Friday, July 13, 2012

Blasts from the Past

It’s less than two weeks now until the 32nd Annual Conference of the Romance Writers of America opens (July 25-28) in Anaheim, California. Many of my friends are staying home this year, but Terri Osburn, who is nominated for a Golden Heart in the contemporary single title category for Meant to Be (Yay for Terri!), is already talking about packing. My Friday blogs for the rest of this month will be about the RITA-nominated books I’ve read, but I always enjoy looking back at past winners too. And I’m old enough to have read some of these award-winning books from the very beginning.

I should preface the post by saying that this is not a comprehensive view or an objective overview. It’s a strictly personal look that focuses on the writers I read.

The fledgling Romance Writers of America presents their first awards. Then called the Golden Medallions, the awards are presented in a mere four categories: Best Category Contemporary and Historical and Best Mainstream Contemporary and Historical.  Brooke Hastings whose Winner Takes All (Silhouette #102) wins Best Contemporary Category is the only winner I’ve read.

Nora Roberts won the Golden Medallion for Best Contemporary Sensual Romance for The Heart’s Victory; LaVyrle Spencer won for Best Mainstream Historical Romance for The Endearment. Spencer repeated her win in 1983, 1984, and 1985, and Roberts was a dual winner each of the three years. Spencer has since retired from writing, but Roberts is a double nominee again this year.

Anne Stuart, another 2008 RITA nominee, enjoyed her first win for Banish Misfortune, the Best Single Title of 1986. I think she’s won seven now, and that doesn’t count her Lifetime Achievement win in 1996. My favorite of her winning books is Falling Angel, which won for Best Fantasy, Futuristic, Paranormal in 1994. It’s one of my favorite Christmas books too.

Robyn Carr is best known these days for her Virgin River books (Book 20 in the series, My Kind of Christmas is releasing October 23), but she won the medallion for Best Historical Romance  for By Right of Arms, and Sunshine and Shadow, a romance classic by Sharon and Tom Curtis, won for Best Single Title Romance.

A new decade saw the Golden Medallions become the RITAs, named for RWA’s first president, Rita Clay Estrada. Jennifer Greene, Lifetime Achievement winner in 2009, won Best Short Contemporary Series for Night of the Hunter. Other winners included fan favorites Julie Garwood, Best Single Title Historical for The Bride and Mary Jo Putney, Best Regency for The Rake and the Reformer, two more that became romance classics.

Another romance classic, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was RWA’s Best Romance of 1991. Christina Dodd, a 2012 nominee for Secrets of Bella Terra, won Best First Book for Candle in the Window, and Jo Beverley’s Emily and the Dark Angel was named Best Regency, a win that she repeated the following year with An Unwilling Bride, the first of her Rogue books.

Best Romance of 1993 win went to Susan Wiggs’s Lord of the Night. Anne Stuart won again, this time for Best Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal (see Falling Angel reference above), and Jo Beverley entered the RWA Hall of Fame when Deidre and Don Juan became her third Best Regency win. Beverley also won Best Historical Series for My Lady Notorious, the first of her Malloren books. Her 2012 book A Scandalous Countess is the twelfth book in this series.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips made her first appearance in the winners’ circle with It Had to Be You, RWA’s Best Romance of 1994. Other favorites who carried home gold included Mary Jo Putney for Best Long Historical (Dancing in the Wind, Book 3 of the Fallen Angel series), Carla Kelly for Best Regency (Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand), and Jennifer Crusie for Best Short Contemporary Series (Getting Rid of Bradley).

Nora Roberts continued to collect gold with dual wins for the first book about the Irish Concannon sisters, Born in Ice (Best Contemporary Single Title and Best Romance of 1996). And the book that consistently shows up at or near the top of all-time favorites lists, Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, was named Best Short Historical.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips repeated Roberts’s 1996 feat when Nobody’s Baby But Mine was voted Best Contemporary Single Title and Favorite Book of 1997. Elizabeth Boyle’s Brazen Angel took Best First Book honors.

Suzanne Brockmann was the big winner this year as RWA celebrated the end of the millennium; she won Best Contemporary Single Title (Body Guard) and Best Long Contemporary (Undercover Princess). Judith Ivory’s The Proposition (still the only book I’ve ever read—and loved--with a rat catcher as hero) was named Best Short Historical.

The new millennium began with recognition going to writers who had already proved themselves to be among the best in romance, SEP’s First Lady was declared Best Contemporary Single Title and Jo Beverley’s Devilish, the reward for all those fans who “waited for Rothgar,” won Best Long Historical.

Three more authors who have become perennial favorites were winners this year. Rachel Gibson’s True Confessions was named Best Contemporary Single Title and Lisa Kleypas’s novella “I Will” from the anthology Wish List won for Best Novella. Connie Brockway won her second RITA for The Bridal Season (Best Long Historical).

Appropriately, RWA marked its 25th anniversary by giving gold to two books destined to join the ranks of classic romances: Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me (Best Contemporary Single Title) and Laura Kinsale’s Shadowheart (Best Long Historical).

Diane Gaston’s A Reputable Rake was honored as the Best Regency of 2005. It carries the distinction of being the last winner in the traditional Regency category.  Linnea Sinclair’s win for a science fiction romance (Gabriel’s Ghost) in the paranormal category proved Nora Roberts was right about the big umbrella of romance. And Barbara Samuel added to her RITA count with a win for Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas in the book with strong romantic element category.

Bridgerton fans around the world cheered when Julia Quinn won in the Best Long Historical category for On the Way to the Wedding, the conclusion to a much beloved series. And Roxanne St. Claire won for best novella with “Tis the Silly Season” in A NASCAR Holiday just weeks before her second Bullet Catcher book released.

Another win for Julia Quinn as The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever won for Best Regency historical. Deanna Raybourn’s win for Silent in the Grave (Novel with Strong Romantic Elements) sent the uninformed searching for the book that had already ensured some of us lost our hearts to Nicholas Brisbane.

Pam Rosenthal made RWA history when her erotic romance The Edge of Impropriety won as Best Historical. Not Another Bad Date won Rachel Gibson her second RITA for best single-title contemporary. Joanna Bourne’s win for My Lord and Spymaster (Best Regency Historical) was her first—but maybe not her last. She’s a finalist again this year for The Black Hawk in the Historical category, which is loaded with wonderful writers.

Both Kristan Higgins, who won in the best single-title contemporary category for Too Good to Be True, and Sherry Thomas, who won in the best historical category for Not Quite a Husband, were crowd-pleasing winners throughout Romancelandia. Molly O’Keefe won for best novella with “The Christmas Eve Promise” from The Night Before Christmas. Since I had added it to my list of favorite Christmas stories, I was delighted.  Barbara O'Neal won her first RITA; it was for The Lost Recipe for Happiness (Novel with Romantic Elements). It was her sixth if you include those she won as Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind. And Julia Quinn set the EJ/JQ bulletin board cheering wildly when she became the twelfth member of the RWA Hall of Fame with her win for What Happens in London (Regency Historical). Note: There are fourteen members if you count Nora Roberts for each of the three times she’s entered the list in three categories.

Kaki Warner proved Westerns were in again when she won Best First Book for Pieces of Sky, book 1 in her Blood Rose trilogy. Sherry Thomas moved one step closer to the Hall of Fame with a repeat win in the historical category with His at Night, and Lauren Willig’s win for The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Regency Historical) added the only hero named Turnip to the list of Heroes in RITA-winning books.

How many of my blasts from the past have you read? What’s your favorite Rita-winning book? Do you agree with me that it seems unfair that Anne Stuart with seven RITAs and Barbara Samuel/Barbara O’Neal with six aren’t in the Hall of Fame? (They have to have three wins in the same category to enter.)

This post is an updated version of one I wrote for The Romance Vagabonds in 2008.

And because I made my deadline and am feeling celebratory, I'll have the Radomizer select one person from among those who comment to win a box of books (North American commenters only).


TerriOsburn said...

In my defense, I had to know if everything would fit in the suitcase so I knew if I needed to ship anything ahead. And thanks for the mention!

This is like the history of my reading life. At least for the 90s it is. And to think, all that time I was a blissfully ignorant happy reader who had never heard of RWA or a RITA award. I just knew I loved the books and the writers who created them.

regencygirl01 said...

I think I have read about 14 of them. I would be so excited if I was going to RWA I would probably pack early too

Janga said...

Terri, I understand. You're smart to plan so carefully. But I must admit I'm always amazed by those who pack a dozen pairs of shoes, although I always enjoy the shoe pics. :)

I think a lot of us were blissfully ignorant about many things in the days before our online circles. I knew about the early RITAs well after the fact when I'd see something in RT or on a book cover. I'm sure we never imagined in those days that someday we'd be on a first name basis with some of the authors we were reading.

Janga said...

I'd be excited too, regencygirl01. I'm really hoping that I'll be able to attend the conference in Atlanta next year.

irisheyes said...

What a list! I've read most of them but unfortunately not until way after they were released. I only stumbled back upon romances around 2001/2002. I remember the time distinctly because one of the first books I got from the library was JQ's An Offer From a Gentleman. After reading AOFAG I glommed all of JQ's backlist and then learned how to play the waiting game that is second nature to me now. LOL

I will have to say that waiting so long to jump back in was a tremendous benefit in that I had so many great, great books at my disposal immediately. Those first few years I was in reading heaven. The wallbangers were very few and far between.

irisheyes said...

I submitted before I finished...

Thanks to the internet I became very familiar with the authors, their books and the accolades they received. It also made the RWA, its annual conference and awards that much more exciting - kind of like the movies and Oscars.

Jane said...

I haven't read many RITA winners, but from the ones that I read my favorites include Loretta Chase's "Lord of Scoundrels" and Lisa Kleypas' "Worth Any Price."

Janga said...

Irish, I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to see all the treasures awaiting you upon your return to romance.

And I personally am far more interested in who wins the RITAs than I am in who wins the Oscars. And I am usually more familiar with the nomineews too. :)

Janga said...

Jane, Chase's Lord of Scoundrels is one of the most popular romance novels ever, and Worth Any Price has one of Kleypas's most complex heroes. Wonderful books!