The Romance Writers of America gather once per year to award writers in a range of categories for the best romance books.  The 2018 RITA Awards are already closed for judging.  With the list of finalists due out next month, we thought we’d take a trip back to last years winners.

If you are a fan of the many genres of romance writing, then these reviews will direct you to some of the best romance books around. With many subgenres, finding a romance book to your liking is not hard.

RITA Romance Writers of America Awards

1. BEST FIRST ROMANCE BOOK: Once and For All: An American Valor Novel – Cheryl Etchison

Best First Romance Book
Bree Dunbar is a cancer survivor: powerful, full of joy and stubborn. After she wins a second battle with the awful disease, she feels the need for change. But it comes in an old form: her high school sweetheart. Danny MacGregor left her without saying a word 10 years ago. For Sargeant Danny, Bree is the love of his life. But the way he left things makes for a difficult reconciliation.

Once and for All is an intense romance, full of passion, heartbreak and angst. The characters are well developed. Danny is disciplined, courageous and strict. The way his demeanor changes around Bree is realistic but also absolutely fascinating. This love story will keep you glued to the pages following the roller-coaster of emotions and the action will leave you wishing for more.

2. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (long): Miracle on 5th Ave – Sarah Morgan

Contemporary Romance (long)
Eva Jordan, a hopeless romantic, is offered the chance to house sit a penthouse in Manhattan.  She agrees because there is no better town to spend Christmas in. A blizzard keeps her house bound along with the owner of the wonderful apartment. Lucas Blade, a widowed bestselling crime author is not so enthusiastic about the winter holidays and wants to be left alone to grieve in peace. But Christmas is a magic time when anything can happen, especially when two attractive people are locked in a house for several days.

You can understand why this was a RITA Long Contemporary Romance Award winner from the very first pages of the book. Her characters are complex and well developed. We found the description breathtaking and the interactions between Eva and Lucas intense and passionate and make it easy to fall in love with them.

3. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (mid): Carolina Dreaming – Virginia Kantra

Contemporary Romance (mid)
Jane Clark’s life hasn’t been a walk in the park. After years of abuse she divorced her husband and obtained a restraining order against him. Rebuilding her life with a seven year old son has left her guarded and protective of herself and her son. But when Gabe Murphy walks into her bakery, her life takes a turn. Gabe is also trying to rebuild his life from scatch after he left the Marine Corps, so a relationship isn’t on his mind.

Carolina Dreaming, a RITA award winning book for mid length contemporary romance, is a love story for finding oneself and one’s path in life. This book speaks about acceptance of a troubled past – both characters have dealt with different kinds of abuse.  Also, the hardship of rebuilding a life and how to open your heart to someone new. The romance between the characters is heartwarming, beautiful and it will keep reading to see just how it develops.

4. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (short): Christmas on Crimson Mountain – Michelle Major

Contemporary Romance (short)
Connor Pierce is a writer who wants to finish his novel in peace in a rented cabin on Crimson Mountain. April Sanders, the caretaker of the cabin is trying to figure her life out after she was named guardian of two beautiful girls. The brooding Connor and the fierce April have one thing in common: they both suffered through the loss of a dear one. For the male protagonist it was his wife and child, and for April was the friend who left her the children.

Christmas on Crimson Mountain is an amazing romance with complex characters who are trying to overcome the tragedies life has put in their path. This book is like a gift for all the cynics who don’t believe in love. It shows how another person can help you find your way even when it seems impossible.

5. EROTIC ROMANCE: Off The Clock – Roni Loren

Erotic Romance
Marin Rush may be in over her head when she lands a job as a sex therapist at The Grove because she has no practical experience. Dr. Donovan West knows about her shortcomings and tries to help her, giving her the clients from the Grove’s X-wing.  Some tasks are made for two people so Marin and Donovan start experimenting and working together.

This winner of the erotic romance section of RITA, is not entirely about sex, even though it plays a big role in this book. Marin is a smart and independent woman who knows what she needs and what she is looking for. Even though she doesn’t have much experience. Donovan is also a complex character, not a sex starved male. This is an edgy, sexy and unique story about two people who explore each other not only from a physical point of view but also psychological.

6. HISTORICAL ROMANCE (long): No Mistress of Mine – Laura Lee Guhrke

Historical Romance (long)
Lord Danys Somerton has been trying for the last six years to put his past behind him.  Especially the beautiful burlesque dancer, Lola Valentine. But when Lola comes back to London to manage an inheritance, the two meet again and the sparks start flying. The action takes place in Victorian London, where a simple girl from New York isn’t an acceptable bride for a nobleman. So can they overcome the difference in class and the past that has haunted them both?

Laura Lee Guhrke knits the characters’ past story with the current one in this artfully crafted novel.  You understand their current situation and also feel the anticipation build as the story progresses. The emotional conflict is so intense that you will not be able to put the book down.  The historical setting provides an elegance worthy of the era it is set in.

7. HISTORICAL ROMANCE (short): A Duke to Remember – Kelly Bowen

Historical Romance (short)
Elise deVries is an actress by night and an investigator by day. When she is hired to find the Duke of Ashland she discovers secrets worthy of a theatre play.  She also finds a man who is trying to run away from a dark past.  That man is Noah Ellery who gave up the luxury of a noble home to live as a simple man in the countryside.

A Duke to Remember is a romance novel unlike many others in this genre. Elise is an independent, smart and funny heroine but she also has the strength of character and chameleon nature usually seen in the man in romance stories. In contrast, Noah is a quiet man who runs away from wealth. He seems a little more fragile than most male characters in this genre. The way the author has reversed the roles makes this romance story more interesting than usual. The slow burning romance and the mystery of what made Noah run away from his glamorous life adds further interest.

The purpose of the RITA award is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas.

Next week will publish our reviews of more of the Romance Writers of America award winning romance novels from last year.