Sophia Bennett, Love Song, Chicken House
London, 13th March 2017: Sophia Bennett triumphed over fellow competing authors to win the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s highest accolade, The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year, with Love Song, published by Chicken House. This is only the second time in the award’s 57 year history that the RNA’s most prestigious prize has been awarded to a Young Adult title, reflecting the increasing popularity of this sub-genre. Prue Leith presented Sophia with her trophies and a cheque for £5,000 at a star-studded event, compèred by author and broadcaster Jane Wenham-Jones.
Sophia Bennett was the winner of the Young Adult Novel of the Year category. Her book then went forward, along with those of the six other category winners – Contemporary, Epic, Historical Romantic Novel, Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy and RoNA Rose – to contest the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) most coveted award, the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year. For the first time in the awards’ history the shortlist included both traditionally and independently published authors.
It was a double first for novelist Kate Johnson, who was named winner of the first Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel Award for Max Seventeen, and was also the first self-published author in the award’s 57 year history to win one of the prestigious RoNAs.
A panel of independent judges read the seven category winners’ novels before meeting to debate the finer points of each book. The panel included Matt Bates, Fiction Buyer for WHSmith Travel; journalist and novelist Fanny Blake; Ron Johns, bookseller and publisher; and Caroline Sanderson, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Worcester and Associate Editor for The Bookseller.
Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners
Prior to announcing the overall award winner, Prue Leith revealed the winners of the individual categories and presented them with star-shaped crystal trophies.
The winners were:
Debbie Johnson, Summer at the Comfort Food Café, HarperImpulse
Winner Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year
(for mainstream romantic novels set post-1960)
Janet Gover, Little Girl Lost, Choc Lit
Winner Epic Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels containing serious issues or themes, including gritty, multi-generational stories)
Kate Kerrigan, It Was Only Ever You, Head of Zeus
Winner Historical Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels set in a period before 1960)
Kate Johnson, Max Seventeen, independently published
Winner Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel
(for novels that include elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, whether paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, time slip or worlds that include ghosts, vampires or creatures of legend.)
Penny Parkes, Out of Practice, Simon & Schuster
Winner Romantic Comedy Romantic Novel of the Year
(for consistently humorous or amusing novels)
Scarlet Wilson, Christmas in the Boss’s Castle, Mills & Boon Cherish
Winner RoNA Rose Award
(for category/series and shorter romance)
Sophia Bennett, Love Song, Chicken House
Winner Young Adult Romantic Novel of the Year
(featuring protagonists who are teenagers or young adults)
Sophia Bennett’s Love Song was a unanimous choice among the judges, who were impressed by the strength and authenticity of the main character’s voice. They felt the book was well-written with plenty of detail, and great sensitivity in some of the scenes. The judges commented “Love Song is an intelligent and thoughtful read which handles the all-consuming emotion of a first crush rather beautifully.”
Eileen Ramsay, Chairman of the RNA, said, “”This is the second year that a Young Adult novel has won the overall award, demonstrating the growing appeal of YA fiction. This wonderful story celebrates the sensitive treatment of first love. Huge congratulations to a very deserving winner!”
David Headley, Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, commented, “The diversity of this year’s winners, including for the first time, a self-published author, confirms romantic fiction as an exciting and still innovative genre, which continues to delight readers.”
Outstanding Achievement Awards
Barbara Erskine is the author of thirteen bestselling novels and three collections of short stories that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural. It is thirty years since the publication of her first novel, Lady of Hay, which has been in continuous publication since 1986 and sold over three million copies worldwide.
Adele Parks has sold over three million UK edition copies of her novels and her books have been translated into over 26 languages. Every one of her 15 novels has been a bestseller in the UK. Both Barbara and Adele were presented with outstanding achievement awards for their continued championing of the RNA and romantic fiction.