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Hazel Gaynor’s Star Shines at the RoNA Awards

Article by Writing IE Admin © 19 March 2015 .
Posted in the Magazine ( · News for Writers ).

In the magnificent setting of The Gladstone Library in the Liberal Arts Club at One Whitehall Place, London, The Romantic Novelists’ Association revealed the winners of their coveted annual awards earlier this week. With 850 entrants to be considered, the Irish has an excellent showing with four authors  in the final 36 across two categories.

With Barbara Taylor Bradford presenting the awards, guests enjoyed an abundance of canapes, scattered chocolate hearts and pink champagne as the excitement mounted. Hazel Gaynor (The Girl Who Came Home), Stephen Burke (The Good Italian) and Susan Lanigan (White Feathers) were contenders in the Historical Fiction category while Ciara Geraghty (Now That I’ve Found You) was shortlisted in the Contemporary category. And there was a huge round of applause for Hazel when her name was announced as winner of the Historical Fiction category.

Hazel told Writing.ie: “I’m struggling to express just how absolutely delighted I am to be awarded the Historical Romantic Novel of the Year for my debut novel, The Girl Who Came Home. What an incredible honour to be recognised by the RNA, and to be presented with the award by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Hearing my name read out was one of those moments you dare only dream about, and one which I will never forget. I was genuinely shocked, and am still so excited!

With the awards falling on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, it was especially lovely to be nominated alongside fellow Irish authors, Susan Lanigan and Stephen Burke. With Ciara Geraghty’s nomination in the Contemporary category, Irish fiction was very well represented on the night. I can’t wait show my gorgeous glass star to my family – no better reason to tidy my desk so that I can display it properly! Thank you to the RNA, the judges and the organisers of the awards. I am a very very happy lady.”

Inspired by true events, Hazel’s debut novel, the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Came Home is the poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard RMS Titanic—a seamless blend of fact and fiction that explores the tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants:

Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

The RNA was formed in 1960 to promote romantic fiction and to encourage good writing and now represents more than 700 writers, agents, editors and other publishing professionals. The Awards are the highlight of the year for many, but with romance one of the most popular fiction genres, the RNA Conference is always well attended. According to RNA research, more than ninety per cent of all readers like to see a bit of romance in the books they read—men as well as women.

Joss Stirling triumphed over fellow competing authors to win the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s highest accolade, the Romantic Novel of the Year, with Struck, published by Oxford University Press. Struck (formerly Storm and Stone) is the first Young Adult title to be awarded the RNA’s prestigious prize, reflecting the increasing popularity of this sub-genre. Barbara Taylor Bradford presented Joss with her trophies and a cheque for £5000 at a star-studded event, compèred by Jane Wenham-Jones.

Joss Stirling was the winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel of the Year Category, for which she also received an engraved star-shaped trophy. Her book then went forward, along with those of the five other category winners – Contemporary, Epic, Historical, RoNA Rose and Romantic Comedy – to contest the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) most coveted award, the Romantic Novel of the Year.

This year, books shortlisted for the RoNA Rose (for category/series and shorter romance) competed for the first time with all other categories for the overall prize of Romantic Novel of the Year.

A panel of independent judges read the six category winners’ novels before meeting to debate the finer points of each book. The panel included Sarah Broadhurst, formerly The Bookseller; Alison Flood, Guardian.co.uk; Jane Mays, The Daily Mail; Karin Stoecker, ex-Editorial Director of Harlequin Books and Matt Bates of WHSmith Travel.

Barbara Taylor Bradford with the RoNA winners.

Barbara Taylor Bradford with the RoNA winners.

Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners
Lucy Dillon, A Hundred Pieces of Me, Hodder & Stoughton
Winner Contemporary Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for mainstream romantic novels set post-1960, and can include chick lit, paranormal and romantic suspense)

Ella Harper, Pieces of You, Avon
Winner Epic Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels containing serious issues or themes, including gritty, multi-generational stories)

Hazel Gaynor, The Girl Who Came Home, William Morrow, (Harper Collins)
Winner Historical Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels set in a period before 1960)

Lucy-Anne Holmes, Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy, Sphere (Little, Brown)
Winner Romantic Comedy Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(for consistently humorous or amusing novels)

Louise Allen, Scandal’s Virgin, Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical
Winner RoNA Rose Award
(for category/series and shorter romance)

Joss Stirling, Struck (formerly Storm and Stone), Oxford University Press
Winner Young Adult Category Romantic Novel of the Year
(featuring protagonists who are teenagers or young adults)

Outstanding Achievement Awards
Jill Mansell’s acceptance speech had the whole room laughing when the author of twenty five novels which have consistently appeared in bestseller lists, took the stage. Carole Matthews has also written twenty five bestselling novels and both were presented with outstanding achievement awards for their continued championing of the RNA and romantic fiction.

It was a superb evening, enjoyed by all!