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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 14:52 GMT
Modern romance leads book race
Author Sarah Mason
Sarah Mason: Former successful businesswoman
Female authors who are bringing the romantic novel into the 21st century are leading the race to be named the best romantic novel of the year.

Novelists Sheila O'Flanagan and Sarah Mason, who have swapped lace and bodices for stories about modern life, are at the head of the nominations for this year's award.

PARKER AWARD NOMINEES
Author Sheila O'Flanagan
Sheila O'Flanagan (above)
Sarah Mason
Kate Thompson
Vivien Kelly
Sue Gee
Elizabeth Chadwick
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Jenny Maxwell
The eight-strong all-women shortlist for the Parker Romantic Novel of the Year was announced on Wednesday, and the winner will receive 10,000.

O'Flanagan has swapped a life as Ireland's first female chief bond dealer to write books like He's Got To Go, about a wife faced with an agonising decision about her apparently perfect family.

O'Flanagan said it was her mission to make romantic novels relevant to women today.

"All the romantic novels that I have read were either historical or countryside-based and were never relevant to modern women who like to juggle careers, children and still find time for romance," she said.

"I took it upon myself to fill the gap by writing romances that were based in the city, so modern women could relate to the character and her circumstances."

I wanted to read the kind of book that - as a modern, busy woman - I would like to read

Sarah Mason
Sarah Mason was rated as one of the UK's leading female entrepreneurs five years ago, but has turned to writing novels like the nominated Playing James, about a young crime reporter who gets involved with a detective.

"I wanted to read the kind of book that - as a modern, busy woman - I would like to read for escapism," she said.

She began writing after selling her small business, which had a turnover of 2m per year, to an international food company.

Escape

Also on the list is The Blue Hour by voiceover artist Kate Thompson, about an advertising executive who escapes the rat race in Dublin for life in rural France.

Two Red Shoes by Vivien Kelly, who was nominated in 2001, is also in the running, as are Sue Gee's Thin Air and Elizabeth Chadwick's The Winter Mantle.

Completing the shortlist are Cynthia Harrod-Eagles for her 59th book, Julia, and Jenny Maxwell's Grey Lady.

Last year, Philippa Gregory's historical novel about the life and loves of Anne Boleyn's sister, The Other Boleyn Girl, won the award.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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