Who will win the RITA for best contemporary romance?

Since the Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for the RITA award back in March, I’ve been reading all of the nominated novels in my favorite category: contemporary single-title romance. Some of the authors are old favorites of mine, and some were new to me.

The winners will be announced on July 1, and I’m lucky enough to be in New York for the party. They’re fantastic novels, and I can’t wait to see who wins.

Best of luck to their authors!

Not That Kind of Girl by Susan Donovan

Not That Kind of Girl coverRoxanne Bloom launches a man-hating blog after overhearing her ass-hat boyfriend denigrating her bedroom skills to his friends – men she has to work with. Her now-ex breaks into her house and threatens her, until her man-hating pit-bull-Boxer mix nearly rips his throat apart. Roxie finds herself being sued and fighting to keep her dog alive. The only person she can count on is Eli Gallagher, the hottest dog whisperer around.

Eli’s used to being top dog, but can he help both Roxie and her dog feel secure enough that they let go of their angry aggression?

Read more about Not That Kind of Girl

The best parts

Susan Donovan does an amazing job of creating emotional intensity between her hero and heroine. Almost all the novels of hers I’ve read feature couples who spark immediately, and the flames grow hotter and deeper as the story develops. Plus, this novel contains the canine equivalent of a Regency rake: a pit bull most people think is irredeemable but who turns loving and loyal thanks to a woman’s devotion.

Still the One by Robin Wells

Still the One by Robin WellsWhen she was 17, Katie Charmaine had a summer fling with Zach Ferguson and ended up pregnant and boyfriendless. She gave her newborn daughter up for adoption – a heartbreaking experience she never revealed to anyone except the man she ended up marrying. But after her husband dies in Iraq, leaving her childless and grief-stricken, Zach returns to town with their 17-year-old daughter – a girl who’s pregnant and desperately needs parents.

The best parts

I cried. No, I bawled. The tenderness and conflict between each of the characters is realistic and satisfying. I loved that the author allowed Kate to have a wonderful relationship with her late husband, and that Kate struggles to overcome her grief before falling in love with Zach.

And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper

And One Last Thing coverWhen Lacey Terwilliger discovers her husband Mike is screwing his artificially enhanced secretary, she doesn’t just get mad; she gets online. Having sacrificed her own career to support his business, she writes one last email newsletter to his clients, family and friends, telling them exactly what a dickless wonder Mike is. Her revenge backfires, though, and she flees to her cabin to get away from her nagging, gossiping neighbors.

Fortunately for her, a hot author named Monroe lives next door. Can she convince him she’s not another psycho divorcée like all the others who’ve thrown themselves at him?

Read more about And One Last Thing

The best parts

Molly Harper’s voice rocks. She’s like a twisted version of Kristan Higgins. Her characters are witty and clever – except for the morons you’re not supposed to like. This novel is funny, tender, sweet and sexy, so it hits all the right spots. If you have a thing for Hugh Jackman, read this book. That’s all I’m sayin’.

One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy

One Fine Cowboy coverPsychology grad student Charlie Banks is sent to observe a horse whisperer in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the horse whisperer, Nate Shawcross, has no idea his ex-girlfriend took people’s money and promised them Nate would run a horse clinic. He’s shocked when cute Jersey girl (and PETA activist) Charlie shows up on his ranch, hauling her attitude with her. Nate’s ranch is in trouble, though, and he can only save it by putting on a good show for the group of greenhorns that arrive for his clinic. And he desperately needs Charlie’s help to make the clinic a success.

Read more about One Fine Cowboy

The best parts

This novel is the closest I can remember coming to a hero who was abused by a former partner. Although Nate’s ex-girlfriend didn’t hit him, she manipulated him so severely that his personality and confidence are shot. His insecurity when it comes to women is so endearing, and I loved the scenes written from his point of view. He wants to please Charlie, but he struggles hard to find ways to do so. Massive kudos to Joanne Kennedy for such a daring—and well-written—portrayal.

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Simply IrresistibleIn one week, Maddie finally gets rid of her abusive boyfriend, loses her job because of it, and finds out her mother has died. Though she and her mother were estranged, Maddie and her two half-sisters inherit a falling-down inn on the coast of Washington.

Maddie’s learned that trusting men can be a dangerous thing, but when she hires the sexiest contractor for miles around, she learns that love starts with that trusting herself.

The best parts

The hero, Jax, is among the best contemporary heroes I’ve ever read. He’s strong without being obnoxiously alpha. He’s supportive without being a pushover. And he’s thoroughly addictive. For the last couple of months, I’ve returned to this novel over and over, rereading my favorite parts. It’s so high up my keeper shelf no one will be able to touch it.

Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl

Lead Me On by Victoria DahlJane Morgan is the ultimate professional woman, but she hasn’t always been. In fact, she has completely turned her life around from the chaos she experienced growing up. She’s full of secrets—like that most of her relatives are convicts and that she earned herself a reputation when she was far too young—but there’s one thing she can no longer deny herself: hot sex with a tough-looking man.

But as her perfectly composed life begins to unravel, William Chase proves he’s a hell of a lot more than a working class stud service.

The best parts

Victoria Dahl’s contemporary characters break all the molds, and it’s truly a joy to see their layers peeled away to reveal people who are unlike any others I’ve seen in romance. Jane’s shame over her past decisions is gut-wrenching, and her growth over the course of the novel is painful to experience but all the more satisfying because of that. Chase may look like an ex-con, but he displays the stalwart character of superman as he supports Jane through her struggles. This is such a beautiful, sexy, funny story that I took the bus to work because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing But Trouble by Rachel GibsonHockey player Mark Bressler made his living on the ice, but when his Hummer hits a patch of black ice and flips, Mark’s career instantly ends and he’s left in excruciating pain to watch his team win the Stanley Cup. No wonder he’s pissed at the world.

But when failed actress and assistant to B-list celebs Chelsea Ross is hired to nurse him back to health, Mark’s pity part is over. With her bossy manner, she soon has Mark frustrated in altogether more pleasant ways.

The best parts

The sex. Rachel Gibson writes very hot contemporary romance, and her hockey players are among the sexiest professional athletes in the genre. Mark Bressler and Chelsea Ross have such a strong connection that it’s explosive when they get together.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Happy Ever After by Nora RobertsFour friends run a wedding business. They plan a lot of weddings.

The best parts

This is the last in a quartet about women who run a wedding business. There’s at least as much focus (if not more) on the women’s friendships as there is on the romance between Parker and Malcolm. The hero doesn’t even feature in the back-cover text. But if you like reading about wedding details—from cakes to flower arrangements—you’ll probably like this book.

Have you read any of these? Who do you think will win?

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