2016 RITA & Golden Heart Finalists Announced

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring and published romance fiction authors, announces the finalists for the 2016 RITA® and Golden Heart® Awards. The RITA — the highest award of distinction in romance fiction — recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts.

Up to 2,000 romance novels are entered in the RITA competition each year. A novel may be entered either by the author or by the book's publisher in one of the contest categories. After the first round of judging by published romance authors, entries that meet the qualifications to become a finalist then advance to the final round.

The 2016 winners will be announced at a black-tie awards ceremony on July 16 at the 2016 RWA Annual Conference in San Diego, California.


2016 RITA Finalists

Best First Book

Altered by Marnee Blake
Entangled Publishing, Embrace
Candace Havens, editor

Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Entangled Publishing, Teen
Liz Pelletier, editor

Night Hush by Leslie Jones
HarperCollins, Witness Impulse
Nicole Fischer, editor

No Better Man by Sara Richardson
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Megha Parekh, editor

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter
Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor

Pairing Off by Elizabeth Harmon
Harlequin, Carina Press
Kerri Buckley, editor

The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole
St. Martin’s Press
Elizabeth Poteet, editor

Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Cat Clyne, editor


Contemporary Romance: Long

Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Harlequin, HQN
Margo Lipschultz, editor

Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid
Kensington Publishing Corp., Zebra
Alicia Condon, editor

Love Me Sweet by Tracy Brogan
Amazon, Montlake
Kelli Martin, editor

Love Somebody Like You by Susan Fox
Kensington Publishing Corp., Zebra
Martin Biro, editor

Once Kissed by Cecy Robson
Penguin Random House, Loveswept
Sue Grimshaw, editor

Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas
Harlequin, HQN
Susan Swinwood, editor

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin, HQN
Gail Chasan, editor

Searching for Beautiful by Jennifer Probst
Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books
Lauren McKenna, editor

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis
Grand Central Publishing
Leah Hultenschmidt, editor

The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
Harlequin, MIRA
Paula Eykelhof, editor


Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

A Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

Dances Under the Harvest Moon by Joanne Rock
Harlequin, Superromance
Adrienne Macintosh, editor

Falling for Mister Wrong by Lizzie Shane
Kristan Andrews, editor

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Edie Danford, editor

Just Say Yes by Elizabeth Hayley
Penguin Random House, NAL
Laura Fazio, editor

Love After All by Jaci Burton
Penguin Random House, Berkley
Kate Seaver, editor

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Leah Hultenschmidt, editor

Not a Fairy Tale by Romy Sommer
HarperCollins, HarperImpulse
Charlotte Ledger, editor

Once Pure by Cecy Robson
Penguin Random House, Loveswept
Sue Grimshaw, editor

Romancing Miss Right by Lizzie Shane
Kristan Andrews, editor


Contemporary Romance: Short

A Bramble House Christmas by CJ Carmichael
Tule Publishing
Sinclair Sawhney, editor

Carter Bravo’s Christmas Bride by Christine Rimmer
Harlequin, Special Edition
Gail Chasan, editor

Chance of a Lifetime by Marissa Clarke
Entangled Publishing, Lovestruck
Liz Pelletier, editor

Heated Moments by Phyllis Bourne
Harlequin, Kimani Romance
Glenda Howard, editor

His Lost-and-Found Bride by Scarlet Wilson
Harlequin, Mills & Boon Romance
Carly Byrne, editor

The Nanny Plan by Sarah M. Anderson
Harlequin, Desire
Stacy Boyd, editor

One Night with Her Bachelor by Kat Latham
Tule Publishing, Montana Born Books
Sinclair Sawhney, editor

The Prince She Never Forgot by Scarlet Wilson
Harlequin, Mills & Boon Romance
Carly Byrne, editor

Tempting the Knight by Heidi Rice
Tule Publishing
Kelly Hunter, editor

Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham
Tule Publishing
Sinclair Sawhney, editor


Erotic Romance

Break Me Down by Roni Loren
Penguin Random House, Berkley Intermix
Kate Seaver, editor

For Real: A Spires Story by Alexis Hall
Riptide Publishing
Sarah Lyons, editor

Say My Name by J. Kenner
Ballantine Bantam Dell, Bantam Books
Shauna Summers, editor

Sugar by Seressia Glass
Penguin Random House
Cindy Hwang, editor

Three Little Mistakes by Nikki Sloane
Lori Whitwam, editor


Historical Romance: Long

Bella and the Beast by Olivia Drake
St. Martin’s Press
Jennifer Enderlin, editor

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Deb Werksman, editor

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries
Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books
Micki Nuding, editor

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist
Simon & Schuster, Howard Books
Beth Adams, editor

Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Deb Werksman, editor


Historical Romance: Short

Falling into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath
HarperCollins, Avon Books
May Chen, editor

It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long
HarperCollins, Avon Books
May Chen, editor

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
HarperCollins, Avon Books
Tessa Woodward, editor

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Deb Werksman, editor

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn
HarperCollins, Avon Books
Lyssa Keusch, editor

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing
Amy Pierpont, editor


Inspirational Romance

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade
Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House
Charlene Patterson and Raela Schoenherr, editors

Mistletoe Justice by Carol J. Post
Harlequin, Love Inspired Suspense
Rachel Burkot, editor

The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes
HarperCollins, Zondervan
Becky Phillpot, editor

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter
Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor

The Rescued by Marta Perry
Penguin Random House, Berkley
Ellen Edwards, editor


Paranormal Romance

Midnight’s Kiss by Thea Harrison
Penguin Random House, Berkley Sensation
Cindy Hwang, editor

Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles
Erynn Newman and Jessa Slade, editors

Possessed by a Wolf by Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin, Nocturne
Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor

The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott
Penguin Random House, NAL ROC
Jessica Wade, editor

Soulbound by Kristen Callihan
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Alex Logan, editor

Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts
Penguin Random House, Berkley
Leslie Gelbman, editor

Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Cat Clyne, editor


Romance Novella

All’s Fair in Love and Scandal by Caroline Linden
HarperCollins, Avon Impulse
Lyssa Keusch, editor

Blue Streak: A Blue Series Novella by Jules Barnard
Shelley Bates, editor

“Desert Heat” by Merline Lovelace
in Course of Action: Crossfire
Harlequin, Romantic Suspense
Patience Bloom, editor

“Her Secret Prince” by Madeline Ash
in Royal Holiday
Tule Publishing Group
Laurie Johnson and Kelly Hunter, editors

“Let It Shine” by Alyssa Cole
in The Brightest Day, a Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology
Arynn Nichols, editor

Nice Girls Don’t Ride by Roni Loren
Penguin Random House, Berkley Intermix
Kate Seaver, editor

One Little Kiss by Robin Covington
Nicole Bailey, editor

The Resurrection of Sam Sloan by Erin Quinn
LK Coulter, editor

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden
Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House
Raela Schoenherr, editor


Romantic Suspense

Barefoot with a Bodyguard by Roxanne St. Claire
Kristi Yanta, editor

Barefoot with a Stranger by Roxanne St. Claire
Kristi Yanta, editor

Facing Fire by HelenKay Dimon
HarperCollins, Avon Books
May Chen, editor

Fatal Frenzy by Marie Force
Harlequin, Carina Press
Alissa Davis, editor

Flash Fire by Dana Marton

In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White
Amazon, Montlake Romance
Charlotte Herscher and JoVon Sotak, editors

She Can Kill by Melinda Leigh
Amazon, Montlake Romance
Charlotte Herscher and Anh Schluep, editors

The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole
St. Martin’s Press
Elizabeth Poteet, editor

Target Engaged by M. L. Buchman
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
Deb Werksman, editor


Young Adult Romance

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Macmillan, Feiwel & Friends
Anna Roberto, editor

Followed by Frost by Charlie N. Holmberg
Amazon, 47North
Jason Kirk, editor

Rikki by Abigail Strom

Unspoken by C. C. Hunter
St. Martin’s Press, Griffin
Rose Hilliard, editor




2016 Golden Heart Finalists

Contemporary Romance

“An Education” by Brooke Salisbury

“Façade” by Susan Bickford

“Off the Rails” by Monique Headley

“Shelter Me” by Gabrielle Luthy

“Smiling Underwater” by Sydney Carroll

“The Sniper’s Second Shot” by Tracy Brody

“Sometimes You Need a Sexy Scot” by Melonie Johnson

“Soul Song” by Rayn Ellis

“Surrender to the Movie Star” by Melanie McCarthy

“Volunteering Her Heart” by Erin O’Brien

“Welcome Home, Katie Gallagher” by Seana Kelly


Historical Romance

“Besotted with the Viscount” by Susanna Malcolm

“A Curious Correspondence” by Amelia Ridley

“The Earl and the Pussycat” by Elizabeth King

“The Impetuous Miss Milton” by Renee Ann Miller

“My Lord Mercenary” by Tracey Amey

“Saving Columbine Ranch” by Karen Miller

“Taming the Earl” by Elizabeth King

“An Unbridled Gentleman” by Eileen Emerson

“Undone” by Elizabeth Rue

“Wild Women and the Blues” by Denny S. Bryce


Inspirational Romance

“For the Love of Termites” by Kimberly MacCarron

“One More Breath” by Pamela Kopfler


Paranormal Romance

“Better Dead” by Pamela Kopfler

“Constant Craving” by Kari W. Cole

“Don’t Call Me Cupcake” by Tara Sheets

“Kissed at Midnight” by Ainsley Wynter

“The Mer Chronicles: A Duty Too Far” by Kate Ramirez

“Taxing Courtship” by Jaycee Jarvis

“WØLFF: Rise of the Valdyr” by Alison Pritchard writing as Alyson McLayne


Romantic Suspense

“Escape from the Harem” by Diana Belchase

“Four Tragedies” by Layla Reyne

“In the Wrong Sights” by Tracy Brody

“Love in Hiding” by Diane Holiday

“Ruby Red” by Melanie Novak

“The Truth Is in the Tango” by Arianna James


Short Contemporary Romance

“Back in the Saddle” by Susan Breeden

“Breaking Her Rules” by Sarah Hall

“In the Fast Lane” by Evie Anderson

“Rescuing Riley” by Carrie Nichols


Young Adult Romance

“The Accidental Boyfriend” by Lori Freeland

“The Beekeeper” by Meg Kassel

“Between Never & Always” by TL Sumner

“The Expedition” by Mary Sullivan

“Field Guide to a Girl” by Nicole Hohmann

“The Other Cheek” by McCall Hoyle

“Senior Tag: The Underwear Games” by Sheri Adkins




Congrats to the finalists!

March 25, 2016 10:03 AM by Carla Kempert

As a 2015 GH finalist, a BIG CONGRATULATIONS to my Dragonfly sisters who finaled this year--in the GH *and* the Rita!!--and enjoy the ride to this year's finalists!!


March 25, 2016 03:36 PM by Christine Patricia Logothetis

In order to learn how to improve my manuscripts in future, is there a way to get the judges' scores? (anonymous, of course). If not, perhaps previous winners could provide advise as to what to look for to improve? Thanks.

Answer - Christine

March 25, 2016 08:26 PM by Tracy Brody

Christine, You'll get scores but not for a while. Last year it was after finals. Unfortunately, scores alone aren't helpful since the GH scores don't help point out problem areas. As a self-confessed Contest Queen (or whore depending on who you ask) ;) I recommend entering chapter contests that give feedback broken down by areas like Plot, Craft, Dialog, Hooks, Grammar. There are lots of them and you can find them under Chapter Events. https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=517#contests That's how I learned and found what I needed to take online classes or read books on areas I needed to improve. Good luck!


P.S. Thanks for post, Caroline!

RITA and Golden Heart

March 26, 2016 10:16 AM by Luana M. McDowell

In view of latest discussions about racial diversity were any women of color named as finalist in the RITA or Golden Heart awards?


March 26, 2016 12:40 PM by Sarina Rostek

Given that there are not many self-published authors in the finalist list for Rita or Golden Heart, I would like to see some comments regarding the pitfalls of self-publishing that do not meet the standards of traditional publishing.  Are there some areas that self-publishers are missing in their writing?

congrats to all the finalists

March 26, 2016 12:49 PM by Sarina Rostek

Answer - Christine

March 26, 2016 02:11 PM by Gabrielle Luthy

Hi, Christine. What Tracy said :) Chapter contests are the way to go for feedback. I also recommend online workshops run by chapters--I've taken some very helpful courses for very good prices.

But I think the best way to learn about writing is to simply write. Forget about pleasing anyone but yourself as you write (worry about that when you edit). That's when the stories you really care about will start to show up. Write about what's important to you, what you believe in. And read--some to remind yourself why you love the genre, some to understand "How'd they do that? Why is everyone talking about this book?"

If you're still looking for resources, I've got links to a whole heap of articles and other resources on my site: http://www.gabrielleluthy.com/ I'm bringing back the site after being hacked, so some of the pages are still incomplete, but I hope you find it useful.

Best of luck with your writing,


Gabrielle Luthy
2010 & 2016 Golden Heart® Finalist
Facebook: gabrielle.luthy
Twitter: @AdultRunaway
Pinterest: AdultRunaway

Best first book

March 26, 2016 03:41 PM by Gerry Bartlett

I noticed that the finalists in the Rita for best first book aren't finalists in any other category. Is this a new rule this year? I was always interested to see what category the first books fell into. And it was possible for those finalists to win twice. Was this a recent change?

Best First Books & Self-Published Books & Writers of Color

March 27, 2016 04:28 PM by Melanie Greene

Gerry, I see 3 of the 'Best Firsts' in other categories: A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Inspirational), The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole (RS), and Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley (Paranormal). My memory of the rules on this is that you have to beat a threshold (top X% or score above X) to final in a category, and some of the not-double-finalists won't have scored as highly (or are up against a deeper pool, or some combination) for their genre, but still have high enough scores to meet that threshhold for Best First Book. I've only been with RWA for a few years, but I can't remember a time when Best First didn't include a mix of single & double finalists. 

Sarina - the Golden Heart authors aren't published, so there's no metric there for traditional/self-published. Of the RITA finalists, 13 are self-published books - more than from any single publisher except for Harlequin (15). (After that is Penguin RandomHouse with 11, then Harper with 8.) We can't know how many books from each publisher / self-published were entered - maybe Kensington entered 2, and both finaled, or maybe they entered 40 (picking that press at random, with no real awarenes of their 2015 list.) I'm sure we could learn something from the nonfinalists of all of these publishers, and the self-published, if only "people's opinions vary." We can probably learn more by reading all of the finalists while analyzing what makes them successful.

Luana - I don't know about the Golden Heart finalists except Denny S. Bryce, who I've met and who is a writer of color, but in the RITA list, I see writers of color Alyssa Cole, Pintip Dunn, Phyllis Bourne, Robin Covington, and Seressia Glass. Apologies to all if I've missed anyone! 

(I like spreadsheets, y'all.)

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