Romantic Novelists' Association

RNA Joan Hessayon Award Contender: Stella Holt – Last First Kiss

11 July 2023

Photo of author Stella Holt wearing black and white striped shirt, brown shoulder length hair, standing in front treeline.Cover of Last First Kiss by Stella HoltAuthor Stella Holt, who lives near Washington, D.C., USA, is a contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2023 with her novel, Last First Kiss. The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and are subsequently accepted for publication.

Author of your next binge-worthy romance series, Stella has been plotting sexy, tear-jerker stories since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Born in Georgia, USA, Stella loves all things country but calls the beach home even though she’s currently living outside Washington, D.C., with her family. Most days she can be found drinking too much coffee, collecting lipstick she forgets to wear, and baking.

She commented, ‘I am beyond excited to be a contender. The RNA has been such a wonderful group for an unpublished author to open up, share work, and receive kind critiques and help. I attended the 2018 writing conference and will always attribute my publishing contract to the help from the New Writers’ Scheme.’

Melissa Oliver, the RNA Joan Hessayon Award organiser (and winner of the award in 2020), commented, ‘Many congratulations to the 2023 contenders of the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award. The wide array of authors who have graduated from the brilliant New Writers’ Scheme and have secured publishing contracts this year is not only a testament to the success of the scheme but also to the enduring appeal of the romance genre. Well done to all of you.’

RNA Chair, Jean Fullerton, added, ‘Congratulations to all of the 2023 contenders for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award for graduates of the most excellent New Writers’ Scheme. Once again, the judges have the almost impossible task of picking a winner due to the quality of the books.’

Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a novelist, RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases a variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre. The novels are judged by a panel of published authors from the RNA and publishing industry professionals. Previous winners include Jo Thomas, Charlotte Betts, Lorna Cook and Suzie Hull.

Established in 1962, the New Writers’ Scheme provides support to unpublished romantic fiction authors. Manuscripts can be submitted for assessment and are critiqued by published authors. In addition, the 250 members of the scheme can attend RNA events and participate in  members-only activities and networking opportunities.

The winner of the award will be announced during the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference Gala Dinner, which is being held at Imperial College, London on Saturday 12th August 2023.

LAST FIRST KISS (Publisher: Tule Publishing)

After suffering loss, Charlotte has curated her life against heartbreak. But when Caleb, a gorgeous man from her past, becomes her new boss she’s forced to admit she doesn’t want to be alone. Just when Charlotte lets down her walls Caleb is faced with a challenge that could destroy them.