But as always a winner had to be crowned and this year we saw a YA novel win the award for the first time when Joss Stirling’s Struck was announced by the Romantic Novelists’ Association as Romantic Novel of the Year 2015. The book follows young American girl Raven Stone as she looks into the unusual behaviour of her peers at a British boarding school with her classmate Kieran Storm.
Pia Fenton, chairman of the RNA, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that a Young Adult book has won the overall award of Romantic Novel of the Year. It’s such an exciting sub-genre which has been embraced by both teenage and adult readers during the last few years. This win really highlights its growing appeal and Joss’s book is fantastic – huge congratulations to her.”
A huge congratulations to Joss Stirling for her overall win! Let’s now take a look at the winners of the categories and the nominees who narrowly missed out.
The Contemporary Romantic Novel
This category is for mainstream romantic novels that are set after 1960, including genres such as chick-lit, paranormal and romantic suspense. American-born Julie Cohen was one of the nominees in this category; her previous novel Dear Thing was selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club – but Where Love Lies sadly missed out on the trophy for best Contemporary Romantic Novel this year.
Two of the authors shortlisted – Jenny Colgan and Lucy Dillon – are both familiar with the RNAs: they have won the prized Romantic Novel of the Year Award (in 2013 and 2010, respectively). And Jill Mansell, probably one of the most well-known chilck-lit authors, has also had success in the Romantic Comedy category. This year however, it was Lucy Dillon who won the contemporary romance category with her book ‘A Hundred Pieces of Me’ – a story of accepting the past to move on with the future.
The Epic Romantic Novel
An “epic romantic novel”, according to the RNA, is one that contains serious issues or themes, including “gritty or multi-generational” stories. Emma Fraser’s second novel, We Shall Remember, was nominated, although you may know her by the name Anne Fraser under which she has written 19 medical romances. The medical theme is still present in this book, though; a gripping tale of a medical student living in Warsaw – not something we’re used to reading about in romance novels.
Elizabeth Buchan won the Romantic Novel of the Year back in 1994; over 20 years later, she’s still writing epic romance novels and was once again shortlisted for the category. She’s an established name in chick-lit, but I Can’t Begin to Tell You marked a major departure, as she stepped into historical fiction.
It was Ella Harper who claimed the title of winner of the epic romance category with her novel Pieces of You – a book inspired by personal grievances, and her first under this name (her previous books have been under the name of Sasha Wagstaff).
The Historical Romantic Novel
This category includes stories set in time periods pre-1960 (otherwise known as “the olden days”!). There were some gripping novels in this category, including Stephen Burke with his novel The Good Italian. In the 55 years of these awards, only three men have been shortlisted for the overall Romantic Novel of the Year Award (all with female pseudonyms).
As well as being an accomplished author, Marina Fiorato – another author to make the shortlist for this category – is also a designer, actress and film producer. Is there anything she can’t do? Her book, Beatrice and Benedick, is like nothing we’ve ever seen in this category before – it cleverly weaves Shakespearean characters into the fabric of 16th-century history, imagining how Beatrice and Benedick met.
The Romantic Comedy Novel
The novels featured within this category must intend to be “continuously amusing or humorous”, and this year sees the most men shortlisted in one category: two out of six.
David Atkinson, an Edinburgh-based writer, was nominated for his feel-good book Love Byte, a 21st-century story set in his hometown.
Jimmy Rice wrote The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me with his former university pal Laura Tait – and it’s a romance comedy with a difference: both unique and realistic, it contains genuine male and female perspectives (Jimmy writes as Alex and Laura as Holly, told in alternating points-of-view).
Jane Costello’s first novel, Bridesmaids, was an instant hit, and her subsequent novels have been shortlisted for a number of awards – including the Melissa Nathan Award for Romantic Comedy. She won this award once before for The Nearly-Weds in 2010.
But it was Lucy-Anne Holmes who won the award with her novel ‘Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy’ – a modern story of a young woman navigating the twists and turns of life. With plenty of hilarious characters and incredible situations, it’s a wonderfully uplifting and funny book.
The Young Adult Romantic Novel
As we now know, Joss Stirling won this category with her novel ‘Struck’, going on to win the overall prize of Romantic Novel of the Year. Although YA has never won the overall award before 2015, the books that made the shortlist this year have been truly gripping. Cat Clarke, shortlisted for her book A Kiss in the Dark, was once a children’s author, writing about pirates, sharks and cowboys, but has proved that she can also write gritty and hard-hitting YA novels.
The RoNA Rose Award
This award (formerly the Love Story of the Year) recognises the best in category/series and shorter romance for novels which focus on the developing relationship between the leading protagonists. Serials in magazines are also eligible.
Carol Townend’s novels are generally set in Medieval England and Europe, and she knows this award ceremony well, having won the RNA’s New Writer’s Award back in 1989. Her novel Unveiling Lady Clare went on to make the shortlist 26 years on.
Interestingly, medical romance makes another appearance on the shortlist this year: Caroline Anderson, who has written over 80 novels since 1991, specialises in medical romance, and her shortlisted book Risk of a Lifetime is about an “exceptionally handsome” Dr. Shackleton and his appearance in E.R.
Louise Allen’s Scandal’s Virgin – a Mills & Boon historical novel – won the award with her story of Lady Laura Campion who has the chance to transform her life and have a shot at happiness with the Earl of Wykeham.
We thoroughly enjoyed reading the contenders and winners for this year’s RoNA awards. Bring on next year’s event with more romance, passion and excitement.