Book News: RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2020

The winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Associations’ Joan Hessayon Award is due to be announced tomorrow (5th September 2020) via an online presentation. 

The contenders for this award are published authors who have passed through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (as a member of this scheme myself, I can’t recommend it enough.) If you’d like more information on the scheme, click here.

There is a wonderful selection in this year’s shortlist from romantic comedies, to fairytale romance, to both historical and paranormal romance.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

The winner will be announced at 3pm on Saturday 5th September (for more details, click here or here.) I wanted to say good luck to everyone.

The writers shortlisted for the 2020 award have shared a little about their novels and what it means to them to be nominated. Some of them have also shared some writing tips with us.


Impervious by Zoe Allison

(Totally Bound). 

Vampires exist in secret. The malevolent of their kind exploit their powers to terrible ends and a league of benevolent vampires works covertly against them. Amber Ridley is unique as the only human on that team. She’s an ‘Impervious’, and immune to vampire attack. However, is Amber impervious to love?

Zoe said, “I am delighted to be in the running for this award alongside other fantastic authors. I’m also extremely grateful for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s amazing New Writers’ Scheme which gives us all such an amazing opportunity.

My bottom line in writing advice is don’t be afraid to do things your way. Whether you’re a plotter, a pantster, or a plantster there’s no right or wrong way and we’re all different. When it comes to editing the best tip I’ve had is to read your work out loud. You’ll catch loads of errors with missing or additional words and issues with flow that you’d otherwise miss because your brain automatically fills them in when you read in your head.”


Zoe Allison is a medic who writes romance in her spare time as a means to create the happy endings that real life often doesn’t provide.

Follow Zoe on Twitter. Click to view Impervious  on Amazon UK.



Her Mother’s Secret by Jan Baynham. 

(Ruby Fiction)

Alexandra inherits Elin’s diary after her death, and is shocked to discover a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. Why had Elin kept her summer in Greece a secret? Compelled to visit the same island, will Alexandra uncover what really happened in that summer of ’69?

She said, “When I started writing short stories, I never thought I’d be able to write a novel. After I’d accomplished that, I never in a million years thought I’d be published, so to be a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020 is beyond my wildest dreams. Without the RNA and so much support from other authors, I would not be here.

Always look for the positive and NEVER give up. Whenever I get a written critique, I highlight the positive comments first. Next, I do the same for the shortcomings, using a contrasting colour. If I agree, I then make a list of those, ticking them off as I edit to improve my manuscript. Seeing a critique visually and progressing through a list of things to work on is a great motivator for me.

Thank you. Good luck to my fellow contenders, too.”


Jan Baynham loves family secrets and finding skeletons that lurk in cupboards. When she decided that her main character was an artist with a well-hidden secret, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her story. As a Grecophile, she felt that the colours of the sea and flowers, together with the warmth of the people, would be perfect for an artist’s travels and it would involve more Greek holidays for Jan for the purposes of research!

Follow Jan on Twitter. Click to view Her Mother’s Secret on Amazon UK.



The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey.

(Simon & Schuster)

Tori is offered a reviewer’s spot on a wellbeing retreat, and is worried that she’ll have to share too much of herself. But as The Farm weaves its magic, she soon realises that opening up isn’t the worst thing in the world. And sharing a yurt with Bay definitely isn’t!

Laura Bambrey said, “Being shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon award, along with so many other fabulous debuts, is such an honour. I can’t thank the RNA enough for their support.

My top piece of writing advice is to read your manuscript out loud to yourself. Don’t plug it into a piece of technology to do it for you – read it in your own voice. Doing this helps you check the ebb and flow of your writing – the pacing and the sentence structure. If anything trips you up, change it so that it flows better. This is particularly helpful with dialogue – and stops any of your characters from hogging the limelight with a monologue!”


Laura Bambrey has been a book blogger for nearly ten years, writing about and reviewing books from a range of genres, but mainly commercial women’s fiction. She’s also held down a range of weird and wonderful jobs, including trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker.  She has always dreamt of writing her own books.

Whilst writing, Laura did a lot of research into loneliness, anxiety and phobias – little thinking that lockdown and Covid would come along to make these issues far more prevalent. She found the Mind.Org website to be an incredible source of information and support for those who might be seeking it.

She is keen to mix the grittier bits that life throws at you with the romance and humour that make life worth living … but she’ll always make sure her heroine gets her happy ever after in the end.

Follow Laura on Twitter. Click to view The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness on Amazon UK.



Finding Prince Charming by Victoria Garland.

(DC Thompson)

Ella abandons London’s West End for the Highlands, after a disastrous first night. Her plans to lie low are foiled when she’s asked to save the village panto. With an old flame in the wings and a Hollywood star setting her pulse racing, Ella finds more than she bargained for.

Victoria said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award! Joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was the best thing I ever did. I had such a lot of fun writing Finding Prince Charming and have made a lot of friends along the way.

What’s helped me most – apart from joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme of course! – is having a regular time to write every day. I know it wouldn’t suit most people, but I get up at 4.30am and write until the alarm goes off at 6.15am to wake the rest of the household. Am I totally insane? Probably. But the benefits are enormous: no prevaricating, a steadily increasing word count, being able to write even on days when I’m working and during school holidays. The down side? I flake out by about 9pm. But everyone’s different, so the key is to find out what works for YOU.”


Victoria Garland, was born in Scotland and still has a close affinity for all things Scottish. The inspiration for the story was a throwaway comment made by a work colleague many years ago. Her parents lived next door to Ewan McGregor’s and she told Victoria how he always took their rubbish out when he was staying with them. Victoria loved the idea of a Hollywood movie star who still had his feet firmly on the ground, and this inspired the hero in Finding Prince Charming.

Follow Victoria on Facebook. Click to view more details on Finding Prince Charming on Victoria’s website.



Until We Meet Again by Rosemary Goodacre.


Amy Fletcher and Edmond Derwent fall in love as World War I breaks out. When Edmond becomes an officer, Amy trains as a nurse, but even when she is sent to France, finding opportunities to meet is a challenge. Only their love enables them to survive the struggles ahead.

Rosemary said, “The RNA New Writer’s scheme is a brilliant way of having your work critiqued by a professional writer. It’s thrilling when that leads to publication!

Pay attention to the dialogue in your book. It should reflect the background and character of the person speaking. If the book is set in the past it should be appropriate to the era, and the person’s social class. Ideally it should be lively and perhaps funny as well.”


Until We Meet Again was inspired by the centenary of World War I, which reminded Rosemary of the heroism of the men and women from that era. She also has a great respect for the Suffragettes.

Follow Rosemary Goodacre on Twitter. Click to view Until We Meet Again on Amazon UK.



Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe by Annette Hannah.

(Orion Dash)

Lucy Woods moves to Bramblewood with her eight- year- old son, and is delighted to reunite with best friend Abbie, but didn’t expect Abbie’s older brother to have grown into such a hunk. Bitter divorce lawyer Dominic Cavendish doesn’t believe in Happy Ever Afters and isn’t impressed to find out Lucy is a wedding planner. But when Lucy’s Grandad falls in love with Dominic’s Gran, the sparks begin to fly!

Annette Hannah said “The Romantic Novelists’ Association and in particular, the New Writer’s Scheme, have been amazingly supportive on my writing journey. It’s an honour to be graduating from the scheme with so many talented authors, many of whom are friends. It feels wonderful to finally achieve my lifelong dream to become a published author and being a contender for the Joan Hessayon award feels like a rite of passage.

My writing advice would be to read, read and read some more in the genre that you would like to write in. I find it really helpful to decipher what works and what doesn’t regarding plots and writing styles. 

Write, write and write some more, just get the story down, don’t worry about spelling or finer details at this stage just write down something so you’re not staring at an empty page. 

Edit, edit and edit some more. This is where the fun begins and you can weave some magic into your story. Just be prepared to have to do it a number of times and then some.”

And finally join the RNA, it’s a wonderfully supportive organisation and I’ve made some fantastic lifelong friends there who all understand the trials and tribulations of being an author.  


Annette Hannah’s novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café, is based on the old signal box at the end of her road. Since it became automated about fifteen years ago, she’d always thought it a shame that the building was lying empty.

Every time she passed it, she thought it would be the perfect place for a cafe and that’s where the story came from. Annette lives in a beautiful town right near a river which is the inspiration for the fictional town of Bramblewood. Being from Liverpool originally, she likes to have a nod to her roots in the book as well.

Follow Annette on Twitter. Click to view Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café on Amazon UK.



Risking It All by Stephanie Harte.


Gemma has always been there for Nathan. He’s the love of her life and she made a commitment to him, one she’d never consider breaking … until smooth-talking gangster Alfie Watson comes into their lives and changes everything.

Alfie doesn’t care about true love – he wants Gemma, and the gangster always gets what he wants. When Nathan ends up owing him money, Alfie gets payback by recruiting Gemma to carry out a jewellery heist. To everyone’s surprise, she’s a natural. Until Alfie forgives Nathan’s debt, she has no choice but to accompany the gangster on more and more daring heists – even though one slip-up could cost her everything.

Nathan might have fallen under Alfie’s spell, but it doesn’t take long for him to realise that he needs to save Gemma from his own mistakes if their marriage is to have any chance of surviving. But when that means taking on the East End’s most notorious gangster at his own game, will he find himself up to the challenge?


Stephanie Harte was born and raised in North West London.

She was educated at St Michael’s Catholic Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school she trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion.

She worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS. Her career path led her to work for an international export company whose markets included The Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

For ten years, Stephanie taught regular beauty therapy workshops at a London based specialist residential clinic that treated children with severe eating disorders.

Stephanie took up writing as a hobby and self-published two novels and two novellas before signing a contract in March 2019 with Aria Fiction.

Follow Stephanie on Facebook. Click to view Risking it All on Amazon UK.




Sun, Stars and Limoncello by Stefania Hartley.

(Totally Bound)

Sonia believes that men equal heartache and disaster. After a tragedy shredded his heart to bits, Brad has sworn never to love a woman again. It’s a pity they’re so irresistibly attracted to one another and they’re forced to travel to one of the most romantic places in the world.

Stefania said, “I’m delighted for Sonia and Brad’s story to have been shortlisted, and so are Sonia and Brad. They didn’t have the faintest idea that other people were watching them.

A friend told me that Sicily is almost like another character in this book, and I’m not surprised: I was born and grew up in Palermo and, for many years, Sicily was everything I knew. When I came here to learn English, in my twenties, I couldn’t have imagined that, one day, I’d see a book of mine published!

Enjoy what you do, work hard and develop a thick skin, because rejections are very much part of the deal.”

Follow Stefania on Twitter. Click to view Sun, Stars and Limoncello on Amazon UK.




Another Us by Kirsten Hesketh.


What if Emma isn’t the person she thought she was? Her younger son has just been diagnosed with autism. She’s accidentally quit her job.The marriage she was dedicated to suddenly seems like a sham.

She’s pretty sure that she is going to have an affair with a hot new dad at the school.

The only thing that stays the same is everyone else. Emma realises it’s not them – it’s her. But if she’s not who she thought she was, can her old life fit in with the new Emma?

Kirsten Hesketh said, “I love the New Writers’ Scheme. The feedback and encouragement I received from my readers really helped to spur me on to finish Another Us and I am absolutely thrilled to be a contender for this year’s Joan Hessayon award.

As for writing advice, always check your work. I just sent my editor an email titled ‘Daft Synopsis.'”


Kirsten Hesketh’s novel Another Us is inspired by her son, who was diagnosed with mild Asperger Syndrome when he was ten. A few years later, she stumbled across a statistic which claimed that 8 out of 10 marriages with children on the spectrum end before that child is 16. It didn’t reflect her own experience or that of friends in the same situation but it did make her ask ‘what if’? How might she have reacted if she’d known about the statistic from the start? And so the idea behind Another Us was born. Her son thinks there should be more people on the spectrum in literature as they represent 1 in 85  of the population. “Don’t feel you have to make them the hero or the victim, though Mum,” he said. “They can just be a person.” She hopes she’s achieved that.

Follow Kirsten on Twitter. Click to view Another Us on Amazon UK.



The Marked Lord by Sharon Ibbotson.

(Choc Lit)

It’s 1803 and widowed aristocrat Sophy De Browarec must flee France after being exposed as an undercover British agent. Fearing for her life, she returns to Cornwall to seek help from the only living link to her past, noted botanist Fitz Ravensbourne. Lord Ravensbourne has suffered his own share of misfortune. He has become a near recluse, but still reluctantly accepts Sophy into his home. Sophy and Fitz’s relationship is strained and her return could bring danger to Ravensbourne – but there is something that prevents Fitz from casting her out, something almost forbidden …

Sharon said, “As a lifelong fan of the romance genre, and in particular the work of Netta Muskett, to be eligible for this award from the Romantic Novelist’s Association is a dream come true. The RNA and their New Writer’s scheme was a lifeline for me at a point in my writing career where I felt myself floundering, and the direction they provided was invaluable. I can’t thank them enough, and to be eligible now for this award – the best graduation ceremony a new writer could imagine – only reinforces my belief in the work they do for new writers. I am very grateful for this association.

My advice is don’t write while under the influence of alcohol. There’s nothing worse than waking up after a night of wine-sodden writing and realising you’ve killed off a character you didn’t intend to, while your normally tightly leashed plot line has wandered off all over the place.

(Btw this is genuine advice. I once went to a restaurant where I had to review the food and every course came with a glass of wine plus there were champagne cocktails as well and the next morning I opened my notebook to start typing out my review and found nothing but lines of lines of scribble with one word ‘BLACKCURRANT’ over the top in violent marker pen)”

Follow Sharon via her blog. Click to view A Marked Lord on Amazon UK.



A Mistletoe Miracle by Emma Jackson,

(Orion Dash)

A cosy hotel in a snow-covered village should be the perfect setting for Christmas but for Beth, returning to her childhood home after a break-up, it looks more like a festive fiasco. Between mince pie emergencies and disgruntled guests, Beth needs to find a miracle under the mistletoe this Christmas.

Emma said, “It’s wonderful to be a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award alongside other NWS graduates. Without the Elizabeth Harrison bursary I wouldn’t have been able to attend the RNA Conference last year, where I heard about Orion Dash and was encouraged to submit my manuscript by the supportive writers I met there, and through the association throughout my first year as a member.

It can be easy to tie yourself in knots trying to accommodate all the advice you are given, so remember that every opinion of your work – agents, editors, beta-readers, your mum’s – is subjective; trust your own instincts about the story you want to tell.”

The idea for writing A Mistletoe Miracle came to Emma Jackson when she visited Alfriston with her partner and one-year-old to watch them turn on the lights. That one year old is now eight.

Follow Emma on Twitter. Click to view A Mistletoe Miracle on Amazon UK.



The Girl from the Workhouse by Lynn Johnson.


Set in the Staffordshire Potteries in 1914. Fourteen-year-old Ginnie must survive loneliness in the workhouse and a job that nobody wants in a factory. Sam can help her, but he has his own horrors to face as a soldier. Will they find each other again?

Lynne said, “It’s amazing to be shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Association’s Joan Hessayon Award. I have so enjoyed bringing my characters to life although there were many times when I didn’t think I would make it. The RNA New Writers’ Scheme encouraged me to write in a supportive environment, and to do rather than think about doing. If anyone is writing with romance in mind, treat yourself and join the RNA. You’ll be glad you did.

One of the most powerful pieces of advice I have ever been given is – Find your voice and you will have your novel. It is so true. It’s not just about how your characters speak, it’s about letting their voices shine through your writing. Let your characters tell their stories to you, and listen to what they have to say. I get them to do monologues in their own voices, talk about their histories and their problems, and I ask them what they want to happen. It is then up to the author to recognise the voice and to frame it within the story.”


Lynn was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent and went to school in Burslem, the setting for the novel. The story was inspired by her grandmother, who spent time in the local workhouse, and most of her family have worked for well-known Potbanks. Lynn left school with no qualifications, she picked them up along the way. Her first job after leaving school at 15 was in Hanley Library, Stoke-on-Trent, and her last job, as a Relief Library Assistant, was in Orkney Library and Archives. She never imagined that one day she might see her own book on the shelves.

Follow Lynn on Facebook. Click to view The Girl from the Workhouse on Amazon UK.



The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating by Nina Kaye.

(Orion Dash)

Set in a glitzy gin bar where Liv is working to pay the bills after her high-flying career goes off the rails. She’s never let romance distract her, but with one very hot colleague, a mysterious online follower who might be her soulmate, and a lot of cocktails, Liv’s dating life is about to be shaken up. Sometimes you have to face up to your past, seize your future, and mix your own recipe for happy ever after.

Nina said, “The New Writers Scheme is a really great opportunity. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned through being part of the RNA, and for how it has helped me on my journey to becoming a published author.

I’m not someone who can visualise a whole scene before I write it, which means I can suffer from ‘the fear‘ [of what to write]. When that kicks in, I tell myself all I need to do is sit at my computer and write one hundred words. That keeps the procrastination monster at bay – and once I’m in the flow there’s no stopping me!”


Nina Kaye started writing properly during a difficult period of illness. It helped her recover at a time when she wondered if she’d ever get her life back. Though she’s still battling chronic symptoms every day, her life has changed for the better because she’s achieved her dream of becoming a published author.

Follow Nina on Twitter. Click to view The Gin Lover’s Guide To Dating on Amazon UK.



Make It Up To You by Lucy Keeling.

(Choc Lit)

Sophie thinks it’s a crazy idea to involve her friend’s gardener brother, Marcus, in her make-up tutorial videos, especially as they have a habit of rubbing each other up the wrong way. So, when her channel becomes wildly popular with Marcus on board, it leaves her with a dilemma …

Lucy said, “I’m so grateful to the Romantic Novelists Association for the support they offer to aspiring authors. Going through their New Writers Scheme and discovering I’ve been shortlisted for this award is incredible. If you’d have told me two years ago when I was typing, in-between feeding my baby and working part-time, that I would be here now, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

When editing, use a text to speech app so that you can hear your work being read. It’ll help you spot the mistakes your eyes are missing. And I use Minstrels or Maltesers as a reward for every 250 words edited. This isn’t so much advice as it is a plea for more chocolate please.”


Lucy wrote this story whilst working part-time, entertaining a three year old, feeding a one year old, with the support of her husband, and only a little bit of organisational skill. She’s still not sure how it was all done, but then she looks around at the pile of clean clothes still to be put away and she can see quite clearly that there is a lot of housework to catch up on.

Follow Lucy on Twitter. Click to view Make It Up To You on Amazon UK.



Halleholm – Lovisas Choice by Ruth Kvarnström-Jones

(Printz Publishing)

Halleholm: Lovisas Choice is a modern Romeo and Juliet saga; the tale of a feuding family set in a picturesque town in the Stockholm archipelago, from the 1920s until present day. It’s a tale of love, loyalty – and luscious, sweet cinnamon buns.

Ruth said, “I couldn’t be happier or prouder. All the sweat and tears have paid off. Now I’m a published writer, I’m living my dream life, and I’m incredibly grateful to all who have helped me along the way.

I set myself one rule: a painful rejection may only last a day. Buy shoes, eat cake, whatever. Then get back to writing the following day.”


Halleholm – Lovisas Choice is set in a fictitious town in the Stockholm archipelago. As a born and bred Brit, originally from Warrington, who moved to Sweden thirty-five years ago, this novel is the result of Ruth’s love of Sweden and its culture, plus an insatiable interest in Stockholm’s history that began while studying Scandinavian Studies at UCL in the early eighties. She resigned from her own translation and copywriting agency, where she worked as a copywriter, to write novels in 2013. A decision she’s never regretted. Ruth is the ‘Brit’ in Sweden and the ‘Swede’ in Britain.  Lovisas Choice, to some extent, is a tribute to all the dual-souls out there.

Follow Ruth on Twitter. For more information on Halleholm – Lovisas Choice, visit Ruth’s website.



The Viking’s Cursed Bride by Mairibeth MacMillan.


Aoife has been an outsider all her life. Rejected by her family, she is forced to marry one of the invaders to ensure her family’s safety. Jarl Tormod intends to settle on the Clyde and to marry a Briton. High-born Aoife will ensure the safety and prosperity of the Norse settlement. But when Aoife’s family’s deception is revealed, a near-fatal betrayal in Tormod’s past threatens to destroy all.

Mairibeth said, “I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted for this award — it makes the publication of my debut novel seem so much more real!

My writing advice would be: Finish the book. It’s as easy, and as difficult, as this!”


Mairibeth’s local school’s badge and the village crest both feature Viking longships, but it wasn’t until she was looking at an old map that she saw a Viking fort marked near where her parents used to live — and in a friend’s garden! She’d always been aware that there had been Vikings on the River Clyde but hadn’t been aware of just how long they were around for. When she went to the Rock of Ages event at Dumbarton Rock a few years ago, she heard about the Siege of Alt Clut in 870 and became fascinated by the different mix of peoples living in the area at that time. When she started writing the book, the news was full of very negative stories about immigration, but history shows that this is an area which has been home to many different peoples over the centuries.

Follow Mairibeth on Twitter. Click to view The Viking’s Cursed Bride on Amazon UK.



The Rebel Heiress and the Knight by Melissa Oliver.

(Mills and Boon Historical)

Widow Eleanor of Tallany Castle knows her people are broken by the taxes demanded by King John. So when she’s ordered to marry Hugh de Villiers, a knight loyal to the king, she’s furious—even if he is handsome. As gallant Hugh begins to heal the scars of Eleanor’s abusive first marriage, she’s even more determined to keep her secret: she is the outlaw the king wants to send to the gallows!

Melissa said, “I am thrilled to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award!

Read as many books as you can from authors you really, really love. (This should be recently published novels). Work out what it is you love about these books- for instance, is it the plot, the structure, or the dialogue etc? Write down every thing in bullet points and then flip this by writing what you don’t like. This is such a useful exercise to determine why you, as an author, are drawn to certain voices, themes and plots and will eventually help you find your own individual voice and where it could possibly fit within the market.”


Melissa Oliver wanted to write a medieval romance set against a back-drop of real historical events, and the bitter divisions between King John and the Barons in 1215 provided the perfect element of intrigue, adventure and excitement. There’s also a nod to the legend of Robin Hood, which some historians believe took inspiration from the real-life story of Fulk FitzWarin III.

Follow Melissa on Twitter. Click to view The Rebel Heiress and the Knight on Amazon UK



The Servant by Maggie Richell-Davies.

(Sharpe Books)

Hannah may be the granddaughter of a merchant and daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she’s come down in the world to work in the kitchens of a disgraced aristocrat. In his house of mysteries, she uncovers evidence she cannot ignore. But speaking out will put her in danger.

Maggie said, “Having always swooned at a good love story, I am absolutely chuffed to have my own effort – wrapped inside a historical novel – shortlisted by the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

  • Join a writing group.
  • Your Mum will say your stuff is fabulous. Your partner will be too scared of being banished to the spare room. But fellow writers can spot weaknesses or plot holes and give constructive criticism. I’d never have had The Servant published without mine:
  • Get a cat. The next best thing you can do is read your work aloud, to a silent audience. A dog will look reproachful at not being given a walk. But a cat will fold its elbows underneath its tummy and stare as if every word is precious. And the reading aloud process will immediately highlight any over-writing or purple prose in a way studying a printed page never can.
  • If you are stuck for inspiration for a new book, but daunted at the size of the task, write some short stories centering about one or two of your characters. It’s good practice, it helps you get to know them better, and it might well inspire you. My novel started life as a short story called The GinghamSquare.
  • Join competitions offering feedback – and you might win a prize as well! 


Maggie Richell-Davies’ novel The Servant, published by Sharpe Books, was inspired by a visit to London’s Foundling Hospital Museum, with its heart-breaking stories about the scraps of ribbon or lace that desperate women left there as tokens in the hope that they might, one day, be able to reclaim their precious child.

It began life as a short story, but Maggie’s sadness – and rage – at the plight of women from the lower orders who fell pregnant in Regency London, when there was no social safety-net, soon made her realise that their story needed a much larger canvas.

Follow Maggie on Twitter. Click to view The Servant on Amazon UK.



How to Marry Your Husband by Jacqueline Rohen.


Rachel vowed that she would love David for better or worse … But when she spots him kissing another woman, she knows their marriage is over. And she’s determined to get her revenge through divorce.

The trouble is, her romantic destination wedding wasn’t exactly legal – so if she wants to divorce her husband, she’ll have to marry him first.

But as Rachel recreates the magic of their early days in a bid to lure David back down the aisle again, will it bring back long-lost feelings for him too?


Jacqueline Rohen was born in Essex. She worked in television and musical theatre in London, before moving to Uganda with her fiancé where they set up the Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project to conserve wild chimpanzees by supporting local households living alongside them. How To Marry Your Husband was her first novel. Tragically, Jacqueline passed away just before the book’s publication.

If you would like to find out more about the Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project, click here.

Read my review of Jacqueline’s book by clicking here. Click to view How To Marry Your Husband on Amazon UK.



Wife Support System by Kathleen Whyman.


Wife Support System is the story of three friends who are frustrated by the lack of support they get in their family homes. They decide they’ve got the balance wrong. Instead of living with their partners and struggling with careers, childcare and housework by themselves, they should live together and help each other out, and date their partners. Will their marriages and friendships survive, as one embarks on a passionate affair and another fights to keep a dark secret?

Kathleen said, “Wife Support System might never have been published if it wasn’t for the support, advice and encouragement of the RNA and its members. To be shortlisted for an RNA award proves that that support, advice and encouragement was well placed and very welcomed. This is such an accolade and honour and I’m beyond excited!

My writing advice is to give yourself permission to ignore the jobs that need doing at home and instead focus completely on writing. Within reason – it’s probably best to feed the children now and then and not leave them standing outside the school gate for long periods of time. If ignoring the washing machine beeping or the pile of dirty plates by the sink is too difficult, take yourself off to the local library or a café where you can’t get distracted. And where you’re not responsible for vacuuming.”


Wife Support System has also been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print’s unpublished prize.

Follow Kathleen on Twitter. Click to view Wife Support System on Amazon UK.



The Jane Austen Dating Agency by Fiona Woodifield.

(Bloodhound Books)

Sophie dreams of Austen-style love and romance in spite of her own personal dating disasters. The Agency transforms Sophie’s life in more ways than one, but ultimately she has to learn to change her prejudices in order to find her own Mr Darcy and live happily ever after.

Fiona said, “I am incredibly excited and honoured that The Jane Austen Dating Agency has been shortlisted for The Joan Hessayon Award. I could never have dreamt that this might be possible back in 2017, when I was writing this, my first novel. I am extremely grateful to the fantastic RNA New Writers’ Scheme, which provided excellent feedback and encouragement, helping me to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. I would thoroughly recommend other new writers to join and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

One of the key pieces of advice I would give sounds really obvious, but just write! Even keeping a diary or writing snippets of ideas down as you go along can really help. I keep a notebook in my handbag, which I carry around everywhere. Then whilst I’m waiting for the kids at dance class or after school I can just make use of those odd bits of time. It’s amazing what you can get done in those spare moments. Now I have a notebook for whichever book I’m writing (it has to have the right cover design for the mood of the story I’m writing of course) and I take that everywhere with me.


Fiona Woodifield’s love of Jane Austen’s novels began as a teenager when she stayed with her adopted Aunt. Many happy hours were spent reading and watching the television adaptations, arguing companionably about which was our favourite. She later wrote a thesis about ‘Jane Austen and the Masculine Image,’ followed by a magazine article, ‘Jane’s Men,’ published in ‘Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine’.

She is fascinated by the way Jane Austen depicts human nature and thinks little has changed in the way people behave over the past two hundred years. It is still possible to meet a Lady Catherine de Burgh and there are many arrogant young men like John Thorpe asking their girlfriends to admire the speed of their carriages!

Follow Fiona on Twitter. Click to view The Jane Austen Dating Agency on Amazon UK.


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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