>> Thursday, February 16, 2012
As a long-time visitor at All About Romance, I make a point of voting in their Annual Reader Poll every year. The Poll was actually the reason I started tracking my books, back in 2001, just so I could vote.
Results for this year have just been announced, and they're interesting. I think I voted for the winner in only three categories, probably a record for me!
AAR winner: The big winner this year was Joanna Bourne's The Black Hawk, which won outright in 6 categories and tied in a 7th. I haven't read it yet (it's in the TBR), but it sounds amazing and I've really liked the books I've read by this author, so I have absolutely no problem with it having won. I should get to it soon!
My vote went to: Unveiled, by Courtney Milan, which was an A for me. I absolutely adored it. It was a historical with a not-particularly-groundbreaking plot, but which felt completely fresh and new because of the characters.
Favorite Funny Romance
AAR winner: A tie between Julie James' A Lot Like Love and Call Me Irresistible, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I liked the Julie James, but it wasn't my favourite by her (it felt a little lightweight). The SEP I haven't read yet. I probably will at some point, but I'm find increasingly distasteful the way her heroines are too-often humiliated.
My vote went to: Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell. It wasn't particularly hilarious, but funny in a subtle way, and I really enjoyed it. But I must say that if I'd read Lauren Baratz-Logsted's The Bro Magnet before I voted, I think that's the one I would have picked.
Favorite Tear-Jerker Romance
AAR winner: The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne tied with Eloisa James' When Beauty Tamed the Beast. The James must be for the final section, which was my least favourite bit of the book.
My vote went to: His, Unexpectedly, by Susan Fox. This was one of my favourite reads of the year, It's not a tragic book (in fact, it's quite funny), but the relationship between the heroine and her family had so much hurt in it that I got a lump in my throat several times. It's not an awful, disfunctional family. In fact, they love each other very much, which made it all more affecting for me.
Most Luscious Love Story
AAR winner: What I Did for a Duke, by Julie Ann Long. I did not like this one very much, and I certainly didn't find the love scenes particularly interesting.
My vote went to: Hotter Than Wildfire, by Lisa Marie Rice. I don't think LMR's love scenes are particularly luscious, at least not in terms of what actually happens in them. But what packs a punch is the raw emotion in them, which I love. I also considered voting for A Lady Awakened, by Cecilia Grant, even though the whole thing about quite a few of the love scenes was that they weren't erotic at all. But when Martha and Theo finally connect, that was amazing. Oh, well, turns out it wasn't a 2011 book, anyway.
Best Erotica / Romantica Romance
AAR winner: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton tied for this one. Nothing I've heard about Fifty Shades of Grey makes me want to read it. It doesn't sound like my sort of thing at all. I did try The Perfect Play but it was a DNF. Nice hero, but boring heroine and boring, constant love scenes.
My vote went to: I left this one blank. The few books that would qualify that I read I didn't much like (like The Perfect Play, which as I said, was a DNF, and a menage story by Jill Myles that was meh).
Most Tortured Romance Hero
AAR winner: Dmitri, from Nalini Singh's Archangel's Blade. I kind of lost interest in this series after the second book. I didn't dislike it, but it just didn't tempt me to keep reading, I guess.
My vote went to: Ash Turner from Unveiled, by Courtney Milan. A fantastic hero whose very difficult childhood hasn't warped him, but has left some deep scars in the relationship between him and his brothers. Clearly I just love a good dollop of family drama in my romance!
Best Kick-Ass Heroine
AAR winner: Justine DeCabrillac, from The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne. She does sound fantastic, and I'm looking forward to meeting her.
My vote went to: Yasmeen, from Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook. However fantastic Justine is, I don't see how anyone could hold a candle to Yasmeen. She's one of the most kickass heroines I've read ever, let alone last year. And Brook didn't find it necessary to emasculate her to make her more acceptable, yay!
Best Romance Hero
AAR winner: Adrian Hawkhurst, from The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne. Yep, he sounds great as well!
My vote went to: Sir Mark Turner, from Unclaimed, by Courtney Milan. Another fantastic book from Milan. I liked it a teeny bit less than Unveiled, but Mark was outstanding. He's genuinely moral and good and honourable, and he does his best to be so, to work out what he think it means to be good, not what society says. And he stands up to the rest of the world and shows himself as he is. All without a speck of self-righteousness or hypocrisy.
I also considered Archimedes Fox, from Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook in this category. Another nice guy, and another one secure enough in himself and his masculinity to be with a strong, unconventional woman. Give me a hero like him or Sir Mark over all those "wicked" rakes any day.
Best Romance Heroine
AAR winner: Justine DeCabrillac, from The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne.
My vote went to: Yasmeen, from Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook. She's that cool.
Best Romance Couple
AAR winner: Justine DeCabrillac & Adrian Hawkhurst, from The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne.
My vote went to: Jenna Fallon & Mark Chambers, from His, Unexpectedly, by Susan Fox. I just loved them together, thought they fit in particularly great way. They seem to be opposite at first, but Fox shows perfectly how they actually have worldviews that match and want the same things from life. Each makes the other grow and be better, but neither really changes from the person they really are. Fantastic book.
My choice was between them and Martha Russell & Theo Mirkwood, from A Lady Awakened, by Cecilia Grant, because of the way their relationship developed oh-so-slowly and how well they ended up fitting together. Guess I've got a shoe-in for the 2012 poll, it'll take a lot to beat them!
2011's Best Debuting Romance Author
AAR winner: Jessica Scott, with Honorable Mentions to Tawna Fenske and Darynda Jones. I haven't read Scott (hadn't heard of her before this, actually) or Fenske. I tried to read Darynda Jones but it had a very annoying heroine and ended up as a DNF. Apparently quite a lot of people voted for Cecilia Grant (whose book actually had a 2012 copyright, even though it was released in 2011) and for Thea Harrison (who's been published before under another name).
My vote went to: Originally to Cecilia Grant (what can I say, I bought the book on December 27th, so I never thought to actually look at the copyright!), but the AAR pollsters graciously allowed me to change it, and I went for Rainbow Rowell, whose charming Attachments I really liked.
Guiltiest Pleasure Romance
AAR winner: J.R. Ward's Lover Unleashed. Can't argue with that, if I'd read a 2011 JR Ward last year I probably would have voted for it as well!
My vote went to: Hotter Than Wildfire, by Lisa Marie Rice, even though I don't feel particularly guilty about liking her books any longer. But I guess I'm still a bit surprised that I like her heroes so much.
Best Historical Romance set in the UK
AAR winner: Julie Ann Long's What I Did for a Duke, which as I mentioned above, I didn't much like. I really can't see what's so great about it. I hated the revenge plot and the lack of any thought about the consequences their screwing about like bunnies might have.
My vote went to: Unveiled, by Courtney Milan, which is quite obvious, since I voted for it as best romance, and it's a historical romance set in the UK!
Best Historical Romance set outside the UK
AAR winner: The Black Hawk, by Joanna Bourne. Fair enough.
My vote went to: Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook. I might have cheated a bit here, not sure if steampunk counts as historical? It is a kind of historical, speculative, I guess. Otherwise, where would it fit in? Paranormal? It's not, it's all based in science. Futuristic? It's set in a version of the past. I stand by my vote!
Best Contemporary Romance
AAR winner: A Lot Like Love, by Julie James. I liked it very much, but there were several other contemps I liked better last year.
My vote went to: His, Unexpectedly, by Susan Fox. A plain contemporary with surprising depth. Fox's characters talk to each other and I completely believe in their relationship. There's also great family drama, and a heroine who's a free spirit and is not forced to want a white picket fence.
Best Series/Category Book
AAR winner: Jill Sorenson's Stranded With Her Ex, which sounds pretty good.
My vote went to: Here Comes The Groom, by Karina Bliss. A lovely friends-to-lovers plot, with a heroine who's dealing with quite a lot. I really like this author.
Best Romantic Suspense
AAR winner: Breaking Point, by Pamela Clare. It doesn't really appeal to me.
My vote went to: Treachery in Death, by JD Robb. This series is still going strong for me, and I loved the plot of this one, and the focus on Peabody.
Best Paranormal Romance
AAR winner: Thea Harrison's Dragon Bound, which I liked very much. I just loved another one better!
My vote went to: Demon Marked, by Meljean Brook, maintaining the very high standard of the Guardians series. I loved that although it developed the overarching storyline, the first half seemed a bit different and apart from the world of the Guardians.
Best Chick Lit/Women's Fiction
AAR winner: To The Moon and Back, by Jill Mansell.
My vote went to: To The Moon and Back, by Jill Mansell. I didn't read much in these genres, but of the few I read, the Mansell was the best. I'd say it falls on the WF side, and it's got both humour and sadness, and is written in quite a low-key register.
Best Romance Short Story
AAR winner: Unlocked, by Courtney Milan.
My vote went to: Unlocked, by Courtney Milan. More like a novella, really, but fantastic. I loved the angst and how the hero had to actually work to be forgiven for his actions.
Most Disappointing Romance of 2011
winner loser: J.R. Ward's Lover Unleashed tied with Julia Quinn's Just Like Heaven. I haven't read either, but I mean to, in spite of this.
My vote went to: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart, by Sarah Maclean. It was a DNF, but that was because what I read was so bad I didn't want to keep reading. Foolish heroine, mean, judgmental hero, clunky, nonsensical setup. Eek.