HARMFUL INTENT Wins in the Grace Awards 2014 ~ Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Historical Suspense

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I was thrilled and surprised to find my first contemporary detective novel HARMFUL INTENT had won this year’s Grace Award in the Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Historical Suspense category. The competition was stiff. I was up against two fantastic authors who had tremendous support from their readers.

The Grace Awards are reader driven literary awards in faith-based fiction. Readers nominate the finalists and then a panel of judges picks the winner.

I was touched and blown away by what the judges had to say:

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Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

HARMFUL INTENT by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press)

From nearly the beginning of the story we knew we were into reading a potential award winner. Right off the bat, Nike Chillemi brings characters onto the scene that are real, with both strengths and weaknesses, and a plot that gets going right away. She has a real talent for spinning the “hard-boiled detective” kind of story. The fact that she takes her New York bred lady detective and lands her square in the outback of Texas adds real flavor to the tale. As the main character, Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, learns about her murdered husband’s double life and unravels the mystery of his death, we are thrown along with her through a gamut of emotions — anger, resentment, sorrow, and the promise of closure. The story does not lag. Nike has a great “voice” — that magical thing writers long for — in storytelling. Her use of setting, language, pacing, and especially dialogue sparkles. Nike does a bang-up job of weaving a delicious tale of suspense and romance, catching the bad guy, and tying up all the loose ends, even while leading us into the promise of a sequel to come. Nike set the course for these characters’ continuing journey (personal and spiritual) and it will be interesting to see how their character arcs continue. Nicely done!

BURNING SKY by Lori Benton ~ a review

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BURNING SKY by Lori Benton is a captivating historical epic novel set in the post-Revolutionary War era. This debut novel won the Grace Awards 2013 in the Action-Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction category. The novel’s historical accuracy is obvious, as well as the author’s knowledge of the Native American tribes then living in New York State. The author’s expressive prose paints a vibrant picture of life at that time. This novel would be a valuable addition to any homeschooling curriculum.

Ms. Benton moves the characters from one element of the story to the next with great skill. The author did a superb job when Burning Sky, who had been captured as a young lass by northern New York State tribes, returns home to her family’s cabin and transitions back to thinking and speaking more and more in English as she tries to resume her former identity as Willa Obenchein. She is stunned to find her family’s cabin empty, abandoned, and in disrepair. She’s even more stunned to find some have called into question her parents loyalty to the colonial-cause during the war. She’s a woman caught between two worlds. Though not surprised when some settlers treated her with open hostility, it instills fear in her and increases her wariness. She is the type of character the reader cares about from page one.

Willa has experienced a number of losses throughout her life, most significantly, the death of the two children she bore to her deceased Native American husband. She is determined to guard her heart and keep it closed to avoid getting hurt again. However, hard she tries to shut herself off from emotional entanglements, she finds life will have its way.

The characters, even the secondary and minor ones, feel believable and authentic to the period. Many of whom bear deep and painful scars due to the brutal battles on the frontier, with both the British and Americans having committed atrocities. This is a multi-faceted novel presenting a story of bitterness, suspicion, and determination that turns into one of love, forgiveness, and restoration.

Neil MacGregor and Joseph Tames His Horse, two very different men, with dissimilar strengths, both devout Christians, vie for the love of Willa/Burning Sky. The portrayal of Neil’s strength through his deep faith was done superbly, without even the slightest hint of preaching, and was organic to the story. The author does a marvelous job keeping the reader guessing how this love-triangle will turn out. The villains are not stereotypes, but rather are well fleshed out. One of them skillfully and horrifically manipulates events. While his younger brother, who has developmental challenges, is a touching character crafted with depth. I highly recommend this book to readers from age fourteen to one-hundred and fourteen.

Grace Awards Winner: WALKS ALONE by Sandi Rog, a review

Walks AloneWALKS ALONE captivated and mesmerized me at times. No wonder it won in the Grace Award 2012 Action-Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction category.

This is a well-written epic novel beginning in Holland and ending in the old west. Loved the way it opened with the tenderness of Anna’s widowed father aboard ship. It was hard not to get involved in the father’s dream of traveling to Denver City with seven-year-old Anna to start a new life. Unfortunately, Anna’s father falls ill in New York City and passes away and she is left in the care her father’s brother for six terrible years. The scenes with Anna’s abusive uncle were brutal and fully engaging. After Anna escapes her uncle, she travels westward by train, and finally joins a wagon train where she’s not well treated. There is a fascinating, though not explicit, bathing scene in a river, where an exhausted Anna allows herself to relax and find relief from the intense and life threatening heat of the prairie. When half-breed Jean-Marc comes upon her with a small band of angry-braves, the reader is caught between instant knowledge of the hero’s strong attraction to her and the extreme danger she’s in and is hooked. Anna is taken by this brave’s strange blue-green eyes and can’t help wondering how it is that he speaks English better than she does. Ms. Rog understands Native American life in that era quite well. I appreciated her attention to the details of Cheyenne tribal life. She did an excellent job of showing the anger and murderous rage of the braves as well as the prejudice of the settlers and their inability to see Native Americans as people, which led to Indian massacres.

Both Anna/Walks Alone and Jean Marc/White Eagle are flawed and well written. White Eagle’s poetic declaration of how his love is so large and encompassing that he sees and hears Walks Alone everywhere, even in the wind, was superb. He tells her of his pain at having caught her engaging in conversation with his sworn enemy, the man who led the deadly raid against his tribe. Through this, the author conveys how painful it is for Father God to witness His children engaging with idols. Beautifully done. Touches the reader at a deep spiritual level.

My only problem was with Anna’s continued insistence on finding herself and her pulling away from White Eagle after their Native American marriage is consummated and then again after his poetic declaration of love. I’m not sure such personal enlightenment was high on the list in those days. However, the author did manage to sweep me back into the story. Then the story would move on and carry me through thrilling bandit attacks, chilling raids on White Eagle’s tribe by a rogue Cheyenne warrior and his band of braves. A fantastic read, which I highly recommend.

GA Winner 2012

Amazon/Kindle. http://amzn.to/16s2OYu

Barnes & Noble/Nook. http://bit.ly/16xnGzf

 

BURNING HEARTS Now Out In Paperback

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BURNING HEARTS is my first born so to speak…my debut novel. This classic whodunit with an endearing love story began its publishing journey as an ebook. It’s also been called a sweet historical romantic suspense novel. And I was thrilled to have it in electronic format and still am.

Now my wonderful publisher, Desert Breeze, has brought it out in paperback and I’m delighted.

BURNING HEARTS: (Historical Murder Mystery with Romance, mid-1940s)

—arson/murder, action, and romance

—Sweet romance, sophisticated themes presented tastefully

—Finaled in 2011 Grace Awards Romance/Historical Romance category

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?

Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.

Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.

 

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Long Island, New York

September 1946

Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary — her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada’s house and dress shop.

She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.

Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada’s house.

She’d think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning.

Nothing would ruin this day.

She climbed Ada’s wooden front steps and opened the door.

Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.

“Ada! Ada, answer me please.” Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman’s image. “Ada can you hear me?”

Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone — no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.

She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn’t outside, she had to be upstairs.

As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.

One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing.

Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.

The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain.

She tried to stand but couldn’t get her bearings.

Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.

Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada’s bedroom.

Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees — must’ve scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn’t see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.

Poppa’s lectures on fire drills flashed into mind — stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.

Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.

Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn’t make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.

 

ENDORSEMENTS:

“Right from the start, BURNING HEARTS captured my imagination and tweaked my curiosity. Nike Chillemi certainly knows how to set a scene and ignite excitement.” ~~ Athol Dickson, three time Christy Award winning author of LOST MISSION and THE OPPOSITE OF ART

“The action starts with Chapter One and keeps on going… I loved the way the hero rode in to the rescue on a bike instead of a white horse and turned out to be a true hero in more ways than one. If you’re looking for a clean romance, the couple is young and innocent, and the romance has the flavor of sweet, young love that it is.” ~~ Barbara Robinson, author of LAST RESORT, posted at Southern Christian Inspirational Blog

Burning Hearts is much more than what the title implies—romance. It is an arson murder story set in fictional Sanctuary Point, a village on Long Island, New York, during the post World War II era. Readers are swept into this 1940s period by well-researched descriptive prose as debut novelist Nike Chillemi weaves language, foods, businesses, clothes and vehicles to create a vivid step back into the past. This inspirational novel is a guaranteed page-turner…” ~~ Mark Young, Hook ’em and Book ’em Blog

“One of the things I most enjoyed about the story was the romance between Erica and Lorne. They were attracted to each other almost immediately, but were unwilling to act on it… enjoyed reading Burning Hearts. It is an inspirational story full of love and hope. Anyone who loves a good mystery paired with a sweet romance should certainly pick up a copy of Burning Hearts.” ~~ Long and Short Reviews

PURCHASE LINK:

Amazon. http://tiny.cc/8kt1vw

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Readers Fav 5 Star

GOODBYE NOEL and BURNING HEARTS Final in the Grace Awars 2011

I’m honored to have two novels final in the Grace Awards 2011 and I’m deeply appreciative of my loyal readers who took the time to vote for my stories. I have the best readers ever, I’m sure.

GOODBYE NOEL finaled in the Suspense/Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense category.

Historical Romantic Thriiler ~ bodies piling up, kidnap, a warm love story.

 

 

 

BURNING HEARTS finaled in the Romance/Historical Romance category.

Historical Romantic Thriller ~ A sweet love story, arson/murder, action.