After a rather unexpected long break for some real life events, I’m ready to start again with our series of posts about the best of romances published to date in each of the AAR Annual Poll categories. Next up, is the Best Romance Short Story or Novella. Voting in this category used to be very easy; run through all of the anthologies you’d read during the year and pick your favorite story. Then along came eBooks, and with them a seemingly ever-increasing number of novellas. Some days it seems as if virtually every popular author – and every up-and-coming author – is writing a novella that’s either a prequel to their next book, an epilogue to a popular book, or a complete standalone. And with the increase in novellas, voting in this category has become a lot more complicated.
Last year’s winner in the Best Romance Short Story or Novella was a novella, by Cecilia Grant. That book is easy to identify as a “novella,” as the full title is: “A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong: A Blackshear Family novella.” But not all novellas are so helpfully subtitled.
A google search for “what is a novella” yields a definition of “a short novel or long short story” which isn’t all that helpful. The New World Encyclopedia states that, “A novella is a narrative work of prose fiction shorter in both length and breadth than a novel, but longer than a short story. Typically, novellas dramatize individual events, or a short series of events, such as a day in the life, or an important turning point in a character’s life.”
To complicate things even further, AAR’s wonderful power search function does not include “short story” or “anthology” or “novella” as a search term. Instead, we appropriately list short stories, anthologies, and novellas under the genre in which they best fit (e.g., European Historical, contemporary, etc.). Not wanting to give up, I used the power search to look for all romances first published in 2015 under any genre with a grade of A+, A, A-, or B+. I then looked at each of the reviews and checked for reviewer hints that it was a short story or novella, or the actual page length (around 100 pages seemed a good clue). I came up with three possibilities:
- Pursued by the Rogue by Kelly Hunter (A-), contemporary
- All’s Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden (B+), European Historical
- Two Week Turnaround by Geneva Lee (B+), Contemporary
By scanning through the midweek mini columns published here, I came up with some additional possibilities:
- Axbridge by Sasha L. Miller (B), fantasy
- Beautiful Criminal by Shady Grace (B), erotica
- The Errant Prince by Sasha L. Miller (A-), fantasy (M/M)
- When Good Earls Go Bad by Megan Frampton (B), European Historical
I’ve recently read and can recommend the three novellas in The Outback Bachelor Ball – Win Meby Joan Kilby, Woo Me by Karina Bliss and Wait For Me by Sarah Mayberry. As things stand now, I’ll be voting for Wait For Me (a solid DIK for me) in this category in the Annual Poll.
Finally, I asked my colleagues at AAR for their suggestions about short stories or novellas that they’ve read so far or are eagerly anticipating in the remainder of the publishing year, and two had suggestions.
Caz commented that sheenjoyed Anna Campbell’s Three Proposals and a Scandal and noted it’s definitely in the B range for her. She would also add Dancing in the Duke’s Arms by Grace Burrowes, Miranda Neville, Shana Galen and Carolyn Jewel, commenting that, “I gave the whole thing 4 stars with the Neville being far and away the best – I’d give it a B+ on its own. The Burrowes gets a B/B-, the Jewel a C+ and the Galen a C.”
Tress by Larissa Brown is Dabney’s absolute favorite novella of 2015. Meredith Duran’s Sweetest Regret-–part of a holiday anthology–also gets an enthusiastic thumbs. Dabney gives it a B+. She has high praise for Victoria Dahl’s erotic historical The Harlot–its take on consent is fascinating and well-done. Other novellas she read and liked this year include Tamsen Parker’s Craving Flight and Sarina Bowen’s Blonde Date.
LeeB suggested readers check out The Last Chance Christmas Ball with short stories by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, and Cara Elliott.
Have you read any great short stories or novellas this year? If so, what are you going to vote for in this category in the Annual Poll?