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Listening to a Good Romance–2016 Audie Finalists

Love to listen to a good romance? Each year, Audio Publishers Association (“APA”) sponsors the Audie Awards competition for best audio book productions in a wide array of genres and categories. The Audies® is the premier awards program in the United States recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment.

“Through the Audie Awards competition, publishers enter titles in various categories for recognition of achievement. Finalists are selected, and from that group of finalists one winner is awarded.” — APA

This year, the finalists in the Romance Category are:

The Duke’s Holiday
by Maggie Fenton
narrated by Sue Pitkin
published by Brilliance Audio

The cold, precise Duke of Montford demands things his way: neatly ordered, in place, and adhering closely to the rules. So he is furious when he learns that the tenant of his ducal estate has been dead for a year, and a stranger has been running the Honeywell business – which, by contract, is now Montford’s. When he arrives in Yorkshire to investigate, he discovers that the estate is being run by an unruly, tomboyish woman – and a bluestocking at that!

The Highwayman
by Kerrigan Byrne
narrated by Derek Perkins
published by Tantor Media

Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of Victorian London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him… and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception-and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands….

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover
by Sarah MacLean
narrated by Justine Eyre
published by HarperAudio

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal.

But the truth is far more shocking – in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell.

For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered – until now.

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
by Julia Quinn
narrated by Rosalyn Landor
published by HarperAudio

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride.

He knows he can’t be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family’s infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She’s the type of girl you don’t notice until the second – or third – look, but there’s something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she’s the one.

A Sorceress of His Own
by Dianne Duvall
narrated by Kirsten Potter
published by Tantor Media

Since the day Lord Dillon earned his spurs, rumors of his savagery on the battlefield have preceded him into every room, stilling tongues and sparking fear. Weary of battle, he wishes only to find a woman he can wed who will approach him not with fear but with the tenderness that has been absent from his life for so long. Yet only the wisewoman seems invariably at ease in his presence.

Whether you are already a fan of audio romance, or are simply considering listening to a good story with heart and passion, a great place to start is the Audie Award finalists. And in case your just catching up, last year’s Romance winner was:

THE LONGEST RIDE
By Nicholas Sparks
Read by January LaVoy, Ron McLarty
Hachette Audio

Nicholas Sparks’s redemptive, emotionally charged novel is an enjoyable change of pace for fans. Thanks to nuanced performances by Ron McLarty and January LaVoy, it’s also an instantly engrossing listening experience. When 91-year-old Ira Levinson drives off the road in a snowstorm, he has no one but his late wife to pass the long hours with while waiting for rescue. Meanwhile, miles away, Sophia Danko meets a cowboy who challenges her dreams of the future. Ron McLarty emphasizes Ira’s inner strength and growing fallibility while making the supporting cast immediately identifiable and intensely sympathetic. January LaVoy provides a steady, bright narration and compassionate characterizations that complement McLarty’s work beautifully, highlighting the differences in these character’s experiences even as they grow inexorably closer together.

Rita Run-Down: The Best Firsts

My favorite Rita category is Best First Novel. Exciting new writers get wonderful recognition early in their career and readers get introduced to those exciting new writers early on. No matter who wins, the list of finalists is a great place to start to find a new author to follow. Here is a rundown of the 2015 finalists for Best First:

A Bollywood Affair
by Sonali Dev
Kensington Publishing
Martin Biro, editor

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

The Dress Thief
by Natalie Meg Evans
Quercus Publishing
Kathryn Taussig, editor

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

Fake
by Beck Nicholas
Harlequin, TEEN
Annabel Blay, editor

Seventeen-year-old Kath McKenny has a date to the end-of-term party with her since-forever crush. He publicly messaged her to confirm, but there’s been a recent status update: he’s taking the new girl — giggly, pretty, well-developed Lana Elliot — instead.

After being thoroughly humiliated in front of half the school, best friend Chay talks Kath into revenge: a scheme to create the perfect — and very fake — online guy for Lana. Once she falls for him, they’ll show her what it’s like to get brutally dumped.

Everything is going to plan until Kath starts spending more-than-just-friends time with the other new kid in town — Lana’s dreamy older brother, Sebastian. Kath finds herself getting in deep — in love and drowning in guilt, she tries to put an end to her prank, but it’s taken on an unstoppable momentum of its own, with very real consequences.

As her plotting begins to unravel, so do the people Kath thought she knew:
Her mother has a secret online life.
Her father has a whole new family.
Her best friend is barely recognisable.
Her boyfriend has a disturbing hidden past.
And her enemy is more familiar than she knew.

For Such a Time
by Kate Breslin
Baker Publishing, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor

In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

Mind Sweeper
by AE Jones
Self-published
Faith Freewoman, editor

An angel, a demon and a vampire walk into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s just another day in the life of Kyle McKinley.

Kyle was born with the ability to erase memories, and the inability to keep her opinions to herself. She and her teammates – a vampire who looks like a sexy pirate with fangs, and a Shamat demon with a penchant for Italian pastries – provide supernatural damage control when humans see too much. Today’s problem? A sword-wielding angel and a demon had a supernatural smackdown during happy hour in a Cleveland bar, leaving behind a headless vampire and a dozen human witnesses.

This latest supernatural slip-up is attracting all kinds of attention. So much attention that the police step in, and Kyle has to deal with Joe Dalton, a know-it-all human with the sexiest turquoise eyes she has ever seen. Kyle has no room in her life for yet another human who will treat her like a freak. However, Dalton definitely makes her naughty parts sit up and take notice, and it’s more than mutual. But before they can act on their attraction, they must join forces to solve a dangerous puzzle. And when they uncover the truth, the apocalyptic ripple effect forces Kyle to make a choice. Learn to trust again, or risk losing everyone she cares about, including Dalton.

Purely Professional
by Elia Winters
Harlequin, Carina Press
Kerri Buckley, editor

Columnist Bridget Hartwell agrees to write about BDSM to impress her new executive editor at Sultry, the “sex-positive magazine for sex-positive women.” Unfortunately, it’s a topic she knows absolutely nothing about…but if she ever wants that promotion, she’ll need to learn the ropes, fast.

English professor Max Harlow is active in the Dom/sub scene, but only for casual play. He’s never found his ideal partner: a woman who is his equal, but sexually submissive. When he’s asked to explain the lifestyle to his cute but obviously inexperienced neighbor, Max is certain it’s best to approach it academically—to keep things purely professional.

Until Bridget’s first article is a huge hit, giving her the perfect excuse to delve deeper into the naturally submissive side of her sexuality. As their encounters intensify and each of her boundaries is skillfully pushed, Bridget must decide what this all means…for her identity, her career and, most importantly, her future with Max.

Run to You
by Clara Kensie
Harlequin, TEEN
Natashya Wilson, editor

Part One in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can’t even tell him her real name. But Tristan won’t be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

RUN TO YOU is Tessa and Tristan’s saga—two books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Each book is told in three parts: a total of six shattering reads that will stay with you long after the last page. Book One is First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm. Book Two is Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.

The Smuggler Wore Silk
by Alyssa Alexander
Penguin Group USA, Berkley
Julie Mianecki, editor

After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.

Though she may appear a poor young woman dependant on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.

As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.

To Scotland with Love
by Patience Griffin
New American Library, Signet
Tracy Bernstein, editor

Welcome to the charming Scottish seaside town of Gandiegow—where two people have returned home for different reasons, but to find the same thing.…

Caitriona Macleod gave up her career as an investigative reporter for the role of perfect wife. But after her husband is found dead in his mistress’s bed, a devastated Cait leaves Chicago for the birthplace she hasn’t seen since she was a child. She’s hoping to heal and to reconnect with her gran. The last thing she expects to find in Gandiegow is the Sexiest Man Alive! She just may have stumbled on the ticket to reigniting her career—if her heart doesn’t get in the way.

Graham Buchanan is a movie star with many secrets. A Gandiegow native, he frequently hides out in his hometown between films. He also has a son he’ll do anything to protect. But Cait Macleod is too damn appealing—even if she is a journalist.

Quilting with her gran and the other women of the village brings Cait a peace she hasn’t known in years. But if she turns in the story about Graham, Gandiegow will never forgive her for betraying one of its own. Should she suffer the consequences to resurrect her career? Or listen to her battered and bruised heart and give love another chance?

Rita Run-Down — The Paranormal Finalists

With the announcement this week of the finalists for this year’s Rita Awards, it’s time to take a look at what participating RWA members consider the best of 2014. Let’s start with Paranormal. The finalists, in alphabetical order, are Katharine Ashe, Jenn Bennett, Dristen Callihan, Jane Lynne Daniels, Cynthia Eden, A.E. Jones, Bec McMaster, and Gena Showalter for, respectively, the following stories:

 

My Lady, My Lord
by Katharine Ashe
Self-published
Martha Trachtenberg, editor

KATHARINE ASHE is the award-winning author of historical romances reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent,” including How To Be a Proper Lady, an Amazon Editors’ Choice for the Ten Best Romances of the Year, and How to Marry a Highlander, a prior RITA® Award finalist.

About the story:

The Bluestocking ~
Lady Corinna Mowbray has three passions: excellent books, intelligent conversation, and disdaining the libertine Earl of Chance.

The Rake ~
Lord Ian Chance has three pleasures: beautiful women, fast horses, and tormenting high-and-mighty Corinna Mowbray.

Neighbors for years, they’ve been at each other’s throats since they can remember. But when a twist of fate forces them to trade lives, how long will it be before they discover they cannot live without each other?

Find Katharine’s web page at: http://www.katharineashe.com/

Bitter Spirits
by Jenn Bennett
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Leis Pedersen, editor

JENN BENNETT is the author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series, the Roaring Twenties paranormal romance books, and a young adult contemporary, THE ANATOMICAL SHAPE OF A HEART, coming in 2015 from Macmillan. An artist and lover of all things vintage, she lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs.

About the story:

It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…

Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.

Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her…

On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…

Sign up for Jenn’s mailing list at: http://eepurl.com/V5il9

Evernight
by Kristen Callihan
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Alex Logan, editor

KRISTEN CALLIHAN is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA® finalist and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book Firelight received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

About the story:

Once the night comes . . .
Will Thorne is living a nightmare, his sanity slowly being drained away by a force he can’t control. His talents have made him the perfect assassin for hire. But as he loses his grip on reality, there is no calming him-until he finds his next target: the mysterious Holly Evernight.

Love must cast aside the shadows
Holly cannot fathom who would put a contract on her life, yet the moment she touches Will, the connection between them is elemental, undeniable-and she’s the only one who can tame his bouts of madness. But other assassins are coming for Holly. Will must transform from killer to protector and find the man who wants Holly dead . . . or his only chance for redemption will be lost.

See Kristen’s Amazon Author Page HERE.

Be Careful What You Kiss For
by Jane Lynne Daniels
Boroughs Publishing Group
Jill Limber, editor

JANE LYNNE DANIELS is the author of the Love Rewritten series from Boroughs Publishing Group – funny, sexy stories of second chance romance with that first love. Under a previous pen name, Dawn Calvert, she wrote humorous historical romance for Kensington.

About the story:

When a psychic gives Tensley the chance to erase her biggest regret and replay her life with the one who got away, who would have thought a simple “do-over” could go so terribly wrong—and feel so right?

TAKE IT…
When Tensley Tanner-Starbrook gets the chance for one life “do-over” from a well-intentioned but bumbling psychic, she goes for it. But that change turns everything else upside down. Instead of a buttoned-up corporate executive, she’s now an entirely unbuttoned exotic dancer. And she’s face to…face with the one man she’s never been able to get over.

TO THE MAX
Detective Max Hunter has come a long way from high-school bad boy, and with everything on the line, nothing can stop him…except seeing his first love dancing in the club he’s been assigned to investigate. Torn between getting her far away from the place and needing her help as an insider, he knows only two things for sure: Tensley’s stirring feelings he thought long ago buried, and a relationship with her would be career suicide. Yet, maybe, just maybe, this was a love meant to overcome the past.

Find Jane’s website at: http://www.janelynnedaniels.com

Burn for Me
by Cynthia Eden
Kensington Publishing, Brava
Esi Sogah, editor

CYNTHIA EDEN writes dark tales of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. She is a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller. Cynthia is also a two-time finalist for the RITA® award (she was a finalist both in the romantic suspense category and in the paranormal romance category). Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Cynthia has written over fifty novels and novellas.

About the story:

Under Fire

Eve Bradley was undercover looking for a story, not a cause. But something about the man they called Subject Thirteen got her involved. The scientists said he was a devil, and they had a decent case: Terrifying power. A bad attitude. And looks that could lead anyone to sin. . .

Cain O’Connor knows the minute he catches her candy scent that Eve could drive him wild. But she’s a threat–in a way no one has been for him in years. She’s safer away from him, too. But with a powerful conspiracy determined to shut Eve up for good, there’s no time to argue. All they can do is trust their instincts–and their hearts. . .

See Cynthia’s Amazon Author Page HERE.

Mind Sweeper
by AE Jones
Self-published
Faith Freewoman, editor

Growing up a TV junkie, award winning author AE JONES oftentimes rewrote endings of episodes in her head when she didn’t like the outcome. She immersed herself in sci-fi and soap operas. But when Buffy hit the little screen she knew her true love was paranormal. Now she spends her nights weaving stories about all variation of supernatural–their angst and their humor. After all life is about both…whether you sport fangs or not.

About the story:

An angel, a demon and a vampire walk into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s just another day in the life of Kyle McKinley.

Kyle was born with the ability to erase memories, and the inability to keep her opinions to herself. She and her teammates – a vampire who looks like a sexy pirate with fangs, and a Shamat demon with a penchant for Italian pastries – provide supernatural damage control when humans see too much. Today’s problem? A sword-wielding angel and a demon had a supernatural smackdown during happy hour in a Cleveland bar, leaving behind a headless vampire and a dozen human witnesses.

This latest supernatural slip-up is attracting all kinds of attention. So much attention that the police step in, and Kyle has to deal with Joe Dalton, a know-it-all human with the sexiest turquoise eyes she has ever seen. Kyle has no room in her life for yet another human who will treat her like a freak. However, Dalton definitely makes her naughty parts sit up and take notice, and it’s more than mutual. But before they can act on their attraction, they must join forces to solve a dangerous puzzle. And when they uncover the truth, the apocalyptic ripple effect forces Kyle to make a choice. Learn to trust again, or risk losing everyone she cares about, including Dalton.

See Cynthia’s Amazon Author Page HERE.

Forged By Desire
by Bec McMaster
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Mary Altman, editor

BEC MCMASTER lives in a small town in Victoria, Australia, and grew up with her nose in a book. Following a lifelong love affair with fantasy, she discovered romance and hasn’t looked back. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and adventurous steampunk romances. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds.

About the story:

A FEAR SHE CAN’T ESCAPE
Ten years ago, Perry fled her thrall contract to find sanctuary among the Nighthawks. In that time, she’s become a respected woman of the Guard, and she’s wanted Garrett Reed for as long as she can remember. But when a new case takes a chillingly familiar turn, Perry finds herself once again in the path of a madman…only this time, there’s nowhere left to run.

A DESIRE THAT CAN’T BE TEMPERED
Out of their depth and racing against time, Perry and Garrett must learn to trust the desire sparking between them…or risk losing themselves forever to the darkness stalking London’s streets.

Find Bec’s website at:  http://www.becmcmaster.com

The Darkest Touch
by Gena Showalter
Harlequin, HQN
Emily Ohanjanians, editor

GENA SHOWALTER is the New York Times and USA Today best selling author of the White Rabbit Chronicles, Otherworld Assassins, Angels of the Dark, Lords of the Underworld, and several of other young adult and adult romance series. She has written over thirty novels and novellas. Her books have appeared in Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazine, and have been translated in multiple languages.

About the story:

Fierce immortal warrior. Host to the demon of Disease. Torin’s every touch causes sickness and death—and a worldwide plague. Carnal pleasure is utterly forbidden, and though he has always overcome temptation with an iron will, his control is about to shatter.

She is Keeleycael. The Red Queen. When the powerful beauty with shocking vulnerabilities escapes from a centuries-long imprisonment, the desire that simmers between her and Torin is scorching. His touch could mean her end, but resisting her is the hardest battle he’s ever fought—and the only battle he fears he can’t win.

See Gena’s Amazon Author Page HERE.

Hot Prospects Contest

Sponsor: Valley of the Sun Romance Writers

Looking to sign your first book contract, switch from a small press to a large publisher or simply explore another genre of romantic fiction? Turn up the heat on your writing career with the Hot Prospects Contest.

GRAND PRIZE: The grand prize winner of the contest will have their entire manuscript (400 pages, Courier, 12pt, Double spaced) reviewed by two professional editors at Novel Needs.

Announcement by a former winner:

“After finaling and winning the hot prospects romantic suspense category with my entry The Gilded Cuff, Lauren Plude from Grand Central made a three book offer for my series. I just wanted to extend my thanks and gratitude to your chapter for hosting the contest and bringing in such great final judges!  Thank you!” ~ Lauren Smith

Fee:

$25 for Valley of the Sun RW chapter members
$30 for non-chapter members

Chapter website has PayPal capability. www.valleyofthesunrw.com

Deadline:

  • Postmark Deadline: September 1st, 2014
  • E-Submit Deadline: Midnight, September 1st, 2014

Eligibility:

The Hot Prospects Contest is open to any work that is not under contract and is unpublished at the time of entry.

Enter:

3-5-page synopsis and up to the first 25 pages of story (30 pages max). Entry or synopsis may be shorter, but neither may be longer than specified.

Final round judges

Editor at large 1206

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Historical/Regency

  • Editor—Esi Sogah, Kensington
  • Editorial Director – Angela James, Harlequin Carina Press

Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal

  • Editorial Assistant –Kristine Swartz, The Berkley Publishing Group
  • Editor—Amy Stapp, Tor /Forge

Romantic Suspense

  • Associate Editor- Lauren Plude, Grand Central Publishing
  • Editor -Tera Cuskaden, Samhain

Contemporary Long/Single Title

  • Editor at Large – Sue Grimshaw, Random House
  • Editor—Cat Clyne, Sourcebooks

For More Information, entry form, and rules, see website at www.valleyofthesunrw.com For questions please email Voshotprospects@yahoo.com. Those entries that do not final will be returned approximately October 30th, 2014 to help those who plan to enter RWA’s Golden Heart.

Lena Jakes and Lisa Heartman
Valley of the Sun Hot Prospects Co-Chairs

Rita Awards Rules Changes for 2015

Romance Writers of America has announced some significant changes from last year’s RITA rules. Many of the changes are based on member input; other changes were necessary in order to manage the increased number of entries. The RWA Board has provided the rules at this time so its members can become familiar with the changes before judges are asked to sign up (in September) and the contest opens for entries (in October).

Summary of Changes

(Please note: This summary of changes is from the RWA site, but it is not meant to replace or supersede the actual rules. Entrants should read the actual rules carefully before entering the RITA contest. This is provided as a preliminary courtesy.)

  • Entrants are required to judge.
  • Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered.
  • Judges will be allowed to opt out of two categories.
  • Contemporary romance is divided into three categories and historical into two categories, based on word count, with the goal of dividing the number of entries equally among the available categories. Please note that the number of entries, by category, vary from year to year, and the resulting number of entries in each category may not be equally divided.
  • Each entry will be scored between 1.0 (lowest) and 10.0 (highest).
  • Judges will assign one score to each work, with the final score calculated by dropping the high and the low score and averaging the remaining three scores (trimmed mean).
  • The top 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round, except each category will have no fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.

For more information GO HERE.

Golden Hearts Winners 2014

The Romance Writers of America has announced the winners of the prestigious 2014 Golden Hearts® Awards for best unpublished novel in certain categories or romance fiction. Congratulations to the winners, to the finalists, and to all of the participants. Every year many extremely high-quality works compete for these few slots, and the quality of writing and story are always of the highest caliber, allowing readers to fall in love again, and again, and again.

2014 Golden Heart® Winners

Contemporary Romance

  • “Too Good to Be True” by Suzanne Kaufman Kalb

This is the second Golden Hearts Award for Suzanne Kaufman Kalb, whose unpublished work, “Irresistible” won the Best Young Adult Romance category in 2011.

Suzanne, who writes as Erika Kelly, is a UCLA graduate in English Lit, and has been writing for years—plays, screenplays, short stories, novellas, and was one of the contributors to the book A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. She found her true voice, though, in writing passionate contemporary romances. Recently, she sold a contemporary series to Berkley. The first book, YOU REALLY GOT ME, comes out in January 2015. Learn more at her Website.

Historical Romance

  • “Charlene and the Duchess Factory” by Lenora Bell

“This sexy Regency romp blends The Bachelor with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and is the first in the RENEGADE DUKES series. The second two books are inspired by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.”

Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines. Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage clothing stylist, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt. Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, twenty-one-year-old cat, and towering mountains of books. Learn more at her Website.

Inspirational Romance

  • “My Lord Valet” by Kristi Ann Hunter

Stories have been part of Kristi’s life for as long as she can remember. An avid reader from the moment she could open a book, the written word has always been a way for her to relax, escape, and learn about herself and others. She graduated from Georgia Tech is 2003 with a degree in Computer Science. While she enjoyed building databases and designing software, her heart still yearned for the stories. After much prayer and deliberation the decision was made to pursue that passion. Since then she has written scripts for church plays and illustration videos, newsletter articles, blogs, and, of course, stories. Kristi’s fiction writings have been included on Regency Reflections, a blog for readers of Inspirational Regencies, as well as placed in several national writing contests. When she isn’t writing, Kristi enjoys music and television (again with the stories!) as well as working with the youth at her church. She is also fascinated with the internet and social media and how it can bring people together in new and exciting ways. She currently lives in Georgia with her husband and three children. Learn more at her Website.

Paranormal Romance

  • “Beyond the Fire” by Marni Folsom

Marni Folsom writes romantic fiction laced with magic, history and suspense. An adventurer at heart, Marni loves to travel, skydive, kayak, and eat all sorts of cheese. She’s worked in various business administration, human resources, and writing roles at mega-corporations, start-ups and everything in between. She studied British Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, designed her own program in Writing & Education at Antioch University and completed the University of Washington’s Popular Fiction Writing Program. Marni lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, where she often chases her mini-booklovers through the mossy forest beside their home. Learn more at her Website.

Romantic Suspense

  • “Chasing Damn” by Denny S. Bryce

In 2013, I was a finalist in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence and the Daphne Award of Excellence for Mystery/Suspense also for Chasing Damn. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Washington Romance Writers (WRW-DC), Maryland Romance Writers (MRW) and RWA Chapters Kiss of Death (KOD), Contemporary Romance Writers (CRW), and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP).

Hot on the tracks of her first sale, she is currently polishing her novel about a deputy sheriff who stumbles onto a small town’s darkest secret and into the arms of an international playboy as they search for the truth about six missing girls, a bag of bones, and a 500 year-old book. Learn more at her Website.

Short Contemporary

  • “Yesterday’s Promise” by Sarah Cannon

Sarah Connon, writing as Lauren Canan, will have her first published novel released in 2015 from Harlequin Desire. According to Romantic Times: “Lauren Canan, a Golden Heart finalist, crafts a heartwarming story about a rancher who will do anything to save her land when a billionaire threatens to seize it.  Prepare to be enthralled.”

Lauren has won multiple awards for her literary work in both romantic fiction and poetry. “I love the written word.  It has always amazed me how certain words placed in a particular sequence can evoke an entire gambit of emotion in the reader.  Laugh, cry, or scare the hell out of you! “Words can explain the mysteries of life or help visualize the simple wonder of a child seeing their first rainbow.  Best of all they can tell the story of two people who against all odds, meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Which to me, is the way it should be.  I’m a sucker for a happy ending!” Her education is from the University of North Texas with continuing courses in creative writing from other area colleges.  “I never want to stop learning.  And I will never stop writing.  It’s so engrained I will no doubt leave this world with pen in hand.  Or keyboard, as it were!” She also enjoys playing guitar, dulcimer, or bass in an acoustic music group/club and has composed several tunes for the piano.  “There has to be time for music!”

“My literary journey has been challenging, often frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking.  But I’ve also cried tears of joy, basking in the glow of successes gained along the way. I’ve made some terrific life-long friends and I wouldn’t trade one minute for anything in the world.” Learn more at her Website.

Young Adult Romance

  • “The Thing with Feathers” by McCall Hoyle

McCall is a 2014 Golden Heart Finalist, a middle school English teacher, and a runner…actually, make that a slow jogger. When not reading or writing, she can most often be found spending time with her husband, two children, and slightly neurotic Beagle. Learn more on Facebook.