It’s taken me a little while to get around to writing about my Romantic Novel Awards win. There are a number of reasons for that, not least that I was so completely overwhelmed.
Back in December, when I got an email from Katrina Power congratulating me on being shortlisted, I had to read it a few times before the reality sank in. Prior to that, I’d been so browbeaten by bad news that I wasn’t used to hearing good things.
I wrote about my experiences for The Pink Heart Society, so I won’t go into detail here but, in summary, my lovely husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack in September 2018 and six weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer.
I finally came down to earth and established that Katrina’s email was real. My Harlequin Romantic Suspense/Mills and Boon Heroes story, Secret Baby, Second Chance, was a finalist in the Libertà Shorter Romantic Novel Award.
From that moment on, I had a new focus. I was determined to be in London for the awards ceremony. It wasn’t going to be easy. With weekly chemotherapy sessions, other hospital visits, and just the general “cancery-ness” of cancer, it felt like I was trying to climb a mountain (a suitable metaphor for Secret Baby, my mountain murder mystery).
With some trepidation, I approached the subject with my oncologist. I’ll call him Dr. E (although his real name is Douglas Errington). He immediately went into full-on planning mode and agreed to give me a break from treatment during the week of the awards. His letters to his colleagues from then on included the phrase “she has an important literary event to attend.”
As well as Dr. E, the other medical professionals who got me to London included Sam, my Macmillan nurse, Ram, my breast surgeon, and all the staff on the Delamere ward at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (because my mum, who accompanies me to chemo, told everyone about the award).
My lovely sister, Laura, came to London with me. We went to a show and had lunch with the lovely team from Mills and Boon. It was wonderful to meet Mills and Boon Historical author, Jenni Fletcher, whose books are now at the top of my “to be read” list and Liz Fielding, the oh-so-deserving recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award and all-round amazing romance writer.
The awards ceremony was held in the Gladstone Library at One Whitehall Place. It was an impressive environment!
Laura and I were briefly displaced from the Mills and Boon table and adopted by the lovely team at Hodder and Stoughton, before returning to sit with our own group. I had been so focused on getting there, that winning genuinely hadn’t crossed my mind. Then this happened…
That was when I realised I would have to say something. I think I said “thank you” to the people who mattered. My editor and agent, the team at Harlequin/Mills and Boon, my family. And, most important of all, my lovely husband, who would have been so proud. I know I forgot Dr. E…
I don’t know if I will ever be able to express what that night meant to me. Winning the award was incredible. Alongside that, the warmth and generosity of the RNA members was simply overwhelming. The boost to my spirits from their kindness and good wishes is still with me and will last for a long time.
What the awards confirmed is how amazing the romance community is. In a world where it’s easy to be cynical, it’s wonderful to know there are people who care and a place where love will always matter.