The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its eighth year, is very proud to announce its 2017 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges. They are multi-published authors, traditionally published ones, indie authors, and avid readers. Our judges commented on how exciting it was to select a winner from finalists selected by readers who are fans. Several judging teams ‘complained’ they had trouble picking a winner because all three stories nominated were so good. That’s what the Grace Awards is all about.
We’ve tried to use, if you will, a separation of powers in choosing our winners. Readers nominated (via email) the finalists in six categories. After the nominations were counted, finaling titles were given to our judging teams. From that point on there was no contact between the judging teams and the Chair of the Board, except for administrative issues. The teams independently picked winners. Each step in the process was removed and separated from the next step, to insure impartiality.
We are thrilled that our winners showcase self-published works as well as titles from publishing houses, ebooks as well as paperbacks. Our aim is to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.
The winners are…
Women’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense element
THE AUSTEN ESCAPE by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson) ~ The title is apt. This novel is just that: an escape. Ms. Reay masterfully takes the reader into two different eras—no this is not a time travel novel—while at the same time treating you to tidbits about Jane Austen’s classics. Once you fall into the many layers of the life of Mary, you will not want to leave her world—or is it worlds—behind. Ms. Reay is clearly a scholar of Austen works, and Ms. Reay’s story merges the Austen style with this author’s magnificent talent for writing contemporary fiction.
Romance/Historical Romance: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then
MAGNOLIA STORMS by Janet Ferguson (Southern Sun Press) ~ This novel drew us in to the deep south with its rich sense of place, culture, and family. We liked how the author wove elements of an approaching storm into the story. In the beginning, we were introduced to a blended family, held together by love and respect, rather than intermarriage. The characters are well written and interesting, the romance elements strong. Relationships are mostly well explored. Past and present combine and intermingle as a monster storm takes aim at the Mississippi coastal regions, stirring unwanted memories of Katrina. The well-told story combines elements of single-parenting, and families working together for a common goal. The spiritual content is organic and woven throughout, it never seemed contrived. The drama of the approaching storm, endangering lives and livelihoods, and the promise of a rekindled love kept us turning pages until the end.
Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body
THE HOUSE ON FOSTER HILL by Jaime Jo Wright is a story told in two timelines, with parallels between the protagonists of each time. In the present, Kaine Prescott refuses to accept that her husband’s death is anything less than murder. Since his death, someone has been playing tricks on her, tricks the police dismiss as the distraught mind of a grieving widow. In desperation, Kaine buys a “fixer-upper” sight unseen, half a country away. When she arrives, the house is more than a fixer-upper – it needs loads of work. To make matters worse, it seems her tormentor has followed her. Kaine has two new friends to help her, both with the house and the mystery of who is tormenting her. A century earlier, Ivy Thorpe has her own mystery to unravel involving a murdered unknown woman and her vanished baby. Both Kaine and Ivy discover that the house on Foster Hill plays an important part in the mysteries. This novel captivated the judges from the beginning. The parallel stories of Kaine and Ivy are well-paced in presentation, keeping the tension just taut enough to ensure the reader must keep turning the pages. The secondary characters are great support for each timeline. As the end draws closer so too the main characters seem to draw closer. The conclusion of each timeline’s mystery is handled perfectly. This novel delivered in spades!
Speculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.
THE REVISIONARY by Kristen Hogrefe (Write Integrity Press) ~ This dystopian novel was engaging and well-paced, reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, with a more modern vibe similar to The Hunger Games. The author uses deep point of view in a first person present style, in keeping with current tastes in fiction. The story never stagnates but keeps moving and surprising all the way through. The plot follows young Portia Abernathy who has clung to the belief that if she excels enough to get drafted into an upper-level educational system, she can change the laws that keep her brother in prison. Her meager existence with her father in a world without electricity or most basic creature comforts is a struggle, but she has learned how to survive and hopes to beat the system at its own game. Portia is shocked when she learns the system is not only stacked against her, but that there are those targeting her for failure. In the midst of the chaos, she finds surprising friends and allies. This volume is the first in a post-apocalyptic series called The Rogues and deservedly takes first place.
Action Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive
THESE HEALING HILLS by Ann H. Gabhart (Revell) ~ When settling into the post WWII story of Francine Howard’s journey to the Appalachian Mountains to learn midwifery and help “catch babies.” One is almost immediately reminded of the classic tale of Christy. The settings, period authenticity, and characterization are very similar. The heroine’s focused, kind, and professional care for all the mountain residents despite differences and sometimes superstitious notions, and her growing love for the mountain makes for a wonderful story. All the judges felt they learned something more about an aspect of history: the Frontier Nursing Service. Most of the characters were vivid and lovable. The male protagonist was multi-dimensional and easy to become charmed by. Ms. Gabhart captures the “mountain speak” of the period without being over the top with her characters, and she has some beautiful dialogue as well as lines of description that sang off the page. We liked that the sense of mountain community is revealed little by little in an engaging way that allows the reader to grow attached to the people, just as the protagonist Francine did. The spiritual aspect in the story of learning to trust God in all circumstances is a common Christian fiction theme, which Ms. Gabhart weaves nicely into the tale so that it isn’t awkward, while the romance aspect of the story was gradual and gentle, and did not overwhelm the other aspects of the story. We would also like to give our compliments on the seamless editing of the book.
Young Adult: includes YA, NA, and middle grade
A TRAIL OF CRUMBS by Susie Finkbeiner (Kregel Publications) ~This is a well written, original novel. There are so many positives about this book! The story was realistic and touching. There was some sadness and some very serious moments, but those were balanced out with humorous moments that made the reader smile and sometimes laugh out loud. Pearl dreaming about Momma leaving her baby was a very powerful scene. The message of God and His love was expertly woven throughout the story and was a real part of Pearl’s life. It was not preachy and yet the label Christian wasn’t just tacked on.