The Grace Awards 2013, now into its fourth year, had and avalanche of reader nominations to determine our finalists. The number of reader votes was up significantly from last year, as was the number of novels nominated in each category.
According to the rules, every novel had to have been accompanied by at least a 35 word statement telling why the story was nominated…a sort of mini-review or “notice”. This year the reasons given were astute and outstanding. There is no doubt that today’s Christian reader is both intelligent and perceptive.
And now…the finalists in six categories are…
WOMEN’S FICTION/GENERAL FICTION (serious women’s/men’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements) :
PAINT ME ALTHENA, Naomi Musch (Desert Breeze Publishing) Ava Day lost her way, abandoned her painter husband Ethan and their young daughters, convinced they’d be better off without her…and became “Althena.” She buried herself in painting fantasy-art while searching for herself, and moved in with a tattooed biker. Left alone to care for the girls, Ethan finds strength in his new faith. Danger brings Ava back to Ethan’s protection, but can the broken marriage and scarred family be saved?
THE BELOVED DAUGHTER, Alana Terry (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) North Korean officials arrest a father, mother, and their 12 year-old daughter, Chung-Cha, for their Christian faith. The daughter is thrown into solitary confinement, tortured, and then is sent to a camp where even the slightest infraction of the rules is severely punished. Chung-Cha questions her faith. A Christian woman in the prison camp befriends the girl and she begins to renew her faith.
PILGRIMAGE OF PROMISE, Cathy Bryant (WordVessel Press) As Bo Miller faces stage four cancer, he and his wife Mona Beth face a dusty stack of unopened love letters forcing them to revisit a part of their lives they’d rather leave buried. Only as they retrace history will they learn the truth about the shattered promise that threatens to come between them. But can their relationship endure the deception and sabotage they unearth, or will the experience compel them to trust more fully in the promises that never fail?
ROMANCE/HISTORICAL ROMANCE (primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then)
RIVER OAKS PLANTATION, B.J. Robinson (B. J. Robinson) Plantation manager,Noah Gautreaux, took vehicles to higher ground in order to escape a super hurricane, but will he make it back in time to save Amaryllis Camilla O’Brien and his two “pet girls” who are still in the antebellum mansion? Amaryllis, who inherited the house from her grandmother, has discovered an old, yellowed diary in the house and she’s determined will survive the storm, along with herself and Noah’s beloved dogs.
WHERE HOPE STARTS, Angela D. Meyer (CrossRiver Media) New York City restaurant manager Karen Marina is fleeing to her Midwestern home after she loses her job and discovers her drunken and abusive husband is addicted to pornography. She’s struggling between a possible new boyfriend and forgiving the unforgivable when she discovers a secret that could tear her family apart while her angry brother is set on revenge.
FINDING BETH, Linnette R. Mullin (CrossRiver Media) Beth Gallagher’s brother died in a fatal accident, but warned her about Kyle before he passed away. After turning to Kyle in grief, she becomes engaged to him and only then discovers his dark side. In a state of confusion, she flees to the Smoky Mountains seeking God’s will, and discovers a new friend who helps her find answers. But what will it cost? Kyle is used to getting his way, no matter what. So when she returns with her new man, Kyle is furious.
MYSTERY/THRILLER/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE/HISTORIC SUSPENSE: (crime fiction, probably a body)
MURDER AT WILLOW SHADE, Jean Kinsey (Desert Breeze Publishing) All Ashley Kennedy wants is to marry her childhood sweetheart and make a go of Willow Shade Stables, but her fiance Kyle gets cold feet and refuses to set a date. Then the builders unearth a skull while digging her basement. The skull is identified as an old adversary and the sheriff suspects Ashley’s mom, Maddy. Before her mom can be convicted, Ashley puts her life on hold and joins several of the town’s women in an investigation to prove Maddy’s innocence. To obtain evidence, the Fearless Five ladies bend the rules which law-abiding policemen dare not do. .
THE RISING, Lynn Chandler Willis (Harbourlight Books) Detective Ellie Saunders’s homicide investigation takes a dramatic turn when a young victim of a fatal beating “wakes up” in the morgue. The boy has no memory prior to his “rising” except walking with his father along a shiny road. Ellie likes dealing with facts. She’s not interested in any supernatural talk, but wants medical answers. Will her probing put her in danger?
BROKEN ALLEGIANCE, Mark Young (Mark Young Books) After seeking justice for more than ten years, as well as experiencing intense suffering due to the hit and run death of his young son at the hands of an unidentified gang-banger, Detective Tom Kagan is a broken man. What keeps him going is protecting his wife from an anonymous serious threat. Then a gang member thought to be “untouchable” is assassinated by his own gang. This throws Kagan into the middle of a viscous, internal gang war and places his friends and family at risk.
SPECULATIVE FICTION (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.)
THE EARTH PAINTER, Mellisa Turner Lee (AltWitPress) Holly Scruggs has been corrected by her image conscious parents to the point of brokenness. When she discovers the boy in her high school drama class is actually the immortal who painted the world into being, she becomes the target of another painter who hates humanity.
MERLIN’S BLADE, Robert Treskillard (Blink). When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow—a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur’s kingdom. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith’s son named Merlin.
SHENANDOAH NIGHTS, Lisa Belcastro (Oak Tara) The last thing sixth-grade teacher Rebecca O’Neill wants to do during the final week of her summer break is chaperone 25 kids on a one week trip aboard the schooner Shenandoah. But after a desperate phone call from the school principal, she doesn’t have a choice. Worse, the ship is rumored to be “haunted.” Five years ago, during another student cruise, the teacher-chaperone heard voices, saw visions, then disappeared without a trace-from the very same cabin where Rebecca will be staying.
ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/EPIC FICTION: (exploits, quest, daring, expansive)
CAPTURED BY MOONLIGHT, Christine Lindsay (WhiteFire Publishing) After a daring rescue goes awry, Laine Harkness takes a nursing position at a plantation in the jungles of South India, only to discover that her abusive former fiance is the owner. Laine’s friend, Eshana, is captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, and doubts freedom will ever be hers again, much less the forbidden love that had begun to flower.
STEALING THE PREACHER, Karen Witemayer (Bethany House Publishers) On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.
BURNING SKY, Lori Benton (WaterBrook Press) The woman who had been known as Burning Sky was a colonial girl kidnapped by Indians before the American Revolution. She then returned to her childhood home after the war as an adult, but finds the situation not to be what she expected. On the border of her parents’ land, she rescues Neil McGregor, a Scots doctor from the East who is in the area to catalog the flora and fauna. Still more perplexing, she finds herself trapped between two worlds, and in a triangle of affection with Neil and the native Joseph. And what should she do when those she thought would support her efforts actively work against her and threaten her survival?
YOUNG ADULT (appeals to ages 14 – 21ish)
THE REVISED LIFE OF ELLIE SWEET, Stephanie Merrill (Novel Teen Press) Ellie Sweet is a good girl, novelist, silent adorer of hunky Palmer. When “outcast” gets added to the list, she decides on a bit of literary revenge. In her book, she’s Lady Gabrielle, of the Italian medieval court. Her once friends are reduced to catty ladies-in-waiting. Palmer is a rake wracked with unrequited love for her. Just as she’s enjoying her fictional world, in real-life things shift. Chase, from the wrong side of the tracks, wants to date her, and so does Palmer. Then her manuscript becomes public and her friends decide to teach Ellie a lesson about using her pen as a sword.
DIVING IN DEEP, Nora Ballew ( CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) Just as her family’s troubles start to mount in their new home town, Kelly Eberly dives head first into a strict diet and rigorous swimming routine. Kelly wants nothing more than the “nice normal family” her mother talks about. Before long, even within the chaos that is the Eberly household, everyone is noticing her dramatic weight loss. Her aunt is praying. Her brother is lecturing. Even her new friends are studying her under a microscope. How thin is thin enough?
STOPPED COLD, Gail Pallotta ( CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) Margaret McWhorter enjoys a laid-back Freshman year in high school flirting with Jimmy Willmore, swimming and hanging out with friends—until her brother, Sean, suffers a stroke from taking a steroid and is lying unconscious in a hospital. Margaret is angry at her dad for pushing Sean to be a great quarterback, but a fire of hatred burns inside her to make the criminals who sold the drugs pay. Looking for justice, she takes Jimmy and her best friend, Emily, through a twisted, drug-filled sub-culture where they overhear drug dealers discuss Sean. They are walking a treacherous path and even the cop on the case can’t stop them from investigating. All the while Margaret really wants to cure Sean, heal the hate inside of her, and open her heart to love.