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The winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon New Writer’s Award has clearly taken the adage “write what you know” to heart. With Tug of Love, published by Little Black Dress, Allie Spencer plumbed her career as a specialist in matrimonial law.

Her heroine is divorce lawyer Lucy. When Lucy meets Mark, it is love at first sight and would be the perfect match if his scary ex-wife, the PM’s divorce and an old flame don’t all get in the way.

Announcing the winner, judge and Chairman of the RNA, Catherine Jones, commented: “Laugh-out-loud funny, clever, and set in chambers by someone who obviously knows what she is talking about, this novel is sassy and believable with a wonderfully flawed heroine and a great supporting cast. It was a joy from first to last.”

The award was presented by bestselling author Katie Fforde at the RNA’s summer party on 13th May.

Allie felt “completely overwhelmed” and said she first got the idea for Tug of Love when she was a pupil barrister sitting outside a court in London in a very cramped waiting area. At the time, Allie had no idea she would abandon law for marriage and a career as a romantic novelist. Nor did she imagine her second full-length book would be snapped up by a publisher and go on to win an award.

Allie lives in Salisbury with her husband and two young sons. Her idols are authors PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams and she nurtures a secret desire to be a stand-up comedian.

Meanwhile, Allie is thrilled to have won her award. “The RNA has been supremely supportive and nurturing of me, so this is extra special. Also the judges are both very experienced and successful writers so their vote of confidence counts for a lot.”

The RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, which is generously sponsored by Dr David Hessayon in memory of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member, gives unpublished authors of romantic fiction the opportunity to join the Association and submit a full-length manuscript for appraisal. Promising manuscripts, if deemed ready, are passed to a suitable professional. The Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award is given to the best of the novels accepted and published that year.

For more information please contact the RNA’s Press Officer Liz Bailey at or on 01342 323991.

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