The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its seventh year, is very proud to announce its 2016 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 pleased they were with the high quality of the finalists chosen by readers this year. Several judging teams ‘complained’ they had trouble picking a winner because all three stories nominated were so good. This only serves to justify the faith we have in our Christian readers who nominate the finalists. 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
YOU ARE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE by Jennifer Lamont Leo (Smitten Historical Romance) ~ The author has a lively writing voice and captivated the judges’ attention from the start. Set in the roaring twenties era, YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE was fresh and fun as small town girl, Marjorie Corrigan, is swept into the frenzied world of 1928 Chicago. The story has the usual cast of characters, stepmother, the hometown love and the exciting new man. We found ourselves rooting for Marjorie to follow her dreams yet fearful that she would succumb to the vices of the day. For a young woman who had sworn that coffee was the strongest drink that would pass her lips, the temptations were real. The author adroitly illustrated how easily we can let our guard down on the little things until we end up on the roof of a speakeasy being raided by the authorities. Jennifer Leo didn’t force the action but allowed it to evolve with interesting twists and she totally sold the story.
Romance/Historical Romance: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then
A RELUCTANT MELODY by Sandra Ardoin (Heritage Beacon Fiction) ~ This beautiful story appeals to the heart. Though it started out slowly, we were never bored, but intrigued by the unfolding narrative, the promise of secrets to be revealed. We were soon gripped by the suspense, action, and strong undercurrent of romance, and drawn into the lives of the central characters. Though the subject matter is definitely mature, dealing with alcoholism, premarital sex, and spousal abuse, the writer keeps it clean. The interwoven spirituality inspires and encourages. We were very pleased with the ending—it’s not tied up in a pretty little bow—almost like real life.
Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body
MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER by Barbara Ellen Brink (Lapdog Publishing) ~ is a well-written, entertaining cozy mystery. The characters are believable and feel like people you might know in your own town. Blake and Shelby are charming main characters, just the right mix of strengths and weaknesses to keep the pace moving and the plot plausible. Alice and Tucker provide a light, romantic thread while Jack and Oliver add a touch of humor. The setting is presented well and the mystery progresses at a steady pace that keeps the pages turning.
Speculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.
THE ALLIANCE by Jolina Petersheim (Tyndale House Publishers) ~ This was a very enjoyable book. The use of literary techniques, together with strong, well-developed characters and an engaging premise, made for an interesting read. Unlikely partners were forced to form an “alliance’ of necessity, forcing readers to ask the question, “Would I be able to preserve my core values when faced with horror on every side?” This story expertly demonstrates the struggles that Christians face between religious traditional practice and selfless, Christ-like spirituality. While dystopian in presentation, the author’s focus was on the budding relationship between the two mismatched main characters. The book exemplifies the difficulty in maintaining human dignity despite destruction and possible death. A sequel is anticipated.
Action Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive
IMPERFECT BONDS by Elizabeth Noyes (Write Integrity Press) ~ This novel struck us as having well-formed, even complicated characters. They could be moody, funny, full of snap and wit, and sometimes just confused, like most people. The set up was immediate, and the sense of danger quickly drew us into the story. There were plenty of twists that kept us entertained and easily turning the pages. Likewise, good rising and falling action kept the plot moving forward, and the romance was smoldering without actually going anywhere beyond a kiss. The book was written from a clean and Christian world view without becoming preachy, and we liked that the main characters were on both spiritual and personal journeys. The theme of fighting human trafficking and the hunt for the bad guys made for an engaging, modern day western read.
Young Adult: includes YA, NA, and middle grade
NO SAFE HAVEN by Angela Moody (Amazon Digital Services) is a well-researched, well thought out, based on true events, historical novel for young people. A truly enjoyable book, especially to Civil War buffs. The history and spirituality of Tillie was naturally woven into the story. The war was made very real to the reader: people started out excited, but that excitement dwindled as loved ones were lost and battles were fought at home. Many young people are unaware of what our country has gone through in the past and just how gruesome and heartbreaking it was for the families who lived in the war zones and had sons and husbands off fighting often without communication for months at a time. It was enjoyable watching Tillie grow and mature as a young woman, facing whatever came her way, even things that were out of her control. She stood up to do what was right and grew spiritually because of that.