Hello dear readers! Book award season is upon us and I’m so delighted today to present to you the 2022 ACFW Carol Award winners & finalists! While I took a break from doing my annual interviews this year because … life … I’ve still been cheering on all of the finalists and cheering for the winners. If you are looking for the best of the best in Christian fiction, start here with these winners & finalists. (Just don’t stop here because there’s so many other ‘best of the best’ to be read too!)
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contemporary carol award winner
When eccentric millionaire Gideon Quidley receives a divine revelation to hide his earthly treasure somewhere in the hills, he sets out to find a fitting hiding spot, choosing only a few Bible verses as clues leading to untold riches of gold, silver, cash . . . and one very unexpected—and very costly—item.
Treasure hunters descend upon the hills of West Virginia, including those surrounding the small town of Emmaus, where TD Lovett and Waite Evers provide the latest updates and the beating heart of the community on radio station Country 16. Neither man is much interested in a wild-goose chase for Quidley’s treasure, though. Waite is busy keeping the station afloat and caring for the bruised souls who have landed there. Meanwhile, TD’s more intent on winning over local junkyard owner Pidge Bledsoe, who has taken in a shy, wounded boy to raise.
But after an estranged friend goes missing searching for the treasure, TD is unexpectedly drawn into the hunt. As TD joins the race to find Quidley’s wealth, he discovers where his own real treasure lies, and he begins to suspect there’s a hidden piece to Gideon Quidley’s treasure that no one could’ve expected.
Other Contemporary Carol Award Finalists
historical carol award winner
Award-winning author Heidi Chiavaroli transports readers across time and place in this time-slip novel that will appeal to fans of Little Women.
Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong.
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.
Other Historical Carol Award Finalists
historical romance carol award winner
Luke Delacroix has the reputation of a charming man-about-town in Gilded Age Washington, DC. In reality, he is secretly carrying out an ambitious agenda in Congress. His current mission is to thwart the reelection of Congressman Clyde Magruder, his only real enemy in the world.
But trouble begins when Luke meets Marianne Magruder, the congressman’s only daughter, whose job as a government photographer gives her unprecedented access to sites throughout the city. Luke is captivated by Marianne’s quick wit and alluring charm, leading them both into a dangerous gamble to reconcile their feelings for each other with Luke’s driving passion for vital reforms in Congress.
Can their newfound love survive a political firestorm, or will three generations of family rivalry drive them apart forever?
Other Historical Romance Carol Award Finalists
Mystery/suspense/thriller carol award winner
On the eve of his medical retirement, Navy SEAL Jedidiah Johnson receives a frantic call from his estranged childhood best friend David Yarnell. David’s daughter has been kidnapped off the streets of Nashville in broad daylight. The police have no suspects and no leads. The only clue: the body of a dead priest left behind at the scene. With the clock ticking, David is growing desperate, as is his wife, Rachel . . . Jed’s first love.
Despite his painful history with David and Rachel, Jed agrees to help. But he’s spent his career as a door-kicking Navy SEAL, not an investigator. His presence immediately draws unwanted attention, creates friction with the local police, and triggers a mysterious attempt on his life. Just when he thinks things can’t get worse, it starts to happen again—the voices in his head, the nightmares, the visions. Dark memories and strange abilities, things he believed he’d left behind when he fled Nashville for the Navy at eighteen, begin to resurface.
Jed realizes that to save the missing girl, he must take a leap of faith and embrace the gifts he’s denied for all these years. To foil this dark intercept, he’ll need more than just his years as a SEAL operator, because he has no choice now but to take up arms and join the battle in the unseen spiritual warfare raging all around him. And there is far more at stake than just a missing girl: the world is not the place he thought it was—and he is not alone.
Follow the military heroes of The Shepherds series as they bring the power of light into the dark mystery of Sara Beth’s abduction.
Other Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Carol Award Finalists
novella carol award winner
A Texas Christmas Carol by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House)
(as part of Under the Texas Mistletoe collection)
After the Panic of 1873 ruined his father and impoverished his family, Evan Beazer set a single life goal for himself–security. He would never allow joviality and dreams to send him to the poorhouse. Now a successful businessman, Evan runs a dozen inns throughout Texas from the privacy of his home, keeping locals away with the perpetual scowl and gruff manner that have become his natural disposition.
Felicity Wiggins is in charge of distributing church Christmas baskets to the less fortunate, and she is determined help as many families as possible. In an attempt to gather more donations than past years, she must convince the wealthiest man in town to participate and sets forth on a campaign to pester him into cooperation.
As Felicity tries to bring Evan out of seclusion–and he does everything in his power to avoid her–can she convince him that true riches lie not in bank accounts but in bringing joy to others?
Other Novella Carol Award Finalists
romance carol award winner
Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have earned her an impressive social media following, as well as a shiny monthly paycheck. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America’s underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.
To gain an edge on her competitors, she applies to volunteer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids during summer, only the program’s director, Silas Whittaker, doesn’t find her as charming as her followers do. But since forfeiting a goal has never been her style, Molly’s only option is to accept the terms Silas lays out and submit to his rules–even the most ridiculous ones pertaining to social media.
Soon as the residents of the home become more than a means to pad her career resume, and Silas becomes more than an obstacle on her path to fame, her once-narrow focus expands to include the deep needs of those she’s serving… and perhaps the ones she’s neglected inside herself as well. It took years to build her platform, but only one summer to discover what really matters most.
Other Romance Carol Award Finalists
romantic suspense carol award winner
Children aren’t the only ones who can disappear…
Driven by ongoing grief and relentless dreams, Holden Kelly is determined to track down the child his brother Gage abducted eight years earlier. The rescue that might have saved Matthew Gibson’s life had cost Gage his. Proving his brother hadn’t sacrificed his life for nothing might be the only way Holden can start fully living his again. And it could be the last chance he has to find his way back to the wife he loves but who is also mired in grief and a crisis of faith.
Mikayla Grant has nightmares of her own. A road trip with private investigator Jax Rodriguez—a man she is strongly drawn to even though his primary goal seems to be to drive her crazy—can’t be the way to heal from a terrible loss. Can it?
As Holden, Mikayla, and Jax follow the missing child’s trail from Toronto to Chicago, their mission is not as secret as they thought. Someone knows they are coming and will stop at nothing to prevent them from finding the child Gage rescued.
And to make sure that no one ever hears from the three of them again.
Other Romantic Suspense Carol Award Finalists
short novel carol award winner
Will offering a helping hand
open the door to forever?
Rescuing a single mom and her triplets during a snowstorm lands rancher Finn Brightwood with temporary tenants in his vacation rental. But because of his past, Finn’s reluctant to get too involved in Ivy Darling’s chaotic life. When he starts falling for the three rambunctious little girls—and Ivy—he can’t help but wish this family would stick around for good.
Other Short Novel Carol Award Finalists
speculative carol award winner
The island world of Meriel faces an old adversary and a new danger. Will the reformed Order die before it has a chance to blossom?
Storm clouds loom on the horizon as Carya and Brantley struggle to overcome wounds of the past and build a future together. The fragile new Order is on shaky ground, with too few dancers and sparse resources. Then trouble erupts—and now an insidious rebellion and a new foe threaten their entire world.
When she uncovers an old enemy behind all the destruction, Carya realizes the past is not done with her. With conflict tearing apart the dancers and villages, rimmers are soon overrun, and Carya must unite her people by leading the battle to protect the very heart of her world … or lose it all.
Other Speculative Carol Award Finalists
young adult carol award winner
On the run from the brutal Sage and his army of Legions and Cormorants, seventeen-year-old Cera Marlowe knows the only place strong enough to protect her is the Alliance Council Estate.
Cera’s introduction to the Estate is far from welcoming. As a Blight, her dueling powers of light and darkness make her a half-breed threat to the Alliance’s sacred powers. Cera’s ability to decipher hidden messages in classical artwork buys her shelter temporarily, but the clock is ticking as she’s faced with a daunting choice that could cost her everything.
Other Young Adult Carol Award Finalists
debut novel carol award winner
For years, Harris Hayes has taught his daughter, Aggie, the ways of the northern woods. So when her mother’s depression worsens, Harris shows the girl how to find and sketch the nests of wild birds as an antidote to sadness. Aggie is in a tree far overhead when her unpredictable mother spots her and forbids her to climb. Angry, the ten-year-old accidentally lights a tragic fire, then flees downriver. She lands her boat near untamed forest, where she hides among the trees and creatures she considers her only friends—determined to remain undiscovered.
A search party gathers by Aggie’s empty boat hours after Celia, fresh off the plane from Houston, arrives at her grandmother’s nearby farm. Hurting from her parents’ breakup, she also plans to run. But when she joins the hunt for Aggie, she meets two irresistible young men who compel her to stay. One is autistic; the other, dangerous.
Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper, Where The Crawdads Sing, and The Great Alone, Sugar Birds immerses readers in a layered, evocative coming-of-age story set in the breathtaking natural world where characters encounter the mending power of forgiveness—for themselves and for those who have failed them.
Other Debut Novel Carol Award Finalists
Big & heartfelt congratulations to each of the 2022 Carol Award winners and to the finalists, too! What about you? Which of these books have you read? Which books are you adding to your TBR list?