The Romance Writers of America announced the winners of the 2018 RITA Awards on July 19th in Denver, Colorado. The RITA—the highest award of distinction in romance fiction—recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas.
Best First Book
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.
Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.
When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.
Contemporary Romance: Long
Falling Hard by Lexi Ryan
Former actress Emma Rothschild is partying in Vegas in disguise. But I’m not fooled. Five years ago, I knew that body better than my own, and I haven’t forgotten a single detail—not the curve of her hip beneath my hand or the hitch in her breath when I kiss her neck.
When Emma’s unexpectedly left alone in Sin City, I agree to spend the weekend with her. As friends. Why not? If I can knock down the toughest guys in the NFL, I’m strong enough to keep my hands to myself, even if she is the sexiest woman I’ve ever met.
Emma is part of my past—years so shrouded in secrets that not even my best friends know the truth about who I am. I’m a single dad now and not interested in revisiting my old ways or trying to win back the only woman I ever let close enough to break my heart. But this is Vegas, where all bets are off, and with Emma, nothing ever goes as planned…
Contemporary Romance: Short
Second Chance Summer by Kait Nolan
Professor Audrey Graham shouldn’t be alive. But she didn’t walk away from the accident that should’ve taken her life. She shouldn’t have ever walked again according to the doctors. But after two years of physical therapy and countless surgeries, she’s got a second lease on life. First stop? Camp Firefly Falls to try and catch up on some of the living she never did before her accident.
Firefighter Hudson Lowell shouldn’t be alive. In the wake of losing two members of his team in a structure fire gone wrong, he’s been unable to work, unable to pull himself out of the survivor’s guilt. In a last ditch effort to snap him out of it, his family surprises him with a 2 week reunion session at Camp Firefly Falls, reminder of a simpler, better time. The last thing he expects to find is the woman he helped cut out of a snarled up wreck of a car two years before.
As sparks ignite between rescuer and rescuee, Audrey finally gets the chance to repay her hero. But can she convince this proud, stubborn man that life is still worth living? Or will Hudson let this chance at happiness slip through his fingers?
Wicked Dirty by J. Kenner
On the outside, Lyle Tarpin is a clean-cut Hollywood actor whose star is on the rise. Inside, he’s battling his own demons, shunning relationships and finding solace in the arms of a string of anonymous women paid very well for their discretion.
But when he’s photographed in a compromising position by an over-eager reporter, the only way to save his career is to say that the woman he was with is his fiancée. And now Lyle has to play a very public game with the only woman who’s ever managed to get under his skin.
Struggling waitress Sugar Laine agrees to spend one night with Lyle—but only because she’s desperate to save her family home. She never expects that a night of passion will turn into a pretend engagement … or that the heat between them will blossom into love.
Historical Romance: Long
Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen
He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he’s more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty-in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he’ll have to devise a proposition she can’t turn down.
Gossip said he was an assassin. Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie’s club offered a surefire way to make quick money-until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible…
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Historical Romance: Short
Waltzing with the Earl by Catherine Tinley
The Earl of Shalford needs to marry into money to save his estate. Wealthy and beautiful Henrietta Buxted should be the perfect candidate. So why does his eye keep wandering to her quiet cousin, Charlotte Wyncroft?
Charlotte watches Henrietta’s games of courtship with wry amusement. That is, until a stolen dance reveals a hidden side to the earl. Penniless Charlotte knows she’s far from a suitable match, yet, in Adam’s arms, she can dream of the happily-ever-after she’s always wanted!
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Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Now that You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.
Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.
With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant, a wild-child sister in jail and a withdrawn teenage niece as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was, Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family. Balancing loss and opportunity, dark events from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.
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Hunt the Darkness by Stephanie Rowe
One warrior driven by an oath he will give his life to fulfill. Another tormented by his love for the woman he failed.
Haunted by loss, each warrior is consumed by his relentless quest for redemption. Alone, each will fail. But when Calydon warrior Gabe Watson and mage Vladimir Hawkings team up to cross over into the demon realm to hunt down those who matter most, they finally have a chance to change the past …until they encounter two bold, sensual women who hold the key to everything that matters to them…brave, independent women who want nothing to do with them.
Sophie Flanagan has no memory of her life before she was kidnapped by demons, including how she got the wedding band that burns on her hand. Only her unbreakable friendship with half-demon healer, Maria Souvaine, has enabled her to survive. The two sisters are caught in a desperate battle against a threat so powerful it will destroy them forever.
Forbidden River by Brynn Kelly
For French Foreign Legionnaire Cody Castillo, chasing deadly thrills is the only reprieve from a bloodstained past he can’t forget. But when the adrenaline junkie finds himself caught in a mass murderer’s crosshairs in the lonely wilds of New Zealand, he finds an unexpected—and intriguing—ally.
Former air force pilot Tia Kupa has always found safety in nature, until a killer turns the wilderness into a playground. In this life-or-death game, the guarded woman who lives by the rules must rely on a risk taker with a death wish. The sexy devil-may-care legionnaire may be the wrong guy for her, but desire is just as primal as terror. Even if they outrun a predator, they can’t escape the sizzling bond neither of them saw coming.
Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements
Then There Was You by Kara Isaac
Josh Tyler fronts a top-selling worship band and is in demand all over the world. But, in the past, his failed romantic relationships almost destroyed both his reputation and his family. He’s determined to never risk it happening again. The last thing he needs is some American girl tipping his ordered life upside down. Especially one who despises everything he’s ever worked for and manages to push every button he has.
The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon
He’s known only as Wren. A wealthy, dangerously secretive man, he specializes in making problems disappear. A professional fixer, Wren hides a dark past, but his privacy is shattered when Emery Finn seeks him out—and what she wants from him is very personal.
Some people disappear against their will. Emery’s job is to find them and bring closure. Wren is the only person who can help solve Emery’s own personal mystery: the long-ago disappearance of her cousin. Just tracking down the sexy, brooding Wren is difficult enough. Resisting her body’s response to him will prove completely impossible.
Anonymity is essential to Wren’s success, yet drawn by Emery’s loyalty and sensuality, he’s pulled out of the shadows. But her digging is getting noticed by the wrong people. And as the clues start to point to someone terrifyingly close, Wren will have to put his haunted past aside to protect the woman he loves.
Young Adult Romance
Seize Today by Pintip Dunn
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.
But when the chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, the striking and strong-willed boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia sees a vision of her own imminent death…at Ryder’s hand. Despite her bleak fate, she rescues Ryder and flees with him, drawing her mother’s fury and sparking a romance as doomed as Olivia herself. As the full extent of Chairwoman Dresden’s gruesome plan is revealed, Olivia must find the courage to live in the present-and stop her mother before she destroys the world.
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