The Whitney Award Winners Are Announced


Part One

Last Saturday, April 24th, the third annual Whitney Awards Gala for 2009 was held at the Marriot Hotel in Provo, Utah, with some of the top LDS writers in attendance both as finalists and as presenters.

The Whitneys are an award program set up to encourage excellence in LDS writers. The organization was named after Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS church who prophesied “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.”

Readers are invited to submit their favorite novels published during the current year for consideration as possible Whitney Award Finalists. Five finalists are chosen in each of the following five categories: General Fiction, Romance, Suspense/Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Youth Fiction, Historical, Best Novel of the Year, and Best Novel by a New Author.

This year’s winner for Youth Fiction is The Chosen One by Carol Lynn Williams. It tells the story of a 13-year-old girl growing up in a polygamous community where the prophet has decreed that she must marry her 60 year old uncle. This novel is the kind of book that you can’t set down, yet makes you angry. Williams pulls you into her world and keeps you prisoner there until the very last page.

This year’s winner for Speculative Fiction Servant of a Dark God by John Brown. Servant of a Dark God is the first book in a gripping fantasy series. Full of dark magic, strange creatures and monsters, this book tells the story of a land where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought and stolen. An epic tale of good versus evil, this book is a must read for any true fantasy fanatic.

The winner for Romance this year is a wonderful book that we ran a few weeks back by >Liz Adair called Counting the Cost. A romance set in the ranch country of New Mexico, Adair manages to keep a gritty air of realism to her story while at the same time weaving in the tender strands of romance. This book is well written and engaging from page one.

The best Suspense/Mystery award for 2009 went to Stephanie Black for her thriller
Method’s of Madness
. Incidentally Black also won the 2008 Suspense/Mystery category for her first novel
Fool Me Twice
. Black has skill for weaving a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, with more twists and turns than a mountain road. Its fine writers like Black that keep the bar high for LDS mystery writers. If you’re looking for an exciting and intense suspense novel with a touch of romance, then this is the book for you.

More next week

Crossfire, a novel by Traci Hunter Abramson


I discovered Traci Hunter Abramson a year and a half ago when I bought and read her book Royal Target. Tracy has been writing since 2004 and has at least seven thrillers to date, but it wasn’t till I was browsing in an LDS Bookstore and noticed the gold crown on the pink cover of Royal Target that I became aware of her as an author. Turns out she lives in Virginia, down the street from a good friend of mine from college… it’s a small LDS world isn’t it?

Abramson is an ex-CIA employee who uses her years in the agency to give her thrillers a biting edge of realism. Last year I read her novel Lockdown and though I thought it was good, I found the romance seemed to overshadow the plot. Then at the beginning of the year, Crossfire was released and I fell in love with Abramson’s style all over again.

Both Lockdown and Crossfire are Whitney Award Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense catagory and feature a group of LDS Navy SEALs known as the Saint Squad. Lockdown is set at a college campus and featured Tristan Crowther a member of the Squad and Riley Palmetta a woman who lived through a tragic college mass shooting.

Crossfire is set in the Caribbean where a powerful terrorist group is plotting a huge strike on the US. Vanessa Lauton has infiltrated the powerful crime family behind the plot posing as a family member, but when her CIA handler has a sudden heart attack, the Saint Squad is called in to find her and stop the threat.
Seth Johnson has a personal interest in this case. He dated Vanessa when they were younger and would have married her, but he wasn’t a member and she wanted a temple marriage. Six years has past and Seth has since joined the church, but it may not matter. The situation had turned deadly and Vanessa and Seth are balanced in a life and death struggle.

The pacing was perfect. Abramson keeps the suspense high on both the thriller side and the romance side, not allowing either to overrun the other. She has created characters that seem real both as government trained SEALS and as Latter-day Saints. Not an easy thing to do.

I had a hard time putting this book down until I got to the explosive climax. This is a true romantic thriller and a must read for anyone like me who loves a good suspenseful novel.

Elodia Strain's Previouisly Engaged


One of the first things I liked about Elodia Strain was her name. It’s unique, fun to say and in fact sounds like a name for a romance writer. Then I saw her photo.

Is she cute or what?

After reading her book Previously Engaged a 2009 Whitney Award Finalist in the Romance category, I thought her picture and her writing style match perfectly.

Strain’s website, all pinks and purples with a really cute bouncing bridal bouquet, says that she was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, her favorite color is pink, she could live on chips and salsa for the rest of her life and her dream car is a 1967 Ford Mustang.

Published by Cedar Fort, Previously Engaged is her second novel and a follow up to her first book, The Icing on the Cake which was also published by Cedar Fort in 2007.

Previously Engaged follows Annabelle Pleasanton a young women with a good heart and a penchant for getting herself into unbelievably funny trouble. Consider the predicament she finds herself in after entering a contest for a free cake and instead winning a $50,000 dream wedding. Sounds perfect except for just one tiny little problem, her boyfriend Isaac hasn’t actually proposed yet.

To complicate matters further, her handsome, single and now rich ex-boyfriend Alex drops into her life unexpectedly, while Isaac’s family has their heart set on sexy former model Chloe as his future wife.

Annabelle, like all the characters in this book, is well developed. She’s the type of girl that would drive you nuts as your daughter, but would make a fun best friend. And the romantic conundrums kept me on the edge of my seat till the very last moment. The plot was fast, and the style clever and light.

If you love romance and want to enjoy a good laugh, then Previously Engaged by Elodia Strain is the perfect book for a spring afternoon of light reading or a fun Mother’s Day gift.