AAR's annual reader's poll (looooong post!)

>> Monday, March 06, 2006

It was hard, but I managed to hold back from sharing most of my choices for AAR's 2006 annual reader's poll. I think I only gave away a couple of the categories ;-) But now that the results are out, here's a long, long post on what I voted and why, and how I feel about the books that were actually the winners.

Best Romance:

My vote: Simply Unforgettable, by Mary Balogh

It was actually pretty hard to decide, because there wasn't one book this year that stood head and shoulder above the rest. But out of the 3 books I graded A-, this one very narrowly edged out Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible and Hot Target, by Suzanne Brockmann.

Actually, I almost feel guilty for voting for SU, because it's neither different, nor revolutionary, nor daring. It pretty much follows the rules for Regency-set Historicals, those same books we're all saying we wish weren't saturating the market, but the thing is, it just so well done! And a good book is a good book, whatever it is about.

Winner: Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase.

Needless to say, I have no quarrel with this result. It really was a wonderful book!

Favorite Funny:

My vote: Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

I didn't really have that many "funnies" in my list. The choice was basically between Mr. Impossible and Julia Quinn's It's In His Kiss, and What Do You Say To A Naked Elf?, by Cheryl Sterling, was also in the running. But even though these three were all just as funny, Mr. Impossible was the better book, and the category isn't "Funniest book", but "Favourite Funny", isn't it?

I have to say, though, that if I'd managed to read it before the polls closed, I'd probably would have considered voting for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig. I just adored the humour in that one.

Winner: Match Me If You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Oh, I so want to read this one! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get it in time, but I think I'll probably be getting in the next few days.

Most-Hanky Read:

My vote: His Secondhand Wife, by Cheryl St. John

My choice is all about Noah here! Reading this one was a very emotional experience.

Winner: A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon

Nothing to say here, because I just haven't paid all that much attention to this one. I haven't even read Outlander yet, even though I do have it in the TBR. I seem to remember some people really hating the latest entry in the series, but it appears at least some of her fans were happy.

Most Luscious Love Story:

My vote: Midnight Angel, by Lisa Marie Rice

I read quite a few 2005 books that were pretty luscious (Lydia Joyce's and Stephanie Vaughan's, for instance), but I had absolutely no doubts about my vote in this category. "Luscious" is actually a tame word for this one! I know some people found the love scenes silly and unbelievable, not erotic, especially due to Douglas' extreme priapism, but it definitely worked for me. And this was my first vote ever for an ebook!

Winner: Passion, by Lisa Valdez

It's in the TBR, but this was another book I wanted to but didn't manage to read before voting. I'll be sure to read it ASAP.

Most Tortured Hero:

My vote: Noah Cutter, from His Secondhand Wife, by Cheryl St. John

Can you get any more tortured than this guy? And what's even more important, the way he was so tortured was perfectly justified. Noah very definitely wasn't making a big deal about nothing!

Winner: Bastien Toussaint, from Black Ice, by Anne Stuart

I stand by my choice, but yes, Bastien was pretty tortured!

Strongest Heroine:

My vote: Rosalind Harper, from Black Rose, by Nora Roberts

Roz wasn't kick-ass in a physical way, but she's who I want to be when I grow up.

Winner: Eve Dallas, from Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb

Say all you want about Nora, but I think what I appreciate the most about her books is that she does some seriously strong heroines! Eve was in the running for me, too.

Best Hero:

My vote: Rupert Carsington, from Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

Charming, funny, brilliant, Rupert made Mr. Impossible sparkle!

Winner: Rupert Carsington, from Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

Yay! First one in which I vote for the winner!

Best Heroine:

My vote: Fabienne Argonat, from Dedication, by Janet Mullany

In this case, unlike in my vote for Best Romance, what I loved about Fabienne was how different she was from the norm.

Winner: Blair Mallory, from To Die For, by Linda Howard.

Well, I liked Blair much better than I thought I would, but nowhere near as much as some people seem to have!

Best Couple:

My vote: Lucius Marshall & Frances Allard, from Simply Unforgettable, by Mary Balogh

They're why I voted their book as the best of the year, since Simply Unforgettable was pretty much nothing but their romance, so my choice in this category was pretty easy.

Winner: Rupert & Daphne, from Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

Yes, they were a wonderful couple, and they're a good choice for this category.

Best Villain:

My vote: The Harper Ghost, in Red Lily, by Nora Roberts

I always have trouble voting in this category, but this year, my choice feels right. The Harper Ghost, even dead for some 100 years, was more complex and alive than 99% of the villains out there. Oh, and it closely beat Dick Reese, from Alison Pace's If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend. That guy was just deliciously horrible.

Winner: the villain from It Happened One Autumn, by Lisa Kleypas

This is the first category in which I really disagree. As much as I want to read Devil in Winter, I happened to think the whole thing about the villain was the weakest point of IHOA. It felt poorly motivated and much too calculated to arouse interest in the next book.

Most Annoying Lead Character:

My vote: Wyatt Bloodsworth, from To Die For, by Linda Howard

I was pretty sure Blair, the heroine from To Die For would receive many more votes than Wyatt did, but he was the one who made me want to bang his (and my) head against the wall.

Winner: Blair Mallory, from To Die For, by Linda Howard

*sigh* I was right. Well, I guess I can see how she would annoy people, even if she didn't annoy me.

Best Author Who Debuted in 2005:

My vote: Lydia Joyce

Easy choice. Both her books were wonderful, and they showed an assurance and polish it takes more authors years to get.

Winner: Lisa Valdez

Yep, will definitely have to read her book. I'm heartened to see my choice at least got a honorable mention here.

Best Buried Treasure:

My vote: The Music of the Night, by Lydia Joyce

To be honest, I don't really know about this vote. Was it really a buried treasure? I decided it was based on the fact that it was mentioned in the ATBF column about buried treasures, but it definitely got lots and lots of buzz online. Though I don't know if it got that much notice in the off-line romance community, being by a new author, so that might make it all right.

Winner: The Music of the Night, by Lydia Joyce

Great! Only the second category in which I bet on the winner, if anyone's keeping count.

Guiltiest Pleasure:

My vote: Midnight Angel, by Lisa Marie Rice

The "guilty" part came because I felt pretty manipulated by the author while reading Midnight Angel. The "pleasure" part is because I absolutely loved it anyway.

Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, by Lucy Monroe was another possibility, but in this case, it was lots and lots of guilt and only a little pleasure, and I decided I'd rather go with lots and lots of pleasure, with only a little guilt.

Winner: Passion, by Lisa Valdez

I guess people felt guilty because there was a lot of sex?

Author Most Glommed in 2005:

My vote: Lisa Marie Rice

I've now read every single ebook of hers. I'm only missing a short story in one of the Secrets anthologies. I also glommed Anne Stuart last year. I probably bought more books by AS, but as a % of her backlist, LMR wins.

Winner: tie between Anne Stuart and Mary Balogh.

Both good authors, with wonderful backlists. Good win.

Best Cabin or Road:

My vote: The Veil of Night, by Lydia Joyce

My choice was a cabin romance. The almost claustrophobic ambience was one of the things I enjoyed the most about this one, actually, so it's a fitting choice.

Winner: Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

... and the winner is a road romance. I guess I tend to prefer cabin to road, which might be why I went for TVON even though I actually rated Mr. I higher.

Best Medieval/Renaissance:

My vote: Blank

Given that I've never been a great fan of Medievals and that fewer and fewer seem to be getting published these days, I'm not surprised I didn't read even one from 2005.

Winner: Return of the Warrior, by Kinley MacGregor

This is one winner I don't think I'll be trying. MacGregor's books haven't really been a success for me in the past.

Best European Historical:

My vote: Simply Unforgettable, by Mary Balogh

...as I'm sure you've deduced. I've never really understood voting a book for Best Romance and then not voting it as best in the time period it belongs to.

Winner: Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

Well, the results were coherent this time. It might not be exactly intuitive for an Egypt-set book to win here, but it makes sense, as LLB explains in the column accompanying the results.

Best traditional Regency:

My vote: Dedication, by Janet Mullany

It was actually the only 2005 Trad I've read (still need to read Megan Frampton's, which is another one I meant to get to before voting), but I enjoyed it enough that I feel comfortable voting for it as best.

Winner: Dedication, by Janet Mullany

It's probably telling that the winner in the Trad category was a book that didn't read at all like the usual Trad.

Best Amer Hist or Frontier:

My vote: His Secondhand Wife, by Cheryl St. John

See what I wrote for Trad Regency? Ditto here. Only one I read (not a big fan of this subgenre, either), but it was great.

Winner: A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon

Interesting. I hear Gabaldon, and I think Scottish historicals, not Westerns.

Best Contemporary :

My vote: Midnight Angel, by Lisa Marie Rice

I wondered if this one might not be Romantic Suspense, but no, I don't think it is. The suspense subplot is just background, IMO. The focus is on the romance.

Winner: Match Me If You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I want, want, want!

Best Series:

My vote: Danger Calls, by Caridad Piñeiro

I hadn't read any 2005 series books until the week before I sent in my ballot. Both were great, and it took me a while to decide to vote for Danger Calls and not for Marie Donovan's Her Body of Work.

Winner: a tie between The Mysterious Miss M, by Diane Gaston and With Child, by Janice Kay Johnson

Ok, Miss M is a book I'm anxiously anticipating reading, and I might be able to overcome my allergy to pregnancy plots for With Child, because it does sound good.

But on the subject of the Gaston book, while, as LLB says, it is technically a series romance, I just don't see what the difference between it and other European Historicals is, other than the fact that it was published by Harlequin. Not even length: there are plenty of single title historicals which are as short as (or even shorter than) Harlequin Historicals.

Best Romantic Suspense:

My vote: Hot Target, by Suzanne Brockmann

Not only did I love the book in general, I also quite enjoyed the suspense part, which is definitely not usual with me, so this was a good choice. Anne Stuart's Black Ice was a possibility, as well, but HT edged it out.

Winner: Black Ice, by Anne Stuart

Another good choice.

Best Alternate Reality:

My vote: Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb

Seems I always end up voting for an In Death in this category!

Winner: Dark Lover, by JR Ward

If I were to vote today, I would go for this one, actually. Too bad I read it on the week after I sent in the ballot.

Best Chick Lit/Women's Fiction:

My vote: The Givenchy Code, by Julie Kenner

I LOVED this one! If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, by Alison Pace was in the running, too, but I liked TGC a bit more.

Winner: The Givenchy Code, by Julie Kenner


Best Short Story:

My vote: Blank

I read only one 2005 anthology, Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred, but it wasn't very good. I guess I could have chosen the best story there (some were good), but I felt so unenthusiastic about the whole collection that I didn't. I wish I'd had time to read the Strangers in the Night anthology. I've heard great things about the Pam Rosenthal story there.

Winner of a honorable mention: Falling for Anthony, from Hot Spell, by Meljean Brook

Way to go Meljean! I want to read Hot Spell both for this story and for the Emma Holly.

Author You Gave Up On in 2005:

My vote: Blank

No one comes to mind. I don't think I really gave up on anyone just this year!

Loser: Julie Garwood

Heh, I gave up on her YEARS ago! Don't even like her "classic" historicals.

Author Others Love that You Don't:

My vote: Christine Feehan

Probably shouldn't have voted in this category, but I'd just been reading a particularly silly discussion between Feehan fangirls and I was feeling pissy. And well, I really don't love her books!

Loser: Nora Roberts

Weirdos, all of those who voted this ;-) No, seriously, I guess her voice is so distinctive that it might not work for everyone.

Most Disappointing:

My vote: One Little Sin, by Liz Carlyle

Not a bad book at all (I gave it a B-, actually), but I'd been eagerly anticipating it and it just wasn't as good as I was hoping for. Carlyle more than made up for this with her next book, Two Little Lies. If that one hadn't had a 2006 copyright (even though it came out in late December 2005!), I think I might have voted it for best romance.

Loser: It Happened One Autumn, by Lisa Kleypas

This one did have a huge buzz, which could have something to do with people considering it disappointing.


My vote: Blank

My worst 2005 read was the Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred anthology, but it was just a C+... i.e. not nearly bad enough for me to vote as worst book of the year!

Loser: A tie between Passion, by Lisa Valdez and What Do You Say To A Naked Elf?, by Cheryl Sterling.

Same as always, while the positive categories really do pinpoint some of the best books published that particular year, I never think the "worst" category chooses a book that's anywhere near the worst of what came out in the year.

Purplest Prose:

My vote: Dark Desires, by Eve Silver

So very overwrought! I kind of liked it, at first, but after a while it got on my nerves.

Loser: Passion, by Lisa Valdez

Will need to read it to form an opinion, but I did hear this one was pretty purple!


...aaand that's it! Thanks for sticking with me this far. So, what do you think?


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