The “Favorite Firsts” of the RITA Best First Book Finalists

To start, a little bit about the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award: the RITA® is the annual contest for published romance authors. There are finalists in a number of sub-genres, such as contemporary romance and historical romance. One finalist from each category will win a RITA® Award (a pretty, golden statue named after the founder and first RWA® President, Rita Clay Estrada.)

Now, aside from the romance sub-genres, there is one very special category called Best First Book. An author can only final in this category once in a lifetime–after all, you only have one “first book.” I’m excited, thrilled, and terrifyingly nervous to say that my first book, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, has been nominated for Best First Book!

Even better, seven of the Best First Book Finalists are teaming up to bring you seven weeks of giveaways, culminating in one big basket o’ books giveaway! Each Friday between now and the RWA® Conference in July when the RITA® winner is announced, we will be sharing a “First” with you, spotlighting one of the finalists, and giving away a book. Last week, Sonali Dev unveiled our First Romance Crushes. This week, we’re featuring excerpts of our “Favorite Firsts” in our Best First Books.

This week, I’ll be giving away a copy of THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK to one random commenter! The winner will be chosen next Thursday, winner’s choice of ebook or print, must be 18 years or older to enter. Comment below to enter, and check out our Favorite Firsts.

And be sure to scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a huge basket o’ books!


71W2KzPBpnL._SL1206_RUN TO YOU Book One

Clara Kensie: This is the first time the heroine, Tessa, goes running with the hero, Tristan. And it’s the first time she admits to herself that she likes being with him. (Note: Tessa and her family are in hiding and living under an alias, so Tristan believes her name is Sarah).

“Ready to run, Sarah?” Tristan asked.

I was always ready to run. I darted off, for a moment considering running home rather than down the path. But… a small part of me wanted to run with him. Just this once. So I turned on to the path and ran alongside him. I could do this. Tristan and I were jogging together, that’s all. Not even that—we were jogging next to each other. Despite what my siblings were trying to do, Tristan would never be my friend.

But I couldn’t stop myself from sneaking glances up at him. Every so often I caught him peeking down at me too, and instead of running on concrete, I might as well have been soaring through the clouds.



Patience Griffin: This is the first glimpse of the kind of grandmother poor Cait must live with.

What kind of granddaughter waits until the last second to let her gran know she’s coming? A stupid one? But dang it, Deydie wasn’t your typical gran. Cait loved her but the old gal had issues. Crabby, in-your-face issues. During their last phone call, her gran made it perfectly clear what she thought of Cait: a chip off the old block—specifically, her father’s worthless, good-for-nothing block. Cait knew there’d be hell to pay. She’d never given Deydie a good reason for staying away so long. But what could she have said? I can’t leave town because my husband screws around at every opportunity? Or, I lost myself along the way and did everything the cheating bastard told me to do? How ridiculous Cait felt. Especially now.




finalrevised-copyMIND SWEEPER

A.E. Jones: The joke in the first line is the reason why the entire book was born.

An angel, a demon, and a vampire walked into a bar. No seriously, they did. And all hell broke loose. Then I got called in, or rather the team got called in, to handle supernatural damage control. My job was to manipulate people’s memories. Don’t ask me how. I was born with it, and, like someone born with double joints or the ability to flip their eyelids inside out, I just do it and hopefully not freak out too many people in the process.

On this particular night, I was destined to spend the evening in a bar with no chance of getting lucky. Dead bodies tended to put a damper on romance.






Elia Winters: This is the first time my main character, Bridget, realizes that her next door neighbor Max isn’t all that he seems. Specifically, her friend Helen has set her up with a source to interview for an upcoming article about BDSM. This is where Bridget realizes that her source is Max, the next door neighbor she’s been lusting after for months.

How did one recognize the top of a head? But she’d know those dark waves anywhere. He looked up from his book. She spotted the bright blue eyes and the corduroy jacket simultaneously, and her mouth dropped open in stupid shock at the same moment Max gave her his familiar crooked smile.

It wasn’t until a woman pushed past her that Bridget finally noticed she was still standing in the doorway. She moved forward, more so she wouldn’t look like an idiot than out of any desire to approach, and finally stood opposite her next-door neighbor.

“I suppose this isn’t just a coincidence.” Bridget gestured to his corduroy jacket.

“Afraid not.” Max’s eyes twinkled.

“I need some coffee.” Damn, if only Starbucks sold vodka shots.

“It sure seems like you do. I’ll be here.”

Bridget ordered a grande Frappuccino, ignoring the millions of calories, and willed herself not to look back at the far corner where Max was sitting. She knew he was watching her, could feel his gaze against her skin as easily as she could have felt his hands, and swallowed through a suddenly dry mouth.

The Starbucks baristas took a long time making her drink, but not nearly long enough for her to recover her composure.

“Nice choice.” Max admired her whipped-cream covered concoction when she returned to the table at last. He had set his book aside and folded his hands neatly in front of him. “I must say, you seem a little surprised to see me here.”

“Surprised? Of course I’m surprised!” Her bag dropped to the floor with a thud as she sat down opposite him, trying to put all the pieces together. She pressed a hand to her forehead, her mind spinning. “Helen never told me she knew you…” Bridget said, thinking but not saying the last half of that sentence: …all those times I talked about how hot you were. Now Helen’s smirking made sense.



Sonali Dev: This is the first time Samir and Mili dance with each other.

“Is this comfortable?” he asked against her ear.

She nodded and looked down at their feet. Her size-four-and-a-half feet on his boat feet.

“Now what do we do?” She leaned back and looked up at him.

“We don’t lean back like that”—he tucked her head against his chest—“or we fall over.” His chin rested on her head.

“And then?”

“Then we listen to the music.” He moved in time to the music, little bobs and sways. “We let the music pour into us.” His feet lifted a little higher, moved back and forth, taking her with him. “We let the rhythm move us.” He spun with her in his arms, little twists. Two this way, one that way. Two steps forward, two steps back.

It was the most amazing feeling. His shoulders, his hips, his arms, all of him carried all of her, his movements so subtle it was as if they weren’t moving at all, at least not on the outside. On the inside they were each move, each beat, each vibration.


Natalie Meg Evans: Parisian couturier Javier, a demanding perfectionist, has asked his seamstress, Alix Gower, to model his exhibition dress, a golden gown called ‘Oro.’ Alix has helped to sew it. Now, for the first time, she feels its silken weight against her skin . . . 

Twenty minutes later, Alix looked at herself in a long mirror and her eyes widened. Another woman had taken her place. She felt two inches taller. Oro showed the curve of her shoulder, and her dresser, by pinning up her hair, had made her neck seem almost swanlike. Nelly, one of the other mannequins, painted her face, giving her theatrical eyebrows and a crimson mouth. ‘Let’s do eyes like Bette Davis,’ Nelly said, holding a saucer over a candle flame. Smoky carbon appeared, which she mixed with baby oil and shadowed into the creases of Alix’s eyes. ‘There. Smouldering.’

‘Oro pleases you?’ Javier asked when Alix appeared in the salon. He had decorated the dress’s silk dupion flounces with gold vermicelli, which gave it a light-reflecting magnificence.

‘I feel like the Empress Eugénie.’

‘Move then, twirl. Let’s see that skirt dance.’ Javier snapped his fingers for black evening gloves. Alix had to wear gloves because her fingernails were too short.

‘Let them grow and don’t bite them, petite.’

She posed in profile on the stage in the main salon, where other women’s perfume hung in the air. Javier made her sit on the top step, her elbows bent, her hands raised in an attitude. An assistant arranged the golden skirts. The lights were lowered, and the photographer asked her to stay absolutely still.

Two hours later, Javier was satisfied and she was allowed to go away and change.



Alyssa Alexander: This is the first time Julian sees Grace actually fire her pistol, though she has carried it with her through their entire courtship and marriage.

A smuggler ran straight at him, only feet away, dagger poised to strike. Julian gathered himself to pivot.

It would be too late. He knew it with every ounce of his instinct, every moment of training. Fate had finally caught him. Only one thought came to mind.


A primitive torrent of need and fear flooded him, even as he braced for death.

A shot rang out.

The smuggler fell with an agonized scream. As if in a dream, Julian saw the dagger flash in the moonlight as it dropped to the ground.

Julian jerked his head up and scanned the beach—and his blood froze.

Grace kneeled on the shingle, her pistol braced on her forearm. Smoke curled from the weapon. It still pointed at the smuggler now dead at Julian’s feet.

The world seemed to stop spinning. It went silent and black, the smugglers disappearing from his consciousness so that all he could see was her, with her eyes as silver as the moon that shone down and gilded her hair.



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