April Seal Of Excellence

April 2011's RT Seal of Excellence is awarded to Carol McCleary's historical murder mystery, The Illusion of Murder. Here are some comments from the editors about why this tale won the honor.


This mystery follows female reporter Nellie Bly as she attempts to travel around the world in 75 days during 1889, in an attempt to best the time set by Jules Verne's fictional character in Around the World in 80 Days. But when Bly witnesses a murder in Port Said, Egypt, the subsequent cover-up has her looking at her traveling companions in a new light.

"Part mystery, part historical fiction, travelogue and romance, this is an amazing fictional retelling of Nellie Bly's historic journey. The narrative is aided by strong secondary characters, including the actress Sarah Bernhardt and the big game hunter Frederick Selous. The tale also uses photographs and first-hand accounts of some of the occurences that Nellie mentions to help contemporary readers understand the scope of what Bly saw during her journey. A phenomenal story and one that will hopefully introduce more readers to the brilliant Nellie Bly." - RT Editor

"I loved how McCleary got into real-life character Nellie Bly's head in this fantastic book. It's full of adventure and personality and a not-quite-reliable narrator. Add to that the delightfully tongue-in-cheek "editor's notes" sprinkled throughout, which dispute some of the narrative's "facts" and point out historical personages and events, and you have a delightful book." - RT Editor

"I was completely captivated by McCleary's version of the intrepid Nellie Bly's trip around the world. Through her eyes I have visited a sheik's tent in Egypt, watched a geisha girl performance in Tokyo and ridden an 'iron horse' out of San Francisco Bay. But it is not the incredible descriptions of the world circa 1889 that had me so entranced with The Illusion of Murder. The novel's true genius is in the way the author tells the story. Written like nonfiction book reminiscent of Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, McCleary uses real people as her characters and cites actual photos and newspaper articles throughout the text. Add this to the non sequitur (although thoroughly entertaining) commentary from 'The Editors' and this is a story like I have never, ever read before." - RT Editor

So what other books were contenders for the April Seal of Excellence? Here is a look at the titles the RT editors considered.


Heroine Rowan is not exactly ladylike and hero Gulliver is a bit too squeaky clean, but Nora Roberts' Chasing Fire is a smart, funny and thrilling romantic suspense will have readers’ hearts racing. If you happen to be scared of fires we do not recommend this one — the incredible realism of smoke jumping into forest fires will be panic inducing. But for wanna-be adrenaline junkies it doesn’t get any better than The Nora and her newest release.

Read the extended review >>



When Jordan and Mara meet the first time in Gaelen Foley's newest novel, My Irresistible Earl they are both very young and very immature. Years later, when the two are thrown together again, they are much more interesting to read about. However, the author’s clever use of flashbacks are enlightening and show the reader how much Jordan and Mara grew in their time apart. Add to this strong character development, more than just a hint of danger that surrounds the members of the Inferno Club and more details about Regency life than readers are normally treated to, and historical romance fans will absolutely adore this fast-paced read. The only drawback for this Regency tale is the seemingly unconnected secondary plot that eventually promises to be the main focus of Foley’s next book in the series.

Step inside Foley's Inferno Club >>


To say that Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre is different from other books is an understatement of monumental proportions. Not even other Urban Fantasy novels are able to keep pace with the animal exorcisms, attacking ghosts, transubstantiations and an all-too-human drug lord contained within the story. But the reader needn’t worry about being left behind. Thanks to Aguirre’s velvety smooth prose, there is no problem keeping up with the action. The only thing that you might not want to keep up with is protagonist Corine Solomon’s love life. While she is in control of other aspects of her life, she becomes downright wishy-washy as she tries to decide to start a new relationship with Jesse, go back to her long-suffering boyfriend Chance or have a fling with the sexy otherworldy Paladin that helps keep her alive.

Read an extended excerpt from Shady Lady >>


Rick Mofina’s In Desperation is an agonizing read. There are so many false leads and close calls to finding the abducted little girl, that to read about her kidnappers evading the police is pure torture. And the kidnappers sent by the drug cartel aren’t the only bad guys — the cops and even the girl’s own mother have things to hide. Readers will find themselves anxiously awaiting the next shocking revelation that seems to come at every turn of the page. Any fan of the thriller genre absolutely needs to get their hands on this story. But the edge-of-your-seat suspense and spiral of deceit that reporter Jack Gannon faces may not be what every reader is looking for.

Watch a video interview with Rick Mofina about his fictional hero Jack Gannon >>



Taken by the Prince by Christina Dodd will thrill historical romance fans who like their heroines captured by the hero. But Dodd adds a distinctively modern touch to this tale with courageous — and completely capable — heroine Lady Victoria whose subsequent actions make us wish we all reacted so well to being kidnapped. Dodd's tempers this tired trope into an almost-fairy tale romance with her signature humor.


Some of the additional titles that the RT editors nominated were:

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann


March Seal of Excellence >>

February Seal of Excellence >>

January Seal of Excellence >>