Friday, July 20, 2012

RITA Reads: Part I

A week from tomorrow, the 2012 RITA and Golden Heart winners will be announced. It’s been four months since Facebook and Twitter were buzzing with news of who this year’s finalists were. I spent a lot of time online that day, reading posts and cheering when a favorite author or book was recognized, muttering imprecations when another was overlooked. I plan to be online again next Saturday, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winners.

I already have my ballot prepared with my choices highlighted. I am a flag-waving partisan when I feel a personal connection. For me, the most exciting moments will be the Golden Heart winners in two categories. “Meant to Be” by Terri Osburn is a finalist in the Contemporary Single Title category and “The Suspicions of Cairo Jones” by Mary Danielson is a finalist in the Young Adult category. My support for these two is undiluted and totally biased. I don’t know the other finalists, and while I wish them all well, I am an unabashed fan of these two friends in whose talent and merit I believe without reservations.

Even though I’ve read a respectable forty of the ninety-five finalists (a much better percentage than I had with the Oscar-nominated films I had seen), twenty-seven of them are in four categories: Historical, Regency Historical, Contemporary Single Title, and Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. I’ve read no paranormal finalists and from one to four books in the other seven categories. What this means is that my interest is mild and non-partisan in more than half the categories.  In Romantic Suspense I’ve read a single book, but it’s by a long-time favorite author. I’ll be delighted if Secrets of Bella Terra by Christina Dodd wins in that category and La Dodd takes home her second Rita. Candle in the Wind won in 1992 for Best First Novel. She’s was also a Golden Heart Winner in 1990.

I had a hard time selecting a winner in the four categories in which I’ve read most of the books. I continue to be ambivalent because so many of my favorite books of 2011 and my favorite authors are represented. Look at the finalists for Best Historical.

Always a Temptress by Eileen Dreyer (Grand Central Publishing Forever)
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne (Berkley Publishing Group)
The Danger of Desire by Elizabeth Essex (Kensington Brava)
Heartbreak Creek by Kaki Warner (Berkley Publishing Group Sensation)
The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley (Berkley Publishing Group Sensation)
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt (Grand Central Publishing)
Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase (Avon Books)
Unveiled by Courtney Milan (HQN Books)

I’ve read seven of the eight nominated books, and I thought all seven were winners.
  • I thought Dreyer’s Kate was one of the best historical heroines of the year, smart and courageous and fiercely loyal.
  • Bourne’s The Black Hawk was tied for my #1 read of the year; it has everything—fascinating characters, adventure, complexity, historical richness, and one of the most memorable love scenes in romance fiction.
  • Kaki Warner made me fall in love again with Westerns, and I found this one with its post-Civil War background especially compelling.
  • Ashley’s Cameron MacKenzie is a wounded hero par excellence, and Ainsley Douglas is wise enough and strong enough to save him from himself. Gotta love that storyline plus Ashley is due. I still think it was a shame that The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie didn’t final in 2010.
  • Hoyt is an amazing writer, writing darkness shot through with light, teaming the puritanical and the uninhibited, and crafting sizzling love scenes that serve plot and character. Charming Mickey won a lot of readers’ hearts.
  • Every book Chase writes is a textbook in how to create characters that come alive and etch themselves into the reader’s memory. The first of her Noirot books is no exception. The description of the clothing is a visual delight, and there’s another unforgettable child.
  • I have a weakness for intelligent romances, and Milan is superb in creating them. Unveiled is both romance and bromance, and it’s exceptional on both levels.

I haven’t read the Essex book, but the strength of the field leads me to think it too is a worth book. My ballot is marked, and like my political ballots, it will remain private. But truthfully, I’d be pleased to see any of those I’ve read receive the RITA. I do think there’s a book missing from the list: A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran, one of the best books of the year from one of the best writers in the genre.

The only category in which I’ve read all the nominated books is the Regency Historical.

The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane (Ballantine Bantam Dell)
Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke (St. Martin’s Press)
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling (Grand Central Publishing Forever)
How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling (Grand Central Publishing Forever)
Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare (Avon Books)
To Seduce an Angel by Kate Moore (Berkley Publishing Group Sensation)
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James (Avon Books)

This is another list of winners.

  • Stefanie Sloane’s debut hooked me for the series even though it was another spy book. It has wit and charm and engaging characters.
  • Brooke gives her readers a central relationship that develops gradually and credibly, and the Ministry of Marriage is an interesting twist.
  • Dreiling is another debut author to watch, as her triple-threat finalists in these awards suggest. Despite a gimmick I found unappealing, I was won over by HTMAD’s engaging characters who actually (gasp!) talk to one another.
  • I think How to Seduce a Scoundrel is even better than Dreiling’s first book.  I loved the Quinnish flavor of the dialogue, and Aunt Hester alone would have made the book a winner for me.
  • I love Burrowes’s Windhams, I love Christmas books, I love cabin romances, I even love babies in books. Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish has all of these. It’s irresistible. 
  • The premise of Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove, a place where the women who don’t fit into society for a variety of reasons go to be themselves, is wonderful. Sunny Susanna and stern Bram, equally strong-minded, are deftly drawn, delightfully engaging characters.
  • Every Kate Moore book I read makes me wonder why she’s not among the bestsellers in romance fiction. She’s an extraordinary writer, and the cast of memorable characters in To Seduce an Angel, the conclusion to her trilogy show why.
  • In When Beauty Tamed the Beast, her second fairytale-based romance novel, Eloisa James combines elements of the traditional story with subtle subversions of it to weave a tale rich with humor, high in sizzle factor, and substantive in its portrayal of love as a healing, transforming power.

This is a stellar field representing the most popular subgenre in historical romance. It’s an exciting mix of new authors and veterans who have earned many stars. Whoever wins, there are sure to be thousands of fans rejoicing. I will admit that my rejoicing will be more exuberant with one particular writer as winner, but I will be pleased for whoever wins. Anyone missing? Oh, yes, I couldn’t believe that What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long was not a contender. It was at the top of my Best of 2011 list, a choice that was repeated on a number of lists.

Congratulations and best wishes to all the finalists. I’ll be back next Friday to talk about the finalists for Contemporary Single Title and Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.

How many of the finalists in these two categories have you read? Do you have favorites? What books do you think are missing from the lists?

If you’d like to create your own ballot to check your vote or predictions against the RWA winners, you can copy and paste easily from the list on Barbara Vey’s March 27 Beyond Her Book blog.


TerriOsburn said...

Thank you once again for your unwavering support, Janga. I'm frightfully out of the loop on reading these days. So far behind. Can't remember the last "current" book I've read. But there are authors I'd like to see snag one of those pretty statues. Should make for an interesting night. Especially since I get to see it from the front of the room. This might be my one and only shot at such a good seat.

Janga said...

All appendages are crossed, Ter. I hope you have a fabulous time in Anaheim and relish every special moment.

Marnee Bailey said...

Great run down, Janga! And I read Duran's latest too and thought it was worthy of a final as well.

I've got the same GH allegiances you do. I've got the fingers and toes crossed too.

regencygirl01 said...

I have read about 7 of them, but ill read others eventually. I am also crossing fingers and toes for a couple of well deserving authors.

Nancy Northcott said...

Janga, you're way ahead of me! I'm impressed you've read so many. I love Grace Burrowes' books. I haven't read most of these others, but I'm always a sucker for a good spy story.

quantum said...

I have read the Kaki Warner book and other books by many of the authors listed.

I'm currently reading (listening actually) to Beatriz Williams's 'Overseas'. Another of your recs Janga! Its very impressive and deserves an award I think. Not sure if time travel fits well with the historical categories though.

I've also read Moriah Densley's 'Song for Sophia' which I believe is a finalist in one category .... don't have time to track down which. I would want this one to win something as well.

Really enjoying your expert assessments Janga .... and making notes!

I'm expecting champagne and fire works if Terri does well. LOL

PJ said...

Great assessment, Janga! I'll be on Twitter with you next Saturday night as we anxiously await the posting of the winners.

I've read many of these books and have personal favorites that I'm not going to divulge. I agree with you on the absence of WHAT I DID FOR A DUKE. I was shocked that it didn't make the final list.

Also agree with you on Kate Moore. I just finished her newest book (out in August) and am stymied as to why she's not more widely read.

I have several longtime friends in the GH finals. I'm thrilled for all of them but some of them are up against each other so I've refrained from too much open cheering online. It's the same for the RITAs. I'm thrilled when more than one friend finals and hate it when they final in the same category because I want to see all of them win. ;-)

irisheyes said...

I think I've read 4 or 5 in the Historical category and only 2 in the Regency, so not a real great basis to make a decision but like everyone else I have my favorites! :)

For the GH, hands down, I'm crossing fingers, toes and even eyes for Terri!

I'm so sad PJ's not going to Nationals this year! She always takes really awesome pictures. I hope someone posts something on a blog about RWA (I'm not on Twitter or Facebook). Although when I go to Kaki's site and click on her Facebook link I get to read her Facebook page. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to view some pix without having an account.

PJ said...

Thank you for saying you enjoy my photos, Irish! (It's been a tough week and you have no idea how that filled me with happy little butterflies this morning.)

I'm sad I'm not going too, especially with so many friends up for awards this year but it is what it is. Time to focus my sights on 2013 in Atlanta!

It's a much smaller scale but I'll be at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference in Atlanta in early October so watch for some photos on the blog from that. Julia Quinn is the keynote speaker so I'll be her. A lot. ;-)

Janga said...

Thanks, Marnee. Isn't the GH exciting this year? It's good to know I'm not alone in championing Duran too. She is an incredible writer. Maybe she'll final next year.

Janga said...

Thanks, Marnee. Isn't the GH competition exciting this year? It's also good to know that I'm not alone in championing Duran. Maybe she'll final next year.

Janga said...

Regencygirl01, it's too bad the RITAs aren't televised. If they were we stay-at-homes could have our own parties and root in unison for our favorites. :)

Janga said...

Nancy, I'd probably write a lot more if I read a lot less. I find it difficult to resist books by authors whose work I love, and my list autobuy authors keeps growing.

I like Burrowes too. I knew with the first book that I wanted to read all the Windham stories.

Janga said...

Q, if Terri wins, I think shouts from Anaheim and elsewhere will be heard 'round the world.

I'm glad you enjoyed Overseas. Maybe it will be among next year's finalists. I'm not sure if time travels are considered paranormals or not. Maybe it would fit better in the Novel with Strong Romantic Element category.

Janga said...

PJ, maybe we can have our own Twitter party. I'm sure some of our other friends who aren't going to Anaheim will be tweeting away too. :)

I can't wait to read the new Kate Moore. She is such a talent!

Janga said...

Irish, I think a lot of us have depended on PJ and the photographs she has so generously shared to give us the feeling of vicariously attending these conferences. I'm going to miss her photos too.

I knew you weren't on Twitter, but I didn't realize that you weren't on Facebook either.

Janga said...

PJ, I hope today and all of the coming week will be kinder to you.

GRW has the best speakers. I know a lot of people are looking forward to JQ. I look forward to your pics. I hope I make it to Atlanta next July.