Thursday, January 27, 2011

Of RITA Books and Other Reading


For romance authors, receiving a RITA award is akin to getting the movie industry's Oscar. And this is RITA season. Throughout the world, authors who are published in romance have received a box of books to evaluate in this year's RITA contest. My own stack is seven novels high and, with just over a month to read and evaluate them, I'm buried in books.

But this week, I took a break from RITA reading to focus on Softly And Tenderly, the second in the Songbird series written by country music star Sara Evans and RITA finalist Rachel Hauck. And what a nice break it was!

A couple of years have passed since the ending of The Sweet By and By, in which Jade and Max discovered their love for one another. But, as in real life, all is not perfect in their world. Secrets hide beneath Whisper Hollow’s quiet fa├žade. As Jade worries that her barrenness might be a punishment for past mistakes, those secrets bubble to the surface. Max’s demons threaten their future when his own past and present struggles are revealed. His parents’ seemingly perfect marriage falters. Jade’s mom, Beryl, approaches the end of her fight against leukemia. And through it all, Jade struggles in her role as the glue that holds everything together.

Sara and Rachel have done an amazing job of “keeping it real” in this poignant next installment in Jade and Max’s journey. I’m a huge fan of romance novels, but every once in a while I hunger for something beyond that happily-ever-after moment. In Softly and Tenderly, I found what I was looking for. The authors delivered a story that touched my heart, made me glad for a handy box of tissues, and kept me rooting for the main characters all the way through.

And the ending of Softly and Tenderly left me with only one question—how soon can I read the next book in the Songbird series, Love Lifted Me?

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