Every year, the Romantic Novelists' Association here in the UK gives an award to the best first romantic novel by a new writer. The only requirement for entry is that the book must have passed through the RNA New Writers' Scheme ( details on the RNA website, link on the sidebar at the left).
This year, we were pleased to see a number of excellent historical romances on the shortlist, and so here we bring you details, including the judges' comments.
Dilly Court - Mermaids Singing
The end of the nineteenth century is powerfully evoked in this dramatic story of brutal men and resourceful women. We were very impressed by the shifting alliances, above and below stairs; the skilful delineation of social class; and, above all, a sense of female solidarity in a frightening world. We particularly loved Bella, who goes on the stage, telling herself that now she only has to act during theatre hours, not all the time, as she did when she was with her bullying baronet of a husband. Dramatic stuff.
Wendy Soliman - Lady Hartley's Inheritance
An intriguing Regency, with a strong plot about rival claimants which is sustained to the end of the book. The unusual heroine has been an effective farm manager of her north country property and her down-to- earth approach to the exaggerations of Regency polite society is refreshing. We liked the Dickensian tone to the mystery; the thoroughly oily villain; the disinterested and honourable heroine; and a hero of real principle. The good did indeed end happily in this book.
Bloggers' note: Wendy Soliman is a member of our blog, so we were especially delighted to see her book shortlisted for the award.
Jaqueline Webb - The Scarlet Queen
This book has a terrific start as the heroine-narrator, a wonderfully horrible precocious child, travels to join her Egyptologist father on his dig. We liked the way we see her mature. The author weaves a plot of multiple elements - lack of money, professional fraud, archaeology, the scents and tastes of North Africa and the restrictions of Edwardian society which get in the way of the romantic relationship. We said the hero had all the brio of Indiana Jones with more substance. Great stuff.
Bloggers' note: If you like Amelia Peabody, make sure you try The Scarlet Queen.
If you're looking to try something new, then why not give these fabulous books a go?