if two strangers lived that way …

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I am absolutely over the MOON to have been shortlisted! What a huge, huge honour.


Poppy’s Recipe for Life, Heidi Swain, (Simon & Schuster)

Poppy’s moving into Nightingale Square, next to the community garden. She’s not close to her family but surrounded by friends, she believes she can charm grumpy neighbour, Jacob. However, the unexpected arrival of her troubled brother soon threatens her happiness and Poppy has to decide where her loyalties lie.

Where did the inspiration for Poppy’s Recipe for Life come from?

Researching both of the Nightingale Square books – which are based around a fictitious community garden in Norwich – has given Heidi Swain the opportunity to draw on memories of her rural upbringing and visit the wonderful Grapes Hill Community Garden in Norwich.

How does it feel to be a contender for the Romantic Novel Awards 2020?
I’m absolutely delighted that Poppy’s Recipe for Life has made the shortlist. It was a challenging book to write, highlighting some difficult issues. I was immensely proud of its success and popularity last summer and seeing the title on the shortlist confirms that I’ve done justice to Poppy and her brother’s story.