Our illustrius chairman, Katie Fforde, kicked off the proceedings, and then we had a really lovely lunch:
A melon and pineapple salsa starter
Guinea fowl with fondant potato and a confit cabbage cake (which was much nicer than it sounds!)
Pure Chocolate Passion, the official RNA 50th Anniversary dessert.
And look at how gorgeous it was:
Once we were all settled with our coffees the presentation of the awards began. This year our guest speaker was the charming Barry Norman, who joked about how he was probably past being the "thinking-woman's crumpet" and how we'd probably have preffered Colin Firth to be standing up there on the stage iin a wet T-shirt - but since Colin was busy that lunchtime, we'd have to put up with him instead. I thought he was funny and gracious and I didn't mind a bit that there was no dripping-wet Colin presenting the awards.
People's Choice Award
This was an award to recognise new and developing authors in romantic fiction. Romance buyers selected a shortlist and then romance readers voted for their favourites at http://www.lovereading.com/. And the winner was - Missing You by Louise Douglas.
Next up was the RNA Love Story of the Year, which is for shorter romantic fiction (think Mills & Boon or Little Black Dress) where the focus is strongly on the developing love affair. The winner was Animal Instincts by Nell Dixon. This is Nell's second win for this award, as she took home the trophy in 2007, when it was called the Romance Prize.There were two RNA Lifetime Achievment Awards given out this year - one to Maeve Binchy, who gave her acceptance speech via video, and one for Joanna Trollope. Here's Joanna giving her speech, after surprising RNA president, Diane Pearson, with a bear-crushing hug:
RNA Romantic Comedy of the Year
Books entered for the Romantic Novel of the Year that scored the highest for their comedy element were shorlisted for this award. And the prize went to The Nearly-Weds by Jane Costello.
The Harry Bowling Prize
This is the first year that the long-established Harry Bowling prize has come under the umbrella of the RNA's awards. The award is for new writers who have not previously published an adult work of fiction. Entries are judged on a first chapter and synopsis and must have an urban setting.
The judges were so impressed with the standard of the writing that they awarded a runner-up prize to John Barfield for his book Sunrise, but he hopped onto the platform and scooped up his award so quickly I only got a very blurred photo. Perhaps the idea of speaking in front of a couple of hundred female romantic novelists put the wind up him! I know Mr Harper found the whole experience nerve-wracking just when he came to cheer me on a couple of years ago. The winner was Fear No Evil by Debbie Johnson.
RNA Romantic Film of the Year
The RNA decided to celebrate the link between film and romantic fiction by asking readers at http://www.lovereading.com/ to vote for their favourite film adapted from a novel that was released in 2009. The winner was An Education, adapted by Nick Hornby, from Lynn Barber's memoir. Lynn, who accepted the award, said she didn't really think of her story as being romantic and that the RNA was generous in accepting it as such. She also said she wished she looked like Carey Mulligan. (But then again, don't we all!)
The heroine of the book inherits a dog kennels and rescue centre, and I loved the way that each of the dogs the main characters adopted helped them with the life lessons they needed to learn to secure their happy endings, and (as the heroine of the book kept saying to eveyone) I'm not even really a Dog Person.
Last of all it was time to announce the Romantic Novel of the Year 2010!
I managed to read the whole of the shortlist this year, and the books ranged from bright, sparkling chick-lit, to romance with a paranormal edge, to kick-ass romantic suspense, and East-End sagas with delicous villains, but the winner was Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon, and I have to say I was thrilled it won, because it was my favourite of the bunch!
Here are a few more of my photos from the afternoon:
The packed ballroom at the Royal Garden Hotel, where we had record turn out for the event.
Love Story of the Year contender Nina Harrington and M&B Senior Editor Joanne Grant.
A table of M&B authors and editors, with Love Story of the Year shortlisted author Natatlie Rivers looking serene in the centre.
Penny Jordan's outrageously gorgeous five-inch red heels, being modelled by M&B editor Meg Lewis (and she's not the only woman in the room who was tempted to run away with them!).