Back in May, Mills & Boon launched Romance Includes Everyone in collaboration with the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), a competition to find new standalone romance novels that celebrate LGBTQI+ characters. The winner of this competition will get the chance to publish their book with Mills & Boon!
We ran a social media Pitch Day in May, where we invited aspiring romance authors to pitch us their LGBTQ+ romance stories on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #LGBTQLoveStories. We were completely overwhelmed with the response, with over 60 entries on the day. The standard was extremely high, and it was incredibly difficult to narrow all of the wonderful entries down to just five stories for our shortlist.
So – without further ado, we are delighted to announce our five Romance Includes Everyone finalists and their LGBTQ+ romance novels!
“An avid reader and writer of queer romance fiction, I entered the competition out of a passion for the genre and a desire to see more escapist queer romance in popular publishing. This opportunity means the world to me; I’ve dreamt of publication for as long as I could string a sentence together, and I’m thrilled to be a finalist. If I win, I hope to finally break into the industry and – with any luck – get a chance to introduce readers to the rest of the characters in the series.”
Emma’s novel synopsis:
When William de Foucart, known as Penn, flees the eve of his arranged marriage he’s looking only for one last night of freedom. Instead, he meets an intriguing man named Raff, who helps him escape. What Penn doesn’t know is that Raff is the son of a Lord, and the brother of the woman he’s supposed to be marrying. As far as Raff is concerned, Penn is no more than a household servant. On a journey to freedom neither can deny their attraction. But their new found precious freedom cannot last. Penn’s father, believing his son has been captured, is bringing an army to take him back. With the secret of Penn’s identity revealed and Raff’s life in danger, Penn must risk everything to keep Raff safe.
“I entered the competition because I feel passionately about writing LGBTQ+ stories. Everyone deserves a happily ever after, regardless of who they are. I’m delighted that Mills & Boon are working on being inclusive, telling LGBTQ+ stories and championing diverse writers. As a writer, I love being involved in initiatives that further these goals.”
Mel’s novel synopsis:
Amy loves her job at Lambeth North fire station, London’s first all-women fire brigade. Her work is fulfilling and leaves her little time for anything else, which suits her just fine.
But when she meets A&E doc Millie Jones, her carefully erected barriers are under threat of crumbling. When the fire house is threatened with closure, Amy is suddenly faced with losing all that she had worked for. Can she let her guard down enough to let Millie be part of her life, and part of the fight for the fire brigade’s future?
“I entered this competition because I feel that as a bisexual woman that LGBT+ representation in fiction is important. We need characters and stories that we can identify and fall in love with.
“This opportunity has been so exciting to take part in. I’m a huge Mills & Boon fan, so to see such a large and influential publisher be more inclusive is incredible. I love writing, so thought this would be the best time to try and create an LGBTQ+ story that readers can enjoy.
“This is the first time I have entered a writing competition of any kind, so I hope this experience will give me the confidence to continue writing. It’s been exciting being included in this process.”
Diane’s novel synopsis:
Dumped and fired, television actress Hannah Archibald thought she had hit rock bottom and vows never to fall in love again. But then she meets Abbie Newman. After a publicised one night stand, Hannah convinces Abbie to fake a relationship with her during her family’s annual festivities at a Chateau in France. They had to fake it for just two weeks, but neither of them expected to fall in love.
“I grew up reading Mills & Boon romances in the early to mid-1980s. When I was earning my first wages as a 15-year-old server in a fish and chip restaurant in Cardiff, I joined the subscription club, and received 4 books a month. Those books were my escape and I picked up a lot of my early romantic notions from reading them – and of course, I always wanted to write one!
“Identity is something important to me – I generally accept without question or prejudice the ways in which a person self-identifies, and personally, I identify as pan-romantic. Having the opportunity to write an LGBTQ+ romance for one of my favourite literary houses was the perfect marriage between a long-held teenage ambition, and my learned, but embedded identity politics, so I entered without a second thought – and with a lot of hope!”
BeBe’s novel synopsis:
Entrepreneurial investor Davina – Davie – McBride travels down to the south coast of the UK for a meeting with her lawyer and checks into a guest house run by eco-warrior Puffin Salsby. As soon as the two clap eyes on each other, they recognise that there is something between them – and that attraction is not denied. The two indulge their immediate powerful and passionate connection, all the time each being personally aware that neither one of them believes that it can lead to anything beyond this perfect explosion of lust.
However, when Davie’s ex-girlfriend Jude descends upon Puffin’s guest house, she attempts to sabotage Davie’s blossoming relationship with Puffin, by playing Puffin’s green credentials against Davie’s previously antagonistic attitudes towards environmental campaigners, and both Puffin and Davie have to face the fact that their connection is far more than a simple physical attraction…
Pauley J Ray
“When I heard about the Mills & Boon Romance Includes Everyone competition, I was excited about the opportunity to bring passionate and heart-warming LGBTQ+ stories to life for such a wide and varied audience. I mean, who wouldn’t want the chance to write for the biggest romance publisher there is?
“Being able to share my stories with readers about characters that resonate deeply with me, that I can identify with, can understand the struggle they go through to find their true selves, and to ultimately fall in love with the happy ever after they deserve, is one of my favourite things to write about and it would be wonderful to create those stories with Mills & Boon.”
Pauley’s novel synopsis:
Determined to prove he’s moved on from his cheating ex-boyfriend and to prevent the constant matchmaking by his family, Jamie Fisher hires handsome Argentinian Ángel Rodriguez to be a fake boyfriend for his sister’s upcoming wedding.
Ángel is attentive and caring whenever they are in public together and Jamie’s family adore him, fuelling his guilt at deceiving them, as he knows Ángel is only playing the role he’s being paid for and isn’t truly the man of his dreams.
Jamie tries to fight his growing feelings for Ángel, knowing it’s all a lie and their relationship will never be real, even as Ángel struggles to remember Jamie is a client and should be strictly off limits. Unable to resist their deepening attraction, they share a scorching kiss while slow dancing on the night of the wedding, sending their passion for each other bubbling over.
But when Jamie’s jealous ex-boyfriend feigns illness to lure Ángel back to his room and Jamie finds them together, all his previous fears of rejection and never being good enough are realised. Was Ángel faking it all along or could their newfound love survive this one final test?
Meet the Judges
We are thrilled to be joined by a panel of expert judges who will be judging the Romance Includes Everyone shortlist! Meet them below…
Kirsty joined the Mills & Boon team in 2018 and works as a Senior Marketing Manager on book campaigns for the likes of Georgia Toffolo and the Duchess of York, as well as the Mills & Boon subscription programme. Before that, she worked at an independent publishing house, a literary festival and as a postgraduate teaching assistant while completing her PhD in Creative Writing at Brunel University. While Kirsty has a huge passion for romance and especially queer love stories as a reader, she is also an author herself, and her debut novel Careless was published earlier this year.
Brigid Coady is an award winning romcom author and a founder member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Rainbow Chapter. Her love of classic novels and pop culture came together in her novels, published by HarperCollins, including No One Wants to be Miss Havisham, Persuading Austen, and Emma Ever After, where Mr Knightley became Gee Knightley, a bisexual ex-boyband member.
Liam Livings is an award-shortlisted gay romance novelist, writing tutor, and ghostwriter. His sweet-to-sensual stories have humour and guaranteed HEAs. He writes crossover mainstream romantic fiction for Hera books as Charlie Lyndhurst.
He lives with his boyfriend and cats. He bakes to indulge his dangerously sweet tooth, admires unaffordable classic cars, and drinks pink wine with friends. His favourite sport – of which he’s a gold medal winner – is reading a romantic novel in a long hot bath.
Becky Slorach is Senior Editor for Mills & Boon, responsible for the longer length romance trade list working with authors such as Georgia Toffolo, the Duchess of York, Susan Mallery, Eva Leigh and Amber Rose Gill. She has worked in publishing for over 20 years in both academic and trade divisions. Before publishing Becky worked at the Bodleian Library and loved being surrounded by THAT many books! Becky is a huge romance reader and is really excited to find a new voice for Mills & Boon, especially in LGBTQI+ romance.
Joe is a Senior Publicity Manager for Mills & Boon and HQ, and previously worked as a bookseller and events co-ordinator for Waterstones in Leeds and Harrogate before joining publishing. He’s a huge fan of LGBTQ+ romance and is looking forward to finding an exciting new writer to welcome to the Mills & Boon list!
The winner of Romance Includes Everyone will be announced on Wednesday 29 September 2021 – stay tuned to find out the winner!
We’re still interested in LGBTQ+ love stories. If you missed the deadline but would like to submit your manuscript, please email firstname.lastname@example.org