Tuesday, August 5, 2008

RITA - or, the Oscar of Romance

This past weekend in San Francisco, a few thousand published and aspiring writers gathered to learn, schmooze, and celebrate all things romantic. The gathering culminated in awards presented to published and not-yet creators of works in many different categories (in the latter, called 'Golden Heart' rather than 'Rita').

Apprentice Writer doesn't know who the original Rita was, nor was she in attendance at the gala (though some of her IRL and cyberfriends were, and seem to have had a blast, one and all). Of the works that made the finalist lists she has only read a few, and regarding these, it seems that her views diverge from those of the romance-judging powers that be.

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas finalled in the HISTORICAL category. Ms. Kleypas is a Big Name in the industry, all of her titles arriving with much buzz and storms of reviews. Of her previous work, AW read and greatly enjoyed Devil in Winter due to a fantastic hero and unexpected but well-matched herioine. In MTM, the hero is likewise a compelling character, not least due to his Gypsy, or Roma, heritage. AW welcomed such an unusual hero choice, and felt the author did a great job in providing background about a culture usuallly mentioned only in passing and usually derision (in accordance with the then-prevailing view) in much historical fiction. So strongly was the character written, though, that the pendulum began to swing too far in the other direction for this reader. Cam Rohan is not only goodlooking, smart to near-genius level, wildly competent, insanely wealthy, etc. etc. but solves every single problem that comes the heroine's way to the point that the heroine seemed bland and ineffective. It never seemed clear to AW what drew this unique man to a more or less average heroine. Not only did she not stand out to this reader, but at the beginning of the book St. Vincent, Cam's employer and said hero of the delicious 'Devil in Winter' goes so far as to recommend to him that if he is tired of sophisticated fare (referring to his romantic interests) he should try something 'plain' for a change. MTM did not win in its category, but to this reader it seemed odd that of all the titles available, this was considered one of the best historicals. The winning title was 'Lessons of Desire' by Madeline Hunter, which AW has not read.

In the REGENCY category (which is the only time period to get such special treatment), The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn, another Big Name, not only finalled but won. Gentle Readers of this space will know that AW disliked this novel so intensely she did not finish it. In her view, it had the opposite problem of MTM: likeable heroine, unattractive hero. Yet here it is, decorated with a Rita.

What does it all mean?

That people inclined to lay bets on the outcome next year should ignore AW's predictions?

That AW is a strange and unpredictable creature?

That AW should not pay attention to the finalist lists at all?
Well, no, she would not go that far. The precise details of who gets included or left off as a finalist will always be a matter of debate, but it has not yet happened that she found no interesting titles to add to her TBR list.

This year, the ones that looked most promising included

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourne (Winner, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements)

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Winner, Young Adult)

Untouched by Anna Campbell (Finalist, Regency)

and the work of my lovely blogger buddy Julia's cousin -

Surrender to a Scoundrel by Julianne MacLean

What about you, Gentle Reader - what did you think of this year's awards?


Wylie Kinson said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I only read ONE Rita-nominated book and sadly, it didn't win :(

Hey - thanks for commenting at my place about the 'THING'
Your viewpoint was eloquent and though-provoking.
I love when people 'discuss' rather than rant :D

Julia Smith said...

I'm not a huge romance reader, so it doesn't surprise me that the only book on the Rita list I'd read was my cousin's book ('Surrender to a Scoundrel' by Julianne MacLean. I thought Lisa Kleypas was going to be the one for her to watch out for. Wrong!

I tend to like things that not everyone else likes, myself, so mainstream nomination choices usually aren't my cup of mochaccino.

M. said...

Wylie - I'm interested to see how the whole thing plays out. I was impressed that Sarah at SBTB invited and posted the input of her friend the British Sunni Muslim reader for some insight and balance. I was not so impressed with how the author herself posted something like 'hey! it's only fiction!' That was disingenuous.

Julia - eep! how did I overlook your cousin's nomination! I plead late night mommy brain. Corrected my oversight.

Julia Smith said...

No problemo, M!

Ana said...

shhhhh, even though I am a HUGE Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn fan, I mean HUGE HUUUGE , I have to agree with you in your assessment of both book. MTM is not her best book, far far from it. And The Secret Diaries is my least favorite JQ (I read them all) .

On a separate note squeee, you love St Vincent too?