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Harlequin names international romance novel contest winner

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Amanda Cinelli
Amanda Cinelli/Harlequin

Romance fans, meet the newest author to join Harlequin’s ranks: Amanda Cinelli, an Irish writer whose manuscript featuring an ambitious wedding planner’s romance with a bachelor earned her a two-book contract as the winner of the publisher’s fifth annual So You Think You Can Write contest.

Cinelli’s winning effort—titled Resisting the Sicilian Playboy—will published digitally by Harlequin/Mills & Boone in February 2015, with a print edition to follow. Here’s an official description:

Dara Devlin needs Leo Valente’s help if she wants to keep her job and plan the wedding of the year. Leo Valente is intrigued by Dara’s ambition and sets out to show her what it means to have fun. Things heat up and they enter into a no strings affair, just one problem. Leo falls in love. Dara can’t have children and vowed never to marry, Leo shows her that she is worthy of love.

In addition to her two-book contract prize, Cinelli will also receive publicity and marketing support in order to “establish her as a great author in the marketplace,” says lead contest organizer and Harlequin senior editor Birgit Davis-Todd.

The So You Think You Can Write contest received nearly 500 entries from English-language countries including the U.S, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand. Harlequin’s editors chose approximately 25 finalists, and Cinelli’s manuscript was chosen as the winner by 39 percent of the public in an open online vote.

“As we were going through these 500 entries, her story stood out,” says Davis-Todd of Cinelli’s manuscript. “It had great writing, emotional issues, as well as love and attraction between the couple. It had wonderful spark, and that’s what you look for in a story, in addition to the author’s voice coming through. It’s the perfect escape story, and that’s what women are looking for in any good romance novel—escape, love, and sexy fun.”

Though sweetly romantic tales of courtship and steamy texts detailing erotic adventures are historically relegated to the very farthest reaches of bookstores, romance novels are a billion dollar industry, with many of the genre’s bestselling authors boasting book sales that rival those in mainstream literature. (Yes, really.) And the industry’s offerings are incredibly extensive, with thousands of titles released annually across print, ebook, and self-publishing platforms in subgenres ranging from sex-filled Victorian steam punk to sedate, value-based religious offerings, and kinky paranormal romance.

“It’s always been easier to break into romance publishing as a new author than in other genres because it’s in our DNA to be open to new voices,” notes Davis-Todd. “Romance is a welcoming industry and I think women gravitate towards that. It’s very much about women helping other women. I don’t know if men are doing that in terms of male writers!”

Click here to read Cinelli’s winning contest entry.

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