The judges for each category did a wonderful job of parsing down the shortlist. And without further ado....let's get to the winners! :)
2019 INSPY Award Winners
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Falling for You by Becky Wade is what good Inspirational Fiction is made of. Readers will relate to Corbin and Willow and their personal struggles as the two work through the mystery and come face to face not only with each other, but with their faith. The story pace is balanced; the romance between Corbin and Willow, peppered with light-hearted and sweet moments, is one of great depth. Falling for You is a layered romance of mystery, struggle, and vulnerability that reflects our relationships with each other and God.
Meet Becky! A Conversation with Becky Wade
Though it’s a debut novel, Among the Poppies exhibits all the right elements a memorable story needs; charming and emotional in equal parts. The spunky heroine refuses to give up on anyone, which is just one of the qualities we love best about her;the swoony hero who never backs down from his duty as a soldier will win your heart over from the moment you meet him. Set during the tumult of WWI, J’Nell manages to weave good into a novel that doesn’t shy away from the conflicts and horrors of its setting. Those who enjoy Downton Abbey or historical fiction will find an inspired and romantic story inside the pages of Among the Poppies. It’s a solid debut that tugs on the heartstrings and stays with its reader.
Meet J’nell! A Conversation with J’nell Ciesielski
Katie Ganshert stepped into risky territory to bring us all a gripping novel with a much needed message for today. The multi-perspective view opened the doors to a more powerful story with deeper connections to the characters within. The characters faced a whole spectrum of emotions as they were forced to examine their views toward the people around them once they infringed upon their way of life. It develops a deeper sense of empathy for the readers as they step inside the shoes of others and examine their own biases they may or may not know they’ve held. A relevant story for current times, this is a novel not easily forgotten.
Meet Katie! A Conversation with Katie Ganshert
Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof is a novel that offers a unique and touching story of loss, redemption, love, and family. Rustic cabins, apple orchards, freshwater ponds, and wooded hillsides allow the story to grow richly from the landscape of its Appalachian setting even amidst the hurt and uncertainty of life in the South in the years following the Civil War. The well-developed characters are simply captivating and abound with authenticity and vulnerability. Their insecurities, their fears, their needs, and their desires are wholly believable, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. The opportunities, the choices, and the trials that the characters endure are intricately developed, and from them there unfolds a story that is thoroughly enriching and endearing.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a novel that artfully balances hope and despair, perseverance and struggle, and faithfulness and uncertainty. With unflinching skill, the author explores raw emotions, painful experiences, and deep hurt. Yet, this journey through and beyond despair and heartache is significantly strengthened and uplifted by meaningful moments of grace and gentle reminders that hope, restoration, healing, and reconciliation are made possible through God’s mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a thoroughly breathtaking novel. Bischof’s writing style is achingly beautiful and utterly immersive strengthened by a lyrical quality that is quietly profound. Within every word and phrase there is deep meaning, real truth, and thoughtful purpose. Carefully detailed, descriptive, insightful, and moving, this remarkable story is certainly one to be savored. We, the judges, wholeheartedly agree that Sons of Blackbird Mountain is truly worthy of the 2019 Historical Romance INSPY Award.
Meet Joanne! A Conversation with Joanne Bischof
LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Shawn Smucker’s The Edge of Over There combines atmospheric prose, compelling characterization, and imaginative storytelling to invite YA readers to ponder the spiritual and physical implications of death—a theme that gets to the very heart of the Christian faith. There is a pervading sense of mystery and suspense as the story unfolds, and Abra and Leo must sort truth from lies and friend from foe as they search for the Tree of Life and consider whether immortality on this side of “Over There” is a gift or a curse. The high literary quality of this thought-provoking read made it a stand-out among this year’s YA selections.
Meet Shawn! A Conversation with Shawn Smucker
MYSTERY / THRILLER
All three of us were quickly hooked within the opening pages that doesn’t let up until the end. Each timeline contains its own mystery, which keeps the story simmering with suspense regardless of which time period is being read about. We thoroughly enjoyed how the two time periods connect, and how the main characters in each time period are from the same family line. The spiritual thread of the power of offering grace and receiving forgiveness is significant through both time periods which adds to the strength of this story. The Reckoning kept us on our toes, kept us guessing, and had us turning the pages at amazing speeds, all while offering the most important lesson of all – knowing Jesus. It’s our privilege and honor to award the winner of the 2019 INSPY Mystery/Thriller Category to The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond.
Meet Jaime! A Conversation with Jaime Jo Wright
It is our honour to recognize Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse as the INSPY Award winner in the Speculative category. While we enjoyed every novel on the shortlist, Mark of the Raven captured us with its powerful storytelling. Busse subverts the Chosen One trope by giving readers a conflicted and complex protagonist in Lady Selene. She feels fated to follow her family’s legacy, yet she has just learned how awful it really is and debates how or if she can rebel against it. The themes of sacrifice, unity in diversity, discovering one’s identity, and learning to use one’s gifts intertwine to weave a magnificent story full of twists and surprises. Busse’s world-building is extraordinary. She explains all the fantastical elements through the story in magnificent fashion, showing rather than telling, enabling readers to become fully and naturally immersed in the world she has created. We eagerly await the continuation of the series!
Meet Morgan! A Conversation with Morgan L. Busse
Congratulations to the winners and all of the nominated authors! You can meet our shortlist authors by searching the ‘2019 Author Interview‘ tag.