UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Shortlist Announced

The Romantic Novelists’ Association, which correctly uses an apostrophe and therefore wins my eternal love and devotion, has announced the six finalists for the 2008 Romantic Novel of the Year award. The award, which was created in 1960 to “promote excellence in romantic novels and increase literary recognition of the genre” is announced near Valentine’s Day.

The finalists are:

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

image Book Cover Book Cover

Most, if not all, are going to be released in the US during 2009 well after the award is announced. LadyFerris, who sent me the link above, said she’d only read Star Gazer – about a blind woman and a man who wants to take her to see the stars over Skye –  and said it was “unusual and highly recommended.”

Two things strike me: one, the covers are opulent and strikingly beautiful. Yay for good covers! Two, not all of them appear to be straight up romances—Before the Storm appears to be a “family saga” from the review I found online. East of the Sun is about three women who journey to India during the British rule to find husbands and is called by most reviewers a “historical novel.”  Last Concubine is a historical fiction novel about the last concubine in a women’s palace in 1865 Japan.

Sophia’s Secret seems very intriguing from the description: “Carolyn McClelland, a writer of historical novels, finds herself with a familiar enemy; writer’s block. A change of scenery leads her, and her book, in a whole new direction…. Inexplicably drawn to Slains Castle, and not so inexplicably drawn to the charming, but somehow familiar, Stuart Keith, Carolyn is soon writing with an unusual speed and imagery which leads her to wonder whether her ‘fictional’ character of Sophia is really so fictional after all.” And Ahern’s book, though dismissed somewhat in the Reed review as full of “contrivance and a multitude of sitcom mixups,” seems to be, judging from a superficial read of the description, a comic romance set against tragic beginnings.

If you’re looking for future ideas of what to read, these books are due out beginning in April and continuing through summer 2009. Have you read any of them? What did you think?


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  1. 1

    Two things strike me: one, the covers are opulent and strikingly beautiful. Yay for good covers! Two, not all of them appear to be straight up romances

    On the second point, that’s a reflection of the fact that it’s the “Romantic Novelists’ Association” not the “Romance Novelists’ Association.” On the website it says that:

    The Romantic Novelists’ Association […] is also honouring writers of shorter romances such as those published by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

    “Although both awards celebrate novels with a high romantic content,” explains Catherine Jones, Chairman of the RNA, “the Romance Prize honours the most memorable stories set around a single theme that concentrates on the developing love affair.”

    The Romance Prize will be presented at the RNA’s Awards Lunch on 10th February 2009 at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington. The winner will be selected from the shortlist, viewable by clicking here

  2. 2
    theladyferris says:

    Ooh I recommend Kate Hardy too!  The one about the coffee shop – won a prize a couple of years ago I think?

  3. 3
    Gemma says:

    There isn’t really a pure romance genre section in British bookshops, apart from the Mills & Boon stand. Apart from M&B;, straight romance isn’t really written or published here. Chic Lit and Saga, and some American author imports (e.g. Danielle Steel), are shelved in general fiction.

    In some ways this association will be fighting an uphill battle.

  4. 4

    The one about the coffee shop – won a prize a couple of years ago I think?

    I think so much has happened in the past year that it just feels that way! ;-)  Kate Hardy’s Breakfast at Giovanni’s won the RNA Romance Prize in 2008.

  5. 5
    Elyssa Papa says:

    I’ve only read Ahern’s and thought it was good. I haven’t checked out the others though.

  6. 6
    Marianne McA says:

    I think ‘Sophia’s Secret’ has a different title in the US: ‘Winter Sea’, perhaps?
    Just checked her website – it’s also called ‘The Winter Sea’.

  7. 7
    Anony Miss says:

    I am totally in love with the covers of the Indian book, the Concubine book and Sophia’s. SHMAgorgeous.

  8. 8

    Good luck to all the entrants! The long list was awesome, and the short list is great, too!
    The romance market in the UK is completely different to the US, and “pure” romance is fairly rare. I love the variety, and the difference.
    I met some fellow members of the RNA last week at Jean Fullerton’s launch for “No Cure For Love” last week (go, Jean!) and we were all excited by the shortlist. Some great writers there.

  9. 9
    kittyfischer says:

    My cousin gave me Ahern’s book for my birthday.  Haven’t read it yet, though.

  10. 10
    Marg says:

    I’ve read and reviewed The Last Concubine and East of the Sun. I didn’t mind The Last Concubine, but I really enjoyed East of the Sun. Interesting to see it classified as romantic.

  11. 11
    theladyferris says:

    Thanks, Laura – 2008 did go on a bit, didn’t it?  Certainly that blasted presidential election seemed to last forever! :-)

    More on the shortlist here:

  12. 12
    ev says:

    Some of them look intriguing. It will be interesting to see what they classify them as when they hit our shelves.

  13. 13
    Leah says:

    I read Cecilia Ahern’s “Thanks for the Memories” because it was one of the few books I could find in Luxembourg City in English while on vacation.  I had already read my Sandra Brown and Lisa Jackson romance/thrillers twice on the plane and train. Maybe it was because it was such a sweet, heartbreaking and absolutely lyrical book after Sandra Brown where everyone hates/luuuuurves everyone else until the very end, but for whatever reason, I absolutely loved it.  I have heard Ahern’s books referred to as “modern fairytales,” and there is certainly a magical aspect to them.  I would absolutely recommend it, and I hope she wins the prize.

  14. 14
    DS says:

    I would love to read the Kearsley.  I’ve read a few of hers that I’ve found here and there and I highly recommend her.  Unfortunately Amazon says something about Winter Sea being out of print and there are no used offers.

  15. 15
    DS says:

    Yay, I checked and found it there under Sophia’s Secret.  New paperback for under $10.00 + shipping.

  16. 16
    Elayna Smith says:

    Cecelia Ahern would definitively have my vote.  The book was fantastic.

    Of course I could be biased as I have loved all of her books.  They always have something different about them, rather than being straight up.

  17. 17

    Sarah, thanks so much to you and everyone else here for the mention (and the kind words about my cover!). I’ve literally just walked in the door after getting off the plane from London, and I’m still walking on air, it’s all very exciting… (And Cecelia Ahern, in case anyone’s curious, is Incredibly Nice as well as being so talented) (Actually, all the other shortlisted authors were).

    @DS: The Winter Sea/Sophia’s Secret hasn’t yet been picked up by a US publisher, which is why you won’t find it on, but it can be found on, and will be out in a new mass market paperback here in Canada in May, if that helps any.

    And Sarah, if you’re truly interested in reading the book, just let me know. I’d be happy to send you a copy from my own shelves.

    Thanks again for the post.

  18. 18
    Joline says:

    My friend recommended me a very interesting place ^^^^MillionaireLoving. C O M^^^^ It ‘s where you have the opportunity dreaming about dating a millionaire and make it true!

  19. 19
    DS says:

    @Susanna Kearsley :  If I had known you were going to show up I would have fangirled more about how I agreed with the five star review on Amazon whose author compared you to Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense (high praise in my opinion).  The source for your book I did find was someone who had imported a few new copies so you are making a sale.

  20. 20

    @DS: It’s high praise in my opinion, too. Thank you.

    And don’t worry—I use Alibris myself all the time! Just happy you could find a copy. I hope you find the story worth the effort.

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