Staying in with RNA Joan Hessayon Award Contender Anita Faulkner

Having been a recipient of a Romantic Novelists Association Media Star award in the past, I’m delighted to feature contenders for this year’s Joan Hessayon Award here on Linda’s Book Bag. Today I’m delighted to welcome Anita Faulkner to stay in with me to chat about A Colourful Country Escape which has been shortlisted for the award.

First, let’s find out more about The Joan Hessayon Award:

The Joan Hessayon Award

Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a novelist, RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases a variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre. The novels are judged by a panel of published authors from the RNA and publishing industry professionals. Previous winners include Jo Thomas, Charlotte Betts, Lorna Cook and Caroline Day.

The New Writers’ Scheme provides support to unpublished writers of romantic fiction. Manuscripts can be submitted for assessment and are critiqued by published authors. In addition, the members of the scheme can attend RNA events and participate in members-only activities and networking opportunities.

The ceremony to announce the winner will be held at 6.30pm on Saturday 16th July 2022 at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, as part of the RNA’s annual conference.


Gloucester author, Anita Faulkner, is a contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual Joan Hessayon Award for 2022 with her novel, A Colourful Country Escape. The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and are subsequently accepted for publication.

Staying in with Anita Faulkner

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Anita and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for hosting, Linda! You can’t beat a bookish night in with lovely company. I’ve got my flannelette PJs on and I’m ready to roll.

I love a bookish night in. Gives me a chance to show off my book themed PJs! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought my debut romantic comedy novel, A Colourful Country Escape. She’s a contender for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon award, so I feel like she deserves a celebratory night in. My main character has her zebra-print slippers at the ready.

She sounds like a woman after my own heart. Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Award Anita. What can we expect from an evening in with A Colourful Country Escape?

You can definitely expect clashing colours, ruffled feathers … and even a few scary peacocks!

A Colourful Country Escape is the story of vibrant but penniless Lexie Summers, who escapes to the Cotswolds in her bright orange camper van in search of a better life.

As an owner of a motorhome A Colourful Country Escape sounds just my kind of read. Tell me more.

She ends up taking a job at a family run paint business and camping out on the grounds of the family’s intimidating Downton-esque estate.

Lexie’s reluctant new boss, ‘Beige Ben’, seems to be her polar opposite, with his charmed life and not so charming personality. (Anyone for a brooding Mr Darcy type?!)

Yes please!

Yet the more time they spend together, the more they wonder if the sparks of friction could be something more … if only Lexie wasn’t exactly the type of person Ben’s meddling mother would never accept into their unconventional family.

Readers are calling it ‘so beautiful and uplifting’ with ‘fabulous and quirky characters’ and ‘not your usual love story.’ I’m thrilled!

I bet you are. I think I need to add A Colourful Country Escape to my TBR immediately!

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I couldn’t resist bringing the latest addition to our family – this gorgeous peacock!

That’s very handsome…

Even though the peacocks in A Colourful Country Escape give Lexie more than a little trouble, my readers have been going wild for them! I’ve had so many lovely pictures of peacocks and all things peacock related that these majestic birds seem to have become ‘my thing.’

My mum even bought me this beauty to celebrate publication week. Over in my Facebook group, Chick Lit and Prosecco, we’ve been trying to name him. I haven’t settled on the perfect name yet, so if you or your readers have any fun ideas, I’d absolutely love to hear them!

Well he looks like a Horace to me!

I’ve also brought along some lavender shortbread and lemon-balm tea, courtesy of Mrs Moon, the adorable housekeeper. Everyone needs a Mrs Moon in their life, and Lexie is ridiculously grateful to have her as a quirky ally, even if she does seem to have a few odd secrets of her own.

If you’re going to bring tea and shortbread Anita, you can come back any time!

Of course, the vintage orange camper is parked outside, complete with funky upholstery and bunting. I can’t disclose whether it’s the original Penny the camper van, as that might give the game away!

You can tell me privately later.

And finally – I’ve brought a big bunch of sunflowers, to thank you for your fabulous hosting. These bright and cheerful flowers pop up a few times in A Colourful Country Escape and play their own special part towards the end of Lexie and Ben’s story. I do hope they add the perfect splash of colour to your evening.

Those are lovely. Thank you and thank you so much for staying in to chat about A Colourful Country Escape and all the very best with the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Whatever happens, you’ve done brilliantly to get this far. I look forward to reading A Colourful Country Escape for myself and I’ll just give readers a few more details: 

A Colourful Country Escape


When vibrant but penniless Lexie is dumped by her posh boyfriend who is looking for a more financially suitable match, she decides to pack up her beloved orange campervan Penny in search of a new path. Stumbling upon a vacancy at a family-run paint company in the Cotswolds, Lexie believes she’s found her perfect match . . .

Lexie arrives at Nutgrass Hall, home of Carrington Paints, but it seems that owner Benedict Carrington is less than impressed with her arrival, and Lexie realises she’ll have her work cut out for her if she’s to convince stuffy “Beige Ben” to trust her with rescuing his out-of-touch business. But Ben has more on his mind than just the company – his mother is determined to find him a suitable wife worthy of carrying the Carrington family name, or she’ll take the business from him.

As Lexie sets to work on injecting some life colour into Carrington Paints, Ben allows himself to be set up with Tewkesbury’s finest ladies. But the more time the pair spend together, the more they realise their feelings for each other aren’t so black and white. Will Lexie be able to brighten into Ben’s colourless world before it’s too late?

Let yourself be whisked away with A Colourful Country Escape and fall in love with the cosy Cotswold charm, the colourful characters and some heart-stopping romance. Perfect for fans of Heidi Swain, Jo Thomas and Bella Osborne.

Published by Little Brown imprint Sphere on 9th June 2022. A Colourful Country Escape is available for purchase through the links here.

About Anita Faulkner

Before Anita had her now 4 year old boy she was a bolshie litigation solicitor in Cheltenham. She’d studied hard for the role and spent tens of thousands on student loans to get there. At first, it felt like a dream to finally qualify. But Anita soon realised the hours were long and the caseloads could be stressful.

So in her spare time Anita started trying to write romcom novels as a creative escape. At first she had no clue what she was doing. But much like the ongoing fertility battle she was going through at the time, something inside her would not give up. Anita joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme and their feedback was invaluable.

When she finally fell pregnant, Anita realised her career as a lawyer no longer fitted her at all. She didn’t want to be a stressed-out, unfulfilled mum. It was time to pursue my her passions.

For more information, visit Anita’s website, find her on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter @anita_faulkner.

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