Romantic Novelists' Association

Suzie Hull Wins The RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2022

17 July 2022

SUNDAY 17TH JULY 2022 We are delighted to announce that author Suzie Hull has won our annual Joan Hessayon Award for 2022 with her novel, In This Foreign Land.

The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s 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 novelist, RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases a variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre.

The judges for this year were Jean Fullerton, RNA Chair; Thorne Ryan, Publishing Director, Avon; and Kate Burke, Senior Agent and Director, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency.

RNA Chair, Jean Fullerton, said, ‘In This Foreign Land is a powerful debut novel by Suzie Hull and a must read for any historical fiction fans. It’s an engrossing tale that takes the reader from Edwardian Colonial Cairo across to strife torn Ireland and then to stifling class-conscious WW1 London. Meticulous in its research, Ms Hull is to be congratulated on delivering such a page-turning and emotionally satisfying novel.’

Thorne Ryan, Publishing Director of Avon, added, ‘Suzie Hull’s In This Foreign Land is a sweeping, romantic wartime novel with a refreshing difference. Suzie evokes both the era and the various locations beautifully, especially Egypt, and as I read it I felt truly transported. She pulled on my heartstrings on every page. I couldn’t believe it was a debut, and I think Suzie has a very bright future ahead of her.’

Kate Burke, Senior Agent and Director at Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, also praised the winning novel. ‘Suzie’s novel is so evocative with a strong sense of place and time. We all learnt something new about Cairo in this period and felt completely transported there!’

Melissa Oliver, the organiser of the Joan Hessayon Award (and winner of the award in 2020), commented, ‘In this Foreign Land by Susie Hull is a beautifully evocative debut, with incredible attention to historical detail and set against the backdrop of a war that would soon unleash destruction and hardship in its wake. Its sweeping emotive story of love and loss pulled at my heartstrings and I’m glad that the judges were all in agreement when choosing this year’s Joan Hessayon Award winner. Well done Suzie and to all of this year’s amazing contenders.’

The award ceremony was held on Saturday 16th July 2022 at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, as part of our annual conference.


Suzie Hull lives in Northern Ireland with her family and numerous rescue cats. She originally dreamt of being a ballet dancer, but instead trained as a Montessori nursery teacher and has spent the last thirty years working with children. As a classroom assistant at her local primary school, she fits her writing in at the weekend and during school holidays. She has always had an enduring passion for history and books, and since she came from a long line of creative women it was only a matter of time before she turned to writing her own.

Her award-winning novel, In This Foreign Land, which is published by Orion Dash, is a heart-breaking WW1 romance. In 1914, Isobel Harris travels to Cairo where she falls in love with an old friend, Edward Dunwoody. They have a brief few weeks of happiness together before war is declared and they are separated. When the unthinkable happens, Isobel must make an impossible decision.