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Romance

  • Finalist

    Not Flowers, but Love

    by Krys Batts

    Rating: 9.50

    This delightful and heartfelt romance is jam-packed with realistic scenarios and vivid characters as unlucky-in-love Jamie Dubois discovers that love and flowers bloom with TLC. Steady pacing with the just the right amount of drama showcases the angst always-in-control Jamie feels when her out-of-town lover accepts a job at her company. Lively secondary characters enliven the storyline and a surprise romantic ending will tug at heartstrings adding a sweet authenticity to the story.

  • Semi Finalist

    Cookie Therapy

    by Karla Brandenburg

    Rating: 9.50

    This captivating, heartwarming contemporary is perfect blend of romance and poignancy as a couple effectively addresses the aftereffects of tough choices from their past. Timely and relatable topics elevate the story above ordinary. This well-crafted novel is supported by deftly crafted secondary characters, small town charm, and consistent pacing, while sensitive issues are handled with grace. While this book works very well as a standalone, readers will be interested in reading the entire series.

  • Semi Finalist

    Forever Grace

    by Linda Poitevin

    Rating: 9.00

    In Poitevin’s compelling romance, a cop recovering from a shooting and a woman hiding her sister’s children from their abusive father unexpectedly come together. Grace Daniels is a nuanced character, struggling realistically with managing and hiding four children in the middle of nowhere. Sean McKittrick is a likable hero who is willing to help children put masking tape casts on their stuffed animals. Though the two gradually grow closer over their common concern for the children, the realization of love kicked off by immediate danger seems a bit abrupt. Still, adorable secondary characters and realistic dialogue elevate this tale above most.

  • Semi Finalist

    Dangerous Kisses

    by Alice Lake

    Rating: 8.75

    Lake's winning novel is a British period romance revolving around a woman desperate to separate herself from a predestined marriage. Lake does an amiable job of whipping the Victorian melodrama to a frothy peak and keeps her main characters lively, focused, and effectively described with flourishes of romantic suspense and scandal gilding each chapter. Readers eager for a period romance with serviceable writing, strong characterization, and an original plot, will find this dialogue-driven story enticing, spicy, and compelling.      

  • Semi Finalist

    Crimson Secret (Coin Forest Book 4)

    by Janet Lane

    Rating: 8.75

    Lane’s well-researched historical romance could benefit from a tad less history and a smidge more romance. But that’s the biggest flaw in this tension packed story that brings Lucas Bonwyck, Lord Penry face-to-face with Joya Ellington, the woman fated to become the love of his life. It is credibly set in 15th Century England – including realistic dialog -- with Luke and Joya fiercely loyal to opposing sides in the War of the Roses. Chockablock with intrigue and conflict this ought to have strong appeal to fans of the genre.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Paper Castles

    by Terri Lee

    Rating: 9.75

    In this deeply satisfying novel, romance can come in many forms – from the passion-laced lust found between Adam  and Savannah to the slow-building fire based on respect and shared goals between Savannah and Phil.  Lee’s richly detailed and polished exploration of that romance is bolstered by the insight and oftentimes raw exploration of a person’s inner landscape.  While at times the open vulnerability was difficult to read, there was a certain sense of freedom and revelation leading to more personal introspection. The historical references also added dimension and a touchstone glimpse into a time long gone by – yet still relevant. This is an exceptional book.

  • Quarter Finalist

    A Rake's Reward (Merry Men Quartet Book 2)

    by Meredith Bond

    Rating: 9.50

    Bond demonstrates clear mastery of the Regency Era along with a decidedly playful side as she introduces readers to Sara Whatley, an American from Philadelphia in London under the pretense of being presented to society by her aunt, but actually there to recover her family’s lost treasure. Rapid-fire action blends perfectly with quietly intimate, and, at times, hilarious scenes. The role of plucky American is rarely played in the genre, and it adds a new dimension, offering an outside-looking-in perspective that is very unique and a breath of fresh air.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Girl in the Water

    by Dana Marton

    Rating: 9.00

    In this gripping tale of romantic suspense, the murder of her American protector leaves Brazilian child prostitute Daniela’s life entwined with that of his friend, Army veteran Ian Slaney, whose life is in ruins after the tragic loss of his family during his deployment to Afghanistan.  Despite some overly-contrived twists, the fully developed characters and the well-researched and sensitive portrayal of Daniela’s ugly history will engage the reader and deliver both action-movie thrills and emotional satisfaction at a level well beyond that of the average romance.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Blood Bond

    by Alicia Rayn

    Rating: 9.00

    This compelling relationship story is an original twist on the vampire, time travel and ménage tropes in which Roxanna Collins, an independent modern woman is thrust back into 1815 England to unknowingly connect with domineering magical vampire Lord Darren Highmore. Their pain-and-pleasure relationship is upended by the genuine love of the sexually innocent minor aristocrat Phillip Branham. The engaging characters, delightful dialogue, and dramatic twists makes the novel soar despite the mild erotic scenes, too many secondary storylines and occasionally too modern feel to be believable as 1815.

  • Quarter Finalist

    To Ride a White Horse

    by Pamela Ford

    Rating: 9.00

    In this richly detailed romance set during Ireland’s Great Famine, Irish immigrant Kathleen Deacey meets whaling captain Jack Montgomery when she follows her fiance to America in search of work to support her starving family. The two must balance loyalty to their respective families with their growing love. Though their initial meeting is contrived, the romantic tension between the couple is expertly developed and the depictions of whaling vessel operations and 1840s Ireland and Boston are well-researched and accurate. This is an exceptionally well written and deeply satisfying historical romance.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Once in Love with Lily

    by Cathryn K. Thompson

    Rating: 8.50

    A big-hearted romantic melodrama with cinematic movements and charming storytelling makes a familiar trope soar.  In this well-paced storyline, Lillian (Lily) George, knowing her disquieting past, recognizes the value of her current affluent lifestyle until she unexpectedly reconnects with her first love. Zany secondary characters leap off the pages, while the tension created as Lily decides her future keeps readers holding their breath until the very end and hoping for a sequel.

  • Been Searching for You: A Romantic Comedy

    by Nicole Evelina

    Rating: 8.25

    Unhappily single Annabeth has been writing letters to her imaginary future soulmate since she was 16, and now at 34, she questions the existence of true love in Evelina's sweet tale of romantic persistence. Pleasantly written and amiably accessible to general reading audiences, this first-person narrative is reliably anchored by Annabeth, a hopeless, foolish romantic protagonist whose decision to remain chaste until her wedding night cost her a future with her hometown boyfriend, Nick. Though at times Annabeth appears desperate in her search, the story ramps up into an engaging workplace melodrama with the inclusion of both a man she's smitten with and one she now loathes, all complicated by her bisexual best friend, Mia. A smooth and thoroughly satisfying romance novel.      

  • Take My Husband, Please!

    by Kimberly Jayne

    Rating: 8.25

    Romance comes in many forms -- not just the frenzied excitement of a new relationship.  Even old relationships, especially the ones we thought had fizzled out, can have a spark.  Slightly madcap, suddenly sweet, this novel combines the best of female friendship with soulful exploration of passion in its many forms.  Of particular note are the themes of getting lost to find the right path and acceptance of even the most difficult things in life.  The dialog-heavy, elegant writing style pulls readers into a world that is difficult to leave.

  • Let Me Fall

    by Lily Foster

    Rating: 8.25

    Smart and attractive Carolyn Harris and academically-challenged football star Jeremy Rivers find their lives intertwined in a wealthy Connecticut town in this gripping tale that effectively straddles the line between young adult and romance.  Both the sweetness of young love and the dark underside of high school cliques are effectively depicted by a well-developed cast of characters shadowed by tragedy but reaching for independence and happiness.  While the conventional ending is never in doubt, readers will find themselves deeply engaged by Carolyn and Jeremy and the twists and turns of this genuinely engrossing story.

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