Every year the Mystery/Suspense chapter of the Romance Writers of America (affectionately called the “Kiss of Death” chapter) holds two contests for romantic-suspense novels. One is for unpublished writers (and that means unpublished in any genre, not just mystery) who may enter manuscripts, and the other for published writers who may enter their novel published in the preceding year.
Awards are handed out at a party (called “Death by Chocolate) at the RWA Conference (this year on July 22-25 in New York City) In each of six categories, there were four finalists and one winner, and this year they were (drumroll please):
1. Category (Series) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Natalie Charles, WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING, Harlequin
Delores Fossen, RUSTLING UP TROUBLE, Harlequin
Karen McCollough, THE DETECTIVE’S DILEMMA, Kensington Lyrical
Bobbye Terry, THE WIDOW JAMES, Black Opal
Winner: Lena Diaz, TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN, Harlequin
2. Historical Romance Mystery/Suspense
Anthea Lawson, MISTRESS OF MELODY, Fiddlehead Press
Jeannie Lin, THE JADE TEMPTRESS, HQN
Brenda Novak, A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN, Montlake Romance
Lauren Willig, THE MARK OF THE MIDNIGHT MANZANILLA, NAL-Penguin
Winner: Amanda DeWees, WITH THIS CURSE, Self-published.
3. Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Elizabeth Camden, WITH EVERY BREATH, Bethany House
Irene Hannon, DECEIVED, Revell
Katy Lee, GRAVE DANGER, Harlequin-Love Inspired
Dani Pettrey, SILENCED, Bethany House
Winner: Debby Giusti, THE AGENT’S SECRET PAST, Harlequin
4. Paranormal (Fantasy, Time Travel, etc) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Margo Bond Collins, LEGALLY UNDEAD, World Weaver Press
Angie Fox, BEVERLY HILLS DEMON SLAYER, Self-published
J. T. Geissinger, DARKNESS BOUND, Montlake Romance
Rebecca Zanetti, MARKED, e-Kensington
Winner: Liah Penn, PURE DEATH, Etopia
5. Single title Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Melinda Leigh, HOUR OF NEED, Montlake Romance
Tamsen Schultz, WHAT ECHOES RENDER, BookTrope
Michele Sharp, DREAM HUNTRESS, Self-published
Leslie Tentler, FALLEN, Left Field Press
Winner: Kendra Elliot, VANISHED, Montlake Romance
6. Mainstream Mystery-Suspense
Traci Andreghetti, LIMONCELLO YELLOW, Gemma Halliday Publishing
Carey Baldwin, JUDGMENT, Harper Collins-Witness Impulse
Kylie Brant, 11, Cedar River Press.
Libby Fischer Hellmann, NOBODY’S CHILD, Red Herring Press
Winner: Sandra Parshall, POISONED GROUND, Poisoned Pen Press
OVERALL DAPHNE WINNER: Kendra Elliot, VANISHED, Montlake Romance
As I’ve done in the past, I’ll point out which books were published by the BPH (Big Publishing Houses). This list includes Harlequin, since it’s still the best-known romance publisher, (only six titles, when in previous years it often won almost all). And I was being generous. Besides the well-known names (Penguin, Harper-Collins, and Poisoned Pen Press) I also included Kensington and the two inspirational presses, Bethany and Revell, giving them a total of 14. Therefore, it was only fair to put Montlake Romance (Amazon imprint) with small presses and self-publishers, which gives them a total of 16.
Not only did small presses and self-publishers fare better than the BPH, a self-published book, WITH THIS CURSE, was voted best Historical, and Montlake’s VANISHED was voted the Overall Winner. It will be interesting to see how the Ritas fared. Tune in next week.