The Grace Awards 2015 is now into its sixth year. The number of novel readers nominated in each category were up significantly from last year.
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)
FREED TO FORGIVE by Julie B. Cosgrove (Prism Book Group) ~ Shackled by her past, can she be freed to forgive? Abused in her Mexican village, Marisol’s anger is her ticket to freedom in America or so she thinks. But her temper lands her in worse and worse situations. Trafficked and pregnant, she gives up her baby so it can have a better life. Now, ten years later her past returns to haunt her, just when she has caught the eye of Jesse, the one man who wants to know her…and not just her body. Marisol has struggled hard to disguise her past, but will the unforgiving spirit she harbors prevent her from embracing her future?
WATERS OF SEPARATION by Carol McClain (Desert Breeze Publishing) ~ Africa’s secrets resurrect the despair physician assistant Anna Haas buried in America. Her pregnancy and the discovery of boys bound by slavery in the cacao sector of the Côte d’Ivoire revive her childhood guilt. Her mother’s suicide claimed the lives of the two small sisters Anna had vowed to protect. Her failure to save them was unforgivable. It will not happen with these boys. Her interference prompts a corrupt government to threaten the thriving mission and the lives of Anna and her friends. Her action also threaten her marriage. However, doing nothing will destroy her.
ANNABELLE’S RUTH by Betty Thomason Owens ~ After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again. Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era “Ruth” story, set in western Tennessee.
ROMANCE/HISTORICAL ROMANCE: (primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then)
THE THORNBEARER by Pepper Basham (Vinspire Publishing) ~ When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman? Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancé and his own childhood companion.
PLUM UPSIDE DOWN by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media) ~ Green Acres newcomer Chelsea Riehl is annoyed she’s assigned to farm work alongside the only other single, a faith-filled hippie with a missionary vision. She’d hoped to organize events and keep her heart safe, not pit plums with annoying Keanan Welsh. Discouraged by Chelsea’s lack of spiritual depth, Keanan is confused when she offers to arrange meals for the church Alpha program he is co-hosting. Maybe he misjudged her, after all. When fake it ’til you make it gives way to stepping out in faith, both Chelsea and Keanan have some soul-searching to do. And while getting on the same page spiritually is a good start, other barriers may keep their budding romance from flipping right-side up.
BRIDGE OF FAITH by Catherine West (Amazon Digital Services) ~ Julia Connelly is finally free from twelve long years in an abusive relationship. Now able to live the life she’s longed for, Julia takes her two children back home to Vermont, hoping for peace and healing. The last person she expects to see is the man she eloped with at eighteen—who then abandoned her two months into their marriage, with little explanation. When an assignment in the Middle East ends in tragedy, popular news correspondent, Reid Wallace, returns to his hometown seeking answers and peace of mind. Confronting his past was not in the plan. Now he’s asking different questions. Like why the only woman he’s ever really loved still mesmerizes him. Why the haunted expression she wears reaches right into his soul. And why her twelve year-old son looks just like him. They say you can’t go home again. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.
MYSTERY/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE/THRILLER/HISTORIC SUSPENSE: (crime fiction, probably a body)
NO PLACE TO HIDE by Lynette Eason (Amazon Digital Services) ~ It’s not every day you see your childhood friend and onetime crush on national news. Jackie Sellers just wishes it were under different circumstances. She can’t believe that Ian Lockwood is wanted in connection with a terrorist plot, and she’s determined to find him and help him clear his name. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one looking for him. The FBI wants him captured. The bad guys want him dead. Ian just wants to stay alive long enough to prove his innocence and prevent a catastrophe.
TRIAL BY TWELVE by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press) ~ Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey. When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.
SABOTAGED by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House) ~ Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska’s arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night. Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank’s daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life–but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.
SPECULATIVE FICTION: (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.)
STORMING by K. M. Weiland (PenForASword Publishing) ~ In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky. Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.
ANGELHOOD by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire Publishing) ~ Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life. Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. She’s going to find peace in the afterlife…as soon as she can convince Vera that living is what life is all about.
A NEW THREAT by Aaron DeMott (AltWit Press) ~ When an alien ship lands unexpectedly in the middle of her clan’s territory, Bast is sent to investigate as part of her scout trial. After an accident, she meets these new visitors. She and her senior scout Rrrark are invited to return with the aliens to their home planet to open diplomatic relations. What started out as a simple diplomatic mission becomes complicated when they discover a pirate scheme that might be more than it seems. Only Bast, Rrrark, and two of the aliens called Pysgens are capable of stopping the pirates.
ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/EPIC FICTION: (exploits, quest, daring, expansive)
SAVING ERIC by Joan Deneve (Write Integrity Press) ~ Templetons don’t break down. Even when their worlds are falling apart. Eric Templeton’s well-ordered life as a top CIA agent is shattered when a traitor within the agency plots to have him eliminated. Sent on a bogus mission to Africa, Eric is ambushed and critically wounded. A helicopter pilot flies him to a remote mission hospital where Dr. Brock Whitfield and his daughter, Ellie, work to save his life. If Eric survives, his life may never be the same, and he still has to deal with the traitor who wants him dead. Eric wants justice, but Brock and Ellie know that Eric’s survival is the least of his worries. What he needs most is mercy and truth.
TWO DAYS IN CARACAS by Luana Ehrlich (Potter’s Word Press) ~ Titus Ray faces a threat he never imagined. Can he overcome the obstacles and capture Ahmed Al-Amin before it’s too late? In this pulse-racing Christian thriller, CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed Al-Amin, a Hezbollah assassin, from murdering a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, and an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career. As the danger mounts, he’s forced to partner with an untested operative to complete the mission and bring Ahmed to justice. Will he make it in time?
A LADY FOR THE LAWMAN by Jewell Tweedt (Prism Book Group) ~ On special assignment from the White House to the Nebraska prairie… Crack undercover Pinkerton agent Jason Reynolds gets the toughest assignment of his career. Sent by President U.S. Grant to Omaha to capture a loco ex-soldier accused of stealing Jefferson Davis’ treasury gold, Jason falls for feisty shopkeeper Arianna Quincy. Trouble is, she’s not interested. When the lunatic grabs Arianna, Jason’s skills are put to the test. Can Jason get his man and his woman?
YOUNG ADULT: (including Middle Grade and New Adult)
TO GET TO YOU by Joanne Bischof (Mason Jar Books) ~ To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle. Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it. When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may–or may not–be enough to heal the past.
ROPED by DiAne Gates (Prism Book Group) ~ Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can. Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?
STONE AND SNOW by Sibella Giorello (Running Girl Productions) ~ Raleigh Harmon, teen geologist, has a seriously dysfunctional southern family, an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal codes, and a literally odd best friend named Drew Levinson. After surviving a terrifying experience, Raleigh’s ready to relax and enjoy the Christmas season with her new boyfriend. But her smart and kind classmate Sloane Stillman is suddenly found dead—by suicide. Only Drew refuses to believe it. Drew says science can prove Sloane didn’t kill herself. And the harder Raleigh tries to show Drew the truth, the more she herself questions the facts, and the people she once trusted. Christmas swirls in like a snowstorm, and Drew spirals downward, burying Raleigh under mountains of evidence about Sloane’s suicide, threatening to destroy everything, including Raleigh’s new relationship with her boyfriend. Desperate to put the pieces back together, Raleigh digs for answers, trying to uncover what really happened on that cold, silent night when Sloane Stillman lost her life.