The Grace Awards 2014, now into its fifth year, had and avalanche of reader nominations to determine our finalists. The number of reader votes were 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 40+ 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) :
ATONEMENT FOR EMILY ADAMS by Susan Lawrence (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) ~ When Emily Adams hits and kills ten-year-old Isaiah Nelson with her car, she is overwhelmed with remorse. Knowing she cannot undo this tragedy, Emily hopes to atone for Isaiah’s death by good deeds and community service. However, the more she does, the more her life falls apart. With her job on the line, her volunteer efforts fruitless, and her marriage in jeopardy, the final blow comes when Isaiah’s grieving parents file a wrongful death suit. For them, this will be justice and closure, but for Emily this is final proof she will never be forgiven. Not by Isaiah’s parents—not by God. Where do you turn when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough?
DWF: Divorced White Female by Carol McClain (Desert Breeze Publishing) ~ Sassy, unsaved and desperate, Cheryl Chandler realizes one thing will redeem her from her ex-husband’s betrayal. A man. Any man—so long as he’s hot. Finding love in rural New York proves a daunting challenge. Should she find her man, he must meet her quirky teens whose eccentricities range from New Age ideology, to OCD, to religious fanaticism. And a toddler—her husband’s parting gift. What man would love her and accept them? Her kids have the solution—online dating. Here she meets two men. Religious fanatic, Tarrant, charms her, but is too pious. And mysterious Carleton who’s everything her desperation desires. However, nothing is as it seems. Can she sacrifice her family for love?
THE FRAGRANCE OF GERANIUMS by Alicia G. Ruggieri (Create Space) ~ A story of three women in Rhode Island, 1934. Grace Picoletti has nothing going for her – but she’s determined to succeed in life. Born to severe destitution, she claws her way up from the pit of family shame and secrets. Despite her own agonizing emotional pain, childless Emmeline Kinner reaches out to a young woman so far beneath her. She could never have known whom else God would set in her path through her friendship with Grace. Long ago, Sarah Picoletti resigned herself to a loveless, abusive life – and she believes that her daughter Grace must inherit the same fate. Yet Sarah’s own soul cries out for the blessed peace and hope of which the radio minister speaks.
ROMANCE/HISTORICAL ROMANCE (primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then)
IN THE FIELD OF GRACE by Tessa Afshar (River North) ~ Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi’s, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation. But God has other plans for her life. While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor. Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. He tells himself he is only being kind to his Cousin Naomi’s chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from
harm, but his heart knows better. Based on the biblical account of Ruth.
KEPT by Sally Bradley (Salena House Publishers) ~ Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her. Miska runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman. Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again. When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.
SHAKEN by Kariss Lynch (Realms) ~ Idealistic and sheltered with a passion to change the world, Kaylan Richards leaves her comfortable life in Alabama to serve in poverty-stricken Haiti. Despite her inexperience and the opposition of a voodoo priest, Kaylan develops a love for the country and the Haitian people. But something deadly is about to strike. It is the worst earthquake the country has ever seen, and in its aftermath bodies, buildings, and broken lives litter the streets. People she cares about are dead, and Kaylan is caught in the middle of the destruction, questioning a God who said He was good. Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael never planned to find a girl he loved more than his country. Now she is a world away, trapped in a deadly situation nothing could have prepared her for. Can Nick’s love help Kaylan heal and show her the God who never abandoned her, or will tragedy shake even the most rooted faith?
MYSTERY/THRILLER/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE/HISTORIC SUSPENSE: (crime fiction, probably a body)
BETWEEN THE LIES by Joy DeKok (Infusion Publishing) ~ Olivia Morgan was fine. Until the dead guy in the elevator, her married lover’s disdain, the loss of her dream job, and an FBI agent who is looking into the past she’s worked so hard to hide. All she wanted was the perfect life; the love of a wealthy man, a beautiful place to live, and to be an art teacher. She didn’t mind doing what it took to get those things, and for ten years, she had it all – almost. Plus, someone is watching her – someone who knows things and how to get to her without being seen. To prove she’s innocent of at least one of the murders she may have committed, Olivia uses her ability to notice what others often miss, and her art to remember and reveal what she knows. Will her sketches save or convict her?
HARMFUL INTENT by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press) ~ Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect. Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted. Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.
SHE’S MINE by Tammy Doherty (Amazon Digital Services) ~ Caitlin Harrington has a new job and a new life away from her menacing ex-boyfriend, Adam. Issues with her parents, losing her previous job and the death of her beloved grandmother leave her wondering if God has abandoned her. Two things she is sure of: she’s a lousy judge of character and men just can’t be trusted. Now a volunteer firefighter who has come to her rescue more than once is dangerously close to breaking through her defenses. And not everyone in sleepy Naultag, Massachusetts is welcoming. Someone is leaving ominous notes on her door. Sean Taggart likes being a rescuer. But a failed engagement has taught him to be cautious with his heart and Caitlin is a threat. Women just can’t be trusted. Still, he’d like to save Caitlin from whatever demons have her so spooked. If only she’d let him.
SPECULATIVE FICTION (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.)
CHRONICLES OF STEELE: RAVEN by Pauline Creeden (AltWit Press) ~ Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.
RISE AND SHINE by Sandra D. Bricker (River North) ~ Shannon Malone thought she’d found her happy ending when she married Edmund Ridgeway, but a diving accident on their honeymoon left her in a coma. Waking up to the news that she’s thirty years old would have been daunting enough . . . but she also learns that Edmund has lost his interim battle with cancer and the world has marched on without her. Her gorgeous doctor, Daniel Petros, seems to know everything about her and becomes Shannon’s tour guide into a whole new world of madness where reality television has taken over the planet and everyone’s life appears to revolve around a tiny screen on their cell phones!
SHENANDOAH DREAMS by Lisa Belcastro (Oak Tara) ~ “It’s just a dream,” Melissa Smith whispers as she stares into the intense eyes of a man dressed in Colonial clothes, as though he’d stepped out of an American Revolution movie set. A school chaperone with Holmes Hole Elementary, she’d boarded the old schooner Shenandoah for a weeklong educational sail. But they are not visiting Plimoth Plantation, the Boston Tea Party Museum, or the Concord Bridge reenactment. They are sailing the waters around the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Yet, when she awakes in Cabin 8, the captain claims to be Isaiah Reed, who sailed the original Shenandoah in the eighteenth century. Melissa knows he cannot possibly be real. And traveling back in time is impossible. But days pass, and she’s still in 1770. What if Isaiah, who is simply too handsome to be real, is real? What if the fire he ignites in her from barely a touch isn’t in her imagination? Can a dream last for weeks on end? If so, how will she find her way home . . . to the twenty-first century? And can she bear to leave the one man who has captured her heart, when everything in her longs to stay?
ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/EPIC FICTION: (exploits, quest, daring, expansive)
CHASING THE LION by Nancy Kimball (Nancy Kimball) ~ For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him. His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith. What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom. But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.
HOPE REBORN by Caryl McAdoo (Caryl McAdoo) ~ New York dime novelist May Meriwether decides a heroic Texas Ranger will make a great love interest for her new heroine. Bored to tears and loving adventure, she sets out to the Lone Star State with her constant companion and confidant Chester in tow. Dreams for a husband and children are relegated to the recesses of her heart, the self-confessed old maid deems it too late. But the near-perfect widower resurrects a smidgen of hope. Only his impenetrable, superstitious religious beliefs stand in the path to her falling head over heels, those and his love for his dead wife. Would there ever be room for her in his heart? And would he give up his fanaticism for God? An unexpected romance surprises both. Hope is reborn in God’s unfailing love and grace. Can a life built on lies find the Way to confession, forgiveness, and true joy? In a day when the church offers the only stability on the 1850 Texas prairie, these unlikely players find one another and fall in love. But will it be enough?
ONE NIGHT IN TEHRAN by Luane Ehrlich (Amazon Digital Services) ~ In Tehran, while hiding out from the Iranian secret police, CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, finds shelter with a group of Iranian Christians. Compelled by their unwavering faith, the battle-hardened, covert agent becomes a believer shortly before they smuggle him out of Iran to freedom in Turkey. Back in the States and forced to go on medical leave, he discovers a Hezbollah hit man has targeted him for assassination. Now, while trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ, he must decide if the Iranian couple he meets in Oklahoma has ties to the man who’s trying to kill him, and if Nikki Saxon, a beautiful local detective, can be trusted with his secrets.
YOUNG ADULT (appeals to ages 14 – 21ish)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS by Pauline Creeden (AltWit Press) ~ Because of one ugly rumor, Chira lives as an outcast at her school. Which is fine with her, because she works better alone. Always has, always will. And at least she has her one and only true friend, Tasha. When Tasha insists that they join a group to visit a possibly haunted abandoned old schoolhouse, she’s wary, but joins her friend. Because of that decision, their lives are in jeopardy as a malevolent spirit targets the group. Tragedies and accidents pick them off one by one, and Chira finds herself drawn to the one person who can see the truth. But can he protect her?
JESSIE by Rebekah Lyn (Real Life Books & Media) ~ The four Cole boys suffer abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father, while largely being left to their own devices by a heartbroken and overworked mother. Their adventures on their island home have become a welcome escape, and one of the only things in life the boys can truly rely on. Jessie, the youngest and a dreamer, becomes enamored with US plans for manned space flight and its race to the moon, stirring his own dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. In a strange twist of fate, it is the space program and the momentum it gains that abruptly brings their beloved island life to an end. The family is forced to move to the city and start anew. Life in town creates new challenges,financial pressures, news of the Vietnam War and the impending threat of the military draft for Max, the eldest of the Cole brothers.
THE QUIET SKY by Joanne Bischofs (Mason Jar Books) ~ Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life.