The Romantic Novel of the Year, 2014

Richard Lee

This year’s shortlists for the RoNAs have been announced, two of the categories relevant to the HNS. We will be featuring each of the shortlisted authors in due course.

The awards are somewhat unique in the way they are put together, so I spoke with Christina Courtenay, Chair of the RNA, who explained the judging process and introduced the judges:

“Each book entered for the awards is read three times by three different readers.  These are ordinary readers, members of the public who have expressed an interest in reading romantic fiction and helping us to judge the entries.  Each reader is sent five books and we try to match them to the categories they have specifically told us they enjoy so as not to disadvantage any authors.  For each book they read, the readers have to return a score sheet where they judge the books on everything from plot, characters and setting to overall page-turning quality.  The emphasis is obviously on romantic content, but in for example the Epic category, the background (whether historical or contemporary) can take more of a centre-stage.  And yes, a darn good book with slightly less romance can definitely win – they have done in the past.

“The three preliminary scores for each book are added together and the six books in each category with the highest score constitute the shortlist.  These six books are read one more time, usually by RNA members, and that fourth score added to the rest.  The book with the highest overall score is the winner of each category.
“The five category winners (at present not the winner of the RoNA Rose, category romance, although that will change for next year) then get sent to five final judges who choose the overall Romantic Novel of the Year Award winner.  This year the judges are Sarah Broadhurst from the Bookseller, Jane Mays of the Daily Mail, Alison Flood of the Guardian, Chris White of Waterstones and Karin Stoecker, formerly head of Harlequin in the UK.  They read all five books and then meet up to debate the issue.”
The categories of specific interest to us are firstly, the Romantic Historical Novel of the Year. Recent winners of the prize include Charlotte Betts (in 2013, for The Apothecary’s Daughter), Christina Courtenay (2012, Highland Storms), Elizabeth Chadwick (2011, To Defy a King).

The shortlist this year is:

charlotte_bettsTCharlotte Betts, The Painter’s Apprentice (England, 1687)



christina_courtenayTChristina Courtenay, The Gilded Fan (England and Japan, 1641)



liz_harrisTLiz Harris, A Bargain Struck (Midwest America, 1880s)



joanna_hicksonTJoanna Hickson, The Agincourt Bride (France, 1415)



carol_mcgrathTCarol McGrath, The Handfasted Wife (England, 1066)



annie_murrayT3Annie Murray, The Women of Lilac Street (England 1927)



Secondly, there is the relatively new Epic Romantic novel, a previous winner of which was Rosie Thomas (in 2012, for The Kashmir Shawl).

The shortlist this year is:

jessica_blairTJessica Blair, The Road Beneath Me (Scotland, 19th Century)



mary_fitzgeraldTMary Fitzgerald, Love of a Lifetime (England and Burma, 20th Century)



emma_fraserTEmma Fraser, When the Dawn Breaks (Skye, Edinburgh, France and Serbia 20th Century)


kate_lord_brownTKate Lord Brown, The Perfume Garden (England and Spain, 20th Century)



Jennifer_McVeighTJennifer McVeigh, The Fever Tree (South Africa, 19th Century)



lucinda_rileyTLucinda Riley, The Midnight Rose (England and India, 20th Century)

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