2014 Golden Heart Update: The Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational Finalists

Last week most of the nominees focused on deadlines for the1 agent / 1 editor pitch sign up for RWA14, the Golden Network Retreat registration, and voting for our 5 favorite group names. Best of all, we celebrated LOTS of multiple contest finals and wins plus first sales. Congratulations, everyone!

In April I introduced the Historical Romance Golden Heart (GH) finalists. Today the 9 finalists in the contemporary, short contemporary, and inspirational categories are sharing blurbs for their manuscripts and how they feel about their GH finals.

2014 Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational Golden Heart Titles

Word Cloud created by 2014 Short Contemporary finalist, Nan Dixon




shelly_alexanderShelly C. Alexander


Ella Dennings has a scandalous secret. Cooper Wells has a scandalous legal problem. And neither is on each other’s top ten list of People To Call If You Need A Friend.

When they both end up at the same Red River retreat, an altercation that involves wrestling an overweight English Bulldog, a baseball bat named Old Faithful, and a hefty dose of pepper spray rekindles an old grudge that started long ago.

The last thing they expect is for their passionate dislike of each other to erupt into a romantic entanglement that neither can walk away from. Until Ella’s secret is exposed, threatening to send Coop to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

~ This is my first time to final in the Golden Heart. The GH means a sisterhood to me. Growing up with four older brothers, my sister and I were outnumbered. Then I grew up to have three sons of my own and no daughters, so friendships with other women are very important to me.

shellyDOTcDOTalexander@gmailDOTcom            Twitter @ShellyCAlexande


suzanne_kaufmanSuzanne Kaufman Kalb aka Erika Kelly

After years of rejection and pitching and submitting and learning craft, to receive the professional acknowledgement of a Golden Heart nomination is just such a win. I’m enormously grateful to the RWA community for its support–without which none of this would have happened. I recently sold a series to Berkley via my agent, Kevan Lyon, and my first book comes out in January 2015.


In this New Adult story, a freshman has just left his troubled single mother behind for the first time. Seeing himself as a white trash kid in a college full of prep and boarding school kids, he’s committed to avoiding friendships and relationships. He’s just going to keep his head down, do his work, and get back to his mom. But then he meets the irresistible and irrepressible force that is Nicole Everett. She shows him that he’s no different from anyone at the school–their families might have money, but the students don’t. Here’s his chance to become the man he wants to be. He resists her until he no longer can stay away.

 https://www.facebook.com/erika.kelly.1293?fref=ts              Twitter @ErikaKellyBooks




lee_kilraineLee Kilraine


Delaney Lyons returns from Afghanistan with a Purple Heart, a prosthetic foot and survivor’s guilt. She’d rather have just bought the T-shirt. After months of physical therapy and pain, she withdraws to her apartment. She wants to be left alone. Her worried sister talks small town cop Quinn Cates, who once carried a torch for Delaney, into bringing Delaney home. Delaney figures she’ll go through the motions of rehab again, and after a few weeks, when her sister stops worrying, she can escape back to her solitary life.

What she doesn’t figure on? Quinn getting in her space and under her skin on a regular basis. The darn man practically dares her to commit to rehab. Can she find the strength to try again, or will she miss her last chance to grasp her life back? Quinn is determined to resist the woman he got over years ago, except her cranky still cranks his tractor. Sparks fly as Quinn’s brothers get involved while the town grapevine calls the play-by-play.

~ I am completely honored to be among this amazing group of Golden Heart® finalists. This was my first time in the GH.

http://leekilraine.blogspot.com               Twitter   @LeeKilraine


nancy_Evertz Nancy Evertz writing as Nan Dixon

This is my 5th time to the Golden Heart ball. I have finaled in both the Short Contemporary and Single Title Contemporary Romance categories. Finaling in the Golden Heart is not just about being a princess for a week and getting to know a brand new group of friends. And I’ve found, these  are friends that will last a lifetime. It is also about the prestige that comes with the honor and the doors that this contest has opened.  I do not believe that I would have gotten an agent without being able to add the phrase Golden Heart Finalist to the subject line of my queries. I recently sold SOUTHERN COMFORTS to Harlequin Super Romance via my agent, Laura Bradford.

POETIC JUSTICE (Elevator Pitch):  A panicked architect kidnaps a nurturing writer. He must keep her safe, rescue her son and survive long enough to bring his business partner to justice.

http://www.facebook.com/nan.dixon.7          Twitter @nancyevertz


lauren_cananLauren Canan (aka Sarah Cannon)


It’s North meets South in a battle over 5000 acres of prime Texas real estate. At the center of the controversy is a 200-year old lease with some rather unusual stipulations.

Shea Hardin’s family has ranched the land for six generations. She is the last. And she’s not going anywhere. She figures a good dose of country living will send the city slicker running back to his posh lifestyle. When he leaves, the ranch is hers.

But she never considered how his lips could make her feel.

And she didn’t count on falling in love.

The land has been owned by his family for 200 years and billionaire Alec Morreston wants it back. It’s that simple. He reasons her backwoods attempt to keep it is nothing more than a minor hindrance. He’ll have her bags packed and be helping little Miss Tradition out the door in record time.

But the second he gazes into those fiery blue eyes, Alec knows he’s in trouble.

~ I’m not sure what to say! This is my first time to enter or final in the Golden Heart competition. To suddenly find myself a finalist in the greatest literary competition for unpublished writers of romance in the US- if not in the world- is a very humbling experience and I am so grateful. It is a dream come true.



Jillian’s Note: Congrats, Lauren! She recently sold 2 books to Harlequin Desire via her agent Jill Marsal. YESTERDAY’S PROMISE will be released in Feb. 2015.




carrie_padgettCarrie Padgett

I’m enjoying every moment of the Golden Heart journey and looking forward to meeting many of my fellow finalists at Nationals in July! I’m thrilled to be a first-time Golden Heart entrant and first-time finalist with my Inspirational romantic suspense, Against the Peace:  Sparks between a U.S. Marshal and his headstrong witness threaten to combust their mountain hideaway.


Cricket Spencer witnesses a murder and Inspector Lucas Holden expects her to pack up her life and leave Portland, Oregon and her family behind. Lucas knows the only way he can keep Cricket safe is to stay one step ahead of the organized crime boss intent on silencing the one witness who can put him away. They run for the hills and along the way they discover it may not be coincidence that brought them together. Their lives intersected as children when Cricket’s family escaped from a cult compound and Lucas’s father was one of the federal agents helping them. The past catches up to both Cricket and Lucas and they draw on their shared faith to find their future.

http://www.livevicarrieous.com               Twitter @CarriePadgett


kristi_hunterKristi Ann Hunter


Left cynical by a broken heart, Lady Miranda Hawthorne is approaching spinsterhood when she finds herself unacceptably drawn to her elder brother’s new valet. Her interest in him pulls her into the middle of a dangerous mission to hunt down Napoleonic spies because the valet is not exactly who he seems.

~ This is my first time finaling in GH. It’s been an incredible boost in validation for my writing career. I am taking it more seriously and so are my family and friends, even those who don’t really understand what it is.

www.KristiAnnHunter.com                 Twitter @KristiAnnHunter

Jillian’s Note: Kristi Ann is the 2014 Golden Heart Winner in the Inspirational category. She recently sold MY LORD VALET to Bethany House Publishers. It will be released in Fall of 2015. 


piper_huguleyPiper Huguley

This is my second time to final in the Golden Heart. That means the first time wasn’t a fluke!

A VIRTUOUS RUBY (early 20th century)

If Winslow, Georgia thought her shame would keep her from speaking out against lynching, they were wrong. Town troublemaker Ruby Bledsoe resolves never be quiet, loving her baby, no matter how he had come into the world.  However, when she seeks help for her sick son, she doesn’t anticipate meeting a handsome stranger who offers Ruby a way to help her son and a brand new life.

Dr. Adam Morson had always felt shame as a mulatto child–shame enough to masquerade as something that he wasn’t.  However, something powerful draws him to protect the beautiful and fiery activist who shows him how to be true to himself.  A force outside of himself compels him to offer Ruby a job in his practice up north and Ruby has to decide if she should stay and fight for the soul of the town, or if she should seek her own happiness with the handsome stranger.

http://piperhuguley.com                  Twiiter @writerpiper


sara_tompkinsSara Tompkins

BETTER THAN A MOVIE  features a young legal assistant who aspires to become a litigator. She’s obsessed with movies and has carefully scripted her life to ensure a happy Hollywood ending. Things go off script, though, when her irrepressible teenage niece comes to live with her and she falls for her niece’s shy school counselor. The manuscript is about learning to let God write the script of our lives. This is my first time entering the Golden Heart® contest and the second writing contest I’ve ever entered. I submitted the manuscript on a last minute whim, with no expectation of winning!

~I am humbled to be a GH finalist. I was genuinely shocked to receive the call and nearly hung up on the woman! I was sure she was trying to sell me a Florida timeshare or something. I am excited to go to San Antonio and learn from people much more experienced than me.



Jillian’s Note:

I’ll announce our group name and introduce the 2014 Golden Heart nominees in the Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, and Young Adult categories soon. If you missed my previous post about the 2014 Historical Romance GH finalists, click here.



  1. Great hearing about all of your stories!! 🙂 Congrats to all of you and I look forward to meeting you all in San Antonio!!

    • Marnee, thanks for commenting! I love hearing the stories and can’t wait to meet everyone, too. You and the rest of the YA finalists will be highlighted on June 9th.~Jillian

  2. Congrats, everyone! I loved reading all of your blurbs, and I cannot wait to add all of these books onto my bookshelf! Have a FABULOUS time in San Antonio!!!

    • Thanks, Pintip! The blurbs are wonderful. I think I’m going to need a bigger bookshelf. You’ll be featured here on May 27th for your Paranormal final and again on June 9th for your YA final. I’ll miss meeting you in SA, but I’m looking forward to seeing photos of you and your baby.

  3. Thanks so much, Jillian, for introducing us to some more GH finalists! I love reading the blurbs in different categories because they all sound so different–even in the same category.

    • Kim, I love reading the blurbs for the same reason. I can’t wait to share your double finaling YA blurbs on June 9th. Thanks for leaving a comment!~Jillian

  4. How fun is this!?!?! I love getting to know everyone. Thank you so much for hosting us, Jillian! I can’t wait for our group hug in San Antonio.

  5. I hit reply too soon.
    Shelly, I have to know how the hefty dose of pepper spray plays into the book. Your voice shines through just in the blurb!
    Suzanne, Congrats again on your first sale! I love the idea of your NA, and I can’t wait to read that one as well. And I just remembered about your certificate. (Runner up in the Marlene contest) Will put in the mail today! Sorry!!!!
    Lee, I loved that your wounded warrior is a woman, and not a man. That’s unusual and interesting! I can’t wait to see the sparks fly between Delaney and Quinn. 😉
    Nan, I know what you mean about the friendships that grow from this contest–my Unsinkable Lucky Whatever-We-Call-Ourselves-This-Year. 🙂 Congrats again on your new sale! You’ll have so many pins and ribbons on your badge, we’ll have to cart you around because of the excess weight. I really want to know the motivation behind the kidnapping in your book. Sounds either fun or scary. Knowing you, I’m going with fun. 🙂
    Carrie, I loved learning more about you on the Ruby blog. Your book sounds awesome. I’m really interested in that backstory with the cult compound. I’m hooked!
    Kristi, I adore regency romances, although I could never write one myself. I can’t wait to read the love story between the lady and her brother’s valet. Either he’s undercover for some reason or the class thing will come between them. Either way, I’m in! I have to read this book!
    Piper, When I didn’t final in the GH the year after I did the first time, my husband said maybe it was just a fluke that I finaled the year before. So I laughed when I read that about you not being a fluke. Thank God I could prove I wasn’t one. LOL! As I loved your Amazon Breakthrough book and the sound of this one as well, I’m sure we’ll be hearing great things about you very soon. Your books touch on a much-needed category–historical, inspirational and minority all rolled into one. Your book sounds absolutely amazing. The time period was critical in shaping our country’s future, such as it is. Hopefully people will be drawn to the stories of women (and especially women of color) who shaped our history in all ways–big and small. They all matter.
    And Jillian! A special thanks for introducing these wonderful women! Congrats to you all! And good luck!

    • You’re welcome, Kim. Thanks for coming back to add the detailed comments!~Jillian

    • Kim – you are just too nice!! Such a Weaver of Dreams! (wink, wink)

    • Kim, I love your replies! So thoughtful and encouraging!

    • Shelly Alexander says:

      Kim, she thinks the cabin is vacant. He doesn’t know she’s coming. Her car gets stuck in a ditch a mile from the cabin and she has to wrestle her overweight bulldog to get him out of the car because it’s raining, the ditch is flooded and the dog can’t swim. During the dog fight she loses a shoe in the ditch and has to walk the rest of the way in the pouring rain. When she unlocks the front door, keys in hand, she’s greeted by a swinging baseball bat that crashes into the wall just above her head. Her knee jerk reaction is to use the sparkly pink bottle of pepper spray dangling from her keychain. It was a fun scene to write!

  6. Jillian, it’s a wonderful thing you’re doing – featuring Golden Heart finalists. I love, love, love reading the blurbs and can’t wait to buy books by every single finalist! Thank you.

  7. Each of you have awesome sounding books. Please let us know when they are published! Can’t wait to get together with all the 2014 Golden Heart® Finalists at the RWA Conference.

  8. These books sound sooooo good! Can’t wait to meet their authors!

  9. Shelly Alexander says:

    Wow, Nan! Five times to the prom! I’m so in awe!

    • I’m in awe, too, Shelly. Congrats on your first sale, Nan!

    • Maybe it’s my magic number — I have 5 kids too! (one set of twins)
      For some of us – it’s takes multiple times to get things right!!!
      I’d hoped last year’s double final would have been the last – but now I get to know this amazing group of writers. And who wouldn’t want that! (Hey that matches the pregnancies!)

  10. Sarah Andre says:

    Love being able to comb through each of my To-Be-Named GH sisters and put faces to bios this time! I can hardly wait to meet you all in person. As I said to Jillian: we’ll take that Marriott bar by storm!

    • Sarah, I think that’s the best part of working on the posts. That and anticipating meeting my GH sisters in person and celebrating our successes. A group toast at the bar works for me.~Jillian

  11. Jillian, thanks for all the work you put into this! It’s great reading the blurbs to everyone’s books. Yup, add my name to the list of those looking forward to buying our GH sisters’ books.

    • Lee, thanks for commenting and for your patience. It’s taking an hour or more for comments to show up in my WP dashboard. Can’t wait to buy books by you and the rest of our GH sisters either.~Jillian

  12. McCall Hoyle says:

    I loved reading your blurbs and reading more about what the GH means to each of you. Can’t wait to meet those of you who will be in San Antonio in person. Hugs!

  13. Jillian — these as so fun. It’s wonderful to be able to get to know a little more about each of the finalists and read these amazing blurbs!

  14. Thank you, Jillian, for doing these interviews. I just love getting to all my 2014 GH sisters better.
    I love the blurbs and now I really can’t wait to meet everyone in San Antonio!!!
    And I have no doubt that I will one day have each and every one of these books on my bookshelf!

  15. Hi Jillian,
    Thanks for these interviews – I find it terrific to put the name, picture, and blurb together. And wow! What variety, ladies, even in the same category! I love the range, the touches of humor, and think these books will soon be added to my TBR pile. 🙂 Can’t wait to meet all of you in SA.

  16. This is so much fun! I love reading about the nominees and their books and what the GH means to them.

    • Asa Maria, you’re correct. The 2014 Golden Heart series is so much fun. I can’t wait to introduce you and the other Paranormal finalist here on May 27th. Thanks for commenting!~Jillian

  17. There are some awesome books coming to the world! Thank you ladies for letting us get to know you a bit better and thank you Jillian for bringing their stories to us. Great blog!

  18. eliseam says:

    Such a fun post! Lovely to meet more of you! I can’t wait to hear the group name!

    • Thanks for commenting, Elisa! I know you were busy moderating the Rubies blog today. I can’t wait to have a group name and meet you at the GN Retreat.~Jillian

  19. Congrats to you all! I look forward for cheering you all on in San Antonio!!

    Jillian, thanks for hosting all the finalists on your blog, it’s been fun to meet everyone this way!!

    • Tammy, we’re thrilled you want to be our 2014 Golden Heart cheerleader! There are 2 more groups of GH finalists––The Paranormal/Romantic Suspense and the YA nominees. Hope you’ll return for their posts on May 27th and June 9th. Looking forward to seeing you in SA! Don’t forget your pom-poms!~Jillian

  20. Congrats to all the Contemporary, Short Contemporary, and Inspirational finalists! I’m looking forward to reading all your books in the near future!

  21. Marni Folsom says:

    Oh, what enticing blurbs! I’m in serious trouble, because my TBR list is already long. Once you all publish these, I’ll have to ration myself if I want to get any writing done! And I agree about the sisterhood, Shelly. I’m the youngest of 4 girls, but by a big enough margin that I often felt like an only child. I seriously treasure these connections with others who just “get” it (whatever the day’s particular “it” may be!). I’m getting very excited for conference time, and that’s saying a lot for someone who’s easily overwhelmed by crowds!

    Thanks again, Jillian, for introducing us to each other’s GH manuscripts via the blurbs. 🙂

    • Marni, I apologize for taking so long to reply. Life had other ideas. Hope the rationing concept works for you. I’m excited for conference time, too. Can’t wait to meet you and the rest of our GH sisters in July.

  22. Loved reading about everyone’s manuscripts! I look forward to the day when all of then get published, so I can read them at last!

  23. Love reading about everyone’s books! I’m amazed at the creativity! Can’t wait to meet everyone and hear about agent catches and book sales!

  24. Lenore Bell says:

    Jillian, thanks so much for posting these blurbs! What an amazing group of writers and stories. Can’t wait to buy all these books when the hit shelves soon. Big hugs to fellow nominees and I look forward to meeting y’all in person!


  1. […] here, on fellow Golden Heart® finalist Jillian Lark’s […]

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