It’s an exciting week in the romance world! On Tuesday, RWA announced the finalists in the RITA and Golden Heart contests. (You can find the full list here.)

For those of you who may not know, the Golden Heart is Romance Writers of America’s contest for unpublished authors.

Some of my favorite authors and friends of Read-A-Romance made the RITA nomination list this year - and lots of books I haven’t had the chance to read! {sigh} (yet.)

So excited to see Sarah Morgan in the mix again for long contemporary, as well as RaeAnne Thayne and Julie Anne Long! Alexis Hall won the Rita last year for erotic romance, and Lizzie Shane was a 2016 double finalist. Add in longtime favorites and bestsellers Barbara Freethy and J.T. Geissinger and this may be the hardest category this year.

Not to say any of them are going to be easy! So many great authors in the hunt. Plus, it’s a great year for representation, with a number of LGBTQ+ titles, non-white authors, and even the first ever F/F romance nominated, I believe: Lorelie Brown’s Far From Home from Riptide.

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Alyssa Cole’s Let Us Dream was nominated in the novella category, which came from the highly regarded Daughters of A Nation anthology, with novellas from Kianna Alexander, Piper Huguley, and Lena Hart. The fight for suffrage was long, hard, and carried out on many fronts. In Daughters of a Nation, a black suffragette historical romance anthology, Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley bring you four novellas full of spirit, hope, and, most importantly: LOVE.

3.23 MrMrSmith Love is the concept of HelenKay Dimon’s Mr. and Mr. Smith, where two deeply undercover operatives find themselves in each other’s (gun) sights. Yum! And nice to see a Kimani title, Synithia Williams’ A Malibu Kind of Romance, in the short contemporary noms, with an R&B superstar hero and a real estate developer female lead who doesn’t fall for his typical winning charm. 

Santino Hassell has had huge buzz in the market over the past couple of years and is an auto-buy for many M/M romance fans. I first heard of him when the Five Boroughs series brought wide acclaim, but the Cyberlove series he’s co-writing with Megan Erickson may be generating even more praise. Fast Connection, the second title in the series, was nominated in Mid-Length Contemporary. They’re up against two of my faves, Virginia Kantra (Carolina Dreaming) and Roxanne St. Claire ( Barefoot at Midnight ), and the very intriguing love triangle romance that’s received rave reviews, Veronica De La O’s Tell Me How This Ends. Plus six other titles, including very popular and bestselling Roni Loren’s Wanderlust (Loren is a double finalist, also nominated in the Erotic Romance category this year for Off the Clock);perennial fave Jodi Thomas’ Lone Heart Pass; and the second-chance at love romance with a baseball hero (I love those themes!), Off The Hook by Laura Drewry.

Romance_FastConnection Another particularly tough category this year will be Long Historical Romance. There are only four finalists, but they are among the best of the best: Loretta Chase, Sabrina York, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Anna Harrington. I’ve only read one of these (so far!), but it was fabulous. I’m going to try to read the others before I talk about any of them.

Some of the other Historical best of the best are in the Short Historical category, and this may be the category I’ve read the most of: Tessa Dare, Sabrina Jeffries, and Elizabeth Hoyt titles, as well as Margaret Brownley’s Left at the Altar, a quirky and chaste romance that includes an intriguing exploration of the way time was kept before time zones were established, first by railroad companies and then codified by Congress. (You can read more about that at Kelly Bowen and May McGoldrick, also historical favorites, round out this category.

I’m happy to see that RWA has decided once again to include a category that isn’t strictly romance, Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance. I absolutely loved Weina Dai Randel’s The Moon in the Palace, a lush, beautifully written debut novel which together with its sister title, Empress of the Bright Moon, tells the story of Empress Wu, the only female ruler of China.

I haven’t read the other titles in the category, but they all look great. I read a Tawna Fenske novel a couple of years ago and was really impressed. Now That It’s You looks like a completely delicious book, with a yummy conflict! (Pun intended, since the main female character is a chef and the hero is her ex’s brother, whose family is suing her over a bestselling aphrodisiac cookbook.)

3.23 romance_pagesofthemind Paranormal won’t be easy, since among the finalists are mega faves Ann Aguirre, J R Ward, and Molly Harper. However you can never count out Jeffe Kennedy. She’s spinning off her Twelve Kingdoms series with The Pages of the Mind—a title with a librarian heroine! Susan Grant’s Star series standalone title, The Champion of Barésh, offers another out-of-the-box heroine. Or Laura Spinella’s highly popular and acclaimed Ghost Gifts, with a writer heroine who talks to ghosts. Harlequin is well-represented in the category, with two Nocturne authors. Sharon Ashwood’s Enchanted Warrior looks terrific—when Gawain awakens in the modern day, he elicits the help of a witch and historian to help him make the Knights of the Round Table to save the world from a faery onslaught. Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert features a Native American shadow hunter and a witch who can hear auras and thinks there’s a traitor in his tribe.

I’m stopping there. So many great authors and fascinating sounding books with terrific reviews. (Sorry I couldn’t get to all of them.) I’m definitely adding to my TBR and TBLT (ToBeListenedTo) piles, but I don’t know where to start.

How about you? What title will you be diving into first?

What titles have you already read that you loved?

(Again, the full list is here.)

Congratulations to all the nominees! I look forward to hearing all the winners at the RWA National conference in Orlando this summer! (If you haven’t signed up yet, you can learn more and register here.)

#HappyReading #LoveRomance