My Personal Rita Reading Challenge

I have a long-term relationship with the Ritas. I had no friends who read romances (or at least admitted that they did) when I began reading romances in the 1990s. So soon after I finished Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick’s complete backlist, I began searching the Web for ideas about which books to read next. Among the first resources I found was the Romance Writers of America’s Web site. Imagine my delight to discover the “best” of romance in their listing of recent Rita winners.

I was convinced these must be the best romance had to offer and began selecting romances to read from recent Rita winners; the process was a bit hit or miss. I discovered some winners that have become favorite romances, while others quickly went into my DNF pile. Still, I was – and remain – fascinated by the whole specter of the Ritas. I can remember sitting in my living room, with an old AOL dial-up connection (I did say this was the 1990s), watching as the Rita’s were presented live over the Web. This was a big deal for me; I felt as if I was actually part of the romance community.

Obviously things have changed. There are many, many online resources available to locate great new romances. And of course I now have many online friends and AAR colleagues who are also romance readers. But still, I look forward every year to the announcement of the Rita nominees and the eventual awards.

This year I thought I might be able to attend the RWA Conference for the first time. Sadly, work obligations have gotten in the way. I know I’ll get to attend some time, but for now, I’ll have to live vicariously through my AAR colleagues who do go to the conference. And, of course, I’ll be checking online the evening the Ritas are awarded.

This year, though, I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in years. I’m giving myself a Rita Reading Challenge. While I’d love to read all of the nominees before the Ritas are awarded on July 28 at the RWA Annual Conference, that’s just not going to happen. With my print and audio reviewing obligations here at AAR, as well as my reading my personal picks of romances and mysteries, one category is all I can handle. I’ve looked over the nominees in each of the categories for this year’s Rita Awards and have settled on reading the eight nominees for best Contemporary Series Romance.  The eight nominees for Best Contemporary Series Romance published in 2011 are:

A Bravo Homecoming by Christine Rimmer

Donovan’s Child by Christine Rimmer

Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan

How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward

I’ll Catch You by Farrah Rochon

A Mother’s Homecoming by Tanya Michaels

Rancher’s Twins: Mom Needed by Barbara Hannay

The Texan’s Bride by Linda Warren

I picked this category for a number of reasons. First, and most important, I enjoy reading contemporary series romance. Second, I haven’t read any of the nominees (although I have read, and enjoyed, previous books by some of the nominees). Third, none of these books have been reviewed at AAR. Finally, some recent winners in this category have been favorites of mine including 2011 winner Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Templeton, 2009 winner A Mother’s Wish by Karen Templeton, and 2008 winner Snowbound by Janice Johnson.

I’m hoping to find a few gems among the eight nominees. I’ll report back here before the Ritas with a report on my personal challenge. But how about you? Have you read many – or any – of the Rita nominees? Do you ever look for books to read from the nominees? And are there any nominees you hope to read before the awards on July 28?

-  LinnieGayl AAR

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8 Responses to “My Personal Rita Reading Challenge”

  1. Leigh says:

    I haven’t read any but that is not unusual. I tend to be more out of step with the nominees usually only liking one or two. This results in me not making a real effort to read them.

    It is not like everybook has a chance. For a book to be a finalist:

    The RITA contest is limited to the first 1,200 paid entries. If entries in excess of 1,200 are received by Nov. 30, 2011, excess entries will first be returned to those who did not volunteer to judge, and second in reverse order of receipt.

    Then the book must meet these requirements:

    •Be a work of original fictional narrative prose in the romance genre.
    •Have an original copyright date of 2011.
    •Not have been previously entered.
    •Be submitted in print book format, complete with copyright page, produced 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.
    •Meet RWA’s definition for Eligible Novel* or Eligible Novella**
    •Be in English language editions
    •Meet the requirements for the category in which it was entered.
    •The author must not participate financially in the production and/or distribution of the work.
    Five copies of the book are required for the preliminary round.

    Then the book is judged by by five fellow authors. I did find an author’s (Brenda Coulter) comments on the scoring and this is what she said:

    For those unfamiliar with the workings of the contest, each book is scored by five judges who rate it from 1 to 9, with 9 being a perfect score and 1 meaning (not that RWA actually says this in its judging guidelines) that the novel was written by a moron, edited by a chimpanzee, and printed by an inebriated individual on a broken press that left out every third page. Books that score in the top ten percent of their categories–up to a maximum of eight books in each category–move on to the final round of judging.

    I do always check out the winners though.

  2. LeeB. says:

    I’ve read 25 of the nominees, with the most books read in the Contemporary Single Title Romance (5 out of 8), Historical Romance (7 out of 8) and Regency Historical Romance (5 out of 8) categories with a few others in different categories.

  3. LeeB. says:

    Okay, those smileys are supposed to be the number 8! Hmmm…..

  4. Carrie says:

    I’ve only read one of the books listed above, Doukakis’s Apprentice by Sarah Morgan. I enjoyed that book enough to look up more by the author. I’ve read one book by Linda Warren that I thought was just okay, and I have one Donna Alward on my tbr pile, Honeymoon with the Rancher.

    After skimming the lists from the other categories, I realize I’ve read very few of the books there, although I have 8 or 10 on my to-read list. Of the books listed I’ve only read Stranded With His Ex by Jill Sorenson (surprising depth in this short novel), Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (wonderful!), and When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James (also wonderful). Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn was a DNF for me, but I know the book is very popular.

  5. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks, Leigh, for providing the rules.

    LeeB, you have read a lot of them.

    Carrie, it does sound as if you really liked the Sarah Morgan. I may start it first.

  6. Lord Rose says:

    This year, I’ve read most of the historicals (6/8 ) and Regencies (5/8, plus one DNF), but only one out of all the other categories.

    Some of them I really enjoyed, but others were rather forgettable. (And the DNF, obviously, I didn’t like much.)

  7. Eliza says:

    I’ve only read six of the nominees: 4 historical, 1 regency, and 1 suspense. I tend to primarily read my favorite authors’ new releases, so according to an AAR poll here some while back, I definitely fall into the cautious reader category. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the 6 books I did read.

  8. Susan says:

    I think I’ve read 4 total from that list. However, I don’t use lists like these to choose my reading. I browse a lot, sample, and also check out what my friends are reading. The fact that I read 4 Rita nominees is just coincidence.

    However, quite a few reviews from here have made me choose books.