#TBR Challenge: The 2016 RITA Rundown

For last year’s “award winners” TBR Challenge, I read three RITA-nominated inspies, and found a new auto-buy author (Stacy Henrie). I tried the one historical inspie on this year’s RITA list, but DNF’d it because it was sugary wallpaper — and OF COURSE it won.

Here’s this year’s rundown….


Historical Romance: Long

Bella and Beast by Olivia Drake

Bella and the Beast by Olivia Drake

Not available at my library in any format, not available on Scribd, and I couldn’t justify paying $7.99 for a new-to-me author — ESPECIALLY when the mmpb is priced lower than the ebook. Get your shit together, St. Martin’s Press. I want to read your books, make it easy for me.

Grade: N/A

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen

Library. Fluffy fluff and blatantly unbelievable hist-rom wallpaper with no outstanding qualities. But damn if I didn’t read the whole damn thing in one sitting.

To quote myself:

“I…grudgingly admit that I was maybe slightly charmed in a grumpy sort of way.”

Grade: C+

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries

If the VIscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries

I adore Sabrina Jeffries. I own and frequently re-read her entire backlist, and there’s not a dud in there. The Duke’s Men series is a great mix of drama, suspense, angst, snark, and swooniness. Viscount wasn’t my favorite in the series (Lady Zoe in How the Scoundrel Seduces for the win), but it’s a great second-chance romance.

Grade: B+

NOTE: If Jeffries’ The Study of Seduction isn’t a finalist next year, I will be VERY PUT OUT. One of my top reads this year.

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist (winner)

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

I had a major case of Book Anxiety over this one. The ARC sat on my Kindle for months and months and months. I finally got the audiobook earlier this year and kicked myself for waiting so long. It was beautiful.

To quote myself again:

“Gist can take a tiny thread from a historical newspaper article or, in this case, a Chicago World’s Fair brochure, and spin it into glorious layers of character and relationship building. And then she surrounds it with an almost touchable sense of place.”

Grade: A-

Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes

Tremaine's True Love by Grace Burrowes

I downloaded it from the library. Twice. Still haven’t read it. The blurb just wasn’t compelling enough to compel me to un-break-up with Burrowes.

Grade: N/A


Historical Romance: Short

Falling into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

Library again. I tried. I really did. But…no. Just…NO. The heroine’s name was MINERVA DODGER and I still couldn’t do it. I think I made it to about 60% before I gave up.

The summary from this review capsulizes my dismay:

“The manwhore hero, Ashebury, develops a leg and foot fetish after his parents die in a train crash, an event for which he wasn’t present. His PTSD is then miraculously cured after he sees the legs of the heroine, Minerva, once.”

NO LIE. What. The. Ever. Loving. Hell.

Grade: DNF

It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long (winner)

It Started With A Scandal by Julie Anne Long

I read it when it first came out. And when I saw it on the RITA finalists list, I couldn’t remember anything about it. And I didn’t feel like reading it again because I’d rather re-read To Catch a Thief and Like No Other Lover for the umpteenth time.

Grade: C

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

I have this gif for permanent exclusive use with Tessa Dare reviews:


I read Marquess when it first came out and was charmed, and then I got the audiobook and was charmed all over again.

I did not buy into the wedding-planner plot device AT ALL, but WHO THE HELL CARES because Dare makes me love all her characters unreservedly. Every time.

Grade: B+

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain

I am now a Theresa Romain auto-buy fangirl. I have one more ARC I’m hoarding and then I will have read all her books and then I will start all over and wallow in them again.

Yes, the titles are of the wallpaper variety. But these are not Romance-O-Matic stories. Heiress was set in Bath and had intriguing main characters with Deep Dark Secrets and I WANT THIS ON AUDIOBOOK PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

Grade: B+

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

I suppose a Quinn nomination is obligatory for the RITAs. But this one was just dreary. I wanted to punch Sir Richard in the face and tell him to just STFU already. My second-least favorite Quinn. Bleah.

Grade: C-

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

When I saw this on the RITA list, I realized how far behind I was on the Maiden Lane series and I didn’t even own this one. So I bought it. And then I had to binge-read all the previous Maiden Lane books and now I’m all caught up and it was kind of exhausting.

I liked Scoundrel because it gave us a break from the often-eyerolling Ghost of St. Giles schitck, the theatre setting and villain(s) were vividly memorable, and the chemistry between Eve and Asa was…feral.

I haven’t decided where I’d rank it in the series or among Hoyt’s full backlist, but it’s definitely RITA-worthy.

Grade: B+


Other categories

Best Inspirational

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (winner)

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Yawn. Did not hold my interest in any way — ditched it around 20%. Grade: DNF

Contemporary Romance: Long

Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates (winner)

Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates

This was the only Yates I’ve liked. Her style or voice or something just rubs me the wrong way and I have no idea what it is or why. I enjoyed this one, but I’ll probably never re-read it. Grade: B-

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

I DNF’d the ARC of this. I think I requested it because Grumpy Brooding Hero, but the squishy holiday goo was just the typical Small-Town Schlock from the HQN imprint. They’re all exactly the same. Grade: DNF

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

It’s really good, in the straight-girls-writing-new-adult-m/m-for-other-straight-girls kind of way. It wasn’t Riptide Good, but I’m a little biased. Grade: B

Contemporary Romance: Short

One Night with Her Bachelor and Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham

On Night with Her Bachelor by Kat Latham  Three Nights Before Christmas

I love love love Kat Latham and I will read anything she writes. Bachelor was a typical rom-com, but Christmas deserved the category win for Latham’s fantastic ex-con heroine. Grades: B, A

Erotic Romance

For Real by Alexis Hall (winner)

For Real by Alexis Hall

Yeah. All that hype and squee? All of it 100% earned. Read this. If you don’t think it’s utterly effing brilliant, we can’t be friends. Grade: Can’t because of conflict of interest so you’ll just have to trust me.

Romance Novella

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden

This prequel is soooo much better than the novel it’s prequeling. There are goats. Lots of goats. I haven’t re-read it since the scathing SBTB review pointing out some egregious romanticizing of colonialism, but from what I remember the surface was enjoyable. Grade: TBD

Paranormal Romance

Nada. But Must Love Chainmail is purchased and queued up at the top of the list.

Romantic Suspense

Nada. But I bought the category winner Flash Fire because I love Dana Marton.

Young Adult Romance

Nada. But I moved The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett out of whatever “Someday/ARC Guilt” folder it was lingering in and moved to the PROBABLY SHOULD READ THIS SOONISH list.

3 thoughts on “#TBR Challenge: The 2016 RITA Rundown

  1. This is a great list! I skim-read some b/c they’re in the TBR, so I’ll be back to “compare mythologies” as Leonard Cohen “sings.” But I did want to say that Latham’s Three Nights was a fabulous fabulous read, yes for the ex-con heroine, and deserved all the wins. I loved that Yates too!

  2. Nice round-up. I’ve only read 3 of the books, so not much point in doing one for me. I didn’t think the Heath was so bad! I also didn’t think the Bowen was so good. 😉

  3. Amazing list! I only read two of the finalists, so no reason to update for me. I’m spellbound by how many you read. I found several books on your list that you liked that I’ve never read. So YAY! Adding to the TBR even though I’m supposed to be depleting it. 🙂

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