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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Romantic novels get historical
Juliette Binoche in Chocolat
Joanne Harris, Chocolat author, is in the running
Historical novels dominate this year's shortlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year, taking over from the so-called "chick lit" genre of recent years.

Five of the eight novels shortlisted by readers feature historical selections.


For romantic novels the Barbara Cartland era has gone. It's not all pink chiffon dresses

Cathy Kelly
Chocolat author Joanne Harris makes the shortlist for her novel Five Quarters of the Orange, along with last year's winner Cathy Kelly, for What She Wants.

In the past, books typified by Bridget Jones's Diary have taken the plaudits.

The growth in interest for this year's award has been attributed in part to movies such as Gladiator, said shortlisted author Elizabeth Chadwick.

'Vindication'

Her novel, Lords of the White Castle, is set in 10th century King Henry's court.


My book doesn't conform to the lady novelist cliche

Joanne Harris
"I was delighted to be shortlisted this year. A couple of years ago historical romance wasn't on the agenda. It's a bit of a vindication."

She added: "Tolkien is a medievalist, that may have an effect on novels next year. But the general epic feeling is back.

"People have said perhaps because of 11 September readers want to explore the past. Historical romance has certainly become sexier."

Ripping romps

Harris, whose novel is set in occupied France, said: "There is a lot of drama and romance in historical themes."

But she said historical novels no longer conform to the stereotype of bodice ripping romps.

"It's about getting rid of the standard cliche. None of these novels shortlisted have got the words 'his hand caressed her silken thigh' in them," she said.

"That's the sort of thing people associate with romantic novels. My book doesn't conform to the lady novelist cliche."

'Snobbery'

Last year's winner, Cathy Kelly, said romantic novels are serious works.

"There is snobbery about books but for romantic novels the Barbara Cartland era has gone. It's not all pink chiffon dresses."

The other shortlisted works and authors include Philippa Gregory for The Other Boleyn Girl, Jane Jackson's novel, Eye of the Wind, Michelle Paver's A Place in the Hills, Precious Time by Erica James and Silent Truths by Susan Lewis.

The winner - who will pick up a cheque for 10,000 - will be announced at an awards ceremony at London's Savoy Hotel on 18 April.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | New Media
Romance novels go online
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Pilcher leads Romance shortlist
13 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Love in the air at book awards
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