originally published March 1, 2001
(many of the links in this post have been lost to history)
To all the winners in our fifth annual readers’ poll, congratulations and continued success! With nearly 30 categories polled, the AAR Reader Awards ballot is quite comprehensive; readers must study the ballot and be prepared with details on titles, characters, and definitions in order to participate. Turnout far exceeded expectations for the 22 positive and 6 negative categories polled.
Results in our annual reader awards are almost always surprising, and this year was no different. I believe this year’s crop of winners proves that new blood is revitalizing the genre; many of the winners have only been published in recent years or have only only emerged as names of note in recent years.
Before we get further into the column, I’d like you to click here for the main page and see the results themselves (both these are jump links and will open new windows in your browser, allowing you to toggle back and forth between the column and the awards page). Again, to all the winners, congratulations. To all those who voted, many thanks. And, to Shelley Dodge, our pollster, whose hard work is so often behind the scenes but is nonetheless vital, a tremendous thanks as well.
And the Big Winners Are. . .
- Adele Ashworth – who won in three categories, including favorite romance of the year, and received honorable mention in four other categories for Winter Garden.
- Suzanne Brockmann – who won in four categories and received honorable mention in two others for The Unsung Hero and Get Lucky.
- Linda Howard – who won in three categories and received honorable mention in three others for Mr. Perfect and A Game of Chance.
- J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) – who won in three categories as Robb, two by such margins that there were no honorable mentions given. The two books involved in these three wins are Witness in Death and Judgment in Death. She also “won” in one of our dubious distinction categories as Roberts. She received absolutely no dubious distinction votes as Robb.
- Madeline Hunter – who won in two categories. Both of her wins were “stand-alone” wins; no honorable mentions were given in either category. One of her wins was book-specific, for By Arrangement.
- Jennifer Crusie – who won in one category and received honorable mentions in two others for Welcome to Temptation.
- Julia Quinn – who won in one category and received honorable mention in two others for The Viscount Who Loved Me.
- Stephanie Laurens – who won in one category and received one honorable mention for A Secret Love.
Here are some other items of note from this year’s poll:
- In 11 categories, no honorable (or dis-honorable) mentions were given. This happens when the character, title, or author in first place has so many more votes than the second place finisher that they stand alone. Interestingly enough, Madeline Hunter, who won for By Arrangement as Favorite Medieval Romance, stood alone. The book in second place in this category? Madeline Hunter’s By Possession.
- Several authors had more than one book receive votes for in this year’s polling: Madeline Hunter, Julia Quinn, J.D. Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, and Linda Howard each had two books favored by readers. Surprisingly, this did not prevent them from doing quite well in the final tally, although they might have won even more awards/honorable mentions had they only had one title instead of two. On the other hand, Barbara Samuel aka Ruth Wind did suffer in the tally from having two Y2K releases that stuck with readers. In the Midnight Rain would likely have fared better in the Most-Hanky Read category had Night of Fire not been released in the same year.
- Eve and Roarke from J.D. Robb’s In Death series continue to wow readers.
- Roarke has been the stand-alone favorite hero for two years running (2000 and 2001), and received honorable mention as favorite hero in each of the three previous years (1997, 1998, 1999).
- Eve was this year’s favorite heroine, she stood alone as favorite heroine in 1997 and 2000 and received honorable mentions as favorite heroine in 1998 and 1999.
- As a couple, Eve and Roarke have won every year of the five we’ve been running this poll. They were stand-alone winners this year (who says the passion dies after marriage?), last year, and the year before.
- For the first time, the same book received the dubious distinction of Most Disappointing and Worst Read – Dara Joy’s High Intensity. Personally I was stumped by this one; although I had voted for the book as most disappointing, I did not think it was the worst book of the year. I do think the expectations for it were so high that it carried over in the polls into the Worst category. Zanita, the heroine from High Intensity, was also voted Most Annoying Lead Character. In each of these three areas of dubious distinction, there were no dis-honorable mentions.
- The same author – Robin Schone – received the dubious distinction of receiving the Purple-est Prose award two years in a row. On the other hand, the hero from her Y2K release – The Lover – won, by a small margin, as our readers’ Most Tortured Hero.
- Mary Jo Putney’s keenly anticipated and highly controversial contemporary romance debut, The Burning Point, failed to show much on the radar. The only votes it received at all were in the Most Disappointing category, but very, very, very far behind High Intensity. Another romance surprising in its lack of votes was Jo Beverley’s Devilish. It did receive votes in at least two categories, but not in the numbers expected. On the flip side, the number of votes Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden received in so many categories was truly astonishing; though our review staff adored this book, sales have not been great.
- For the first year since we started these awards, Susan Elizabeth Phillips had a very minor presence. In 1997 she won six honorable mentions, the next year she won in three categories. In 1999 she won in four categories, including Most-Hanky Read, and won one honorable mention as well. Two of her wins were stand-alone, for Most-Hanky Read and Most Tortured Hero, proving her versatility. In 2000, she received three wins, two of which were stand-alone, and one honorable mention. This year she receives but one honorable mention – in the Favorite Cabin/Road Romance category. Though First Lady was not nearly as successful for online romance readers as previous books have been, her diminished showing when compared to past years is somewhat of a shock.
- Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick failed to show at all in this year’s poll except in a negative category; she received more votes than any other author in the Authors You Gave Up On category. Receiving dis-honorable mention in this category was Catherine Coulter, who had “won” this dubious distinction in three of four previous years.
- AAR’s review staff did very well this past year in terms of matching its readers’ tastes. In the poll, we asked for votes in 19 book-specific, positive categories. Roughly 80% of the winning books in these categories received Desert Isle Keeper Status from our staff, and none of the titles our readers loved received less than a B-.
From the Winners Circle:
Adele Ashworth and Winter Garden:
- Winner for Favorite Romance
- Winner for Favorite Cabin/Road Romance
- Winner for Favorite European Historical Romance
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Most-Hanky Read
- Most Luscious Love Story
- Most Tortured Hero
- Favorite Buried Treasure/New Discovery
Upon being informed of her showing, Adele wrote:
“I’m absolutely amazed and thoroughly humbled by AAR’s reader response to Winter Garden. Knowing readers enjoyed this book so much is honestly the greatest feeling I’ve experienced in a long, long time. It was such an extremely difficult book to write for many reasons, but especially because the hero loves the heroine from the beginning of the book. What a challenge! It took a lot out of me to complete it, and when it was done, I anguished over the story, never quite satisfied that it was good enough to publish, primarily due to the fact that it is just so different. I’m a natural worrier, but this one had me in a panic! The response I’ve received from readers who frequent AAR has completely blown me over, and I can’t thank you all enough from the bottom of my heart.”
- Winner for Most-Hanky Read (The Unsung Hero)
- Winner for Favorite Buried Treasure/New Discovery
- Winner for Author Most Glommed (Collected – stand-alone winner)
- Winner for Favorite Series Romance (Get Lucky – stand-alone winner)
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Favorite Heroine (Get Lucky)
- Favorite Contemporary Romance (The Unsung Hero)
Suzanne Brockmann made her first appearance in our reader’s poll last year, when she won three honorable mentions for two single title romances. When asked for comment about her showing in this year’s awards, Suzanne wrote:
“Wow, I’m thrilled! I especially love that I have the honor of being Most Glommed! That’s very cool! And speaking of glomming, the first three books in the extremely hard-to-find Tall, Dark & Dangerous mini-series (Prince Joe, Forever Blue, and Frisco’s Kid), are going to be re-issued in 2002, along with Harvard’s Education, which will be re-issued in Feb. 2002 to celebrate Black History Month! (LLB: Those first three books, btw, were all granted DIK status from our review staff!)
“Receiving this news from you is a great way to start what’s going to be a very fun month for me. The Defiant Hero is finally in bookstores, and just received DIK status from AAR reviewer Nora Armstrong and was just discussed in a really fun Pandora’s Box. I’m embarking on a big promotional tour, starting Friday and will be visiting Memphis, Tampa, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas and Boston and doing writing workshops and plenty of book signings in those areas. I love signing all those glommed books, so they should bring ’em along to the signings!
“I’m really jazzed that The Unsung Hero won the Most Hanky Read and got honorable mention for Favorite Contemporary Romance. TUH is one of those books of the heart – a very special book for me. As a writer, there have been many times I’ve envisioned a book, but when I sit down to write it, it somehow mutates into something completely different from what I’ve imagined. That doesn’t necessarily make it less good, of course, just different. (Kind of the way Greek pizza is different from the pizza you get at an Italian restaurant!) But with TUH, I had such a clear vision of what I wanted this book to be. And when I wrote it, it came out exactly the way I’d imagined it. That was enormously satisfying!
“I’m also honored to receive your award for Favorite Series Romance. It’s that “Tall, Dark & Dangerous” thing, isn’t it? LOL! Something about this series of books really works for romance readers, huh? I’m so glad! I truly enjoy writing the TDD books and plan to keep writing them forever…or until the readers are tired of this series!
“Being named AAR’s Favorite New Discovery is great news! I love the fact that my reader base is growing by leaps and bounds, and I give the Internet and wonderful web sites like All About Romance a ton of credit for that. (Thank you so much!!)
“Last but not least, I’ve got to comment on Syd from Get Lucky being given an honorable mention for Favorite Heroine. Syd was a kick to write. I just kept picturing Janeane Garafalo with her dry sarcasm and wit going one on one with Luke “Lucky” O’Donlon, and Syd just immediately sprang to life.
“Thanks again for these honors! Being recognized this way, by such avid and savvy romance readers means so much to me!”
- Winner for Feistiest Heroine (Mr. Perfect – stand-alone winner)
- Winner for Favorite Villain (Mr. Perfect)
- Favorite Romantic Suspense (Mr. Perfect – stand-alone winner)
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Favorite Funny (Mr. Perfect)
- Favorite Cabin/Road Romance (A Game of Chance)
- Favorite Contemporary Romance (Mr. Perfect)
Linda Howard has received many AAR awards and honorable mentions since their inception in 1997. In that year she received two honorable mentions for two books in the same Luscious Love Story category; she also received a dis-honorable mention in the Purple-est Prose category. In 1998 and 1999 she won in the Favorite Romantic Suspense category (she picked up an honorable mention in 1999 in another category as well). She received an honorable mention for Favorite Romantic Suspense in 2000 as well. Both last year and this year, she’s crafted our readers’ Favorite Villains. Mr. Perfect, her first romantic suspense with a decidedly humorous bent, was a big hit with our readers for 2001. Alas, Linda Howard does not “do” the Internet; although I’ve conducted a telephone interview with her in the past, there has not been time to contact her regarding her showing in this year’s poll.
- Winner for Favorite Hero (stand-alone winner)
- Winner for Favorite Heroine
- Winner for Favorite Couple (stand-alone winner)
When Shelly Dodge, AAR’s resident pollster, and I talked about this last category, we wondered whether or not the margin between Eve and Roarke and the couple in second place, Jaine and Sam from Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect was big enough to make this a category in which no honorable mention was given. In some categories, that determination is simple; the margin is two or three to one. The margin for Favorite Couple was closer than that, but Shelley’s comments swayed me in favor of Eve and Roarke standing alone. I think her statement sums it up for a lot of J.D. Robb fans: “I think Eve and Roarke are such winners we should let them stand alone. I think this is really impressive after 12 novels. I am, however, biased, since I am a rabid fan – which is weird because I don’t read Nora Roberts.”
I’m the opposite of Shelley; although I can read horrific tales filled with vampires, werewolves, and zombies (can you tell I’m on an Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter glom?), the gore in romantic suspense novels is too much for me. I’m firmly in the Nora Roberts contemporary romance camp. When I first got online, the one author I never heard a negative word about was Nora Roberts. As the years have gone by, negatives began to creep up about Roberts, but never about her books as J.D. Robb. It is, as Shelley stated, incredibly impressive for a series that has featured twelve titles so far to continue to attract so many readers for its lead characters and its love relationship.
Kudos to Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb, who, out of 35 reviews here at AAR, has received 19 DIK’s, far more than any other author. Seven of those DIK’s are from the In Death series. Here’s what Nora had to say about the continuing popularity of Roarke, Eve, and their relationship:
“I’m absolutely thrilled that readers respond so well to Eve and Roarke. After all the time I’ve spent with them, my connection to those characters is really special. It makes me incredibly proud and happy that readers feel that connection, too. I’m grateful to AAR for providing a forum for books, for readers, for writers. My thanks to everyone who voted.”
Madeline Hunter and By Arrangement:
- Favorite Medieval Romance (stand-alone winner)
- Favorite New Author (stand-alone winner)
AAR’s review staff is not alone in falling all over the talent of new author Madeline Hunter. She received two DIK’s and a B+ for her first three books, medieval romances all released in a year’s time. Whenever we come across an author who: not only imbues her characters with strength and depth but also creates turn-the-pages plots; weaves historical events, political intrigues, and day-to-day living into her stories in such a way as to make it seem as though we’re flies on the wall in the 14th century; and writes romances with as much love, passion, and excitement as we crave, we tend to gush. I can’t remember a new author receiving two stand-alone awards in their debut year before, and, as I indicated earlier, Madeline’s biggest competition in the Favorite Medieval category was herself.
Here’s what Madeline wrote about her victories:
“I was really honored to show up on the ballot. Now, learning that I have won two categories has left me stunned. I really appreciate the support that AAR readers have given my books.”
Jennifer Crusie and Welcome to Temptation:
- Favorite Contemporary Romance
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Favorite Romance
- Favorite Funny
Jennifer Crusie is no stranger to our yearly reader polls; she burst onto the scene in a big way in 1997, capturing the award for Favorite Funny and receiving six honorable mentions. She is the only romance author I know of who went straight from series titles to hardcover. While she did not receive any awards from our poll between 1997 and 2001, she has racked up six DIK reviews in the interim.
When informed of her showing in the poll, Jennifer said:
“The accolades mean a lot coming from the readers at AAR because they really know romance. I’m honored they liked Temptation so much, and I’m e-mailing my editor right now to tell her. She’ll be thrilled!”
Julia Quinn and The Viscount Who Loved Me:
- Favorite Funny
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Favorite Heroine
- Favorite European Historical Romance
I fell in love with Julia Quinn when I read her first book in 1995; it was my email discussions with her that led to my writing online to begin with. She began showing up in our reader’s poll in 1998 with one honorable mention. In 1999 she received another honorable mention, and in 2000 she received another honorable mention and also captured the prize for Favorite European Historical.
Julia was excited to hear from me, and wrote in return:
“I’m always thrilled to be recognized in the AAR Awards because they are chosen by readers. And I’m especially delighted to have been recognized in the Favorite Heroine category. As a writer, I tend to agonize the most over characterization. I’m always worried that I won’t have made a character’s motivations clear, or that a reader will finish the book thinking that my characters were just your stereotypical stock romance hero and heroine. “Of course, I’ll know I’ve really made it once I win Author You Hate Who Others Love!”
Stephanie Laurens and A Secret Love:
- Most Luscious Love Story
- Honorable Mentions for:
- Favorite European Historical Romance
When Stephanie Laurens made the switch from writing Regency Romance to historicals (set in the regency period), her sexy and witty writing made quite an impression. She really hit her stride when she invented the Cynster males – this group of rakish heroes who pursue independent women into love and marriage has fulfilled many a female fantasy. The first book in this series, Devil’s Bride, won as Favorite European Historical in our 1999 poll and its hero received honorable mention as Favorite Hero. Laurens received another honorable mention the next year. My belated introduction to the Cynster clan came with an early look at her new release – All About Love – what have I been waiting for? Yes, you can hear my hand smacking my forehead, but at least I’ve been smart enough to glom this series, even if I haven’t yet read most of it.
Here’s what Stephanie had to say about her showing this time around:
“It’s always a special feather in any author’s cap to be recognized by those who are our audience – sales figures are our applause, awards are our ovations. I’m honored to have my work recognized by the All About Romance Annual Readers’ Poll. My thanks to the readers at All About Romance, and to the site for providing the forum.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Susan Grant’s The Star King, but then, I equally enjoyed her debut romance, Once a Pirate. Perhaps our readers have a short memory, and indeed, The Star King was more complex than Once a Pirate, but I was surprised not that The Star King won as Favorite “Other” Romance, but that Once a Pirate did not garner many votes.
Even so, it’s been a joy to watch this author’s success over the past year, and informing her she had won in her first year as a published author was one of the perks of this job. Here’s her response:
“Wow! After a long day after having seven second grade girls over for a sleepover, I thought I’d check my mail one last time before bed and saw your great news. I am incredibly thrilled and flattered to learn that The Star King won Favorite “Other” Romance. Yes, it’s a fun Friday-night-at-the-movies-with-popcorn type book, written to be enjoyed as pure entertainment. But the “heart” of the story is a 43 year-old woman finally taking the steps necessary to find happiness. Maybe that’s what appealed to so many readers. I hope so. It’s why I wrote it. This is so very gratifying, truly an honor, and a huge nod of respect for a new author writing for one of the smaller houses. Thank you, thank you! I also want to thank my editor, Christopher Keeslar, for believing in me and letting me write my unconventional stories.”
Susan also indicated that other authors had advised her to put The Star King aside because it was unpublishable. Other than the age of the heroine and hero (they’re in their early 40’s), I couldn’t figure out why, so I asked. She responded:
“It was three things, basically: the age of the couple, the hero was a gasp alien, and the sub-genre was ack SF Romance, difficult because it’s a hybrid of two distinct genres of fiction. I was unpublished at the time (about 2 years ago) and I clearly remember several multi published authors at various times taking me aside and giving me guidance (with good intentions, I’m sure) that it was a shame I wasn’t using my talent to write ‘marketable books.’ But I was determined to finish this book. If it didn’t sell, well, then I’d move on. It did sell – in a two book contract with Once A Pirate. Again, an editor who had the guts to buy something different took me on as a new author. There was a bidding ‘war’ for my first book (Once A Pirate), but none of the other publishers also offering 2-book deals would touch The Star King (maybe if they’d read the manuscript, but they wouldn’t.) Write another story for us, they said, like a nice little TT, but we don’t want that one. So, for several other very good reasons, too, I took Dorchester’s offer because they were willing to publish The Star King. I think what happened with this book is the perfect lesson: don’t listen to the naysayers. I didn’t when pursuing my first career (as a pilot, first in the Air Force, now as a commercial pilot of 747’s), and I will not in this new career either.”
For the second year in a row, Diane Farr has won the Favorite Regency Romance category, although she shares that honor this year with the more established Emma Jensen. Clearly, Diane, who debuted last year, is one of the most sparkling new authors in the Regency sub-genre. Here’s what she had to say about her latest win:
“Wow – I’m speechless! Seriously, I’m surprised and delighted. And grateful to my readers. And to AAR, as well, for conducting the poll. Writing is such a solitary occupation that feedback of any kind – especially positive feedback! – takes on an enormous emotional significance. Many thanks for the boost to my spirits!”
Emma Jensen, who won for Favorite Regency Romance (with A Grand Design) in a tie with Diane Farr:
When Fawcett stopped publishing Regency Romances at the end 1998, lovers of this sub-genre feared for some of their favorite authors; at the top of that list for many was Emma Jensen. Luckily for us, she was picked up by Signet, where she has written some lovely romances, including the DIK-awarded A Grand Design. I had never corresponded with Ms. Jensen before; she was entirely gracious when I informed her of her win and status as a “buried treasure,” writing:
“What a terrific site. It would certainly go on my “best discoveries” list. “I’m thrilled that readers enjoyed A Grand Design so much. It was great fun to write. I was almost sorry to lay the last figurative brick in the Marquess of Tregaron’s house. And to be counted among such wonderful authors (also deemed buried treasures at AAR) as Diane Farr and Nancy Butler is always an honor.”
A sneak peek at our list of romances on sale in April reveals an Emma Jensen title by Ivy – from its length, title, and cover design, it looks to be a single title historical and not a Regency Romance.
Robin Schone, who won for Most Tortured Hero but who also received the stand-alone dubious distinction for Purple-est Prose – for the second year in a row:
This is an interesting author to talk about, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is her unabashed desire to push the sexual envelope in romance novels. When most readers discovered her last year, her tortured and tormented characters won them over. Even though this year’s The Lover was not as well received, its tortured prostitute hero struck a chord with our readers. Surprisingly, the character of Michel Des Anges not only won as Most Tortured Hero, he received a number of votes as Most Annoying Lead Character.
When Robin Schone took last year’s dubious distinction for Purple-est Prose, I was surprised because most people associate purple prose with euphemistic love scenes, and her love scenes were far more graphic. After talking about her two full-length books with those who read them, then reading the winning parody in our most recent Purple Prose Parody Contest, I realized that for Schone’s readers, purple prose is in the short sentences, the short paragraphs, and the repetition of phrases. In short, it’s not the love scenes, it’s the overall style of writing.
Here are Robin’s responses to her positive and negative awards:
“What a wonderful surprise! I proudly accept the award for Most Tortured Hero on Michel’s behalf. It’s so nice to know that he touched readers, as Michel and and Gabriel are very special to me. Truly they are my two angels. “And I thank you for the author award of Most Purple Prose. It has always been my understanding that ‘purple prose’ is a term used to describe writing crammed with adjectives and/or euphemisms for sex organs/sex acts. Since I tend to use adjectives sparingly, and it is well-known that in my stories I call a penis a ‘penis’ and a clitoris a ‘clitoris’ – then obviously purple prose must have another meaning here. If I have won this award because I write erotic, explicit sex scenes why, then, I hope I continue to receive this award for many, many years to come.
“Thank you for your votes!”
Christine Feehan, who received three honorable mentions for the second year in a row:
“I can’t thank everyone enough or explain what it’s like to have such a compliment paid to my novels. I appreciate each and every reader and all of you who took the time to participate in the voting. And especially thank you to all the readers who voted for my books. I particularly love paranormal and gothic literature. Each award and each acknowledgement, helps to forward this genre. I’m hoping publishing companies take notice of the public’s interest in these types of novels! Thank you all once again!”
- Hanky Read
- European Historical
“Of all my novels, this one has special meaning for me, as I wrote it right after my family lost everything we owned in the Texas floods of October ’98. In fact, I literally got out of my house with only my purse and the clothes on my back. My wardrobe for the next few weeks was sent to me in a flood of boxes from the Avonladies – an incredible group of fellow Avon romance authors. They gave me many generous gifts, but the best gift of all was the reminder that I am the luckiest person in the world to have such true friends. Where Dreams Begin turned out to be a very happy and hopeful story. I started it while we were living in the local “Super 8″ motel, and by the time I finished it, we had moved into a brand new house! Thanks again to the readers for their kindness and support.”
As I voted in this year’s contest, I found myself wondering what books all my colleagues at AAR were voting for. At the end of the year, we get to pitch our favorite buried treasures, but they aren’t necessarily our favorite books of the year. Since we don’t do reviewers’ choice awards at AAR, I thought I would ask my fellow reviewers and staff members which book got their vote for very best romance of the year. At first it was pretty hard to get answers; everyone wanted to pick at least three! When they finally narrowed their choices down to one, they were pretty diverse. Many went for mainstream books that were popular with many readers, but some chose some more obscure books that would be considered buried treasures.
Nora Armstrong and Anne Marble were among the latter group. Nora’s pick was the debut Regency by Jessica Benson, Lord Stanhope’s Proposal. Nora found that when she looked over the reviews she had written in the last year, Benson’s book really stood out from the pack. She said, “I guess I’m just a sucker for a really well done Regency farce, and this book was extremely well done: strong characterization, solid writing, and intelligent, humorous protagonists who have an appreciation for the absurd…what an impressive debut.” Anne’s choice was Only in Your Arms by Tracy Cozzens – another book that many readers probably overlooked.
Others chose books by authors who were a little more well known, but weren’t among those our readers voted for in the end. Anthony Langford’s favorite was On Dangerous Ground by Maggie Price. Jennifer Keirans found that although she had given other books higher grades, Kathleen Eagle’s The Last Good Man was the one that stuck with her most, so it got her vote. Claudia Terrones’ vote went to A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton for the same reason – the story really stuck with her. Kelly Parker picked Teresa Medeiros’ debut hard cover, The Bride and the Beast, while Lori-Anne Cohen went with Ruth Wind’s In the Midnight Rain. Laurie Shallah didn’t read too many romances this year, but of those she read the most likable was Kimberly Raye’s Midnight Kisses.
As for Laurie Likes Books, she went rogue this year; her favorite was not a romance at all. She said, “My favorite read for the year was not a traditional romance – it was Joy Fielding’s fictional The First Time. This book had a strong romantic component – albeit untraditional – and was filled with not only eventual love, but sorrow, redemption and joy. And how it did this when I knew from the start that the heroine was going to die still amazes me.”
Linda Hurst probably reads more books than any of us, but the one that came to mind first for her was A Merry Chase by Victoria Malvey because the clever dialogue made her laugh. Mary and Maria K. also chose books that tickled their funny bones. Mary Novak’s choice was Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd (which didn’t show up in the poll results, although it got my vote for Favorite Funny). According to Mary, “Rules of Engagement recaptured the fun of my all-time favorite Dodd title, That Scandalous Evening. There just isn’t anyone who can deflate over-inflated men like Dodd can. I really enjoyed the central scandal and how we kept piecing it together until the whole picture was assembled.” Maria K’s vote went to Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me because it made her happy, and our many readers agreed with her; it was voted Favorite Funny this year.
Other reader favorites were reviewer favorites as well. Teresa Galloway’s favorite romance was Suzanne Brockmann’s Get Lucky, which was the winner in the Favorite Series Romance category. Christine’s favorite was I Do, I Do, I Do, Maggie Osborne’s Alaskan road romance that won in the Favorite American/Western Historical Romance category. This book was high on the lists of several other reviewers who ended up casting their final “best” votes elsewhere.
Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation was the Favorite Contemporary this year, and it was tops with Jennifer Schendel and AAR pollster Shelley Dodge as well. Also getting two votes was Suzanne Brockmann’s The Unsung Hero. Colleen McMahon and I both thought it was the best of the year, and AAR readers voted it Most Hanky Read. I chose it because it is one of the few books I read all year that I didn’t want to end. I loved the teenage lovers, two World War II intrigue, and the modern-day romance between old friends. As far as I was concerned, I could have kept reading for another week.
Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden was a huge winner in our poll this year. Readers chose it not only as best Cabin/Road Romance and best European Historical Romance, but Favorite Romance of the year as well. Ellen, Robin and Liz chose it as their favorite also. Liz enjoyed it because she could really feel the characters. She added, “Adele does a wonderful job with her characterization.” Apparently our readers agree!
The most popular book with AAR reviewers? Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect, the favorite of Jane Jorgenson, Marianne Stillings, Andrea Pool, and technical editor Sandi Morris. Jane felt that “for sheer can’t put this down, must keep reading enjoyment Howard’s Mr. Perfect was it.” Andrea found herself voting for it in several categories, so she knew it was her favorite as well. For Marianne, Mr. Perfect’s humor and steamy love scenes provided just the sort of romantic suspense she enjoys most. AAR readers agreed, voting it Favorite Romantic Suspense – with an honorable mention for Favorite Funny.
It’s a Wrap!
In addition to thanking all the authors who wrote the created the characters and wrote the books we fell in love with in 2000, we’d like to thank you all for participating in our yearly poll. Taking a look back on the year in this manner always revitalizes me and makes me want to read more terrific romances. I hope that is the case for you as well.
One last, and astonishing, thought. This, apparently, is the fifth anniversary of this column. Wow!