She was inspired to write while at the bedside of her seriously ill baby girl.

And several books later, Norwich author Kate Hardy has been recognised for her literary talents after receiving the Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA).

Mrs Hardy won the prestigious award for the best shorter romantic novel with A Will, A Wish and a Wedding, published by Mills and Boon True Love.

Eastern Daily Press: A Will, A Wish and a Wedding by Norwich author Kate Hardy published by Mills and Boon True Love.A Will, A Wish and a Wedding by Norwich author Kate Hardy published by Mills and Boon True Love. (Image: Mills and Boon True Love)

The story is based around butterflies and a butterfly house, a subject which Mrs Hardy has always been fascinated with.

As a child she used to view the cases of specimens at Norwich Castle Museum.

The author also watched butterflies at Warham Camp, near Wells, and Wheatfen Broad in Surlingham as well as in the butterfly house at the Horniman, London, for research.

Imogen Howson, RNA chair, said: “In a year when we have had to deal with anxiety, isolation, lockdowns, and some very surprising product shortages, romantic fiction has remained a source of escapism and comfort – an almost literal lifeline.

"The Romantic Novel Awards showcase some of the very best of romantic fiction, and I am delighted and proud to be part of an industry that gives so much happiness to so many people.”

Mrs Hardy wrote her first romantic book, A Baby of Her Own, while her six-week-old daughter Chloe was being treated for bronchiolitis in hospital during a Christmas period over 20 years ago.

Her daughter recovered and the book was published by Mills and Boon Medical on Chloe's second birthday.

Eastern Daily Press: A butterfly in the countryside.A butterfly in the countryside. (Image: Archant)

A Will, A Wish and a Wedding is the writer's 90th Mills and Boon book over her 20-year career of writing for the romantic fiction publisher.

She has also written books for other publishers and sold more than seven million books worldwide, translated into more than 20 languages.

Mrs Hardy admits to being fascinated in "nerdy facts" about butterflies, which feature heavily in her new book.

She was also inspired by Victorian lepidopterist Margaret Fountaine, who collected the Norwich Castle butterfly specimens.

The story is about an architect who turns his late aunt's house into a butterfly centre with a complete stranger, Alice, who was left the house by his late aunt.