Romantic Novelists' Association

RNA Joan Hessayon Award For New Writers 2023 – Eight Contenders Announced

20 June 2023




TUESDAY 20th JUNE 2023 A novel set in fifteenth century Florence, a steamy romance about second chances, and a story whose heroine has a disability are three of the eight debut novels vying for our RNA Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers for 2023.

The award is for authors whose novels have gone through the New Writers’ Scheme and are subsequently accepted for publication. Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases the 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Established in 1962, the New Writers’ Scheme provides support to unpublished romantic fiction authors.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.

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.’

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

The eight contenders for 2023 are as follows:


Dark Sanctuary, Sarah Callejo, SpellBound Books

Love You From A-Z, Linda Corbett, One More Chapter

Always By Your Side, Julie Haworth, Simon & Schuster UK

Last First Kiss, Stella Holt, Tule Publishing

Their Wildest Safari Dream, Suzanne Merchant, Mills & Boon True Love

The Rose of Florence, Angela M Sims, Romaunce Books

Let’s Just Be Friends, Katy Turner, Joffe Books

This Child of Mine, Emma-Claire Wilson, Avon