February 9, 2010

14th Annual Reader Poll Results

Below you can see the book-by-book results with attached author comments, and a complete listing of the winners can be found here.

The results in our 14th Annual Reader Poll are in! Once again, we want to thank all the AAR readers who voted our Annual Reader Poll. We love seeing so much enthusiasm by readers/voters; it makes tallying the ballots quite a lot of fun. We were sure a shorter voting window would work out well for all, and you all did us proud as we received even more votes than last year.

Continuing in 2008’s trend of historical romances dominating many of the poll categories, 2009 was a memorable year for readers who love well-written and cliché-free stories with intriguing characters. A trio of authors who wrote historicals received many of the wins and honorable mentions. For all those readers who bemoan “Why don’t they write them like the used to?” it is clear that Jennifer Ashley, Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran offer an answer to that question.

Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was the ultimate winner, earning Best Romance, Best Historical Romance Set in the U.K., Most Tortured Hero, and Best Love Scenes (in a tie). Her story also earned an honorable mention for Best Romance Heroine. Readers who haven’t yet read Ms. Ashley’s books have a nice backlist to discover. Out of Ms. Ashley’s 14 single title books reviewed at AAR, 11 have earned a grades of B or higher.

Best Romance is the category that appeared on the most ballots with 90% of AAR Readers filling in this slot, though Favorite Historical Set in the UK was just behind, with 89% of voters naming books in that category.

Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran won for Best Romance Heroine and Best Romance Couple, as well as scoring honorable mentions for Best Romance, Best Historical Romance Set in the U.K. and Best Love Scenes. Ms. Duran’s other 2009 title, Written on Her Skin, also received votes in several categories.

Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband won for Best Historical Romance Set Outside the U.K. and Biggest Tearjerker and also received honorable mentions for Best Romance and Best Romance Heroine. Ms. Thomas was voted Best New Author in 2008 and she has definitely lived up to that honor.

It was a knock-it-out-of-the-park year for Ashley, Duran, and Thomas. Other multiple winners were:

  • Lisa Kleypas – who repeated her wins in 2008 for Best Contemporary Romance and Best Romance Hero, this time with Smooth Talking Stranger and its hero, Jack Travis. Although historical romances seem to dominate the awards, 83% of the ballots cast this year listed a favorite contemporary romance andSmooth Talking Stranger garnered a whopping 23% of the votes. Ms. Kleypas also won for Best Love Scenes (in a tie). Smooth Talking Stranger also received votes in the Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction category, which shows that readers tend to have a hard time categorizing Ms. Kleypas’s contemporary books by genre, but obviously have no trouble enjoying what she writes.
  • Nalini Singh – who won for Best Paranormal with Branded by Fire as well as Best Kick Ass Heroine (Elena Deveraux) for Angels’ Blood. Voting this year was split for many categories due to authors releasing more than one book during the year. This held true for Nalini Singh as Angels’ Blood and Branded by Fire fought it out until the very last ballots to be in the winner’s circle. Branded by Fire also received an honorable mention for Best Love Scenes.

Other winners are:

  • Tessa Dare – who won Best Debut Author handily. Ms. Dare had three books (Goddess of the Hunt, Surrender of a Siren, and A Lady of Persuasion) published in 2009.
  • Suzanne Brockman – whose Dark of Night won for Best Romantic Suspense. Ms. Brockmann is no stranger to winning in AAR’s Reader Poll, having won Honorable Mentions in Romantic Suspense in 2006 for Hot Target and 2005 for Flashpoint. Ms. Brockmann’s best year was 2003 when she won Best Romance of the year for Gone Too Far. It has been three years since Ms. Brockmann won an award, but we welcome her back with her latest DIK, Dark of Night, which continues Ms. Brockmann’s tradition of writing stories with lots of action and engaging characters.
  • Carla Kelly – who remains a reader favorite, had two books published in one year and obviously gave voters a difficult time in choosing their favorite.Marrying the Captain won for Best Series Romance, and its follow-up, The Surgeon’s Lady, received an honorable mention. Both titles received DIK reviews.
  • Julia Quinn – who writes lighthearted historicals containing witty dialogue and personable characters. It’s not surprising then that What Happens in London captured a win for Funniest Romance. Ms. Quinn previously won for Favorite Funny in 2001 for The Viscount Who Loved Me and received honorable mentions for Funniest Romance in 2003, 1999 and 1998.
  • Pamela Morsi – who has moved from writing historicals to chick lit/women’s fiction, won in the latter category for Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar.
  • J.R. Ward, for an unprecedented third year in a row, won the Guilty Pleasure category with Lover Avenged. That title also received an honorable mention in the Best Paranormal category. With the honorable mention this year, J.R. Ward’s books have won or placed in the Best Paranormal Romance category in 4 out of the last 5 years.
  • Newcomer Courtney Milan – who eked out a win for Best Short Story, for This Wicked Gift in the anthology The Heart of Christmas.
  • J.D. Robb – who received honorable mentions for Best Kickass Heroine and Best Romance Couple. This is Eve and Roarke’s 10th win or honorable mention for Best Couple and Eve’s 8th win or honorable mention as Best Romance Heroine and Feistiest/Kickass Heroine. Ms. Robb has missed out only twice for wins or honorable mentions, in 2005 and 2009.
  • Loretta Chase who received an honorable mention for Best Romance Heroine for Don’t Tempt Me.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

There are no winners for Best Erotica this year as not enough titles received votes. That said, this year there was a 20% increase in the number of titles submitted over last year’s poll. However, the votes were spread out among several authors who published more than one book in 2009. For example, 2008’s winner, Beth Kery, had four different 2009 titles appear on readers’ ballots. If we polled for Best Erotica Author, the outcome would have been quite different. Unfortunately, there were not enough votes for any single title.

We are sure authors are quite happy not to have “won” Worst Romance. Apparently many readers had many specific titles they didn’t like but there was no large consensus for any one book.

When you are done reviewing the results, we’d love for you to answer some questions (via our message board) about our Annual Reader Poll :

  • Did your favorite authors, titles and/or characters make a good showing?
  • Which results really surprised you?
  • Did you prefer the shorter voting period?
  • Interim results were not provided. Do you think this was a good idea or not?
  • Are there any categories you didn’t vote in? Why not?
  • Should any changes be made to the categories, e.g., Worst Book renamed Most Disappointing?

Once again, our heartiest congratulations to the winners of 2009’s best romances as voted by All About Romance’s very discerning readership.

AAR’s Pollsters – LinnieGayl, LeeB, and CindyS

Multiple Award Winners

Jennifer Ashley

Four wins and one HM for The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Romance
Best Historical Romance Set in the U.K.
Best Love Scenes
Most Tortured Hero
Best Heroine (HM)

“I think it’s so wonderful that readers responded the way they did to Ian Mackenzie and his story, and I’m happy that they loved him as much as I do.”


“Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I have found such fulfillment and excitement in trying to meet the challenge of the contemporary genre—I love it, and it continues to be a learning experience for me. I think my contemporary characters all have something in common—they each have to figure out what to do with their emotional baggage, and if they can’t discard it, they find that love gives them the strength to carry it more easily. The thought that my work has been enjoyed by the readers I respect so much is a thrill beyond words. Best wishes and sincere gratitude.”

Lisa Kleypas

Three wins for Smooth Talking Stranger

(AAR Grade: B)

Best Contemporary Romance
Best Love Scenes
Best Hero

Meredith Duran

Five wins for Bound by Your Touch

(AAR Grade: A)

Best Romance Heroine
Best Romance Couple
Best Romance (HM)
Best Historical Romance Set in the U.K.
Best Love Scenes (HM)

“Wow—I’m so surprised and tremendously honored by these accolades! Thanks so much to the AAR community for cheering on the bad boy and the bluestocking. Also, if characters could demand justice, I’d say you had just delivered it for Lydia: I fretted during the writing of this book that she was so much more serious than Sanburne (and her sense of humor so much quieter) that he might end up overshadowing her. You have now proven me wrong, and I am *delighted* for it!”

Nalini Singh

Three wins for two books

Branded by Fire

(AAR Grade: B)

Best Paranormal
Best Love Scenes (HM)

Angels’ Blood

“I’m utterly delighted and honored at this news! I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted, and to AAR staff for their hard work in organizing the poll.”

Nalini Singh

Three wins for two books

Angels’ Blood

(AAR Grade: B+)

Best Kickass Heroine

Sherry Thomas

Four wins for Not Quite a Husband

(AAR Grade: A)

Best Historical Romance Not Set in the U.K.
Biggest Tearjerker
Best Romance (HM)
Best Romance Heroine (HM)

Not Quite a Husband made me cry buckets while writing, so I won’t disagree at all with the tearjerker win. :-) But I’m particularly over the moon about the honorable mention for best heroine. Bryony’s character journey was wonderfully satisfying to write and I’m so glad she resonated with readers. A big thank you to the AAR community and to all the readers for the honors. I am drunk with elation.”

J.D. Robb

Two wins for the In Death Series

(AAR Grade: A, B)

Best Romance Couple (HM)
Best Kickass Heroine (HM)

J.D. Robb

Two wins for Lover Avenged

(AAR Grade: B-)

Guiltiest Pleasure
Paranormal Romance (HM)

Carla Kelly

Two wins for two books

Marrying the Captain

(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Series Romance

“Maybe the books struck a similar chord with readers, as the project did with me. We live in tense times, with war all around. We each, in our own way, ‘fight Boney.’ And thank goodness there is time, along the way, to live, love, and make a difference.”

Carla Kelly

Two wins for two books

The Surgeon’s Lady

(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Series Romance (HM)

Continue on to Individual Winners

Individual Award Winners

Suzanne Brockmann

Dark of Night
(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Romantic Suspense

“What an honor! I’m thrilled that the readers who gave Dark of Night a chance enjoyed it so very much. I truly appreciate their willingness to go where my stories take them.”

Julia Quinn

What Happens in London
(AAR Grade: A-)

Funniest Romance

“I’m thrilled to be honored for What Happens in London. Writing it was so much fun; I even had myself laughing at times. It’s wonderful to know that readers, too, read the book with smiles on their faces.”

Tessa Dare

Goddess of the Hunt
Surrender of a Siren
A Lady of Persuasion
(AAR Grades: B, B+, B+)

Best Debut Author

“Being voted Best Debut Author by the AAR readers is a huge thrill and a tremendous honor. Thank you so much! Both to those who voted for me, and to those who voted for someone else–just for taking a chance on a debut author. We new authors rely on word-of-mouth, and the online community especially. I’m so grateful to AAR for making the effort to review debut books and providing readers with a forum to discuss them, and again, my warmest thanks to all the readers who spent time with my books. I couldn’t be more delighted!”

Courtney Milan

This Wicked Gift
(AAR Grade: B-)

Best Romance Short Story

“This is an incredible thrill, and the award means a lot to me. I had been told over and over again not to bother writing about anyone outside the upper class, but this novella just came together of its own accord. It’s meant so much to me to hear that it resonated with readers. There were numerous other novellas and short stories that really excelled this last year, and I’m honored that readers chose mine. My thanks to everyone who read it.”

Loretta Chase

Don’t Tempt Me
(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Heroine (HM)

“My thanks to AAR readers for honoring my harem girl. Zoe Octavia gave me a chance to do something different in the way of a heroine: English on the outside and something completely foreign on the inside. She was a joy to write, and I’m delighted that this very discerning and passionate romance community singled her out with their votes.”

Pamela Morsi

Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar
(AAR Grade: A-)

Best Women’s Fiction