It’s an absolute pleasure today to welcome fellow blogger and friend Rachel Gilbey to Linda’s Book Bag. Rachel is a fabulous blogger at Rachel’s Random Reads and a huge supporter of romantic fiction, meticulously organising blog tours through Rachel’s Random Resources, as well as being an avid reader. Rachel has been nominated several times and as a previous winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Media Star Award, she has again made it through to the final for 2022. I’m delighted Rachel agreed to be interviewed today.
An Interview with Rachel Gilbey
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Rachel and congratulations on your RNA Media Star Award nomination.
This isn’t the first time you’ve been nominated and you’ve won the award in the past. How does that make you feel?
Thank you so much for having me Linda. If I thought I was in shock the first time I was nominated, nothing can compare to discovering I was on the shortlist for a 5th year in a row this year. Utterly amazing and entirely grateful to anyone that nominated me. And given I am the current Media Star, I honestly didn’t in my wildest dreams think I would be on that shortlist again this year.
Your nomination is much deserved Rachel!
What was it like when you won previously?
I’d imagine it was a bit like when you won it yourself previously. Completely overwhelming, and almost a full year on still can’t believe that I won. It was amazing, and I still remember Jean Fullerton when handing over the award to me, checking that I would be ok to organise her next blog tour!
I think the smile on your face says it all! I was delighted for you as you’re such a champion of romantic fiction.
Last year’s RNA Industry Awards and Winter party was the first big book event I believe since the start of the pandemic, so it was just wonderful to see so many people that I had missed over the previous 18 months or so, in the flesh. To me the parties (and invite to them) are the true prize of being shortlisted – as there is nothing like an RNA party.
I quite agree and am only sorry I can’t be there again this year. It’s the fantastic people that make it such a brilliant event.
A mix of top and upcoming romance authors, a lot that I have either read or worked with in one place, with typically a mix of people working in the industry too, normally makes for a fantastic evening. And the award and winning was just the cherry on top of a rather special cake!
That being said I do have the trophy and certificate in pride of place on my media centre unit, where I can see them whenever I look up and they always make me smile.
I bet! My Media Star award is still in pride of place too!
This was the first time I’ve ever won anything on merit and it still feels incredible.
And no-one can take that away from you.
So, what do you think is so special about romantic fiction?
For me it is all about escapism, ever since I was a young teen (may have been pre-teen), reading my first Mills & Boons, I have been hooked on romance. I love the feel good factor of the genre, the ability to lose yourself in a story and with the books I tend to read have a happy ending.
It takes you away from the gritty reality of life, and anything that can give you pleasure, and make you believe that there could just be a man out there for you (even when you aren’t the traditional / stereotypically beautiful woman), has to be a good thing.
I think you’re absolutely right Rachel. There’s someone for everyone and we all need that escapist happiness that romantic fiction delivers in spades, whatever our relationship status or appearance.
What would you say to those who never read romantic fiction?
I’d say that most genres almost certainly have a romantic storyline in them whether it is at the heart of the story or not. In crime we often learn about the detectives personal lives, and I find myself drawn to their relationships just as much as I am to the crimes they are solving.
Romantic fiction is so much more than the “bodice rippers of yesteryear”, they feature real characters, relationships (romantic / friendship / family), and tend to be characters you can really relate to, while also being able to lose yourself into a fictional world.
I agree. It’s all about relationships of all kinds and if we strip those out of other genres there’s not often much left!
Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of in romantic fiction?
I am a sucker for an exotic destination and love being able to travel with my books too, and would love to see more than just France / Spain / Italy / Greece featured in the main summer releases. There are so many other great holiday destinations that characters could go to!
Oh yes! I love a bit of vicarious travel too.
Of course an increase in diversity in all of its forms race / sexuality / disability would be good to see too.
And age (for those of us in out 60s?)
Linda, if you are looking for books with older protagonists, make sure to check out Maddie Please, Judy Leigh to name two authors that instantly jump to my mind with older characters.
I will! Thanks for the suggestion Rachel.
Is there a ‘go to’ romantic author whose books you never miss?
You know asking a mother who her favourite child is, would probably get you a more definite answer, than asking a book lover for her “go to” romantic author.
My must read every single book author list is far too long to start naming here! But if you insist I absolute can’t get enough of…. Actually I tried to start typing and then realised I don’t have a spare hour to tell you, and even then I would miss some. But they do regularly feature on my blog!
Which romantic novelist do you think is too much under the radar and deserves more recognition?
Ah now that’s an interesting question – Holly Martin jumps to mind for this one – she is the absolute queen of the big romantic gesture, and her books are just wonderful.
Oo. I’ve just checked and I haven’t read nearly enough of her books.
Is there a romantic book you haven’t read that you’re itching to get to?
Pretty much all the ones on both my Netgalley shelf and also my actual bookcase, not to mention the many hundreds of other books on my kindle that I really would like to read!
What I can say with certainty though is that when The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan (which is out on 27th October) arrives from Amazon, I will be 110% itching to finish whatever I am currently reading that day in order to read that.
Ok so Jenny Colgan, Milly Johnson, Jill Mansell, Cathy Bramley, Carole Matthews, Ali McNamara, Sarah Morgan, Jo Thomas, Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk are just some of my all time favourite authors of romantic fiction – which I possibly should have just started naming two questions ago.
The trouble is, there are so many fabulous authors and books in the romantic genre that there aren’t enough years in our lives to read them all!
Which has been your favourite romantic read this year so far?
As you may be starting to realise I am rubbish at picking favourites, I just love so so many books.
But standouts include the final three books of the Hedgehog Hollow series by Jessica Redland (ah yes another go to author, speaking of which have I mentioned Nicola May for that yet too, or Julie Caplin, Sandy Barker, Heidi Swain!).
Guilty Women by Melanie Blake – couldn’t get enough of it, and eagerly awaiting her next book (another drop everything author, can you see why I can’t ever pick what book to read next, I’d drop everything for more authors than there are days in a month!).
Lost Luggage by Samantha Tonge – another memorable book from the year, from another go to author, with such a unique concept behind it, that has stuck with me a lot too.
Three very different choices which just goes to show the variety within romantic fiction I think.
What other genres do you enjoy?
I tend to enjoy crime / thriller and psychological thrillers too which I tend to read as palate cleansers every few romance, just for a bit of variety.
Absolutely. Variety is the spice of life…
You’re a blogger so could you tell us a bit about your blog and what blogging entails for you please?
For the past 7 years I have been blogging as Rachel’s Random Reads, and at the moment the actual blogging is me writing and sharing reviews of books I’ve read, to spread the book love to as many people as I can.
I used to run regular features, on there too, but since setting up Rachel’s Random Resources (Linda, bet you’re wondering why it took me so long to mention it!) where I organise blog tours for authors I have a lot less time for the blogging part of my life.
I was wondering…
However it’s through blogging that I have met so many wonderful authors, publishers, fellow bloggers and truly feel that I have found where I belong in the world – amongst fellow book lovers. Especially at RNA events, where I really am with my tribe!
You really are and it is most definitely where you belong. And long may Rachel’s Random Reads and Rachel’s Random Resources continue! Huge congratulations again Rachel on your fifth nomination for the RNA Media Star Award and thanks so much for being on Linda’s Book Bag today.
Thank you so much for having me Linda.
About Rachel Gilbey
Since starting her popular blog Rachel’s Random Reads over seven years ago, Rachel has discovered just how much the book community means to her, and has even created her own ideal job of organising blog tours at Rachel’s Random Resources. She loves reading a wide range of genres, but particularly enjoys contemporary romantic fiction. She lives just outside central London, which she says is useful for attending book events, and indulging in her passion for West End musical theatre.