This year the Romantic Novelists’ Association celebrates its 60th (Diamond) Anniversary, and I’m looking forward to sharing in a year-long round of festivities.
Our recent RNA newsletter says:
‘The RNA’s mission was to demand respect for and celebrate romantic fiction and here we are, sixty years later, doing just that.’
To kick-start the celebrations, the RNA have launched their very first Romance Reading Month, with events planned throughout February.
The aim of this venture is ‘to shout as loud as we can about how amazing romantic fiction is. So let’s encourage everybody to stop watching telly, pick up a romance novel and fall in love with a love story; after all, many popular films wouldn’t exist today if the book hadn’t been written first.’
As part of the celebrations, this week is #LoveYourLibraryWeek, where RNA members are encouraging readers to support romance authors and their local libraries by borrowing a romantic novel. Personally, I don’t need any encouragement to do this :) but today I visited my local library. As usual I was spoilt for choice. After much deliberation among so many enticing reads, here is my selection!
It Had To Be You is a double bill containing a story by one of my favourite M&B writers, Barbara Hannay. Her story is called Molly Cooper’s Dream Date. I love Barbara Hannay’s writing; I once quoted from the opening to one of her books, in this post on how writers can ‘show, not tell’.
Barbara Hannay is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, but this particular story is set in London. I was really touched to see this dedication at the front of the book:
‘Special thanks to Jenny Haddon, whose wonderful London hospitality inspired this story.’
Jenny Haddon is a member of the RNA in the UK (writing under the pen name Sophie Weston) and this inscription is typical of the supportive nature of the organisation. (I love Sophie Weston’s books, too.)
The other story in this double bill is Shipwrecked with Mr Wrong, by RWA member Nikki Logan. I’ve never read any of Nikki’s books, but she once came to the UK to give a fascinating talk at the RNA conference on how addiction to reading was an actual thing. As a book addict, I was fascinated by what she had to say, and I wrote up about her talk here. I’m looking forward to trying one of Nikki’s Australian-set books, courtesy of my library in West Yorks :)
My next library choice is The Wedding Diary, by Margaret James. Margaret has been a member of the RNA for many years. Besides having written many novels, she’s also a journalist and writes a column for Writing Magazine. Margaret is a former teacher of creative writing, and she and fellow RNA member Cathie Hartigan wrote The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook.
I first met Margaret James in Exeter, when I was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize – a competition run by herself and Cathie Hartigan, and judged by literary agent Broo Doherty. Margaret was friendly and supportive and it’s been a great pleasure to meet her again over the years at RNA events. I’m very much looking forward to reading this particular book, which was shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Comedy of the Year Award.
I’m not sure whether my next choice will fall into the ‘romantic fiction’ category, but its publisher’s blurb states the following: ’16 modern fiction superstars shine a startling light on the romance and pain of the infamous literary pair Heathcliff and Cathy. Short stories to stir the heart and awaken vital conversation about love.’
I am Heathcliffe is a collection of short stories curated by Kate Mosse. The book was specially commissioned for Emily Brontë’s bicentenary year, and the Brontë Society website states: ‘These beautiful and arresting tales from some of the stars of modern fiction re-examine a character who lives in infamy as a tortured romantic hero – the unforgettable Heathcliff.’
I live very near the Brontë’s former home in Haworth. It’s a fascinating and moving place to visit (I have some photos from one of my Haworth visits here). So I’m looking forward to discovering some new-to-me authors and reading their take on a local hero. (Or anti-hero, depending on your view.)
My fourth library loan is A Question of Trust, by Penny Vincenzi. The blurb calls it ‘vintage Penny Vincenzi: rich with characters, life-changing decisions, love, desire and conflict.’ All the elements of a great Vincenzi read. I can’t wait! And one press reviewer says: ‘There are few things better in life than…the latest novel by Penny Vincenzi.’
There are few things better, indeed. Sitting in a comfy armchair by the fire, with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and pages of pages of a page-turning Penny Vincenzi book to enjoy is my idea of bliss.
Penny Vincenzi died in 2018, and I was very sad indeed to know that there would be no more novels from her. This obituary by the Guardian says ‘Her stories teemed with people – the lists of characters in each book sometimes passed 50 – to create immersive novels that won her a legion of loyal readers.’ The obituary talks of her professionalism, and of her support for romance writers such as Jenny Colgan and Sophie Kinsella.
One of the many wonderful things about libraries is that you can find books on every subject you could want. My final book isn’t romantic fiction, but is something I took home from the library for research for a romantic novel I’m writing, which features a heroine who makes wedding dresses.
The Wedding Dress, by Becky Drinan, is an absolutely brilliant book, showing exactly how to choose a style for your wedding dress and how to make it, from start to finish. There are some wonderful illustrations, some fabulous gowns, and lots of patterns to follow. I’m looking forward to using this book to get into my own heroine’s head as she makes her customers’ dreams come true.
The latest RNA newsletter finishes with: ‘As we know, romantic fiction comes in all shapes and sizes: contemporary, comedy, historical, sagas, fantasy and romantic thrillers – there’s literally something for everybody.’
I’ve very much enjoyed taking part in the #RNA60 #LoveYourLibrary week and only wish I could showcase dozens more of the books I was tempted to draw out of the library.
If you have a local library, I do hope you’ll take part in this week with us and visit your library this month. And if you’re not usually a romance reader, I do hope you’ll try one. The beauty of libraries is that you can try new authors for free.