Editor Alyssa Morris gives us an insider view on the 2014 RITA awards.
After three days of conversation about the future of the romance in an ever-shifting publishing landscape, the 2014 RITA awards celebrated romances of the past while honoring innovators of the present. Notably, J. Kenner took home the first ever RITA for erotic romance for Claim Me and the award for best Romantic suspense went to author Carolyn Crane for her novel Off the Edge. These awards reflect the widening romance market and the trends of the past few years, many wrought by the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, the Crossfire trilogy, and other similarly steamy independent titles (which 50 Shades of Grey and the first Crossfire book both, briefly, were).
Eloisa James presented the lifetime achievement award to Bertrice Small, a truly remarkable pioneer of the modern romance whom James, quoting Dickens, described as “the founder of our feast.” James recounted an anecdote from Small's early career, when her first publisher told her to stay home and take care of her baby. Small was undaunted, convinced that she would last longer in the publishing industry than he. And, indeed, she did. Leaving the ceremony, many people could be heard discussing their desire to track down some of Bertrice's novels.
Throughout the ceremony, video interviews revealed the first romances read by blockbuster authors. Emcee Simone Elkeles read Nobody's Darling by Theresa Medeiros, Julia Quinn was inspired to write by Jude Deveraux, Sarah MacLean was also inspired by Deveraux, citing The Black Lyon as her first romance. Kristan Higgins stole her first romance novel from her grandmother, knowing she wouldn't be allowed to read it otherwise. With the recent and forthcoming e-releases of many of these classic authors' backlists, it feels as though we are due for a resurgence of their popularity and a return to more adventurous themes in the modern romance.
Other RITA winners included Sarah MacLean for her historical No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, Molly O'Keefe for her contemporary Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Jane Porter for her novella Take Me Cowboy, Carla Laureano for her inspirational romance Five Days in Skye, Susan Kearsley for her paranormal The Firebird, and Leah Ashton for her short contemporary romance Why Resist a Rebel. Finally, Laura Drake won best first book for her western The Sweet Spot. All of these and the nominated titles are well worth delving into, and they may even inspire readers to look back in time and try the romances that paved the way for them.
Interested in romance? Sign up for Romance Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in romance each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from authors.