I’m not really one of this world’s most comfortable party goers – you’re really not going to believe it when I tell you I’m shy, are you?! – but when I was lucky enough to win a ticket to last night’s glittering event for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards (#RoNAs) in their readers’ draw there was absolutely no way I was going to turn it down. So I duly shed my usual comfy gear, tarted myself up a bit – though not quite as much as many others – and went along to the Gladstone Library at One Whitehall Place, ready to be part of it all. I must admit, I was already a bit overawed just walking towards the building, with the gorgeous golden light on the buildings across the Thames…
…then walking up the stunning circular staircase to the second floor. And just walking into the reception on my own, joining a room full of around 200 authors, publishing people, and agents was actually a quite terrifying (but rather lovely, and certainly unforgettable) experience.
I hung my name plate round my neck and circled the room, spotting so many famous faces I’m more used to seeing on the back of book jackets – but thankfully some familiar friendly ones too. I just know I’m going to miss people out, so my apologies when I inevitably do, but it was lovely to see Alison May (short-listed for the RoNA Rose Award) and Janet Gover again, a delight to meet Hazel Cushion of Accent Press, always a pleasure to spend time with the lovely Adrienne Vaughan, and really good to meet John Jackson at last.
The part that really made my evening special though was meeting up again with Iona Grey, whose Letters To The Lost (that’s a link to my review…) was shortlisted for the historical category and was one of my very favourite books of last year (oh ok, I’ll confess, with apologies to the others who ran it close – it was my Number One book of last year). It was simply wonderful to be greeted as a friend, to be able to give her a much needed hug, and to meet her lovely editor Clare Hey and equally lovely agent Rebecca Ritchie from Curtis Brown. Take a bow too, Sara-Jade Virtue of the Books and the City team, who was so welcoming, made me feel like I belonged, and took this gorgeous photo…
Into the library then, for the main event – a quite breathtaking room (although someone did let slip that some of the books on the floor to ceiling shelves aren’t actually real!), with large and beautifully decorated circular tables, ice buckets full of pink fizz, slate platters of nibbly bits and tiny pink cupcakes.
I was on Table 12 with the YA shortlisted authors – feeling just slightly ashamed of not having read much YA in the last year! – and next to the lovely Nicola Cornick (a name that every RoNA reader will know) who looked after me really perfectly.
The ceremony itself was quite something – introduced first by Eileen Ramsay, Chairman of the RNA, then a wonderful double-hander by Jane Wenham-Jones and Fern Britton to present the category winners. Just in case you missed it all (I did tweet from the event, but acknowledge my limitations – small phone, darkened room, fizz flowing…) here they all are:
Contemporary Category Romantic Novel of the Year
The Wedding Cake Tree (Choc Lit) by Melanie Hudson
Epic Category Romantic Novel of the Year
The Secrets We Share (Headline Review) by Emma Hannigan
Historical Category Romantic Novel of the Year
Letters to the Lost (Simon & Schuster) by Iona Grey
Romantic Comedy Category Romantic Novel of the Year
Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café (Simon & Schuster) by Milly Johnson
RoNA Rose Award
Doctor… To Duchess? (Mills & Boon Medical Romance) by Annie O’Neill
Young Adult Category Romantic Novel of the Year
Crow Mountain (Chicken House) by Lucy Inglis
Outstanding achievement awards then went to authors Anita Burgh and Claire Lorrimer, both of whom gave great (and in Anita’s case, very funny and touching) speeches before we got to the biggest prize of the night – the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year. When Fern Britten announced that it was Iona Grey with Letters to the Lost… well I went to pieces really, as all my blurred photos testify, particularly when she included a tribute in her speech to all the readers and bloggers who had supported her. And we did manage to sneak in another hug before she was whisked away for the official photos…!
Some of those official photos are really excellent, and I’m sure you’ll have seen them everywhere today – I’ve borrowed this one from the RNA’s media centre, just in case you get the impression from my non-existent photographic skills that the whole evening was slightly blurred throughout…
It was a really lovely night… and although some of my other personal favourites didn’t walk away with prizes, the smiles that remained on everyone’s faces as we all set off for our hotels and homes were the sign of one of the very best parties, with a final result that I don’t believe anyone would have argued with…