RYEDALE author Bill Spence, who writes as Jessica Blair, is one of the shortlisted contenders for the prestigious award - the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014.

This year, the overall winner of the award, run by the Romantic Novelists' Association, will receive a cheque for £5,000 in addition to a trophy to mark the occasion.

Darcey Bussell will announce the winner of each of five categories at the Gladstone Library, in London, on March 17.

The categories from which the 30 final books have been drawn are: Contemporary Romantic Novel, Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy and Young Adult Romantic Novel.

The Road Beneath Me, by Jessica Blair, published by Piatkus, is one of six finalists in the Epic Romantic Novel category, which is for novels containing serious issues or themes, including grittier fiction such as sagas, multi-generational tales or time slip novels.

Jessica's book is set in the early 19th century during hard times. Ambition overrides family relationships, thrusting people into conflict that has far-reaching repercussions.

Bill cites being a bomb aimer in Lancaster bombers during the Second World War - he is a veteran of 36 operations - as being his inspiration together with his love for Whitby and Shetland, where this book is mainly based.

A grandfather from Ampleforth, the 89 year old has so far written 23 Jessica Blair novels.

Bill, who is also the Gazette & Herald's book reviewer, said: "I am highly delighted and honoured to be shortlisted.

For more information on Bill writing as Jessica Blair visit his website http://www.jessicablair.co.uk