Young love triumphed when a book aimed at teenagers won the Romantic Novel of the Year award for the first time.
Barbara Taylor-Bradford presented Joss Stirling with the £5,000 prize for her Young Adults (YA) book, Struck, at the central London event organised by the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA).
The book, about a sinister conspiracy in an exclusive boarding school and the young couple, Raven and Kieran, who set out to solve it, is one of more than 30 published by the former diplomat and charity worker who writes under three different names.
She said: " My hero and heroine are very special to me in this book. Raven has a black American father. I think there are too few ethnically diverse heroines in YA so I'm trying to do a little towards setting the balance right. My own family has become wonderfully diverse in the last generation thanks to some recent marriages - as are so many other families these days - and I'd like to see that reality reflected in the novels young people get to read in teenage years."
The writer, who admitted she based the character of Kieran on "a young Sherlock of the Benedict Cumberbatch sort", said: " I wrote Struck as a romantic detective story where the denouement is not heading so much for traditional wedding bells but in a perhaps more contemporary direction of two young people moving toward a great working partnership - one that it is fun to imagine in the future, with plenty of romance too of course! It is really pleasing to have that concept given this seal of approval from the selectors."
Previous winners include Jojo Moyes, Joanna Trollope and Jenny Colgan.
Pia Fenton, who chairs the RNA, said, "I'm absolutely thrilled that a Young Adult book has won the overall award of Romantic Novel of the Year! It's such an exciting sub-genre which has been embraced by both teenage and adult readers during the last few years. This win really highlights its growing appeal and Joss's book is fantastic - huge congratulations to her."