magic I had fun seeing the RITA and Golden Heart award nominations go up yesterday. There were some really good books up there! At first, I was just noting that I had read more of the nominees(and had more in my TBR) than in past years. But then, as I pondered this list of books that stood out in the minds of RITA/Golden Heart judges, it made me think on a more subjective level about what makes a book really stand out in my mind.

Certainly polished writing helps. If the reader is constantly slogging through poor punctuation, clumsy phrasing, and the inveterate abuse of homophones, it’s hard for the story to speak to one. However, beautiful words without heart just won’t do it. And that’s where I find things hard to quantify.

After all, what is this heart in a story? One can cite the mixture of humor and poignant emotion that makes a Julia Quinn book stand out or the many layers of character Laura Kinsale bestows on her creations. Jennifer Ashley creates couples who feel real and show actual growth as people in their relationships, Roberta Gellis brings the distant past to immediate life, and the list goes on and on.

There’s just no one answer. And, given the wide range of tastes in online romanceland, there’s certainly no one answer for every person. Certain books just have the magical, special something that makes them stick in our minds and stay close to our hearts. You can’t quantify it or definite it, but, to paraphrase Justice Stewart’s famous description of obscenity, we all know it when we see it.

So, what makes a book unforgettable to you?

Congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists!

-Lynn Spencer