Monday, January 21, 2008

Following on from my last post...

The RNA has also announced it's shortlist for the romance prize which goes to the best category romance (books published monthly). It is fitting that in Mills and Boon's centenary year, they've swept the board on the shortlist.

I'm also really pleased to see fellow RNAers on the list - particularly Kate Hardy, who was one of the first friends I made at the RNA and who gave the most brilliantly funny talk about writing medical romances at the first conference I attended. And for those who still think M&B is about heaving bosoms and chaste kisses, go and read Julie Cohen and discover just how modern and up to date they are.

I know that M&B isn't too everyone's taste - but boy do they know how to entertain and have been doing it successfully for a hundred years, which is very neat.

And to those who would disparage the genre, I always say read Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood. The heroine writes Gothic Romances in her spare time, and describes her work as being like building castles in the air for the girls she went to school with whose dreams of riding off into the sunset with a handsome prince ended up with them having their arms in the kitchen sink. Mills and Boon give a lot of pleasure to millions of women around the world. And I for one am never going to argue with that.

PS. And to anyone who thinks a) it's easy and b)it's formulaic. a) No. It's not easy (I've tried) and b) there is no formula - the only rule I was given when I was trying to write for them was to keep the hero and heroine on the page for 90% of the time, which is fantastically difficult. I'm not a natural M&B writer, but I know lots of brilliant writers who are, and six of them are on this list, so all power to their elbow. And may the best woman win...


Thursday 17th January 2008

In their centenary year, publishers Harlequin, Mills & Boon have a full showing in the shortlist for the only prize for category romance awarded in the UK. The Romantic Novelists’ Association awards the Romance Prize each year alongside the award for Romantic Novel of the Year.

Category romance is defined as books published in a monthly cycle, which concentrate on the romantic relationship. Mills & Boon novels are read all over the world by millions of women. This year their authors stormed the shortlist, beating several other publishers into the top six.

The shortlisted titles are:
The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella - Liz Fielding
Driving him Wild - Julie Cohen
Her Parenthood Assignment - Fiona Harper
English Lord, Ordinary Lady - Fiona Harper
The Mediterranean Rebel’s Bride - Lucy Gordon
Breakfast at Giovanni’s - Kate Hardy

Fiona Harper, whose double listing is a coup for the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, said: ‘I'm so excited. One book on the shortlist was a long shot. Two was something I didn't imagine in my wildest daydreams.’

Unique to the RNA, the New Writer’s Scheme provides a critiquing service by published members to help writers new to the genre. Work considered good enough receives a second read and may be passed on to publishers. Fiona came through the scheme to win the annual prize in 2006 with Blind-Date Marriage.

Kate Hardy, who was shortlisted for the Romance Prize in 2006 is ‘absolutely thrilled. I've had a rough year, so this was a real bright spot. And to be shortlisted with my 25th title for M&B in M&B's centenary year is just fantastic.’

Julie Cohen, another New Writer’s Scheme graduate, is equally thrilled, as her book is just coming out in the US. Of Driving Him Wild the judging panel said: 'An unusual beginning leads into a passionately sexy story.’ Julie commented, ‘Pass the Champagne!’

Previous Romance Prize winner Liz Fielding was also nominated for an American RITA last year. The panel thought the characters in The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella were 'realistic, flawed and human.'

Lucy Gordon, who was also shortlisted for the Prize in 2006 and has won two RITAs, is now on her 42nd book for Mills & Boon. The panel felt there was ‘something special’ about The Mediterranean Rebel’s Bride.

The winner of the Romance Prize 2008 will be decided by the judging panel, this year comprising authors Zoƫ Barnes, Trisha Ashley and bestseller Katie Fforde. The prize will be presented at the RNA Awards Lunch on 4th February at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

For further information about the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romance Prize 2008, contact Katrina Power at Midas Public Relations on 020 7590 0802

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Romantic Novelist's Association shortlist

I'm a bit later posting this then I meant to be.

As you've probably gathered by now I am a fully paid up enthusiastic member of the Romantic Novelist's Association, though you would be lucky to catch me in a boa and rattling twinset and pearls. (Actually I don't know a single member of the RNA to whom such a description would apply. And we don't all wear pink either - got that?).

Anyway. This week they posted the shortlist for their annual award, and a very wonderful list it is too. I promised I'd help promote it, so here it is. I hope there's something here that will appeal to some (if not all - ok I'm a zealot but you won't be thrown off this blog for not being a fan of romantic fiction, I am nothing if not eclectic in my tastes!) of you. I myself am just about to dive into the JoJo Moyes - I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to write the reader's notes for The Ship of Brides which was shortlisted in 2005 and which I loved, so am looking forward to this one.


PS The winner is going to be announced on February 4 at the RNA Award Lunch, to which this year I am rather excitingly going to go for the first time...

Shortlist announced for the
Romantic Novel of the Year 2008

The Romantic Novelists’ Association today announced the shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2008. The shortlist was selected by a panel of RNA members, who scored the books on such criteria as romantic content, readability, dialogue, characters, plot, style and setting.

The shortlist includes:

One Last Summer – Catrin Collier (Orion)
Silk and Steel – Catherine King (Sphere/Little, Brown)
The Leaving of Liverpool – Maureen Lee (Orion)
Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes (Hodder & Stoughton)
Pillow Talk – Freya North (Harper Collins)
Young Wives’ Tales – Adele Parks (Michael Joseph/Penguin)

The winner of the 2008 award will be decided by the judging panel, which this year includes comedienne Helen Lederer, Good Housekeeping Books Editor Kerry Fowler, and Chris Rushby, Buying Director of Bertram Books, Britain’s leading book wholesaler.

The 2008 winner will be announced at the Awards Lunch on February 4th at the Royal Garden Hotel, London.

The panel of RNA members said of the shortlisted titles:

One Last Summer – Catrin Collier (Orion)
“It is very moving and the complexities of love and war are explored in depth. A memorable read.”

Silk and Steel – Catherine King (Sphere/Little, Brown)
“I enjoyed this book very much. It had drama, conflict, intrigue as well as love and romance. The main character, despite all the desperate situations in her life, came through it to win in the end and she was likeable and admirable.”

The Leaving of Liverpool – Maureen Lee (Orion)
“This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I loved the characters, the story, the way it was written. I love books from this era. Outstanding.”

Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes (Hodder & Stoughton)
“I was drawn into this story. I wanted to be a guest at the Silver Bay Hotel and savour the experiences and kinship of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this moving tale, with its sentiment and humour.”

Pillow Talk – Freya North (Harper Collins)
“Petra is the girl we all dreamt of being and Arlo the man we all wanted to meet. Who doesn’t wonder ‘what if…’ to the long lost first love?”

Young Wives’ Tales – Adele Parks (Michael Joseph/Penguin)
“An excellent modern romance, sharp and witty. The characters were well defined and the dialogue flowed along nicely. For me, a perfect read.”

For further information about the Romantic Novel of the Year 2008,
photographs and bios of the shortlisted authors, please contact Katrina Power at Midas Public Relations on 020 7590 0802 or

Notes to Editors

Romantic Novel of the Year Award: The Award was inaugurated in 1960 to recognise excellence in romantic novels and thereby enhance the standing of the genre. Any novel which is published in the UK (or simultaneously with other countries) in 2007 is eligible for the Award.

2007 Winner: The 2007 winner was Rosie Thomas for Iris & Ruby. Recent winners include Erica James, Katharine Davies, Jojo Moyes, Sarah Mason, Cathy Kelly, Philippa Gregory, Maureen Lee and Clare Chambers. To download past winners: log onto

Organisers: The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) was set up in 1960 to promote respect for the genre and to encourage excellence. Full membership is open to authors who have published a romantic novel or a romantic serial. Aspiring writers are admitted as probationary members. In 2005, an RNA team beat teams from Wisden and The Economist in University Challenge - The Professionals, only going down to the Privy Council in the final. The Chairman is Catherine Jones. For more information log onto

Submissions: 189 submissions were received this year from 22 large and small publishers. 5 publishers submitted for the first time, and there were several first-time authors.

Judging: 90 keen members of the reading public, drawn from all over the country, with an even distribution in age groups, selected the long list of 21 titles. Each book was scored three times to achieve the long list, the criteria covering romantic content, readability, characters, plot, dialogue, style and ending. A panel of RNA members then whittled this down to the shortlist, which is then assessed by the judging panel.

Judging Panel: the panel for 2008 is chaired by comedienne, actress and author Helen Lederer, who is joined by Kerry Fowler, Books Editor for Good Housekeeping, and Chris Rushby, Buying Director for Bertram Books.

Winner Announcement: on 4th February 2008 at the Award lunch at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington.

For further information about the Romantic Novel of the Year 2008,
photographs and bios of the shortlisted authors, please contact Katrina Power
at Midas Public Relations on 020 7590 0802 or

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A New Year's Fairytale (not)

It actually occurred to me after I'd mentioned it yesterday that actually the story of New Year's Eve 1983 is so funny, that perhaps I should retell it. (Mind you I am hoping here that no one who was actually at that party, barring Mad Twin, will pop out of the woodwork and remember it too...)

It was one of those funny evenings that happens when you're young free and single. I was eighteen, on what would now be called a gap year, just about to leave home for the first time to do voluntary work. Most of my close friends had spent their first term at college and we had spent Christmas catching up.

As usual at this period in my life, I fancied a bloke who didn't fancy me. I was a past master at that. Most of the time the object of my affection was in love with a very good friend of ours. Everyone was in love with her. It was most annoying. For her and us. And had it not been that she was (and is) exceptionally lovely she might not have survived her teens.

This particular object of my affection, though didn't fancy my friend, but was in an on/off relationship with another girl also annoyingly nice. That Christmas the relationship appeared to be off, and I had entertained ridiculously high hopes that he might look my way. So it was with some disappointment that I witnessed his arrival with said girl at the start of the party.

There was only one thing to do after that, and it was to enlarge my acquaintance with vodka and orange, which that night tasted like nectar. It also didn't taste of alcohol, so I didn't quite realise how much I'd had.


So it was that I found myself pouring my woes out to a friend of Mad Twin's. Now the problem (sometimes) with having a twin is that people muddle us up, and forget which one they're talking to. Or in the case of this particular friend, he'd fallen head over heels for MT, but not for me. But I was talking to him, MT wasn't (I can't honestly remember what MT was up to, but I'm sure she'll tell me), and he sort of thought I might be a good replacement. The problem with this approach to dealing with twins, is that we are very different. And I was the wrong twin. But he kissed me anyway. In the garden where I had retreated after midnight in a moment of post countdown misery.

At the very point that he kissed me, the kitchen door opened and the poor bloke who at the time fancied me (and I didn't fancy in the slightest) saw me snog someone else I didn't fancy in the slightest. He was a bit of a depressed kind of chap, so then I went into a flat spin thinking I'd made him even more miserable. Then I looked at the lad I was kissing and thought, why???? Oh god, too much vodka that's why.

Next thing I remember I am sitting in the bathroom balling my eyes out (as you do when you're eighteen and have overdone the booze), surrounded by my best girlfriends who were doing everything they could to cheer me up.

It was at this point another friend came in the room, presumably also to do his best to help with the cheering up process.

By now I'd gone through the misery stage and was in a boiling hot rage as to why the guys I fancied NEVER EVER fancied me, and what did SHE have that I didn't?

My friend's polite question as to whether or not I was allright led to me clouting him on the nose and sending his glasses spinning across the floor. I still have no idea why (but if you do perchance happen to be reading this, I am really really sorry.), but New Year's Eve's a funny old time, and anything can happen I generally find...

After that, thankfully it is all a bit of a blur.

Till the moment that I remember best, and still makes me laugh after all these years.

As my longsuffering friends tried to get me into a car and take me home before I did anymore damage, I spotted a lamppost, which suddenly called to me. Dance round me, it said. So I did. I span round and round and suddenly I was laughing out loud, and all the misery and stupidity of the evening fell away, and I felt free and flirty and young and it didn't matter anymore that I was in love with the wrong guy, had kissed the wrong guy and the wrong guy was in love with me.

I was eighteen, it was a New Year, and anything was possible.

And it was then that it came upon me in a moment of utter clarity that I'd been setting my sights at completely the wrong target. The person I truly loved was -

Well that didn't work out either.

But hey ho, by the following New Year I was coping with the embarrasment of having snogged another wrong guy at the end of term, fancying someone else who didn't fancy me, wishing this year would be the year where I met the man of my dreams.

And funnily enough it was...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Staying In. It's the New Going Out....

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve. It rates far too highly as the night of the year when one has to have fun with a capital F. I have like most people I guess, far too many dodgy memories of New Year's Eve parties that have ended in tears (though I have certain fondness for New Year's Eve 1983 - which was the first time I properly got drunk and had an evening where all sorts of mayhem ensued. It ended with me dancing round a lamppost and declaring undying love for someone who had better remain nameless, though I've no doubt if he remembers the events of the rest of that evening he probably knows who he is). So now I am settling down well into middle age, the allure of a night on the tiles is long gone. And actually I quite like the fact that the two big ones have joined us at midnight for the last couple of years. Who better to celebrate a new year with then your offspring?

So last night we decided to stay in. But then Spouse in totally mindblowingly out of character style romantic hero type behaviour decided to cook me a candlelit dinner. He insisted we dress up, so I donned a slinky black number and he donned a tux. Are we having a party? asked no 4. You're not, we are, was Spouse's response. What you're having a party without US??? she said. Too right we are...

As a mother of four I frequently feel like Mrs Large in Jill Murphy's hilarious books about the Large Family, and never more so then last night. One of her books is entitled A Quiet Night In - and Mrs Large cooks Mr Large a special birthday meal only for them both to be so exhausted they both fall asleep and the children eat their dinner.

That didn't quite happen, but it was a hoot chasing unwanted offspring to bed. We let the big ones stay up watching Life of Brian - I think their education in subversion should begin young - and drank champagne and ate steak together with the kitchen door firmly shut. It was great. All the advantages of going out, staying in.

At midnight we joined the children in the lounge, let off party poppers, drank more champagne, and watched the outrageously brilliant fireworks on tv, while the sprogs jumped into the New Year by leaping off the sofa (a German tradition they got off their granny).

It was absolutely brilliant. And reminded me yet again, why after so many years together (we celebrate a quarter of a century next year... gulp. How did that happen?) Spouse remains All That.

I think I shall be going out by staying in a lot more in 2008....