A popular favorite in the Rita Awards is the Best First Book category, where avid readers of romance can find new writers to follow. This year’s nominees are no exception. There are five finalists with divergent backgrounds, publishing paths and sub-genres. Here is a rundown of the nominees in this exciting category:
Five Days in Skye
by Carla Laureano
David C. Cook
John Blase and Tonya Osterhouse, editors
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.
Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.
by Beck Anderson
Jessica Royer Ocken and Cindy Robinson Campbell, editors
When Kelly Reynolds’s husband died, he left her—the awkward, cautious one—to raise their two young boys. She’s pieced herself back together, barely. Now she takes refuge in her routine: running her kids around and running the trails near her Idaho home.
Two years after her husband’s death, a chance encounter on a run brings Andrew into her life. But Andrew is Andy Pettigrew, the Andy Pettigrew, famous actor. Kelly hates risk, and a love affair with Andrew is certainly tempting fate. She doesn’t fit into his Hollywood world. She doesn’t own a pair of Louboutins, and she couldn’t walk five paces in them if she did. Andrew oozes cool. She reeks of dork.
But despite this, they click. It may be inexplicable, but it works. However, it’s also becoming clear that Andrew struggles with the pressures of his fame. Kelly’s hold on a so-called normal life is already tenuous, and as much as she might want to indulge the fantasy, she doesn’t know how either of them is supposed to cope with stalkerazzi and tweet-happy fans with camera phones. She and Andrew both have secrets that seem impossible to keep.
Beck Anderson’s witty, engaging writing yields an emotional tale of love, loss, and all the little things that make up a life. In the end, what is it that really holds us together? Kelly must decide if love can fix two people who might be broken beyond repair.
by Samanthe Beck
Entangled Publishing, Brazen
Heather Howland, editor
He’ll teach her how to bring a man to his knees…
Dr. Ellie Swan has a plan: open her practice in tiny Bluelick, Kentucky, so she can keep an eye on her diabetic father, and make hometown golden-boy Roger Reynolds fall in love with her. But Ellie has a problem. Roger seeks a skilled, sexually adventurous partner, and bookish Ellie doesn’t qualify.
Tyler Longfoot only cares about three things: shaking his bad boy image, qualifying for the loan his company needs to rehab a piece of Bluelick’s history, and convincing Ellie to keep quiet about the “incident” that lands him on her doorstep at two a.m. with a bullet in his behind.
The adorable Dr. Swan drives a mean bargain, though. If sex-on-a-stick Tyler will teach Ellie how to bring a man to his knees, she’ll forget about the bullet. Armed with The Wild Woman’s Guide to Sex and Tyler’s lessons, Ellie is confident she can become what Roger needs…if she doesn’t fall for Tyler first.
Promise to Return
by Elizabeth Byler Younts
Simon & Schuster, Howard Books
Beth Adams and Amanda Demastus, editors
When World War II breaks out, Miriam’s fiancé, Henry, is drafted and sent to a conscientious objector camp. But when Henry feels called to fight on the front lines, he goes against the Amish church to follow God’s will—forcing Miriam to choose between the rules of her religion and the leading of her heart.
It’s 1943 and Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are nearing their wedding day when the unthinkable happens—Henry is drafted. However, since he is a part of the pacifist Amish tradition, Henry is sent to a conscientious objector Civilian Public Service camp. When he leaves for the work camp, his gaping absence turns Miriam’s life upside down. Little does she know that it’s only the beginning…
When Henry returns home, he brings news that shakes Miriam and their Amish community to the core. He tells Miriam he believes God has called him to enlist in the Army and fight for his country, leaving her to make an important decision. She soon must choose between loyalty to the peaceful life she’s always known and her love for Henry and her faith in their shared destiny.
Two worlds collide in this unforgettable debut novel, providing a fascinating and rare look into Amish culture during World War II. While Henry is battling enemies across the ocean, Miriam struggles between devotion to Henry and her love of the Amish way of life. One question is at the bottom of it all: will she follow her religion or her heart?
The Sweet Spot
by Laura Drake
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Latoya Smith, editor
A Love as Big as Texas . . .
Charla Rae Denny was the perfect wife with a perfect life, content to keep the home fires burning while her husband, JB, competed as a champion bull rider. Then their son died in a tragic accident-and everything fell apart. Divorced and saddled with a hill of bills and a failing ranch, Charla must now cowboy up to put her life back together.
James “JB” Denny doesn’t stay where he isn’t welcome. So when Charla shut him out of her grieving heart-and their home-a year ago, he took comfort where he could find it. Now after seeing beautiful Charla again, he wants it all back. She can’t work the ranch alone, and deep in his heart he knows he can be the man she needs. But after so much history and heartbreak, can JB convince Charla to take a risk and give their love a second chance?