Issue #46 (February 10, 1998)

1998 All About Romance Reader Awards:

It's that time of year again when I announce the winners (and losers) of the past year's best (and worst) reads. I've set up two awards pages, just in case your browser won't work on the "main" page, and, before we get further into the column, I'd like you to click here and see the results themselves. To all the winners, congratulations and continued success!

And the Big Winners Are. . .

    Connie Brockway - Who received four "wins" and six honorable mentions
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Who received three "wins", one by such a big lead that I couldn't award an honorable mention in that category
    Nora Roberts - Who received five "wins" and two honorable mentions
    Jenny Lykins - Who received three "wins" and one honorable mention
    Maggie Osborne - Who received two "wins" and three honorable mentions
    Mary Jo Putney - Who received two "wins" and two honorable mentions

Keep in mind that there were two categories with multiple winners - both the Feistiest Heroine and the Favorite Heroine had ties for the lead.

Connie Brockway:
Connie Brockway had a banner year. She had two widely acclaimed releases - As You Desire, and the dark and moody All Through the Night. Here's how she did in the awards:

Connie's Wins:

  • Most Luscious Love Story - As You Desire
  • Most Tortured Hero - Jack Seward from All Through the Night
  • Favorite Hero - Harry from As You Desire
  • Favorite European Historical - All Through the Night
Connie's Honorable Mentions:
  • Favorite Romance - As You Desire
  • Most-Hanky Read - All Through the Night
  • Most Luscious Love Story - All Through the Night
  • Favorite Couple - Harry & Desdemona from As You Desire
  • Favorite New Discovery
  • Author Most Glommed during 1997
I asked Connie several questions about her standing in these awards. I'll let Connie's words speak for themselves:
"My oh my. Amplified. Trebled. This is incredibly nice. That's Minnesotan for Yahoo! We aren't known for our ability to share. I'd consider making a negative-positive statement, but realized no one would understand that in saying, 'Hey. That's not too bad.' I was actually close to rhapsodizing. Anyway, to not only be ranked numero uno in four categories but also to show in six others is incredible and extremely flattering. Thank you. Laurie asked me to write about the how/why's/ and what's of the two different books that had such a showing in the 1998All About Romance Reader Awards. I'm delighted to take the opportunity to do so.

"First off, I can't say how much I appreciate the fact that both of the books published this year have found an audience. I worried about that. But sometimes a writer's got to do what a writer's got to do and I had to write two very dissimilar romances. Mostly because of Harry. Harry had his roots in the old Cary Grant romances like It Takes a Thief and His Girl Friday. Slightly crooked but oh-so-charming men who refuse to accept what the world hands them. They're masters of their own fate who rise above adversity because they consider fate a buffoon. They don't take anything too seriously, except - and here's the big exception - the welfare of their beloved. And even then, they do so grudgingly, compelled by that sappy, undisciplined, and probably unnecessary organ called a heart. Their guys who fall in love once and then forever.

"So that's how Harry got start. Unfortunately once I started Harry I didn't want to stop. I just liked him too darn much. He was too real. He took over my imagination and held it hostage. Now, after I'd completed As You Desire, I knew that if I were to jump feet first into another fast-paced, romantic adventure spree, the hero would start sounding and acting like Harry by page 3. To me, the idea was anathema. I definitely wanted - and still want - to do witty, urbane romantic leads, heroes with an eye to their main chance, a glib tongue, and a healthy dose of pure male ego, but not another Harry. Cut from the same cloth, yes. The same suit, no.

"The cure for Harry was Jack and All Through the Night. Jack came about because of a gauntlet thrown down by a couple friends of mine. Write, they said, the ultimate tortured hero. This took some serious thought and some serious time. For me a truly tortured hero couldn't be a victim of someone else's maleficence. He needed to be an accomplice in creating his own darkness. His own choices needed to have resulted in his torture. So, what truly monstrous choice would shape a basically good person's life and dose his soul with blackness? Why, I thought in a moment of authorial glee (which looks amazingly like a smirk when witnessed), a truly tortured person had to choose to save his own life by forfeiting an innocent person's. Thus Jack was born.

"From the first, I conceived All Through the Night as being about sexual obsession and the unhealthy compulsions of two people whose tortured pasts hold the whip hand over their actions. Their story would be dark, about the struggle to forgive oneself. If Harry was flippant and slightly jaded with an eye toward the main chance, Jack was way beyond jaded, had honed risk-taking to a way of life, and never bothered to learn the art of verbal bandage.

"In the end it was fun to write two so different books. I don't know that I'd care to see - saw so dramatically with each book, and in fact I've found that the book I just finished, My Dearest Enemy (Dell, August '98) is somewhere in between.

"If there are huge differences between these books there are two elements that I can't seem to avoid. First, I can't write a dependent heroine and I mean that sincerely. I've started writing heroines who need special care but their 'appealing vulnerability' always ends up turning into clinginess. Let's face it, Velcro is the only thing a person one wants clingy. The element I try to include is rooting the plot and the action of my books firmly in the world I'm writing about, whether turn of the century Egypt or regency England.

"Laurie tells me I came in second for Romance of the Year and in the Discovery of the Year category and she asked how it felt to be 'an overnight success after all those years'. Amazing. I've been doing this for six years (writing that is, not these comments, although it might seem like that to you) and it seems like I just started. I've so much to learn and so many more stories burbling around demanding disc space, I just hope I have the opportunity to write them.

"And thanks to your wonderful support as demonstrated by the awards, I may just get a shot at that. Don't say you haven't been warned."

Susan Elizabeth Phillips:
Susan's Nobody's Baby But Mine took the award for:

  • Favorite Romance
  • Favorite Funny
  • Favorite Contemporary Romance
In fact, in the Favorite Contemporary category, she so totally blew away the competition that I wasn't even able to award an honorable mention. I asked Susan (last Thursday) for her thoughts on winning, and she said:
"Wow! You know how to make somebody's day, don't you? Would you please pass along this message to your readers: "Big thanks to all of you for being so generous with your praise and support of Nobody's Baby But Mine. The only way I can really show my appreciation is to keep trying to give you my best. And thanks so much for the way you've gotten behind Dream a Little Dream (Susan's new release). I just received word yesterday that Dream is about to spend its third week on the New York Times best seller list. The last time I was on that list was nearly ten years ago. You brought me back!"
(Susan's got a new web site at http://www.booktalk.com/susanephillips)

Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb:
Nora was the Author Most Glommed (collected) in 1997. She benefited from having several releases in one year, but her In Death series as J.D. Robb was the favorite of her releases among readers.

Last year, Eve Dallas from J.D. Robb's In Death series was both the Feistiest Heroine and the Favorite Heroine. This year Eve again took both honors, but shared them. In the Feistiest Heroine category, she tied with Elise Gerard from Jenny Lykins' Echoes of Tomorrow and Jenny Jones from Maggie Osborne's The Promise of Jenny Jones. In the Favorite Heroine category, she tied with Sydney Darrow from Patricia Gaffney's Wild at Heart, Elise Gerard from Jenny Lykins' Echoes of Tomorrow, and Jenny Jones from Maggie Osborne's The Promise of Jenny Jones.

The Favorite Hero was Roarke from Vengeance in Death, and together, Roarke and Eve were the Couple of the Year. Nora also won honorable mentions for Finding the Dream as a Luscious Love Story and for both Vengeance In Death and Sanctuary as Favorite Romantic Suspense Novels.

Nora is, "Absolutely delighted. It's especially gratifying to see that readers have taken Eve and Roarke so much to heart. I really appreciate everyone who took time to vote, and even more appreciate everyone who picks up one of my books to read. It's my job to tell an entertaining story. I'm lucky to love my job. But it's still a very solitary and isolated one a great deal of the time. It feels really good to have this kind of positive feedback on my work."

Jenny Lykins:
Jenny Lykins is a name I hadn't heard before voting began on these awards, but it's a name I won't be forgetting. Jenny was the Favorite New Discovery of readers this year. Her heroine Elise Gerard from Echoes of Tomorrow tied as Feistiest Heroine and Favorite Heroine. Echoes of Tomorrow, which is one of a trilogy of books Jenny released in 1997 also received honorable mention for Favorite "Other" Romance (second to Diana Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn).

When I told Jenny how well she had done in the voting, she said, "Wow! You made my day. I'm really kind of stunned. I'm thrilled that I've touched readers enough to have them vote for my work, and truly honored that they liked what they read enough to vote for me. Writers have a very lonely job, and while we sit there and try to put emotions down in black and white, we know that it will be a year or more before we get any reader feedback. Writing is definitely not about instant gratification. Knowing that so many people took the time to support me and my work means so much. I really am speechless."

Maggie Osborne:
The Promise of Jenny Jones was another favorite among readers. The character of Jenny Jones tied as Feistiest Heroine and Favorite Heroine. The book itself won honorable mention for Most Hanky Read, Favorite Road Romance, and Favorite American or Western Historical. Upon being notified of the results, Maggie offered these comments:

"Jenny Jones was one of the 'easiest' books I've written because Jenny just took over and practically wrote her own book. In over 40 books, this is only the second time that's happened to me, and it was a joy. Each morning I'd hurry to my keyboard to discover what Jenny was going to do or say today. Early on I started worrying about what my editor would say about this book. A rough and tough cussing mule skinner isn't exactly a typical romance heroine, and I didn't know if my editor would approve. Fortunately, my editor fell in love with Jenny in the first chapter and loved the book. And this book generated more fan mail than any book I've written, so others loved Jenny too, which was gratifying to me. Sometimes a character leaps into a writer's mind and she's complete with a voice and a will of her own. Jenny was like that. Although she and I are very different, I admired and loved her from the start. I'm so happy that your readers loved her too!!"

Mary Jo Putney:
Mary Jo Putney was last year's biggest winner with five "wins" (including Romance of the Year, Favorite New Discovery, and Author Most Glommed) and five honorable mentions for two very well-received historical romances. While One Perfect Rose wasn't as big a hit as last year's Shattered Rainbows, it was both the Most Hanky Read and the Favorite Road Romance. Mary Jo also received honorable mention for One Perfect Rose in the Favorite European Historical and the Most Tortured Hero (Stephen Kenyon) categories.

About One Perfect Rose, Mary Jo had this to say, "Though I love and work equally hard on all of my books, some stories have the ability to tap into a deeper resonance, a theme that touches people more powerfully. One Perfect Rose was such a book, and I'm very pleased that it spoke to so many people."

More from More Winners:
There were several other multiple winners, among them, Lorraine Heath and Deb Stover. Lorraine won honorable mention for Texas Destiny for Most Tortured Hero (Houston Leigh), Favorite Road Romance, and Favorite American or Western Romance. Her gracious response to receiving these honors was:

"I'm incredibly honored that Texas Destiny has received so much recognition from the readers who visit your site. I once read that Jimmy Stewart thought an actor was in a partnership with the audience. I feel as though I'm in a partnership with the readers. I want my stories and characters to touch the readers and to leave the readers satisfied. Recognition such as that bestowed upon my story by your readers gives me hope that I'm giving the readers something of value, something memorable. Thank you."

Deb Stover, who won honorable mention as Favorite New Discover and whose Some Like It Hotter won honorable mention as Most Luscious Love Story, sent me this message:

"Wow! My husband won't believe this. . .now he can claim to have been my inspiration for Some Like It Hotter. Don't tell him, but he was to a great extent. Now all I have to do is figure out where to draw the line between fact and fiction. I'm especially thrilled to be chosen a Favorite New Discovery. Now I have proof that playing on-line is really business. Validation is everything, after all. Never mind that I love talking to readers and other authors. We won't tell my family or the IRS about that. It can be our little secret. Seriously, I'm flattered and honored, and utterly amazed at the impressive company I keep. Congratulations to all the authors on these lists."

Better Luck Next Year

For the second year in a row, Catherine Coulter was the Author You Gave Up On. (Dis)-Honorable mentions in this category go to Julie Garwood and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Let's hope Julie comes through with her next release and decides to complete her medieval sequel to The Secret rather than a contemporary romance she is also working on.

Danielle Steel is the Author Others Love that You Don't. Runners-up in this category included Catherine Coulter and Laura Kinsale, and, surprisingly enough, Nora Roberts. This is the first I've ever heard or seen in a negative light about Nora, but then there's always a backlash against success, isn't there?

Kathleen Woodiwiss' Petals on the River made a big impression on readers even though it came out very late in 1997. It was both the Most Disappointing Read and received (Dis)-Honorable mention for Most Purple Prose. Other Disappointing Reads included the long-awaited fourth in the Outlander series - Drums of Autumn, Rejar by Dara Joy (which also was voted Most Purple Prose), A Well Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd, and Sanctuary by Nora Roberts, which, if you'll recall, won an Honorable Mention as Favorite Romantic Suspense Novel.

I hope to hear from you about these awards, and about the comments of the big winners. At the end of the column there will be a link to the Laurie's News & Views Message Board. If you haven't yet, make sure you link to the Awards Page and see all the winners and whether your choices were widespread. Mine were not.

Isn't It Romantic?

I was deeply touched by the entries I received in the Most Romantic Story contest. The deadline was a couple of days ago, and I've been agonizing on which story was truly most romantic. It's been very difficult to decide because each story was very special, but the story that most touched my heart came from Holly Garemore.

This is her entry:
In December of 1969, the Vietnam War was raging on. I was 16, almost 17, a junior in high school. Our local paper printed the APO addresses of servicemen that were from our area, so that people could send Christmas cards to the poor guys spending Christmas in such a horrible place. I looked at the list of names, decided I liked the name Ralph, and sent a Christmas card to him. He wrote back - turned out he lived about 8 miles from me, was 20 years old, in the Sea bees (construction branch of the Navy) and was spending the first Christmas away from his family.

His handwriting and spelling were terrible, so he asked if I'd like to exchange cassette tapes with him, instead of letters. All that winter and spring we sent tapes back and forth - often in his you could hear planes and missiles in the background. I would play the tapes for my family - since we hadn't met, they weren't terribly personal, and my mom, dad and brothers would add messages to Ralph. In late spring he got the news that he'd be home in early summer, and we exchanged pictures and made plans for him to call me when he got home.

The end of June, Ralph finally got home, and contacted me and made plans to come to my house. I'd just finished my junior year of high school. I was a nervous wreck about meeting him, even though we'd been taping for six months. He greeted me with a big grin and a hug, and sat talking in my mom's kitchen with us all afternoon, and invited me to the movies that night.

We never looked back after that, and we celebrated our 25th anniversary last May. We got married almost 2 years after he returned home from Vietnam.

Did Holly's story touch you as well? You can talk about that, and the 1998 All About Romance Reader Awards on the Laurie's News & Views Message Board.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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1998 AAR Reader Awards

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