Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Last man ditched in romantic novel race

From The Guardian, 14 January.

Eyebrows were raised in November at an all-female shortlist for the 2007 Costa first novel prize. There will be rather less surprise, one suspects, at news that the shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year award is also devoid of Y chromosomes. The only male in the running at longlist stage, Emlyn Rees (albeit writing in partnership with his wife, Josie Lloyd) failed to make it through to the final round.

Whittled down from the 21-strong-shortlist are six contenders for the award.

Of these, two -Pillow Talk by Freya North and Young Wives' Tales by Adele Parks - can be
broadly described as modern chick-lit; three are more traditional
saga/bodice-rippers - The Leaving of Liverpool by Maureen Lee, Silk and Steel
by Catherine King and One Last Summer by Catrin Collier - while the standout
contender is a previous winner, JoJo Moyes, who succeeds in stepping beyond
the constraints of the genre.

Moyes won in 2004 with Foreign Fruit and was shortlisted the following year with Ship of Brides. She is in the running with her fifth novel, Silver Bay, which is set in an
Australian coastal town. It revolves around the romantic attachments of a
London property developer, who arrives in the seaside resort expecting to make
a quick buck and encounters more than he expected with the inhabitants of the
eccentric Silver Bay Hotel.

Up until this stage the prize, now in its 48th year, has been determined by volunteers from the general public. A panel of more than 100 reads the books three times and score the
titles on such criteria as romantic content, readability, dialogue,
characters, plot, style and setting. The books with the highest scores go on
to a longlist and receive a fourth read. When that score has been added, the
six books with the highest combined score form the shortlist for the year.
Only now is the whole shortlist read by all the final judges to select the
outright winner.

This year's judging panel includes the comedian Helen
Lederer, Good Housekeeping books editor Kerry Fowler, and Chris Rushby, buying
director of Bertram Books. The winner will receive the prize at a lunch in
London on February 4.

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