Issue #67 (February 15, 1999)

The 1999 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 for the main page and see the results themselves. There's a link directly back to this page from both awards pages. To all the winners, congratulations and continued success!

And the Big Winners Are. . .

    Nora Roberts and Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb - Who received four "wins" and five honorable mentions
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Who received four "wins" and one honorable mention
    Dara Joy - Who received three "wins" and one honorable mention
    Susan Andersen - Who received two "wins" (her Baby, I'm Yours tied for Favorite Funny and won so many votes for the Favorite Road Romance that no honorable mentions were awarded.)
    Linda Howard - Who received one "win" (her Kill & Tell was Favorite Romantic Suspense) and one honorable mention (as Author Most Glommed in 1998)
    Stephanie Laurens - Who received one "win" and one honorable mention
    Jo Beverley - Who received one "win" and one honorable mention
    Adele Ashworth - Debuting author who received two honorable mentions
    Connie Brockway - Who received two honorable mentions

Results this year differed greatly in comparison to past years. There was only one category in which there was a tie for first place - the Favorite Funny, won by Baby, I'm Yours by Susan Andersen, My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly, and To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn. While in past years there have been more than one multiple-winning categories, this was the first year in which many categories had no honorable mentions. When there is only a winner and no honorable mention(s), the winner received so many more votes than the second (or second and third) place vote-getters that awarding honorable mention becomes less useful. All in all, there were five categories for which no honorable mentions were awarded. Those categories were:

Most Hanky Read
Most Luscious Love Story
Most Tortured Hero
Favorite Couple
Favorite "Other" Romance

While more readers voted this year than in past years, and there were many authors and books voted for, there was great variance between the top vote getters and those receiving fewer votes this year than in past years. And, in some categories, very few authors/books received votes at all. Again, this is markedly different from years past. Perhaps the results were different this year because many readers did as I did, and read more books published not in 1998.

Nora Roberts:
Nora Roberts had a terrific year, and one which I'm sure reassured her that the dark period she had after discovering Janet Dailey had plagiarized her did not endanger her capacity to capture the hearts of readers. In our awards for 1996, Nora won in three categories and received honorable mentions in four additional categories. For awards given for 1997 releases, she won in four categories and received honorable mentions in three (in the romantic suspense category, two of her books received honorable mentions). She also received two dis-honorable mentions (for Author Others Love that You Don't and Most Disappointing Read).

For books published in 1998, Sea Swept by Nora Roberts won as Favorite Romance of the Year. The character of Anna Spinelli (from Sea Swept) won as Favorite Heroine while Eve Dallas (from Holiday in Death by Nora aka J.D. Robb) received honorable mention. For the third year in a row, Eve and Roarke from the popular In Death series by Nora aka J.D. Robb were the Favorite Couple of the year. This year there was no honorable mention in the Couples category - Eve and Roarke blew away the competition. The character of Eve Dallas received honorable mention as Feistiest Heroine after winning the category for the past two years. For the second year in a row, Roarke received honorable mention as Favorite Hero.

For the second straight year, Nora Roberts was the Author Most Glommed (collected). And, also for the second year in a row, Nora as J.D. Robb received honorable mention in the Favorite Romantic Suspense category, this year for Holiday in Death. While her Sea Swept won for Favorite Romance, it did not win as Favorite Contemporary, although it did receive an honorable mention. It is likely Sea Swept would have won had Rising Tides not, in effect, split the vote; the total votes she received in the Favorite Contemporary Romance category were the highest.

Upon being contacted for her treasure trove of wins, Nora had this to say, "Laurie, I'm just thrilled that readers are enjoying my books and my characters. The biggest worry is that I'll disappoint the readers, those who depend on me to tell them a good, entertaining story. Acknowledgement like this lets me know I'm doing my job. I'm very grateful."

For the second year in a row, Nora received dis-honorable mention for the category of Authors Others Love that You Don't. What's interesting about many (but not all) of the authors who receive awards in the negative categories, is that they tend to be among the most popular authors. In some instances, however, they are popular more for past works than for recent output. For Nora Roberts, however, this is not the case.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips:
This past reading year was an amazing one for Susan Elizabeth Phillips. In 1997, she received honorable mentions in six categories. Last year she won in three categories - Favorite Romance, Favorite Funny, and Favorite Contemporary, for which she received so many votes no honorable mention was awarded. Well, she proved her versatility with Dream a Little Dream, which won for being the Most Hanky Romance (there was no honorable mention awarded in this category). Her character Gabe Bonner (from Dream) also won as the Most Tortured Hero (there was no honorable mention awarded in this category). Dream a Little Dream won as the Favorite Contemporary Romance and received honorable mention as the Favorite Romance of the Year. Susan also was the Favorite New Discovery for more readers this year than any other author.

When I asked Susan about writing a darker romance and how it felt to know that readers went for the ride even though it was a different ride than she usually provides, she said, "Gosh. . .I'm overwhelmed! As my readers may have figured out by now, I'll always write where my heart leads me. Sometimes that will be funny, sometimes there'll be a few more tears. Although it may cause me trouble from time to time, I have no interest in writing the same book over and over. I do, however, always promise a happy ending!"

Having recently discovered Susan myself, I can certainly attest to that. Her 1999 release Lady Be Good is 180 degrees away from Dream a Little Dream. Look for it to be a strong contender in our awards next year.

Dara Joy:
Dara Joy really came into her own with Mine to Take, the third book in her Matrix of Destiny series. In 1997, she received a single honorable mention. The next year she received two honorable mentions (for Luscious Love Story and "Other" Romance), a dis-honorable mention, and the distinction of writing the book filled with the most purple prose. While she "won" that same distinction again this year, it apparently doesn't matter to most readers. As a recent poster to our Reviews Message Forum wrote, "Yes - Dara Joy is cheesy sometimes but you know what? She is the only writer I know who can get away with it. I think it is because her heroes, in the sci-fi books, are aliens. If a real man said this stuff I would probably be on the floor laughing, but when Dara Joy's heroes say these things I find myself sighing and wishing real life was like that, at least a little bit."

For romances published in 1998, Dara's Mine to Take won the Most Luscious Love Story by a tremendous margin - there was no honorable mention awarded. Mine was also the Favorite "Other" Romance by such a large vote that no honorable mention was awarded. The character of Gian Ren from Mine was the Favorite Hero of readers. And, the book also received honorable mention as the Favorite Romance of the Year.

I asked Dara, "Last year your books were more controversial, in that I mean that Rejar won a couple honorable mentions but also 'won' dis-honorable mentions as well. While you still 'won' for Purple-est Prose, your books seem to be more acceptable this year. People have come out of the closet and are reading your books for pure pleasure as opposed to a sort of guilty pleasure. Any comments? And, in two categories you blew away the competition. How does that feel?"

Dara responded, "I want to thank everyone for taking the time to vote for Mine to Take. It is especially gratifying for a sub-genre book to lead the categories. These awards send a strong message to the industry and the distributors that not only do readers want these kind of books, they are demanding them. It has always been a fervent hope of mine that my work would not just cross genres but would also awaken the industry to the voice of the reader."

Stephanie Laurens:
Stephanie Laurens made the move in 1998 from Regency Romance writer to full-length historicals. Her witty and sexy style of writing was a hit with readers. Her Devil's Bride won for Favorite European Historical Romance and Devil Cynster won honorable mention as Favorite Hero for 1998.

Stephanie had this to say upon being told of these honors, "Woohoo! What a lovely note to find in my email! I consider it a great honor to be selected by romance readers, and appreciate the support your site has given romance in general. I am thrilled and delighted that the devoted romance readers who frequent All About Romance so liked and enjoyed Devil's Bride. I'll be doing my very best to keep the rest of the Bar Cynster 'up to snuff. Thanks to all who participated in the poll, and to All About Romance.

Jo Beverley:
Jo Beverley received four honorable mentions in our awards for books published in 1996. She did not place in our 1998 awards, but made up for it in 1999 with two romances set in two distinct time periods. Her Lord of Midnight won as Favorite Medieval and her Forbidden Magic won honorable mention as Favorite European Historical.

Upon being informed of her showing, Jo's response was pure delight. When I asked how she managed to make her books "work" so well in two different time periods, she answered, "Each period calls out a different type of book. I don't think I could do a deep, historical regency or a rompish medieval. I'm really grateful that I seem to have attracted a readership willing to follow me as I bounce around my three periods (Medieval, Georgian, and Regency)."

Readers who have enjoyed the paranormal element in both Forbidden Magic and her short story in the anthology Faery Magic will be glad to know she plans to continue writing romance with a magical element.

Adele Ashworth:
Adele Ashworth, whose first romance, My Darling Caroline, was published in 1998, won two honorable mentions. Her character of Caroline won honorable mention as Favorite Heroine and the author herself won honorable mention as Favorite New Discovery. It is likely we will add a new category in next year's awards for Favorite Debuting Author based on her wonderful showing this year.

Here's what Adele had to say about being the only debuting author to place so well:

"Wow, I'm speechless - and absolutely thrilled! I just think this is so cool! Nobody could possibly know how much it means to me that readers liked my first book so much. What I find so wonderful, both personally and professionally, is that Caroline was chosen as one of last year's favorite heroines. This means I was able to pull off a story about a very complex character and make her believable. Thatís the greatest compliment I think Iíve ever received about my writing.

"As for being considered one of last yearís favorite new discoveries. . .geez, I donít even know what to say about that. I really am speechless, and I think itís because My Darling Caroline is just so close to my heart. To know readers voted for me in this category because they loved my work fills me with total joy."

Connie Brockway:
While Connie Brockway did not duplicate her showing in last year's awards, when she won in four categories and received honorable mentions in six categories, her 1998-published My Dearest Enemy was a reader favorite. Her character of Lily Bede won honorable mention as Feistiest Heroine and the book itself won honorable mention as Favorite European Historical.

Connie's gracious response upon receiving the good news about My Dearest Enemy:

"As always when I receive the news that somewhere, with some people, I've struck the 'right' note, I feel pure, unmitigated gratitude. I know that sounds ridiculously servile but as with most writers, I want my stuff to work, to connect. I want to be able to invoke for the reader the world I see in my imagination because, at least in my mind, it's a rich, varied, and fascinating one.

"I don't know why it's important for me to be able to present these 'worlds' and 'stories to others. Call it ego or the desire to share something that I so enjoy - in truth it's probably a bit of both. I only know that nothing else gives me so much pleasure as creating stories except hearing that I pulled it off, sucked a reader right into the pages, made them feel immersed in a story I wrote. There are so few ways one can know if one succeeds. Votes from readers for awards like this are one of them. Thanks you!!"

Elizabeth Bevarly:
While not a multiple winner, Elizabeth Bevarly's first full-length romance tied as Favorite Funny for 1998. She found the news to be "Wonderful, wonderful. . . I'm just giddy with surprise and delight that My Man Pendleton was voted for such an honor by the visitors of All About Romance. Distinctions like this mean so much coming from the readers. They're the ones who give us validation and make our work so satisfying - not to mention keep us in business! I am very pleased and flattered by their votes. The book was an absolute joy for me to write. And I think Pendleton may very well be my favorite hero of all the ones I've written. It's extremely gratifying to know that others had fun with the book, too."

Better Luck Next Year

In our awards for 1997, Jude Deveraux "won" dis-honorable mention as the Author You Gave Up On. This time Jude took sole "honors" in the category. In a new category for us, her An Angel for Emily was voted the Worst Read; Karen Robards' The Senator's Wife "won" dis-honorable mention.

There was a three-way tie for the Most Disappointing Read. Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland, Cherish by Catherine Anderson, and With This Ring by Amanda Quick all tied for this dubious distinction. In last year's awards, This is All I Ask won two honorable mentions. Interestingly enough, Cherish, in addition to being for many the Most Disappointing Read, also won honorable mention as Favorite American Historical.

For the second year in a row, Danielle Steel was the Author Others Love that You Don't. Dis-honorable mentions in this category go to Kathleen Woodiwiss and, as previously mentioned, Nora Roberts. Finally, in the Purple-est Prose category, there was a tie between Elusive Flame by Kathleen Woodiwiss and, as previously mentioned, Mine to Take by Dara Joy. In last year's voting, author Woodiwiss "won" this category and Joy "won" dis-honorable mention.

I hope to hear from you about these awards, these books, characters, and authors, 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. As usual, mine were not.

Isn't It Romantic?

Every entry received in our second annual Isn't It Romantic? contest was wonderful. Making a decision was very difficult. In the end, the winning entry captured my heart because of its serendipity. Congratulations, Darlene Krogol, and thanks for sharing your story with us! Your $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon.com, courtesy of All About Romance, is on its way to you.

This is Darlene's entry:

My side of the story:
In December of 1981, I was a junior at a local college in Michigan. At 21, I was very shy and hadn't dated much. I was longing for a "relationship," but frankly didn't know how it was going to happen since I had never been spontaneously asked out - my few dates had originated as "fix-ups" by well-meaning friends.

One day, one of my classes had been cancelled at school and I had extra time to kill. I went to the local shopping center, which wasn't an unusual thing for me to do during free time. However, that was the only typical thing that happened that day!

At the mall, I went to the Little Professor Bookstore, something which I rarely did because it was tucked away in a distant corner. I stopped at the magazine rack up front which I had never done before. I picked up a Detroit Monthly magazine, something I never read. I flipped through it and started studying the classified ads at the back, something which to this day I rarely ever do. I saw this obscure little ad offering a complimentary issue of Find-A-Friend "personals" magazine if you called a toll-free number. I bought the Detroit Monthly magazine, intrigued by that little ad. For the rest of that day and all the next, the idea of that Find-A-Friend magazine haunted me. Finally, I pulled over to a telephone booth and requested that the free issue be sent to me, care of the part-time job where I worked.

The issue I received was the first where they had offered the inclusion of photos for an extra fee. This, I felt, was my answer. I could write up a little description of myself and my interests, and the photo would show prospective "boyfriends" in advance that I wasn't some tiny petite thing. I signed up for a 3-month subscription, January/February/March. I sent off my bio and picture with crossed fingers and a hopeful heart. Over the next few months, I surprisingly received several responses, and met a few of the men for lunch at a restaurant near my work. I did date a couple of the guys more than once, but overall I felt every encounter was more of a "fizzle" rather than "sparks." I called the whole thing a bust and decided to chalk it all up to experience.

Until that mid-April afternoon when another letter came straggling into my office. Exasperated, I ripped open the envelope and read this sweet letter and saw this sweet picture. But I was mad; darn it, I had put the whole thing behind me. Ticked off, I started to throw away the letter - but instead, shoved the letter deep into my desk drawer. Maybe as a reminder of my whole foolish experiment.

Life went on over the next few weeks, until that last frustrating Saturday date with that man I had met early on. The next day, Sunday, May 16, I dragged out that last letter (that I had somehow transferred from my desk drawer to my purse) and made a call that changed my life.

His side of the story (as told to Darlene):
Dave was 29 and his divorce had just been finalized a year ago. He had rented out his small house, and was living back at home with his dad to save money. A shy guy to begin with, his ex's unfaithfulness had weakened his self-confidence even more and he was uncertain as to how to start dating again.

In early April, he stopped at his favorite restaurant for breakfast and sat at the counter, which wasn't an unusual thing for him to do in the morning after working the midnight shift. However, that was the only typical thing that happened that day. . . .

He struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to him, something he was usually too reticent to do. The other customer, Don, started talking about women and dating with Dave, and told him about this "personals" magazine he received, Find-A-Friend. He offered to meet Dave that evening and bring some copies of it with him for Dave to see.

Don brought two issues with him that evening, March and April's. Out of all the ads and pictures, only one in the March magazine appealed to Dave. It took him a while to find the right words to say and a decent picture to send. He sent it off with fingers crossed and a hopeful heart. . . .

Over the next several weeks, he occasionally socialized with Don. His new friend said that he had talked with the owner of the magazine and had learned that the woman in that picture had received lots of letters, that maybe Dave shouldn't get his hopes up. As the days wore on, he realized that it was unlikely the woman in the ad was going to respond. Heck, it was spring and her ad had only run through the winter and she was probably involved with someone she had met early on.

On Sunday, May 16, the last day of his vacation, Dave decided he was going to write his own ad. He got out pen and paper, and then the phone rang. . . .


I never did call it love at first sight, but from the moment I saw him unfold his tall, lanky body out of the old beat-up Maverick in that Big Boy restaurant parking lot, I knew I was "in trouble!" We spent hours talking, something unusual for us two shy people to do. The money he was going to spend on his own ad took us on our date later that evening.

About a week later, he called it love; three weeks later I did, too. We've been together ever since that first sunny May afternoon.

He saw Don only once or twice more before he faded from sight. We call him our "Cupid."

Big Boy restaurant has continued to play a prominent role on important occasions in our life together. I was proposed to in a Big Boy restaurant & found out that I was pregnant with our first child from a Big Boy pay phone call to my doctor. Years later, I was trying to get my courage up one evening to tell my husband about my dream to open a bookstore; without knowing any of my inner turmoil of how to broach a subject he was unaware of, he suggested we go out to dinner. Where? You guessed it - Big Boy. From that moment, I knew the bookstore was going to happen!

Fifteen years of marriage, 2 children, and a dream-come-true-bookstore later, I still know I'm "in trouble!"

Did you find Darlene's story's as quixotic as I did? You can talk about that, and the 1999 All About Romance Reader Awards on the Laurie's News & Views Message Board now, although you should plan on checking out the full awards page first. You can post about how many of the winning books you've read (or plan to read now), which books seemed over-rated, and which books you felt should have won that did not. I know I will!

Until next time, TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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The 1999 AAR Reader Awards

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