Individual Award Winners
Laura Lee Guhrke
And Then He Kissed Her
(AAR Grade: A-)
“I am honored to win the award for Best Heroine in the AAR Annual Reader Poll. I’m glad I was able to create a heroine who touched the hearts of so many readers. Thank you. “
(AAR Grade: A-)
Best Erotic Romance (S/A)
“Wow!! Thanks so much for this cool award. Fairyville was an emotional, fun, and uncustomarily silly book for me to write. It pleases me no end that people have been responding so well to it, especially discriminating (dare I say picky ) readers like the ones at AAR. I guess being silly works for me!
“Laurie asked me to comment about erotic romance becoming more mainstream, and why that might be. I think it’s been a gradual, organic process; romance has been known for being sexy for a long time. As much as some readers have been hankering for hotter and hotter stories, that’s how much a lot of writers have been hankering to write them. Once the momentum for any trend gets going, there are usually people who are ready and happy to jump on. Today there are so many wonderful authors writing erotic romance, and so much variety in their stories, that readers have a great variety to choose from. The more chances readers have to find books they love, the better is for the lasting power – and acceptance – of any subgenre. Bottom line: erotic romance is becoming more mainstream because more and more people are enjoying reading it.
“My next book out is Demon’s Fire on April 1st – no fooling! It’s more serious than Fairyville, but – I like to think – equally big-hearted and equally hot. I think a lot of the people who liked Fairyville will enjoy it, too.
“Thanks again for naming Fairyville your Best Erotic Romance and best wishes to everyone!”
Up Close and Dangerous
(AAR Grade: C+)
Best Cabin/Road Romance (tie)
“Thank you for AAR. And I’d like to thank all the readers who voted for Up Close and Dangerous for its tie in the Best Cabin/Road Romance. People are always asking me what a particular book is ‘about,’ and i’ve learned to make up a short, pat answer in advance, because otherwise I’m completely stumped. I don’t think of my books as being ‘about’ anything; I have no message to impart, no greater meaning I’m trying to give – because, hey, that would mean I actually had to plan and plot, and I’m so not the type of writer who can do that. I know my limitations. I just tell the story, period.
“That said, I can see that UCAD is actually ‘about’ something – sort of. Kind of. Maybe. It’s about the theory of onions – how people have layers, and you don’t really know them until you know all their layers. It’s about first impressions sometimes being wrong, and finding out what’s behind someone’s public persona. Cam and Bailey were two people who would never have gotten together under normal circumstances, because their first impressions of each other, while wrong, were too strong. There had to be a catalyst, something that would force them to see each other in a different light, and that something was a plane crash and the subsequent survival effort. Cam’s prejudice against Bailey was the strongest, but it was smashed first – by Bailey’s care of him while he was injured, by her dogged efforts to save him and provide shelter for them under dire circumstances. Bailey didn’t give up; no matter what, she coped, with what she had at hand. She adapted. She didn’t panic, and she used her head.
“Bailey’s prejudice against Cam was more of a self-protective nature, because she didn’t trust easily. In fact, she distrusted strong emotion. She wasn’t anti-men, but she was definitely anti-romance. She was slow to give in to the very idea of love, to trust Cam, to let him have a place of prominence in her heart and her life. She had to see all of his layers, the steadfastness, the strength, before she could let herself trust.
“Seth, her stepson, was another onion. At first glance, he was loathsome. At second glance, he realized his own loathsomeness and began taking steps to correct it. He was intriguing, and complicated, and probably never completely rehabilitated. In my mind – and no, there’ll never be a book written about them because it’s already settled – he and Karen, the secretary, were on a collision course. Karen knew Seth the way no other woman ever would, and didn’t let him get away with anything.”
Linda Howard, btw, was kind enough to share some “inspiration” with us; a photo of Major Marc Weintraub, a pilot stationed in Iraq who provided her some technical expertise. Click here for the photo of this real-life hero.
Best Amer/Frontier Historical (S/A)
“I was in deadline hell when the little musical bling popped into my head set, interrupting Credence, telling me I had mail. I wandered away from a love scene I was writing and rather distractedly opened the email. I had to read it twice before I understood the content. And then I just sat there and thought, ‘Wow!’
“For about five minutes that was the extent of my coherence. And then I read the email again just to be sure I hadn’t misread. I hadn’t. Caine’s Reckoning had won in AAR’s annual readers poll, but not in the erotic category, which would have been fabulous in itself, but in the broader category of American Historical/Frontier Romance category. For me, receiving that email was like the sweetest of homecomings after a very long journey. There really aren’t words to express how overwhelmed I am, how touched, nor how grateful. Thank you.
“For years I’ve been fighting my own personal uphill battle. I started my career with my western historical Promise series. For those that don’t know, making the decision to start a career with a western historical series these days is tantamount to saying, ‘I’ve decided to jump off the Empire state building without a parachute. I think it could be fun.’ Pretty much everyone looks at you like you’re crazy, and no one wishes you luck. Western historical romance is a ‘dead’ genre, killed off through preconceived notions of what a WH must be. Notions honed through the years when the genre was glutted and the multitude of offerings blended to a proven story line.
“It wasn’t easy to sell the Promise series. It wasn’t easy to get the books reviewed once they were published, but slowly, gradually the series caught on, and while almost every review on those first two books started with ‘Even though I don’t normally like western historical’ they ended with ‘I loved this book.’, So, I focused on that and kept going because I loved these books.
“When I was swept into the NY market through the generosity of [erotic romance author] Sunny who read Promises Keep and sent me an email out of the blue asking, “With a mainstream voice like this why aren’t you in NY?” and who then introduced me to my agent Roberta Brown, I had very few expectations. I was honest with Roberta. Not only did I want to write western historical romance, I wanted to write my style of WH which meant, hot, gritty, character-driven romance written in deep POV. She was honest back. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she urged me to pitch the series as I wanted to write it because what was going to sell the series was my voice as an editor projected it into the depth of the story line I envisioned. It was the best advice I ever received.
“I currently have four series contracted with Berkley and Harlequin Spice. All of them are books of my heart. Three of them are western historical and some of them make their debut this year. In June, Running Wild (sexy alpha werewolf paranormal series) releases from Berkley Heat. In July, Sam’s Creed, book two of the Hell’s Eight [Caine’s Reckoning is book one] releases from Harlequin SPICE . In October, Promises Reveal book four in the Promise series releases from Berkley Sensation. (Yes, the Rev’s story is finally here!) While I do hope readers enjoy these books as much as they’ve enjoyed Caine’s Reckoning, I’m a person that lives in the moment, and this moment, right here, right now is too sweet and too special to rush through. So once again, thank you very much.”
Laird of the Mist
(AAR Grade: A-)
Best Medieval/Renaissance (S/A)
“How exciting to be voted Best Medieval/Renaissance Romance! It’s a special honor because it was voted for by readers. Thank you very much, everyone. And don’t forget, Graham Grant from Laird will have his own story this summer. Look for A Highlander Never Surrenders in stores August 2008.”
Games of Command
(AAR Grade: A-)
Best SF/F & Futuristic
“I’m flabbergasted – now, there’s a word you don’t see very often these days – to have Games of Command take the Best SF/F & Futuristic Romance designation from AAR. My cat, Daq, will likely tell you it’s because of the furzels. He’s sure it’s his image on the front and back cover plus the inclusion of the furzels in the scenes that made readers care so much for the book and the characters. He may well be right, but for those of you who found Branden and Sass worthy, as well as Jace and Eden, I thank you. As many of you know, the book was originally written as a series of emailed adventures for a close friend going through a divorce. It was written with a lot of heart because of my friendship with “Doc Eden.” I’m thrilled others resonated to those emotions and enjoyed the adventure.
“Next out the shuttle launching bay is Shades of Dark, the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost (RITA winner for Best Paranormal Romance). Another intense book and due on the shelves end of July 2008. For those who wanted more Sully and Chaz, Shades of Dark is where you’ll find them…and more.
“Many many thanks. Can I go back to running around my office, screaming, now?”
When I put together the results page and this analysis, it occurred to me that I’d expected each of the following books to have earned at least an honorable mention somewhere because they earned so many votes – and generally in multiple categories. So before moving on, let me pay homage to Ice Storm, Ice Blue, The Leopard Prince, Untouched, and Virgin River. All fought valiantly before being left behind, Untouched in particular, which dropped from in one category when the very last group of votes were tabulated from first to third.
Because this is the 12th year of this poll, we have a great deal of historical data from which to draw. Rather than create one super-long page, including that information, I’ve added a second page, which includes that detail, as well as the ATBF Forum questions. It’s worth a look, so please continue to page two.
Continue to page two for some historical perspective on AAR’s Annual Poll,
along with my questions for the At the Back Fence Forum