Squeaky Clean Romances – 2018



Valentine’s Day will be here soon! Love is in the air, with bouquets of flowers, tasty chocolates, and romantic gestures melting our hearts. The Season of Sighs is upon us.

This year, I put out an open call for writers to tell me about their squeaky clean romance novels, novellas, and short stories. There are mysteries with a touch of romance, historical romance, inspirational romance, and more, with links to all the books. Click on the 35 titles to find the 'buy' pages, with information about each story. You will find bestselling authors as well as debut authors.

Isabella Louise Anderson  “Cards from Khloe’s Flower Shop

Ines Bautista-Yao  “When Sparks Fly

Jennifer McCoy Blaske  “Out of My League

Faith Blum  All the Way My Savior Leads

Franky A Brown  What Happened to Romance?”

Bridget Burnett  “U R Missing: Andrea’s Story

Linda Covella  “Yakimali’s Gift

Tamie Dearen   “Best Intentions

Cindy Dorminy  “Left Hanging

Donna Getzinger Driver  “Passing Notes

Marianne Evans  “Bella Natale

Aileen Fish   “Charmed at Christmas: Collection of Sweet Regency Novellas

Beatrice Fishback  “Winter Writerland

Kellie Coates Gilbert  “Sisters

Jennifer Griffith  “My Fair Aussie

Tammy James Hesler  “Mountains of Love

Liwen Ho “Straight to You” part of ‘Taking Chances’ series

Rachel John  “The Start of Us

Stacy Juba  “Fooling Around with Cinderella

Nadine C. Keels  “Inspiring Love: Three Romantic Reads

Christine Kersey  “Illegal Procedure” (Fair Catch Series – sports series)

Nerys Leigh  “The Blacksmith’s Heart

Christina Lorenzen  “The Silvershell Beach Inn

Kay Lyons  “This Little Light: Stone River series

Edith Maxwell  "Called to Justice"

Michelle Pennington  “The Trouble with Billionaires

Audrey Rich  “Thinking About Love, Part 2

Christina Rich  “The Negotiated Marriage

C.J. Samuels  “Christmas in Trace Hollow

Margaret Lynette Sharp  “Uncertain Love

Rachel Skatvold  “Guardian of Her Heart

Christy Smith  “Forever and Always

Melanie Snitker  “Finding Grace

Rebecca Talley  “Speak to My Heart

Denitta Ward  “Somewhere Still


Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, and as always, Happy Reading!





10 of the Best Books of the Past Year-2017 Update



…and the prize goes to…


Readers all over the world choose their next book based on the award winners announced by various organizations during the recent year. Here is a list of ten popular awards for recent novels in the adult category to receive applause and/or rave reviews from colleagues in the genre or from readers who loved the books.


Have you read any books on the list? If so, let us know what you enjoyed about them in the comment section. 


Agatha Award given to mystery writers, in 2016 best contemporary novel:

“A Great Reckoning” by Louise Penny


Bram Stoker Award for 2016 best in horror or dark fantasy:

“The Fisherman” by John Langan


Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction 2016:

“The Five Times I Met Myself” by James L. Rubart


Edgar Allen Poe Award awarded by Mystery Writers of America 2017:

“Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley


Goodreads Choice Awards chosen by readers 2016 (Fiction):

“Truly Madly Guilty” by Liane Moriarty


Hugo Awards awarded for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy 2017:

“The Obelisk Gate” by N.K. Jemisin


Macavity Award given to favorite 2016 mystery by Mystery Readers International:

“The Long and Faraway Gone” by Lou Berney


Man Booker Prize literary prize for best 2016 novel: 

“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty


National Book Award for fiction given to U.S. authors 2016:

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead


Nebula Awards presented by Science Fiction Writers for 2016 work:

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders



The Carol Awards – 2017



The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) honors the best in Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year with the Carol Awards. The winners were announced September 23 during the annual conference awards dinner.


Take a look at the finalists and winners (indicated in red) for the 2017 Carol Awards:

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell
One More Song to Sing by Lindsay Harrel
The Broken Trail (Sweet River Redemption) by Christa MacDonald


This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick
Starving Hearts by Janine Mendenhall
Like a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart


Historical Romance
The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof
No Way Up (The Cimarron Legacy) by Mary Connealy
Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund


If I Run by Terri Blackstock
Murder Comes by Mail: A Hidden Springs Mystery by A.H. Gabhart
When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks


Romantic Suspense
The Dragon Roars by Sara Davison
Always Watching (Elite Guardians) by Lynette Eason
You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren


A Family for the Farmer by Laurel Blount
The Last Apostle: A Novel (John the Immortal Series) by Dennis Brooke
You’re the Cream in my Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo


Please visit for nominees and winners in other categories. Congratulations to all the Carol Award nominees and winners!    🙂



“The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young, et al


(written in collaboration with Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings)

Book Cover - The Shack

“The Shack” becomes a journey of self-exploration as Mack, a less than stellar father, confronts his grief and guilt after immeasurable pain involving the murder of his young daughter. He flounders for some time after her unsolved death, going through the minimal motions of living, until one day he receives a letter (supposedly from God) which draws him to a shack in the woods near where his daughter may have met her end.


What happens in “The Shack” may challenge the reader’s beliefs on several levels. It has certainly been a controversial book, both embraced as a life-changing work and denounced as a slam against Christianity and the Bible in its non-traditional depiction of the Holy Trinity.


To non-believers interested in the basis for the phenomenon surrounding this bestselling novel:  while some would say that it is theology based, one cannot assign “The Shack” to any particular church or doctrine. It has overlapping spiritual themes, borrowing from (and occasionally attacking) many philosophies. “Where tragedy confronts eternity…” the tagline on the front cover, seemed overly dramatic, but for the most part, the book did not sink to unrealistic phrasing and platitudes. The overall message is love for all, forgiveness for all, no matter what.


An earlier version of “The Shack” was written by Young as a Christmas present, printed at an office supply store and handed out to his family and friends. Jacobsen and Cummings heard about the book, helped rewrite it and arranged to have 10,000 copies printed. First self-published in 2007 and sold out of Young’s garage in 2008, “The Shack” now has over 20 million copies in print, making it one of the biggest bestsellers in history. Young, Jacobsen and Cummings have since parted ways, with Young retaining rights to the book and Cummings and Jacobsen in control over what will happen with the movie, just released.


Readers may love the book for its themes of acceptance and spirituality in the face of awful circumstances, while others may hate it because it doesn’t follow a particular religious doctrine or that it disparages some age-old, deeply held beliefs.


Now that “The Shack” is back on the bestseller list, it is sure to enliven conversation about God. Who is He/She? What does it mean to believe in God? How is that demonstrated? Do the events in the book unfold in a way that is true to what has been taught in your place of worship? I doubt that readers who believe in a Higher Power could remain neutral about “The Shack.”


Please visit for information about the author.



10 of the Best Books of the Past Year-2016 update



…and the prize goes to…


Readers all over the world choose their next book based on the award winners announced by various organizations during the recent year. Here is a list of ten popular awards for recent novels in the adult category to receive applause and/or rave reviews from colleagues in the genre or from readers who loved the books.


Have you read any books on the list? If so, let us know what you enjoyed about them in the comment section. 


Agatha Award given to mystery and crime writers, in 2015 cozy subgenre:

“Long Upon the Land” by Margaret Maron


Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction 2016:

“The Five Times I Met Myself” by James L. Rubart


Edgar Allen Poe Award awarded by the Mystery Writers of America 2016:

“Let Me Die in His Footsteps” by Lori Roy


Goodreads Choice Awards chosen by readers 2015:

“Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee


Hugo Awards awarded for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy 2016:

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin


Macavity Award given to favorite 2015 mystery by Mystery Readers International:

“The Killer Next Door” by Alex Marwood


Man Booker Prize literary prize for best 2015 novel translated to English language:  “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith


National Book Award for fiction given to U.S. authors 2015:

“Fortune Smiles: Stories” by Adam Johnson


Nebula Awards presented by Science Fiction Writers for 2015 work:

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik


Pulitzer Prize in Literature administered by Columbia University 2016:

“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Congratulations to all the winners!  🙂




Happily Ever After – 2016



Summer is almost here, when there is lots of talk about weddings and romantic getaways.


June is the biggest month for weddings in the United States – or so all the bride magazines would have you believe. In fact, while June may be the most popular month to tie the knot, it’s only by a small margin. 10.8% of yearly weddings are performed then, followed closely by August, at 10.2%. But, that’s still over six thousand weddings a day, explaining why wedding venues must be booked months in advance.


For those of us not getting married or traveling to a romantic destination anytime soon, we can get lost in a ‘Happily Ever After’ book and be transported via heart and mind.


Below is a list of titles suggested by readers that enjoy more sweet romance in their stories than the murder mysteries usually reviewed or listed here at NBR. These books got raves from the readers that made the suggestions.  😀


No dead bodies to be found among the pages – or so I’ve been told – just romance in many forms. Think Hallmark Channel on Saturday and Sunday nights during June.


If you’ve read any of the titles from the authors in this genre, let us know in the comments below.


Click on the author names for the links to their websites.


Rachael Anderson:  “Not Always Happenstance”


Tamie Dearen:  “A Rose in Bloom”


Shannon Guymon:  “Free Fallin’ ”


Liwen Ho:  “Drawn to You”


Melanie Jacobson:  “Always Will”


Stacy Juba:  “Fooling Around with Cinderella”


Sophie Kinsella:  “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan”


Jane Lebak:  “Honest and For True”


Debbie Macomber:  “Love Letters”


Catherine Maiorisi:  “Matters of the Heart”


Jill Mansell:  “The Unpredictable Consequences of Love”


Jules Nelson:  “Shadows”


Jenny Proctor:  “Love at First Note”


Ann Roberts:  “Complete Package”


Curtis Sittenfeld:  “Eligible”


Heather Sutherlin:  “Loose Ends”


Debbie White:  “Finding Mrs. Right”


Susan Wiggs:  “Summer by the Sea”


Sherryl Woods:  Chesapeake Shores series



Is there a swoon worthy title in the list?  Happily Ever After reading!   🙂


*Photos by Patti Phillips



Choosing A Book by Its Cover


Book Cover - Rain FallBook Cover - A Clean Kill In Tokyo









I buy over 100 books a year from brick and mortar stores, and am given loads of free books at the conferences I attend, so I have piles of novels and a few weighty works of non-fiction sitting around the house. (This is the reason for the free drawings we hold for subscribers at NBR)

Soooo…what draws me to pick up a particular title at the bookstore if I’m not already familiar with the author? On any given day, I preselect the genre by wandering into category areas of the brick and mortar store, whether indie or big box store. Then, I am drawn to:


1) The color of the spine and cover

2) The artwork and text on the cover

3) The blurb on the back cover



Notice that #1 is not about the author or the concept of the book. The initial interaction is not about the cover text. If you don’t pick the book up, you’ll never read that part anyway. Marketing people discovered years ago that the eye is drawn to bright splashes of color when choosing a product – any product – and that reds and yellows are seen first, then blues and greens. The rest of the artwork on the covers is set off by that color. Think of it as the backdrop for showcasing the information being delivered by the artwork and the text.


The art on the covers

Authors and publishers alike stay up nights, hoping and praying that the colors, the design, the font, the size of every tiny piece of graphic on the cover – all go together in a way that will entice you to pick up the book. Is there a person in the artwork? How about guns? Or beaches? Or cats? Is the setting implied somehow? Is the artwork dynamic, garish, or calming? Is the artwork representative of the actual content inside the book?


The Blurb

The publisher’s blurb on the back cover of today’s novels reveals something about the lead character and contains just enough about the plot to make us want to know more. If the book seems a little different, inspirational or more exciting than the norm, we feel compelled to plunk down money and take that book home. If the book is even better than the blurb promised? We tell our friends.


The following books exceeded the promise of the back cover. My thoughts are in bold type.


“John Rain kills people. For a living. His specialty: making it seem like death by natural causes. But he won’t take out just anyone. The job must be an exclusive. The target must be a principal player. And he’ll never murder a woman.” – Rain Fall by Barry Eisler.

This was the debut novel for the bestselling author. Excellent hit-man thriller that was made into a movie in 2011. Eisler drew from his own time as a lawyer in Tokyo for the exotic backdrop. The Rain series continues to be successful.


“Former army homicide investigator Paul Brenner has just gotten used to the early retirement forced on him after the disastrous end of his last case when his old commanding officer asks him to return for one final mission: investigate a murder that took place in wartime Vietnam thirty years before. Brenner reluctantly accepts out of curiosity and loyalty…and maybe a touch of boredom. He won’t be bored for long.”

Up Country by Nelson DeMille. The book delivers far more than a chilling murder investigation. It is based on DeMille’s own experiences in Vietnam and takes a look at war and its aftermath. Haunting. Reviewed here on NBR.


“First a dead stranger. Now a missing police chief. Did Cade run off to elope…or has he met with foul play?” – Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock Nobody in her right mind would think that Cade had eloped. The blurb seems purposely misleading. Thank goodness for Blackstock fans that the book was better than the blurb.


“Times are a-changin’ in Pickax, giving Jim Qwilleran some newsworthy notes for the Qwill Pen. A new senior center is in the works as well as a frisky production of ‘Cats.’ And a local mansion…” The Cat Who Had Sixty Whiskers” by Lilian Jackson Braun.

This was the 29th book in the gentle ‘Cat Who…’ series. Fans buy the books no matter what’s on the cover. Mom bought every one.  The series is reviewed here on NBR.


Now for the two covers for Rain Fall. The original cover is the red one. It popped into my view at a conference, piled next to stacks of books by other authors. The more recent cover is the blue one on the right (same book, different title) designed after Eisler regained the rights to his books and changed titles and covers. If you don’t already know who Barry Eisler is, which one would cause you to buy the book?


Do you choose a book based on the blurb? Is it the art on the cover itself that helps you decide? Let us know in the comments below.  J


*note: I buy lots of ebooks as well, but that’s for another post.