Author and TV chef Prue Leith has said it is unfair that male authors who write stories about love do not get called romantic novelists.
Prue, 77, said the romance genre – in which she writes and “thoroughly” approves of – has a bad reputation and she does not like her books being “confined to the romance shelf”.
Speaking ahead of hosting the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2017, she told the Press Association: “I don’t like the word romantic, because it’s got such a soppy connotation, which it doesn’t need to have.
“I think that love stories are the most successful – the most successful plays, operas, novels are all about love.
“Nobody says Shakespeare is a romantic novelist or that Jane Austen is a romantic novelist.
“And they never say men are romantic novelists. Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan – they write wonderful love stories, or stories about relationships and love, and you never find Ian McEwan on the romantic shelf.
“I don’t like being confined to the romantic shelf, but I thoroughly approve of what romantic novelists do. We’re not all what used to be called Mills and Boon.
“The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) does try to show that this is literature, like anything else. We’re just women who write about relationships.”
Prue said she does not think things will change until there are “50% male members” in the RNA, although she is doubtful that will happen.
She said: “It won’t happen because guys don’t need to. They get put on the shelves upstairs, the women get put on the shelves downstairs, called romance.”
Former Great British Menu star Prue was presiding over the annual awards ceremony held by the RNA, which recognises books in seven categories, including contemporary, historical and paranormal or speculative romance novels.
— RNA (@RNAtweets) March 13, 2017
The winners from each category compete for the overall prize – the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award – with the champion taking home a cheque for £5,000.
This year it was won by Sophia Bennett, for her young adult book Love Song.