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Romance / Erotica

  • Finalist

    Plot/Idea: The author presents an engrossing cross-genre work that blends romance with a well-developed suspense storyline. The action is convincing, while the relationship between Emma Gallagher and Jason Chin–whose professional lives intersect years after dating in college–offers compelling sexual tension. 

    Prose: The author is a talented writer and storyteller, able to engage the reader and hold interest from beginning to end. Action, dialogue, and description are well-balanced, and the work is a pleasure to read.

    Originality: Lie With Me expands on conventions, delivering an action-filled, second-chance romance with protagonists who, while initially in conflict, ultimately work together toward a greater good. 

    Characer/Execution: Hernandez excels at crafting layered characters whose pasts are organically unveiled throughout. Emma is a particularly rich character, with convincing actions, thoughts, and motivations. The chemistry between Emma and Jason is palpable, and readers will root for them to defeat their foes, find a way to reconcile their past mistakes, and be together. 

  • Semi Finalist

    The Clock in the Water

    by Crissi McDonald

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: The Clock in the Water features a clever, inventive plot with strong character-driven moments that fuel the storyline. Readers will find Keet and Nolee to be immediately engaging, and the theme of forgiveness runs as a steady current throughout.

    Prose: McDonald is a gifted storyteller, a skilled wordsmith capable of delivering brilliant context, conveying emotion, and advancing the plot with each sentence. 

    Originality: McDonald delivers a distinctive story line on top of consummate character development, with an unusual premise that feels rooted in folklore—this is truly an original work.

    Character/Execution: McDonald excels with characterization across the board, but particularly in crafting Nolee, Keet, and Zelka—who all emanate palpable emotion paired with critical viewpoints. Shifting the narrative between first and third person perspectives gives readers insight into the characters' motives and emotions.

  • Semi Finalist

    Guitars & Cadillacs

    by sabine keevil

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: The author has crafted an entertaining and layered plot with unusual depth and nuance. The romance between Reanne and Colton takes center stage, but the hints of mystery and a somewhat troubled past give the story complexity.  

    Prose: The author is a creative and strong storyteller, with high-quality yet still accessible prose that makes this an inviting and pleasurable read. 

    Originality: The background of country music stardom gives the novel a unique storyline, and readers will find this a fun, vicarious journey.

    Character/Execution: Character backstories are developed with careful attention to detail from the start, allowing readers to understand what makes Reanne and Colton tick—and prompting them to root for both main characters, despite their flaws.

  • Semi Finalist

    Shattered Ice

    by Jordyn Kross

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Kross offers a truly engaging opposites attract story that will delight romance readers. The plot flows along smoothly and rapidly, offering insight into both sides of an unlikely budding relationship, which will keep the reader invested. 

    Prose: The author is a talented writer, able to capture and hold the reader's interest and bring characters to life. Equally skilled with dialogue, action, and description, Kross delivers a deeply satisfying, character-driven romance. 

    Originality: Kross satisfies genre expectations, while offering some gratifying diversions for her characters. 

    Character/Execution: The author switches the focus of the narrative from Katherine, who is clearly the protagonist, to Gabe and back again, allowing the reader insight into not only Katherine's thoughts and emotions but into his as well. This affords readers the opportunity to learn what motivates both of them and ultimately endears readers to their relationship. 

  • Semi Finalist

    Under the Light of a Texas Moon

    by Lanae Joy

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Genelle Golden is struggling to get by--in fact, she's living in her car. While it might be on her mind, finding a new romantic relationship doesn't feel fully unattainable. Until she meets Desmond Wright, an employee at the gym where she takes showers. Joy brings sensitivity and gentle wisdom to this sweet story of finding love and steamy attraction despite enormous personal challenges.

    Prose: Through quietly powerful prose, Joy clearly establishes Genelle's harsh reality and quest to better her life. Both Genelle's and Desmond's viewpoints are convincingly rendered and distinct from one another.

    Originality:  Few love stories begin with the lead heroine living in her car. Joy avoids more conventional tropes to deliver a relatable and believable novel that readers will quickly become invested in. 

    Character/Execution: Both Genelle and Desmond, both middle aged, fully emerge on the page. Genelle is never portrayed as a victim of her circumstances, but readers will feel her pain as she is compelled to conceal the truth from Desmond. 

  • Quarter Finalist


    by Sandra Worth

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: The author has created a lavish and detailed plot that deftly combines history and romance in this captivating work. The scope of the work is vast, and the plot far richer due to its historical context. The work offers a perfect blend of all the best elements of quality romantic fiction.

    Prose: The prose here is truly top notch. Description, dialogue, action - all are expertly handled while simultaneously advancing a well-crafted story with a protagonist so real to the reader that they feel her joys and pains every step of the way. 

    Originality: Worth's skillful blending of historical fiction and romance results in a highly memorable reading experience. 

    Character/Execution: Worth does a stellar job with characterization. Zoe in particular comes alive in the author's skillful hands, while the historical settings and examination of the fall of Imperial Constantinople are equally authentically crafted. 

  • Quarter Finalist

    Plot/Idea: Samet's dramatic, otherworldly story tackles both romance and suspense—and successfully merges the two into one intriguing and nuanced plot, rich with drama from the first sentence. The storyline is logically sound and well-thought out, and the supernatural elements immersive.

    Prose: Keeping with its polished structure, Samet's prose is skillfully crafted, and the banter between Raine and Will is as believable as it is engaging. Samet is quite obviously a masterful storyteller.

    Originality: Samet infuses the novel with a distinctive combination of action, romance, and intrigue—making this read undoubtedly unique.

    Character/Execution: Samet takes a subtle approach to characterization, allowing the central protagonists to clash while developing their likability equally at the same time.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Hope: Love & Disaster Trilogy Book 3

    by Tara L. Roi

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The author offers romance fans an engaging and creative storyline that departs from traditional standards to enter the realms of self-help, climate change, and infidelity. The end result is refreshing and new.

    Prose: The author is a talented writer and storyteller. The prose is both unconstrained and familiar, setting the perfect tone for this type of novel, especially when the author delves into the characters' innermost emotions and thoughts.

    Originality: The characters here are memorable and relatable, and the author blends a unique mix of themes in this distinctive novel.

    Character/Execution: Characterization is excellent due to the author's narrative method: switching narrators every chapter allows readers great insight into the major players, especially Celeste and Josh.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Anne Through Time

    by Harmke Buursma

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Anne Through Time is the fourth novel in the Magical Bookshop series, which centers on a portal through a bookstore that provides characters with a passage back to time to the regency era. In this installment, Anne Blakely grapples with her father's death and her family's impending financial ruin while holding out hope for love--and finding it where she didn't expect. The time travel element is subtle in this installment, and the book reads primarily as an unconventional regency romance. 

    Prose: The author is a capable writer, equally skilled with dialogue, action, and description. The era comes alive throughout her work. 

    Originality: Anne Through Time, as with the other novels in the series, strikes a delightful balance between regency romance and sci-fi. 

    Character/Execution: Buursma's cast of historical characters is wholly convincing. Readers will feel as whisked away into another era as the individuals who encounter the titular magical bookshop. 

  • Quarter Finalist

    Stuck with Me

    by Leslie McElroy

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The author has crafted an engaging story line that not only entertains but moves the reader. While the ending may be a given, the author does a good job making the journey worthwhile for the characters and the reader.

    Prose: The author is a strong writer and storyteller. The plot moves forward at a steady pace, and readers will enjoy getting to know the stories behind these characters and what brought them both back to their hometown as adults.

    Originality: The premise is a fairly familiar one, but strong characters uplift the more predictable elements. 

    Character/Execution: The alternating first-person narrative offers the reader great insight into Lucy and Jamie's perspectives, so thoughts and motives are clear and known to the reader.

  • Plot/Idea: The author has crafted an engaging period work of love and lust against a European background. The story is evenly paced, and the author is good at building up the "will they or won't they" tension between Percival and Bertram.

    Prose: The author is a skilled writer and storyteller, and thanks to the style of the prose, the work feels authentic to the period in which the story takes place. The work is book four of a series, so there is a lot of action that happens prior to this period covered in this story, and the author provides a rather dense recap to update the reader on Percival's history. While needed, the amount of information is a bit overwhelming to a new reader.

    Originality: While the work delivers on romance conventions, the vivid setting and refreshing LGBTQ+ content allows the novel to brightly stand out.

    Character/Execution: The author does a great job with characterization, both for Percival and for Bertram, whose thoughts and emotions are clear to the reader if not to each other.

  • Redemption

    by Victoria Price

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The storyline is entertaining and will feel familiar to genre fans. The initial meeting between Sara and Darren is a stretch, but the story quickly moves beyond the implausibility of that moment to deliver a well-rounded, appealing romance.

    Prose: Price is a skilled writer, able to balance dialogue, description, and action well—all of which keep the story moving ahead at a steady pace.

    Originality: Although the romance genre can be predictable, Price is able to differentiate this work from others through masterful characterization, setting, and circumstances.

    Character/Execution: Price crafts likable and refreshing characters, particularly with central protagonists Sara and Darren. Readers will root for their happy ending, despite their missteps.

  • The Darcy Secret

    by Kelly Miller

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: The Darcy Secret provides a unique expansion on the Pride and Prejudice canon. The engaging storyline finds the Darcy family struggling with dark secrets that could interfere with Fitzwilliam's marriage to Elizabeth Bennet. Miller delivers plenty of twists, making this a delight for Jane Austen fans.

    Prose: Miller masters the historical prose and setting of the Regency era, and the story maintains a natural rhythm throughout. The abundant dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth is refreshing, and Miller adds a taste of spice to the plot for contemporary readers.

    Originality: This is a fresh elaboration on Pride and Prejudice, and Miller capably embellishes the well-known characters.

    Character/Execution: Miller's writing teems with heart, mystery, and intrigue—and will please both established Jane Austen fans as well as readers new to the genre. The central couple's strength is heartwarming, and the novel avoids trivial drama to create tension, allowing the couple to work together to tackle their challenges.

  • Mending Vanessa: An Oregon Romance

    by Roseann Cotton

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Overall, the author presents an engaging and enjoyable story with an outcome that readers will eagerly anticipate. There are some plot elements that feel exaggerated, such as Vanessa's reaction to her father's vehicle accident. 

    Prose: The author is a skilled writer, capable of polished prose and diction that fit the book's premise well. The trim writing makes the story easy to read as well as engaging.

    Originality: The storyline is nuanced and entertaining, with strong themes of belonging and self-discovery that resonate throughout.

    Character/Execution: The major players are convincing and masterfully executed—including Vanessa, Greg, and JP—allowing readers a deep understanding of who they are and the motivations driving their actions.

  • Sage, Rosemary, and Time

    by Harmke Buursma

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme is a charming, entertaining narrative that centers on Rosemary, a pianist living in 1976. The novel takes an unexpected turn when Rosemary is thrust back in time to the 1700s. With its many appealing qualities, readers may wish the book provided more space for plot lines and relationships to fully form. 

    Prose: The prose nicely propels the plot forward, and is often poetically descriptive.

    Originality: Sage, Rosemary, and Time indulges in some well-loved tropes, but does so without coming across as tired or derivative.

    Character/Execution: Though Rosemary is a finely established character, the novel's affords less opportunity for other individuals (besides Leo) to come alive. Refreshingly, the other female characters Rosemary meets during her voyage are friendly, not scheming rivals for Leo's attention.

    Blurb: When life presents Rosemary with some unforeseen struggles, a perfect escape is presented to her in the shape of a magical bookshop that transports her back in time to Georgian England, where she finds purpose and love. 




  • Cora's Secret Engagement

    by Libby Malin

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: This is a highly enjoyable historical fake engagement romance. By nature of the genre, there's a formulaic component to the plot. Nevertheless, the author adds a layer of complexity and introduces wholly charming characters that make the story feel fresh.

    Prose: The author is equally adept at dialogue, detail, and action. The work authentically captures the actions, attitudes, and language of the era. 

    Originality: Malin delivers on the expectations of the genre, while providing an original storyline and substantive characters. 

    Character/Execution: Characters are not only individually compelling, but they collectively create a vivid depiction of the age. The reader is provided a first row seat into Cora and Bill's perspective and experiences, while less central characters, like Cora's parents, add to the overall reading experience.