We’re pleased to announce that after nearly two years, the first of what will hopefully be many updates, have been completed for four of the Special Title Lists: Beta Heroes, Favorite Funnies, Marriages of Convenience, and Troubled Marriages. A big thanks to all of the AAR readers who took the time to send in their suggestions for additions to these four lists. We’ll be opening up additional lists on Monday, October 15, so make certain to check back here on that day.

We have incorporated most, but not all, of the recommendations submitted by readers onto the revised lists. While a couple of readers wrote on their submission form that we should just accept everything the readers entered, we used the three criteria stated at the top of the submission form when reviewing the submissions. Any additions to the list have to be: (1) the best of the best, (2) stand the test of time, and (3) actually fit the list for which they were submitted.

The Best of the Best. The Special Title lists are meant to represent the best of the best in each of the categories. Any book that received a grade of B- or higher at AAR, and that fit the category, was automatically added to the list. If a title was submitted that was not reviewed at AAR, or received a grade of C+ or lower at AAR, we searched a large number of other sites to determine an overall consensus on a title. For example, if a book received a C+ at AAR but had high reviews at numerous other sites, we added it to the list. Conversely, if a book had a D- at AAR, and was a DNF or poorly graded book on a number of other sites, we did not add it.

Stand the test of time.
We added a number of titles to the lists that were published years before the last updates were made. However, we did not include some that were submitted and described either in reviews or by the submitter as reading as “dated.” A book that’s very “dated” does not stand the test of time.

Fits the Category. Finally, the book actually needs to fit the category and this is where the work truly began. We read multiple reviews and descriptions of each title you submitted to get a feel for the books, and to make certain that they were appropriate for the list for which they were nominated. If a book was nominated for the Favorite Funnies category but uniformly was described as being a “tear-jerker” or “bleak” or “grim,” with no descriptions of being funny ever appearing in reviews, it was not added to the list, even if it had a grade of B- or higher at AAR.

There were a number of submissions for the Troubled Marriages and Marriage of Convenience categories that did not actually fit those categories. For example, while many of these titles had good reviews at AAR or other locations, they were not marriages of convenience; instead, they were shotgun marriages in that they, “are marriages that are brought about either because the bride is pregnant or because she has been hopelessly compromised.” In contrast, the Special Title Listing definition for a Marriage of Convenience is a marriage “that comes about because of circumstances. In most romances of this type, neither the hero nor the heroine desires the marriage, but circumstances such as lack of money or child custody make the marriage desirable. Sexual relations are not assumed to be part of the bargain; in fact, often there is a stipulation raised that the marriage will be dissolved (unconsummated) after a certain period of time. Sex does not negate the designation of marriage of convenience, however. Especially in contemporaries, sex may be considered part of the arrangement.” There are also situations outside of the above that make the marriage a convenience for both parties. In some cases the marriage is agreed to by both parties and it is expected that the marriage be real in every way except in true love. One such instance are Mail Order Brides and they can be found on this list. In cases where the titles fell into the Shotgun Marriage listing, we have kept the titles on file and will add the titles to the list when we update it later this year.

Similarly, there were a few submissions for the Troubled Marriages list that did not fit the definition of Troubled Marriages in which, “the couple is estranged, separated, or even divorced early in the story and, having worked out their differences or problems in communication, reunited at the end. “ Marriages in which the heroine (or hero) was married to a serial killer, escaped from the marriage, and fell in love with someone else do not meet that definition as these are all cases where a character has been married before, but then finds someone else.

It is with great pleasure that we can say that thirty-eight new titles have been added to the Marriage of Convenience list, twenty-two titles to the Troubled Marriage list, ninety-four titles were added to Favorite Funnies and forty-eight titles were added to Beta Heroes. We had fun reading all of your submissions, and we look to reading more when the next lists open on Monday, October 15. See you then!

– Rike Horstmann, Cindy Smith, and LinnieGayl Kimmel