Romantic Novelists' Association

RNA Joan Hessayon Award Contender: Suzanne Merchant – Their Wildest Safari Dream

12 July 2023

Picture of author Suzanne Merchant. Bobbed blonde hairand light blue collared shirt in front of greenery.Cover of Their Wildest Safari DreamEast Sussex-based author Suzanne Merchant, who lives in Maresfield, is a contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2023 with her novel, Their Wildest Safari Dream. The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and are subsequently accepted for publication.

Born and raised in South Africa, Suzanne and her husband lived and worked in Cape Town, London, Kuwait, Baghdad, Sydney and Dubai before settling in the Sussex countryside. They enjoy visits from their three grown-up children, and are kept busy attempting to keep two spaniels, a dachshund, a parrot and a large unruly garden under control.

She commented, ‘My overriding emotion at being a contender for the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon award is one of gratitude. I’m grateful to Mills & Boon for awarding me my first publishing contract, and to the organisers of the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA for the tremendous support they have provided along the way. Huge thanks are also due to my family, for their unfailing support and for believing I could do it!’

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.

THEIR WILDEST SAFARI DREAM (Publisher: Mills & Boon True Love)

Eleven years ago, zoologist Anna fled, heartbroken by Jack’s dismissal of her love. Returning to Themba, the wildlife reserve and the only place she has ever called home, means facing him again. Their attraction is fiercer than the African sun, but is it strong enough to bind them together forever?