RITA Award

The RITA Award is the most prominent award for English-language romance fiction.[1][2] It is presented by Romance Writers of America (RWA). The purpose of the RITA Award is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published novels and novellas. It is named for the RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada.

RITA Award
Awarded forExcellence in romantic fiction
CountryUnited States
Presented byRomance Writers of America


The RITA Awards, like the English-speaking romance fiction industry as a whole, are overwhelmingly dominated by white authors. This caused controversy in 2018 when Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union, a novel about interracial romance during the American Civil War, made no appearance in the RITA Awards finalists despite winning multiple other awards. Instead, all finalists were about white women, of which all but one fell in love with British aristocrats. In response, the RWA board noted that less than half of 1% of finalists were by black authors, of which none had ever won the award, and expressed a commitment to improve the diversity of the award.[3] The board issued an apology after the 2019 finalists again did not include any persons of color or LGBTQ+ persons.[4]


The RITA Award opens for entries in the fall. Entrants must supply five printed books by the posted deadline. Each title is judged by five separate judges during the preliminary round. Finalist are announced in mid-March. Winners are announced at the annual award ceremony, held on the last day of RWA's National Conference, which is normally held in July.[5][6] Winners receive a gold statuette, book editors receive a plaque.


The award categories, effective 2017, are:

  • Best First Book
  • Contemporary Romance (subcategories)
    • Long Contemporary Romance
    • Mid-Length Contemporary Romance
    • Short Contemporary Romance
  • Erotic Romance
  • Historical Romance (subcategories)
    • Long Historical Romance
    • Short Historical Romance
  • Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance [formerly Novel with Strong Romantic Elements]
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Romance Novella
  • Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements [formerly Inspirational Romance ]
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Young Adult Romance


Best First Book

Past winners:

  • 1990 Out of the Blue by Alaina Hawthorne
  • 1991 Black Horse Island by Dee Holmes
  • 1992 Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd
  • 1993 Trust Me by Jeane Renick
  • 1994 A Candle in the Dark by Megan Chance
  • 1995 Ghostly Enchantment by Angie Ray
  • 1996 The Warlord by Elizabeth Elliott
  • 1997 Stardust of Yesterday by Lynn Kurland
  • 1998 Brazen Angel by Elizabeth Boyle
  • 1999 My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth
  • 2000 The Maiden and The Unicorn by Isolde Martyn
  • 2001 A Man Like Mac by Fay Robinson
  • 2002 The Border Bride by Elizabeth English
  • 2003 Shades of Honor by Wendy Lindstrom
  • 2004 Back Roads by Susan Crandall
  • 2005 Time Off For Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich
  • 2006 Show Her The Money by Stephanie Feagan
  • 2007 The Husband Trap by Tracy Anne Warren
  • 2008 Dead Girls Are Easy by Terri Garey
  • 2009 Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
  • 2010 One Scream Away by Kate Brady
  • 2011 Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner
  • 2012 First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
  • 2013 The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
  • 2014 The Sweet Spot by Laura Drake
  • 2015 Run to You by Clara Kensie
  • 2016 Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
  • 2017 Once and For All: An American Valor Novel by Cheryl Etchison[7]
  • 2018 Take the Lead by Alexis Daria[8]

Contemporary Romance

Past winners:

  • 1982
    • Category Contemporary: Winner Take All by Brooke Hastings
    • Mainstream Contemporary: The Sun Dancers by Barbara Faith
  • 1983
    • Contemporary Mainstream: Opal Fires by Lynda Trent
    • Contemporary Sensual: The Heart’s Victory by Nora Roberts
    • Contemporary Sweet: Renegade Player by Dixie Browning
  • 1984
    • Contemporary Under 65,000 words: Memory and Desire by Eileen Bryan
    • Contemporary 65-80,000 words: This Magic Moment by Nora Roberts & Destiny's Sweet Errand by Deirdre Mardon
    • Traditional: Untamed by Nora Roberts
  • 1985
    • Long Contemporary Series: A Matter of Choice by Nora Roberts
    • Mainstream: After All These Years by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
    • Short Contemporary: Opposites Attract by Nora Roberts
    • Traditional: The Karas Cup by Brittany Young
  • 1986
    • Long Contemporary Series: Today, Tomorrow and Always by Georgia Bockoven
    • Short Contemporary: Much Needed Holiday by Joan Hohl
    • Single Title: Banish Misfortune by Anne Stuart
    • Traditional: The Crystal Unicorn by Doreen Malek
  • 1987
    • Long Contemporary Series: One Summer by Nora Roberts
    • Short Contemporary: Still Waters by Kathleen Creighton
    • Single Title: Sunshine and Shadow by Tom and Sharon Curtis
    • Traditional: Opal Fire by Sandy Dengler
  • 1988
    • Long Contemporary Series: In the Defense of Love by Kathleen Creighton
    • Short Contemporary: Stolen Moments by Terri Herrington
    • Single Title: Twilight Whispers by Barbara Delinsky
    • Traditional: It Takes a Thief by Rita Rainville
  • 1989
    • Long Contemporary Series: A Crime of the Heart by Cheryl Reavis
    • Short Contemporary: Winter’s Daughter by Kathleen Creighton
    • Single Title: Leaves of Fortune by Linda Barlow
    • Traditional: Flirtation River by Bethany Campbell
  • 1990
    • Long Contemporary Series: The Ice Cream Man by Kathleen Korbel
    • Short Contemporary Series: Night of the Hunter by Jennifer Greene
    • Single Title Contemporary: Private Relations by Diane Chamberlain
    • Traditional: Rhapsody in Bloom by Mona Van Wieren
  • 1991
    • Long Contemporary Series: Patrick Gallagher’s Widow by Cheryl Reavis
    • Short Contemporary Series: Step Into My Parlor by Jan Hudson
    • Traditional: Song of the Lorelei by Lucy Gordon
  • 1992
    • Long Contemporary Series: A Rose for Maggie by Kathleen Korbel
    • Short Contemporary Series: A Human Touch by Glenda Sanders
    • Single Title Contemporary: A Man to Die For by Eileen Dreyer
    • Traditional: Every Kind of Heaven by Bethany Campbell
  • 1993
    • Long Contemporary Series: The Silence of Midnight by Karen Young
    • Short Contemporary Series: Navarrone by Helen R. Myers
    • Single Title Contemporary: This Time Forever by Kathleen Eagle
    • Traditional: Father Goose by Marie Ferrarella
  • 1994
    • Long Contemporary Series: Dragonslayer by Emilie Richards
    • Short Contemporary Series: Avenging Angel by Glenna McReynolds
    • Contemporary Single Title: Private Scandals by Nora Roberts
    • Traditional: Annie and the Wise Men by Lindsay Longford
  • 1995
    • Contemporary Single Title: Again by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
    • Long Contemporary Series: A Soldier’s Heart by Kathleen Korbel
    • Short Contemporary Series: Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
    • Traditional: Oh Baby! by Lauryn Chandler
  • 1996
    • Contemporary Single Title: Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
    • Long Contemporary Series: The Morning Side of Dawn by Justine Davis
    • Short Contemporary Series: Single Dad by Jennifer Greene
    • Traditional: Stranger in Her Arms by Elizabeth Sites
  • 1997
    • Contemporary Single Title: Daniel’s Gift by Barbara Freethy
    • Long Contemporary Series: Wild Blood by Naomi Horton
    • Short Contemporary Series: Cowboy Pride by Anne McAllister
    • Traditional: Her Very Own Husband by Lauryn Chandler
  • 1998
  • 1999
    • Contemporary Single Title: Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    • Long Contemporary: Meant to Be Married by Ruth Wind
    • Short Contemporary: The Notorious Groom by Caroline Cross
    • Traditional: Monday Man by Kristin Gabriel
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
    • Contemporary Single Title: True Confessions by Rachel Gibson
    • Long Contemporary: Coming Home To You by Fay Robinson
    • Short Contemporary: A Long Hot Christmas by Barbara Daly
    • Traditional: Quinn's Complete Seduction by Sandra Steffen
  • 2003
    • Contemporary Single Title: No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel
    • Long Contemporary: Taking Cover by Catherine Mann
    • Short Contemporary: Taming The Outlaw by Cindy Kay Gerard
    • Traditional: The Christmas Basket by Debbie Macomber
  • 2004
    • Contemporary Single Title: Birthright by Nora Roberts
    • Long Contemporary: The Top Gun's Return by Kathleen Creighton
    • Short Contemporary: The Knight's Kiss by Nicole Burnham
    • Traditional: Her Royal Baby by Marion Lennox
  • 2005
  • 2006
    • Contemporary Single Title: Lakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs
    • Long Contemporary: Worth Every Risk by Dianna Love Snell
    • Short Contemporary: The Marriage Miracle by Liz Fielding
    • Traditional: Princess of Convenience by Marion Lennox
  • 2007
    • Contemporary Single Title: Adios To My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer
    • Long Contemporary: The Mommy Quest by Lori Handeland
    • Short Contemporary: From the First by Jessica Bird
    • Traditional: Claiming His Family by Barbara Hannay
  • 2008
    • Contemporary Single Title: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
    • Contemporary Series: Snowbound by Janice Johnson
    • Contemporary Series-Suspense/Adventure: Treasure by Helen Brenna
  • 2009
    • Contemporary Single Title: Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson
    • Contemporary Series: A Mother's Wish by Karen Templeton
    • Contemporary Series-Suspense/Adventure: Danger Signals by Kathleen Creighton
  • 2010
    • Contemporary Single Title: Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins
    • Contemporary Series: A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews
    • Contemporary Series-Suspense/Adventure: The Soldier's Secret Daughter by Cindy Dees
  • 2011
    • Contemporary Single Title: Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
    • Contemporary Series: Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Templeton
    • Contemporary Series-Suspense/Adventure: The Moon That Night by Helen Brenna
  • 2012
    • Contemporary Single Title: Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe
    • Contemporary Series: Doukaki's Apprentice by Sarah Morgan
    • Contemporary Series-Suspense/Adventure: Soldier's Last Stand by Cindy Dees
  • 2013
    • Contemporary Single Title: The Way Back Home by Barbara Freethy
    • Long Contemporary Series: A Gift For All Season by Karen Templeton
    • Short Contemporary Series: A Night of No Return by Sarah Morgan
  • 2014
    • Contemporary Single Title: Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O'Keefe
    • Short Contemporary Series: Why Resist a Rebel? by Leah Ashton
  • 2015
    • Long Contemporary Romance: Baby, It's You by Jane Graves
    • Mid-Length Contemporary Romance: One in a Million by Jill Shalvis
    • Short Contemporary Romance: A Texas Rescue Christmas by Caro Carson
  • 2016
    • Long Contemporary Romance: Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates
    • Mid-Length Contemporary Romance: Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy (first self-published winner in this category)
    • Short Contemporary Romance: The Nanny Plan by Sarah M. Anderson
  • 2017
    • Long Contemporary Romance: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
    • Mid-Length Contemporary Romance: Carolina Dreaming by Virginia Kantra
    • Short Contemporary Romance: Christmas on Crimson Mountain by Michelle Major[7]
  • 2018
    • Long Contemporary Romance: Falling Hard by Lexi Ryan[8]
    • Mid-Length Contemporary Romance: Tell Me by Abigail Strom
    • Short Contemporary Romance: Second Chance Summer"by Kait Nolan

Erotic Romance

Past winners:

  • 2014 Claim Me by J. Kenner
  • 2015 The Saint by Tiffany Reisz
  • 2016 For Real: A Spires Story by Alexis Hall
  • 2017 Off the Clock by Roni Loren[7]
  • 2018 Wicked Dirty by J. Kenner[8]
  • 2019 Three-Way Split by Elia Winters

Historical Romance

Past winners:

  • 1982
    • Best Mainstream Historical Romance: Day Beyond Destiny by Anna James
    • Best Category Historical Romance: Rendezvous at Gramercy by Constance Ravenlock
  • 1983
    • Best Mainstream Historical Romance: The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer
    • Best Category Historical Romance: Defiant Love by Mara Seger
  • 1984
    • Best Historical Romance: Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer
    • Best Category Historical Romance: The Clergyman’s Daughter by Julie Jeffries
  • 1985
    • Best Regency Romance: The Lurid Lady Lockport by Kasey Micheals
    • Best Historical Romance: Twice Loved by LaVyrle Spencer
  • 1986
  • 1987
    • Best Regency Romance: Lord Abberley’s Nemesis by Amanda Scott
    • Best Historical Romance: By Right of Arms by Robyn Carr
  • 1988
  • 1989
  • 1990
  • 1991
    • Best Series Historical: A Wild Yearning by Penelope Williamson
    • Best Single Title Historical : Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart
    • Best Regency Romance: The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
  • 1992
    • Best Series Historical: The Tender Texan by Jodi Thomas
    • Best Single Title Historical: Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi
    • Best Regency Romance: Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley
  • 1993
    • Best Historical Series: The Prisoner by Cheryl Reavis
    • Best Historical Single Title: Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
    • Best Regency Romance: An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley
  • 1994
  • 1995
    • Best Historical Romance: To Tame a Texan’s Heart by Jodi Thomas
    • Best Long Historical Romance: Dancing on the Wind by Mary Jo Putney
    • Best Regency Romance: Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
  • 1996
  • 1997
    • Long Historical Romance: Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
    • Short Historical Romance: Always to Remember by Lorraine Heath
    • Best Regency Romance: The Lady's Companion by Carla Kelly
  • 1998
    • Long Historical Romance: Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne
    • Short Historical Romance: Heart of a Knight by Barbara Samuel
    • Best Regency Romance: Love's Reward by Jean R. Ewing
  • 1999
    • Long Historical Romance: My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
    • Short Historical Romance: Merely Married by Patricia Coughlin
    • Best Regency Romance: His Grace Endures by Emma Jenson
  • 2000
    • Long Historical Romance: Silken Threads by Patricia Ryan
    • Short Historical Romance: The Proposition by Judith Ivory
    • Best Regency Romance: The Rake's Retreat by Nancy Butler
  • 2001
    • Long Historical Romance: Devilish by Jo Beverley
    • Short Historical Romance: The Mistress by Susan Wiggs
    • Best Regency Romance: A Grand Design by Emma Jensen
  • 2002
    • Long Historical Romance: The Bridal Season by Connie Brockway
    • Short Historical Romance: Tempt Me Twice by Barbara Dawson Smith
    • Best Regency Romance: Much Obliged by Jessica Benson
  • 2003
    • Long Historical Romance: Stealing Heaven by Madeline Hunter
    • Short Historical Romance: The Bride Fair by Cheryl Reavis
    • Best Regency Romance: Debt to Delia by Barbara Metzger
  • 2004
    • Long Historical Romance: The Destiny by Kathleen Givens
    • Short Historical Romance: Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas
    • Best Regency Romance: Prospero's Daughter by Nancy Butler
  • 2005
    • Long Historical Romance: Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
    • Short Historical Romance: A Wanted Man by Susan Kay Law
    • Best Regency Romance: A Passionate Endeavor by Sophia Nash
  • 2006
    • Long Historical Romance: The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle
    • Short Historical Romance: The Texan's Reward by Jodi Thomas
    • Best Regency Romance: A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014
  • 2015
    • Long Historical Romance: Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
    • Short Historical Romance: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
  • 2016
    • Long Historical Romance: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist
    • Short Historical Romance: It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long
  • 2017
    • Long Historical Romance: No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke
    • Short Historical Romance: A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen[7]
  • 2018
    • Long Historical Romance: Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen
    • Short Historical Romance: Waltzing with the Earl by Catherine Tinley[8]

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance [Novel with Strong Romantic Elements prior to 2017]

This award may correlate to:

  • Best Romance from 1990 to 1996
  • RWA's Favorite Book in 1998

Past winners:

Paranormal Romance

This award may correlate to:

  • Best Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance from 1992-1994

Past winners:

Romance Novella

This award may correlate to:

  • Best Romantic Novella 2000-2007

Past Winners:

  • 2000 "Starry, Starry Night" by Marianne Willman
  • 2001 "Final Approach to Forever" by Merline Lovelace from Once Upon A Dream
  • 2002 "I Will" by Lisa Kleypas from Wish List
  • 2003 "To Kiss in Shadows" by Lynn Kurland
  • 2004 "Prisoner of the Tower" by Gayle Wilson in The Wedding Chase
  • 2005 "Her Enemy" by Maggie Shayne in Night's Edge
  • 2006 "The Naked Truth about Guys" by Alesia Holliday in The Naked Truth
  • 2007 "Tis the Silly Season" by Roxanne St. Claire in A NASCAR Holiday
  • 2008 "Born in My Heart" by Jennifer Greene in Like Mother, Like Daughter
  • 2009 "The Fall of Rogue Gerard" by Stephanie Laurens in It Happened One Night
  • 2010 "The Christmas Eve Promise" by Molly O'Keefe in The Night Before Christmas
  • 2011 "Shifting Sea" by Virginia Kantra in Burning Up
  • 2012 "I Love the Earl" by Caroline Linden
  • 2013 "Seduced by a Pirate" by Eloisa James
  • 2014 "Take Me, Cowboy" by Jane Porter
  • 2015 "His Road Home" by Anna Richland
  • 2016 "Nice Girls Don't Ride" by Roni Loren
  • 2017 "Her Every Wish" by Courtney Milan
  • 2018 "Forbidden River" by Brynn Kelly[8]

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements [Inspirational Romance prior to 2017]

Past winners:

Romantic Suspense

This may correlate to:

  • Best Suspense 1989

Past winners:

Young Adult Romance

Past winners:

  • 1983 Andrea by Jo Stewart
  • 1984 Julie’s Magic Moment by Barbara Bartholomew
  • 1985 The Frog Princess by Cheryl Zach
  • 1986 Waiting for Amanda by Cheryl Zach
  • 1987 Video Fever by Kathleen Garvey
  • 1988 Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too? by Arlene Erlbach
  • 1989 The Ghosts of Stony Cove by Eileen Charbonneau
  • 1990 Renee by Vivan Schurfranz
  • 1991 (no award)
  • 1992 Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep by Lurlene McDaniel
  • 1993 Song of the Buffalo Boy by Sherry Garland
  • 1994 Summer Lightning by Wendy Corsi Staub
  • 1995 Second to None by Arleynn Presser
  • 1996 Runaway by Cheryl Zach
  • 1997 - 2007 (no award)
  • 2008 Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
  • 2009 Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore
  • 2010 Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  • 2011 The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
  • 2012 Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • 2013 The Farm by Emily McKay
  • 2015 Boys Like You by Juliana Stone
  • 2016 The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
  • 2017 The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout[7]
  • 2018 Seize Today by Pintip Dunn[8]


  1. Vineyard, Rebecca (2004). The Romance Writer's Handbook: How to Write Romantic Fiction & Get it Published. Watson-Guptill. p. 122. ISBN 0-87116-204-0.
  2. Brown, Janelle (September 29, 1999). "Forbidden romance?". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  3. Beckett, Lois (4 April 2019). "Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  4. Trent, John F. (27 March 2019). "Romance Writers of America Apologizes For Not Including "Members of Color and LGBTQ+ Members" as Finalists for their 2019 RITA Awards". Bounding Into Comics. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  5. Clay, Pat (August 8, 2007). "Authors earn respect of romance writers". Florida Today. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  6. Bouricius, Ann (2000). The Romance Readers' Advisory: The Librarian's Guide to Love in the Stacks. Chicago: American Library Association. p. 69. ISBN 0-8389-0779-2.
  7. "2017 RITA Winners," Romance Writers of America, accessed Sept. 8, 2017.
  8. "2018 RITA Winners". www.rwa.org. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
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