I read a ton of YA novels last year when I was on the BFYA committee but out of the four Rita finalists in the Young Adult Romance category I only had read one. Interestingly enough my favorite YA romance novel of the year was not a finalist in this category but it is in the Best First Book category.
Ismae hopes that the arranged marriage her father, a turnip farmer in medieval Brittany has contracted for her, will be more pleasant than the abuse she has endured so far in her life. Instead she has gone from the flying pan into the fire. When her loutish new husband sees that she bears the red stain indicating she is actually the child of the ancient god of death, he beats her and locks her in the cellar so he can fetch the authorities who will see her burned or drowned. Rescued, she is taken to the convent of St. Mortain where she is schooled in the art of the assassin. Her first assignment, at the court of the young Duchess of Brittany, throws her into an uneasy partnership with Gavriel Duval, the duchess's bastard brother. A touch of the paranormal, political machinations, an interesting evocation of the time and place, a satisfying romance, a flawed kick-ass heroine, and a convent that trains assassins combine for a terrific read.