RITA Reader Response (Yours!)

Yesterday the Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for this year’s RITA and Golden Heart awards. I muted the dozens of congratulatory tweets, but I did enjoy it when my reader-friends started weighing in on the lists. On Twitter, though, the number of people being @ed soon left no room in the canoe for saying anything about the books. We needed a place to discuss at length and I volunteered to provide one.

It turns out I have read not one of the finalists (I read less romance, and fewer new books, last year), so I really need your comments!

Many people were happy to see the mix of self-published, small e-published, and Big 5 books on the list. I think that may bode well for genre diversity, though I’m curious about how many of those books are really out of the mainstream in content.

There was also some interesting discussion on the imbalance in the categories under the new judging system (18 in contemporary romance, 2 in inspirational, 3 in erotic romance–a new category, but probably the hottest subgenre just now). I thought erotic romance finalist Stephanie Draven’s post on this raised some great points (h/t Erin Satie).

I also wish that all those annoying RITA-judging authors who tweeted “I’m reading this amazing book for the RITAs, wish I could say what it is” (why must you taunt-tweet? pour your enthusiasm into your pet’s ears) could post those titles. We need an anonymous secret confession site for that, I guess!

As my contribution, I do have several finalists in my TBR (please don’t tell me I must read them. I know!).


  • Ruthie Knox, Along Came Trouble*
  • Molly O’Keefe, Crazy Thing Called Love*
  • Sarah Morgan, Sleigh Bells in the Snow (tons of people liked it, including Sunita, with whom I often align)


  • Stephanie Draven, When I’m Bad I’m Better in It Stings So Sweet (really loved her political contemporary, and this one has a 1920s setting)


  • Courtney Milan, The Countess Conspiracy*


  • Susanna Kearsley, The Firebird (glad to see this here, as she’s really writing “Strong Romantic Elements,” a category which was cut this year)

Romantic Suspense

  • Carolyn Crane, Off the Edge 

(*or, um, maybe I just have earlier books in these series? I have enjoyed these authors before but am so “behind” on many series)

So have at it. What did you read, love, hate, like, yawn at? And what do you think should be on the list but isn’t? (Who cares whether it was entered or not? Complain! I’m surprised not to see Cara McKenna, Anne Calhoun, Jill Sorenson, or Jeannie Lin. Well, maybe not surprised by that last, but disappointed).

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58 Responses to RITA Reader Response (Yours!)

  1. I was shocked not to see several authors I thought should have made the finals in the Romantic Suspense category, and I can only assume they didn’t enter.

    I loved Molly O’Keefe’s Crazy Thing Called Love. It’s not a book, I think, that’s for everyone. Billy Wilkins, the hero, is…difficult. I wasn’t at all sure I even wanted him to have a HEA for the first half of the book! He’s angry all the time and not self-aware enough to realize that he is responsible for the very things that make him angry. He’s also physical rather than verbal.

    And yet, he grew on me and by the end I was very satisfied with the HEA. The growth and change are totally believable.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Part of my problem with that O’Keefe book (aside from the fact that I haven’t caught up to it yet in the series) is that Wilkins is my husband and childrens’ surname. We joked that we could not name a son after my grandfather because “William Wilkins” sounded so silly. So, um, I have to get past that too (I will–a million romance heroes now have my son’s name, and I learned not to think about it as I read).

  2. Lucy Warriner says:

    I haven’t read any of the finalists, either. But The Firebird, The Luckiest Lady in London, Along Came Trouble, and Any Duchess Will Do are all on the TBR. I have high hopes for ADWD–Tessa Dare and Amanda Quick are my go-to authors for “light” historicals. And I’m eager to get to the Kearsley and Thomas books, both of which will be my first by those authors. I honestly don’t know whether I’ll read the Ruthie Knox. Her writing is clearly accomplished, but I’m ambivalent about the one book of hers that I’ve read. What surprises me about the full list of finalists is the exclusion of Meredith Duran’s That Scandalous Summer in the historical category. It’s not my favorite Duran, but I consider all her books a cut above standard fare in all genres.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I still have to read Kearsley too, though I expect to love her from all I’ve heard (and I have never read Tessa Dare either! one of my romance-reader failings). I loved Knox’s Ride With Me, and her novella Big Boy as well–there was so much I identified with, though I’m not sure I’d feel the same on re-reading. But I’ve hesitated to read more, despite some in the TBR, because the descriptions of her other books don’t appeal to me as much. I do love her dialogue, so I’ll probably get there eventually.

      • pamela1740 says:

        Just joining the Duran chorus here…I would say they are uneven, not in quality, but in mood, so for me they were very different reading experiences, each from the other, but all were complex and complicated in ways that I liked – challenging histrom, like Sherry Thomas, or Jo Beverley…

    • A-freaking-men to what Lucy says about Meredith Duran. No book of hers has ever finaled and I’m completely baffled as to why. I would think she’d appeal to the same judges who give (deservedly) high scores to Sherry Thomas’s books. I really, really don’t get it.

      • Lucy Warriner says:

        Duran’s books work for me on an intellectual and an emotional level, which is why I find them so satisfying. I like how all her heroines have agency and a strong sense of self-worth.

      • Isobel Carr says:

        I have no idea. I read one of her books years ago (she was a new to me author) and I gave it a perfect score. I was gobsmacked when it wasn’t on the finalists list.

      • Janine Ballard says:

        Thank you for the kind words. Disclosure for those who don’t know, I am Meredith’s critique partner. I too am baffled.

      • Sunita says:

        Just to throw in a different perspective, I’ve read all of Sherry Thomas’s early books (the first four or five) and all have been well above average for me (some are keepers), but I’ve only been able to finish one Duran (her first). I can see why people compare them, and of course they’re critique partners and co-bloggers, but to me they’re not at all the same.

      • Janine Ballard says:

        and of course they’re critique partners

        No, they’re not. At least not as far as I know. If they are it’s not been mentioned to me nor is it mentioned in the acknowledgements pages of their books. I also haven’t seen Meredith blogging on Sherry’s site in almost three years, but they are still friends.

      • Sunita, I really urge you to read Duran’s second book. Her first is not the most appealing in my opinion. However, I have loved everyone of her following books.

  3. willaful says:

    I’ve read six of them and enjoyed them all, but none scream “award winner” to me. All were 4 star reads, except I think Along Came Trouble was 3 1/2. On the other hand, probably all were better than some of the books that have won in the past. :-\

    Along Came Trouble — Not my favorite by Knox, or even my favorite by her in 2013. I found it hard to see what the hero saw in the heroine. But there was some great pillow talk.

    How to Misbehave — ditto. Strong characters, but I’d rather Making it Last or Big Boy had been nominated.

    Sleigh Bells in the Snow — Much better than the typical “small town” romance, with a wonderful setting.

    The Countess Conspiracy — Again, not my favorite by Milan or even my favorite this year. The plot was a terrific surprise, the kind that makes you go “of *course*”) but I thought it was overly long and explained itself too much.

    Duke of Midnight — I really liked how the relationship unfolded in this one. It was subtle and tantalizing.

    The Luckiest Lady in London — I reviewed this for Dear Author, but I don’t remember it that well. It didn’t make the impression Thomas usually does, other than it was well written.

    All three of the historicals are in a more serious vein, and I honestly hope one wins over the fluffy historicals.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I’d love to see a more serious historical win too. I wonder if peers reward things like “a terrific surprise” and perhaps don’t pay as much attention to the things that aren’t as strong? On the other hand, I often feel more mainstream books are rewarded because they are more likely to score high with a larger number of judges, while quirkier books divide people. Awards are always a mystery!

      As you know, I have tried with that Hoyt series and it just didn’t work for me, though the things I read about Duke of Midnight almost lured me in to trying again. (But really, 3 mehs are telling me something, right?)

    • Janine Ballard says:

      How to Misbehave — ditto. Strong characters, but I’d rather Making it Last or Big Boy had been nominated.

      I think I’m one of the few who preferred How to Misbehave to Making it Last and Big Boy. None of these were in the A range for me, and it is true that the last two had fresher concepts than the first, but I felt How to Misbehave was the best-executed of the three.

      Big Boy and Making it Last both bit off more than they could chew, at least in novella wordcounts. For such heavy, serious conflicts, not much time was taken with the resolutions. The set ups were great, but a lot had to be hand-waved or swept under the carpet to tack a happy ending on. Making it Last, in particular, could have made a wonderful full-length novel, but should not have been a novella.

  4. willaful says:

    As to complaints — I agree, it’s a damn shame that McKenna and Lin aren’t on the list. Of course I’d also like to see Laura Florand. I guess Rainbow Rowell isn’t eligible, since YA is out. 😦 Not a single book on my top ten is there except for The Luckiest Lady in London.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I’m surprised by the short contemporary list too. No Sarah Mayberry? I thought The Other Side of Us was a great book, though I know it was too quiet for some people.

      I understand that YA was cut because it didn’t get enough submissions. I wonder if the focus on the romance as central has doomed that. It’s a shame, because there is a lot of very romantic YA that does not have the romance as the only central element (as it should be in YA! come on).

    • Isobel Carr says:

      YA didn’t qualify, but I got a YA that was shifted to the contemp category, so many were still judged (of course the one I got was basically an after school special and not even vaguely a romance, but I’m sure there were others that were).

  5. One of the things I find disappointing about the new “90% = finalist” rule is that it made the Best First Book category a lot less interesting. Best First Book used to be a place where someone might turn up who hadn’t finaled in one of the other categories; now it’s just… every book from the other categories that happens to be a debut. I suppose it makes sense, but for a results-watcher, it’s kind of dull.

    Also, I was hoping to see Amara Royce, Emma Barry, and Mary Ann Rivers in that category. (No idea whether any of them entered.)

    I think Draven’s remarks are right on the money. Not only does the double weight of the “romance” score put the inspie, erotic, and suspense categories at a disadvantage, but it’s such a subjective thing to score.

    I didn’t judge this year, but the year before, we had the same scoring system in place and there were a couple of books in my slate with relationships that I personally didn’t find romantic at all. It didn’t seem fair that those books should be penalized for the fact that they fell into my hands instead of going to a judge who did find that kind of thing romantic, though. Scoring them required some mental contortion. I suppose that must happen a lot, with varying outcomes.

    • Isobel Carr says:

      But that was always the case even with the 1-9 system. I know I got books over the years that other people LOVED and I was “meh” about them in the RITAs, so they got a 6 or a 7. Them’s the breaks.

      What worries me about the 20% romance score is that while some people (me included) took it as an overall “how successful was the romance within the context of the book”, others took it as “how much of the book was focused on the romance”. And I think that interpretation is why ER, Inspie, and RS suffered so badly.

      • Liz Mc2 says:

        I never understood what “the romance” meant as a scoring category. Do judges get an explanation? It seems so subjective (I mean the whole thing is, but MORE subjective). I’d think some people would grade it on “did I find this romantic?” I’m not sure how you’d evaluate this component as separate from plot and character development. “Did it give me squishy tummy feelings?”

    • Ros says:

      Maybe one possible improvement would be to have scoring systems that are different in different categories. So PRN could include a score for worldbuilding, rom sus for the suspense plot and so on.

  6. Janine Ballard says:

    Other than the two Sherry Thomas books which I critiqued and therefore should not comment on, the only finalist works I read were Making it Last by Ruthie Knox and Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. I blogged about both (the former in a reading list post, the latter in a full length review) and graded both a B+.

    My problems with the Singh were more with its worldview than anything else. The book was a terrific culmination of multiple plot threads started ten or so books earlier, and I would have been shocked if it had not made the list. The Knox trod a familiar path, but hit the right spots for me.

    And that’s it for what I’ve read. I’ve heard good things about Molly O’Keefe, Susanna Kearsley, Courtney Milan and Carolyn Crane’s books and I have three of them on Mt. TBR, but I haven’t read them. Between my grandfather’s death and my scheduling too many books to read with my husband last year, my enjoyment of reading as a pastime suffered and didn’t revive until December, so I’m sure I missed out on some great reads.

    Re. Omissions, I feel that Lin’s The Lotus Palace should really be on the list. Also Volume 2 of Captive Prince, but that particular omission isn’t a shocker.

    I also wish that all those annoying RITA-judging authors who tweeted “I’m reading this amazing book for the RITAs, wish I could say what it is” (why must you taunt-tweet? pour your enthusiasm into your pet’s ears) could post those titles. We need an anonymous secret confession site for that, I guess!

    Yes. Thank you. Years ago, a friend of mine once named a book she’d read for the RITAs and was favorably impressed with, and another author immediately told her that this was against the contest judging rules.

    • Janine Ballard says:

      Correction, it was Knox’s How to Misbehave that I gave a B+ to. I graded Making it Last lower, a B-, and it isn’t a finalist. Also my review of How to Misbehave was full-length. Sorry for the confusion!

  7. kaetrin says:

    The Firebird was one of my favourite books from last year so I definitely recommend it. It does stand alone, but personally I think you get more out if it having read (definitely) The Winter Sea first and possibly also The Shadowy Horses too. There’s just an extra layer of richness to it when you know the history.

    Kearsley novels can be hard to categorise but I’d put The Firebird squarely in “romance” – it’s what *sort* of romance where it becomes hard. There’s a contemporary storyline with a paranormal element (psychometry) and an historical one too. It could fit in contemporary romance, fantasy/paranormal romance or historical romance equally well IMO.

    I have a few of the same books in my TBR that you do Liz but who knows when/if I will get to them.

    I listened to the Anne Gracie but found it a bit meh. It was okay, entertaining enough but not stellar. But most of the books on the list are ones I haven’t read.

  8. Wendy says:

    I’ve got quite a few in my TBR, but I’ve actually only read three of the finalists.

    Sleight Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan – which I really liked and rated a B+. That said, I read Rosario’s DNF review some months later and…..could totally see her points on why it didn’t work for her. But hey, it worked for me and I’m looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy – says the girl who mostly doesn’t “get” small town contemporary in single titles (too much cutesy-wootsy filler for my tastes – typically speaking).

    Sins of a Ruthless Rogue by Anna Randol – This fell in my C range. I found it lacking, especially since the first book in the trilogy (Sins of a Virgin) was a dynamite read for me (a B+). This just felt – thin? Not as fleshed out? I’ve got the last book in the trilogy in my TBR – but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m hoping it’s more “first book” for me than this second book.

    Sonata for a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson – Another one that fell in my C range, but I’ve seen a lot of glowing reviews for it so I’m probably in the minority. It’s got a great music backdrop and I liked the plot – just the heroine didn’t work for me. She’s a composer and super talented and yet she has to publish under her brother’s name. This haunts her brother WAY more than it bothers her and her lack of general pissed-off-ed-ness really bothered me.

    Like most people I’m not terribly pleased with inspirational, romantic suspense, and erotic romance categories because of the sheer lack of nominees (but tots congrats on those who made the cut!). I’m also a bit flabbergasted by only 6 nominees in short contemporary. Between Harlequin and Entangled alone – that’s a crazy ton of books published every month and we get…..6 finalists? Just looking at volume alone, shouldn’t we have like 17-20 finalists in that category? Although granted, who knows how many authors entered under that category…..

    • Isobel Carr says:

      It’s the new scoring system. Regardless of the number of entries in a category (and I think the minimum was 100 this year for a category to qualify, hence no YA), a book had to score at least 90% of the possible points to final. That means it’s possible there could be NO finalists in a category. Combine the new 90% overall requirement with the current scoring system where 20% of the score is “the romance”, and, well, the results are just disastrous (especially for categories like ER, Inspie, and RS, where the romance shares center stage with another strong element).

      Believe you me, the RWA PAN loop is hopping mad right now.

      • SuperWendy says:

        Isobel: Yeah, but the strong emphasis on “the romance” portion of the score really shouldn’t effect most category lines, should it? I could see Harlequin Intrigues having that issue (and possibly Romantic Suspense) – but otherwise? It seems odd we only have 6 finalists.

        Normally I don’t get too caught up in the RITA scoring/judging issue – but this really seems imperfect to me the way it is right now. The Inspy “list” just KILLS me. And I’m only a very occasional Inspy reader. It makes my librarian heart hurt.

  9. jillsorenson says:

    I’ve made nonspecific comments about RITA books (taunting!) and I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules. We’re allowed to say we enjoyed the book at a later date as long as we don’t mention it was a book we judged. Now I regret those “taunts” because I’m afraid someone will put two and two together and I’ll be even more derelict.

    About the results. I’ve been supportive of the scoring rubric (40% romance, or 20/50 points) and the elimination of NWSRE. But the uneven categories are disappointing. If a book is 50% relationship focused, and 50% other stuff (suspense, faith, sex) does that mean it only gets 10/20 points for romance? That’s not how I graded. I graded on the quality of the romance, not the quantity, assuming the book met the criteria for a romance in the first place.

    I do think judges, and readers in general, can be tough on any elements that “take away” from the romance. If those elements aren’t there, the book has a better chance. But I’m not sure we need a new scoring system and new categories as much as a simple minimum and maximum for each category, with the best scores in each category winning a nom.

  10. Ros says:

    I’ve read:

    Sleigh Bells in the Snow: liked it but not as much as a lot of readers did. The ending felt completely wrong to me.

    Any Duchess Will Do: my least favourite in this series of Dare’s.

    Autumn Bride: really, really hated this. I’ve loved a lot of Anne Gracie’s books, but this was truly dreadful.

    The Countess Conspiracy: this hit a lot of buttons bang on for me and I loved it. I know it has some flaws but I just didn’t care at all. I loved that a woman like Violet gets to be a romantic heroine and she so much deserved to have her story told. I hope this wins.

    The Lady and the Laird: didn’t like this much. Cornick has done much better work.

    Love and Other Scandals: wallpaper historical

    How To Misbehave: I liked it but there were definitely 2013 novellas I liked much more.

    A Royal Without Rules: Again, I liked it but it wasn’t a standout in 2013 for me.

    I would LOVE to know how many entries they receive in each category and how that compares to number of finalists. I think the 90% system is broadly a good idea and I don’t much mind if there are different numbers of finalists in each group, but the scoring system does need to be fair to different genres. I also seem to remember lots of authors saying they were sent books to judge in categories they hadn’t signed up for. That’s not going to make for good judging. I wouldn’t have a clue how to score a paranormal, for instance, because I never read them.

  11. Sunita says:

    I’ve only read two (Kearsley and Morgan’s books) and both made my Best of 2013 list at DA and have reviews there by me. I have the Cornick in the TBR; she’s up and down for me. Other than that, there aren’t any books on there that I’m dying to read or that are in my TBR (I haven’t read the recent Sherry Thomas books but I’m sure I will at some point).

    I don’t read Recencys (Tessa Dare’s term) and I’ve found the “dark” historicals I’ve read to be quite disappointing so I avoid them now. I’ve been meaning to read Jill Shalvis’s books but haven’t yet for no good reason.

    Of books I read in 2013, I quite agree Lin’s books (either or both of her 2013 releases) should be on there and I’m very surprised none of Florand’s made it. I think that at her best she’s excellent both technically and in terms of the romance factor. And I really liked Laura K. Curtis’s romantic suspense. I also liked HelenKay Dimon’s 4th in her Holloway series, which was a novella. It didn’t get much attention but it had a non-thin older heroine and a non-billionaire younger hero and it was a really satisfying end to the series.

    The dearth of books in RS, Erotic Romance, and Inspirational really makes me thing something is seriously wrong with the system. And I would *really* like to know how the heck they are going to structure the voting for the giant categories. What a mess.

    One thing to keep in mind: books have to be submitted to be considered, and a lot of people don’t want to go through the hoops and/or spend the $$$ to compete, or they aren’t members of the RWA (which I think you have to be to be eligible in the first place?).

    • Ros says:

      I don’t think you have to be an RWA member to enter, but it’s more expensive and maybe harder to get your entry in if you aren’t. I do wonder if a lot of erotic romance authors in particular might not be in RWA, or be interested in the RITAs. I don’t have any evidence for that, it’s just a hunch.

      • Sunita says:

        Thanks, Ros, you’re right. RITAs are open to members and non-members, GH to members only. Non-members pay a higher fee, and submissions still have to be paper copies: “[Entries must] Be submitted in print book format, complete with copyright page, authorized by the publisher, with perfect or case binding and printing on both sides of the page. Text and formatting must be identical to published version.” That means ebooks have to be printed, and of course there are the mailing costs.

        Given how spirited the debate over erotic romance was a few years ago, I would think there are plenty of erotica/erotic romance authors in RWA. But they are probably more prevalent in the ebook-only publishing channels, which means they incur extra costs to enter. Still, I think it’s the judging/scoring system that hurts them (and RS and inspies) more than a lack of members. I could be wrong, though.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Laura Curtis said (on Twitter publicly, so I think it’s OK to repeat) that she didn’t submit her book because the romance was so secondary she felt it didn’t fit the new criteria. Which is a shame, because I loved it as romance and suspense. So I do understand that plenty of books I think are great/that I saw get a lot of praise may not even be submitted. But as you say–how do you judge a category with 18 finalists (that’s a lot of work!) and how do you explain the dearth in others, including very popular ones?

      I agree with Wendy that the small number of category romances is surprising. There are so darn many of them, and many lines are the definition of “pure romance.”

  12. GrowlyCub says:

    I hate wordpress. It just ate my comment. Grumble, mumble.

    The Dare was a no go due to the shop girls make fabulous duchesses premise.

    The Gracie got a lot of bad word of mouth and the blurb turned me off, which is too bad because I’ve liked some of her earlier books.

    Burrows is a ‘no way ever’ after I read her first book (I’m still trying to recover from all the ton dudes guzzling iced tea).

    I was interested in the Hoyt even though I hated book 1 (giant plot hole that negated the whole book) and was super meh on book 2, because I liked the hero’s interaction with his lover in his sister’s book (2) and wanted to see what she’d do. Once I found out she had paired him with a different woman and that he took on that clown gig which was totally out of character for him, I was out.

    The Dalton, Randol, Linden and Maclean were all early DNFs due to wallpaper, grammar, history errors, premises, etc.

    I liked the Milan until I finished and then I was, ‘well, fucked it up again’. I’ve felt that way about most of her books. At some point even the ones I like for a while or most of the book lose their credibility. This was super disappointing because I really liked Violet and Sebastian and I hate losing out on that book high feeling.

    I LOVED the Thomas. My one lonely A(-) read for 2013. I hope it wins! 🙂

    • The Dalton, Randol, Linden and Maclean were all early DNFs due to wallpaper, grammar, history errors, premises, etc.

      Actual grammatical errors? I’m surprised. That seems like the one area where there’s really no room for subjectivity in judgment: even if you think the imagery is striking and the word choice is inspired and the sentences all have rhythms that work for you, I don’t see how you can give a high score in the “writing” category to a book with grammatical errors.

      I guess a book with perfect scores in all the other categories (Romance, Plot/Story, Characters) could score as low as 5/10 in Writing and still final…

      • willaful says:

        But people’s knowledge differs. This is one of the problems with having the contest judged by other writers: if your own grasp of grammar isn’t top notch, you’ll miss it in the work of others. Which I phrased that way because I wasn’t sure how to punctuate other’s work. 😉

      • [In reply to Willaful] Yeah, you’re right. Correct grammar is a nice skill for an author, but not crucial as long as they’ve got solid copyeditors & proofreaders. So errors might well get by some of the judges.

  13. Sunita says:

    [I ran out of nested comment space]

    @Janine: Thank you for your corrections of my errors. I’d hate to provide incorrect information to Liz and her blog readers. Liz, if you’d edit the comment to put a line through the phrase “and of course they’re critique partners and co-bloggers, ” that would be great.

    Clearly I misunderstood something I was told years ago and since I don’t read either author’s non-fiction writings with any regularity, I’m way behind the times.

    About RITA judges tweeting while they read: it just needs to stop. They shouldn’t be doing it at all, it’s unprofessional. Never mind that most people can’t tell which book it is. The judging *process* is supposed to be confidential. That doesn’t just mean outcomes. It’s no better to tweet “this book is GREAT” than to tweet “this book is horrible.” Just don’t do either of them. If you can’t judge and keep it to yourself, don’t judge.

    • Ros says:

      Agreed. I don’t even think they need to be tweeting ‘Off to read my RITA books now’, to be honest. Just do it and keep quiet about it. Like grown ups.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I understand the impulse to tweet when you’re deeply moved by joy/despair at a book you’re judging, but an author’s tweet is 100% not anonymous confession, so it’s not appropriate. It’s like me having to restrain my desire to snark-tweet the budget forum at work.

      • jillsorenson says:

        Yikes. I had no idea I was being so offensive. I agree that it was unprofessional and perhaps I shouldn’t be a judge if I can’t control myself from squeeing.

    • Janine Ballard says:

      There was one manuscript of Sherry’s that Meredith looked at (a contemporary romance that was never published or even submitted to publishers), I had forgotten that when I posted earlier. That’s it AFAIK. If Sherry has ever looked at something of Meredith’s pre-publication, it wasn’t mentioned to me. I always read the acknowledgements in their books too, and I haven’t seen a reference to each critiquing any of the other’s published works. But I may have missed or forgotten something.

  14. Moriah Jovan says:

    It’s also news to me Duran and Thomas aren’t critique partners or co-bloggers anymore.

    • Janine Ballard says:

      I didn’t say they aren’t co-bloggers anymore– just that Meredith’s most recent post on the blog dates from the spring or summer of 2011. They are still co-bloggers, it’s just not very active and hasn’t been in a while.

      But with regard to critique partnering, as far as I know Meredith has only critiqued one manuscript of Sherry’s, an unpublished one, and that was a long time ago. And I don’t believe that Sherry has ever critiqued Meredith’s manuscripts. Given that I’ve been a critique partner to both of them since before they were published, and that I introduced them to one another, I would like to think that if they did form a critique partnership I would know about it! But I haven’t heard about it if so;

      • Moriah Jovan says:

        Janine, in your “coming out” post on DA (http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/coming-out-of-the-closet/) you said “Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran aren’t just my friends, they are also my critique partners.”

        I figured if three people in this thread remembered it the same way, the impression couldn’t have come out of nowhere. Granted, you said they were your critique partners, not each other’s critique partners, but clearly it made an impression if we still have it after six years.

      • Janine Ballard says:

        Moriah — Yes, that is correct. I’ve critiqued seven of Sherry’s novels and all of Meredith’s. They have both critiqued my manuscripts as well, though I am far less prolific. And for the record I exchange critiques with Bettie Sharpe too, but she doesn’t critique Meredith or Sherry’s work.

      • Janine Ballard says:

        And to add a postscript — I am starting to be sorry I said anything about Sunita’s comment. I feel bad that this topic has taken over what should be a thread about the RITAs.

  15. Ros says:

    I went and checked. Meredith is still listed on the blog but there’s no photo and it’s not updated with her more recent releases. On the other hand, it’s six months since anyone posted there, so I think you’d really have to be paying attention to notice her absence.

  16. pamela1740 says:

    Since I read mainly historical rom, I’m a bit surprised how few of the nominees in that category I’ve read. There are a couple of the “lite” ones that I actually enjoyed far more than I expected to — Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean both pull off some very interesting layers of meaning, even in the context of a fairytale version of 19thc England (Dare) or slightly implausible gaming and boxing club frequented by women of the ton (MacLean). Still, I hope a darker, more serious historical wins, especially if a win in this category signals to authors and publishers that we (readers) want more of them. I haven’t read The Luckiest Lady in London but I read everything by Sherry Thomas and I’m looking forward to it. I also really enjoyed one of Caroline Linden’s earlier books, so I’m inclined to try this newer one.

    • Lucy Warriner says:

      I haven’t tried MacLean, but all the Tessa Dare books I’ve read have done just what you said–add “very interesting layers of meaning” into what I thought were going to be light and fluffy reads.

      • pamela1740 says:

        It’s a bit of alchemy, really, when an author can successfully blend characters that draw me in emotionally with a clever, frothy tone. When it works, it’s magic!

  17. kaetrin says:

    @Isobel Carr (or anyone who can answer) what does RWA PAN stand for?

  18. Sunita says:

    @Keira Soleore: If you mean Bound By Your Touch, I’ve DNF’d it twice. I found the setup implausible and the characters illogical (even given their emotional motivations) and I couldn’t get past how anachronistic it felt. I have a lot of trouble with “serious” historicals where the characters do things that don’t make sense for the time or where they feel modern, in the sense that they are working through issues in the way we think about them today rather than the way people then would have. That’s true for me for almost all books set from the early modern period onward, but it’s especially the case for late Victorian and Edwardian romances because I’ve read so much primary material from that era for research. I wish I could read them just for the romance, because I can see what readers who think they’re wonderful are talking about, but I haven’t been able to.

    And the prose that everyone loves just doesn’t do it for me. What is musical to one reader can be discordant to another.

  19. sonomalass says:

    I was surprised at how many of the books I’d read. And most of them I enjoyed and can see why they received top-tier scores. But I’m baffled by the low number of short contemporary finalists, because I thought this was a pretty strong year for category romance. Sarah Mayberry is the obvious missing author to me, but there are quite a few Harlequin and Carina Press authors who I would think would have scored well. If they entered, of course — that’s always the caveat.

    Of the longer contemporary romances that I’ve read, I think Molly O’Keefe’s and Sarah Morgan’s were the best. The Jill Shalvis books were also both good.

    The paranormal category is really diverse; all the books that I’ve read on that list deserve to be there, but choosing between them could be a lot about what you like as a reader — steampunk versus shifters versus magic fantasy. I guess that’s the same in every category, that among the best books you’re just picking what suits your taste, but in PNR it seems a bigger deal to me. (I think the Thomas book would have been YA and the Kearsley would have been NWRE under the old categories, too.)

    I’ve actually only read three of the historical finalists, which is very odd given how that used to dominate my romance reading. I would be happy to see any of the three win. I’ve never not liked a Sherry Thomas novel, and this one (while not among my VERY favorites) was a good read for me. Tessa Dare’s was a surprise — I usually like her books, but I expected to have issues with the Pygmalion plot. I ended up loving the way that she resolved it. And Courtney Milan’s was my favorite of the Brothers Sinister so far; I have liked them all, but this one was particularly compelling for me. Probably because I can’t resist a scientist heroine.

    I keep saying that I’m going to do a RITA post; we’ll see if I make the time for it. Thanks for this discussion!

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