August Seal of Excellence

August 2011's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Emily Arsenault's new mystery In Search of the Rose Notes. Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction and stands out from all the other books that are reviewed in that issue and on the website. 


Over a decade ago, preteen friends Charlotte and Nora attempted to use the powers of the occult to help find their missing teenage babysitter, Rose, who disappeared one evening. Now that Rose's body has been found, the grown-up Charlotte returns to the town and best friend she left behind to try to solve Rose's murder once and for all.

"This is, hands down, one of the best books I've read this year. While the compelling cold-case mystery and its perfectly satisfying conclusion would have been enough to keep the pages turning, what put Arsenault's book over the top for me is how the author managed to write a crystal-clear snapshot of what it was like to have been a young teen in the early 90s, negotiating the delicate balances of power in one's relationships with friends, family and — the thing one wants most or least (or both!) in the world — boys." - RT Editor

"This tale is dark and full of unexpected twists that will leave the reader guessing. In Search of the Rose Notes is custom made for any mystery lover's keeper shelf." - RT Editor

"What a beautifully constructed book. Clues are revealed at precisely the right time, no one element of the central mystery is dragged out too long, and I neither felt stymied by or too smart for the mystery's solution. But more than that, I was drawn in immediately by the childhood friendship between Rose and Charlotte, based on a mutual love of the paranormal and a stubborn willingness to have the fantastic be real." - RT Editor

Learn More About Nora And Charlotte >>


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


Megan Chance writes real: real people with believable problems set amid real events. In the case of City of Ash, the setting is Seattle, during the great fire of 1889. Her two female protagonists, a transplanted Chicago socialite and a talented but overlooked actress, are relatable and believable. You’ll experience their triumphs and trials right along with them and cheer them on when they reluctantly join forces to execute a plot of revenge. Chance describes 1889 Seattle’s social milieu expertly and very carefully conveys the constraints on Geneva and Bea. This tale will hit the spot for historical fiction fans and readers who enjoy tales of female empowerment.




It's Always Been You by Victoria Dahl will leave historical romances fans with grins on their faces and songs in their hearts. When the story begins, heroine Kate has recently returned to England after a decade of living in the English colony of Ceylon. The newly widowed woman now is now living under an assumed identity, running a coffee shop. But everything changes when her first love, Aidan, spots her on the street and demands to know what has happened to the lover he thought died in a shipwreck. This unusual historical romance is a bit darker than Dahl's normal fare — the story includes rape and murder — but the love that Kate and Aidan share will have readers rooting for this couple until the very end. 

Go Behind the Scenes With Victoria Dahl >>


Mark Lawrence’s epic fantasy novel, Prince of Thorns, is a bloody tale of revenge. The fighting is spearheaded by Jorg, a 14-year-old prince who has lost his family and kingdom to usurpers. Jorg retaliates by gathering a bloody band of “brothers” to take back what is his by force. Battles are fierce and plentiful and described like they are a great chess match. The violence will have readers cringing even as they are enthralled by this teenager who refuses to surrender. However, the true star of the novel is the author’s clever writing. Lawrence’s prose is precise and cutting but also humorous. But be warned, this amazing debut is not for the faint of heart. Just as Jorg's world has no sympathy for the weak, the author leaves nothing to the imagination. The only relief readers get from the brutally graphic battle scenes are descriptions of the inner lives of the characters where we delve into the dark hearts of evil men. 


To Touch a Sheikh by Olivia Gates will captivate both historical and contemporary fans as the author whisks them away to a desert oasis of love and adventure. This is a sheik romance to the core with the burned-by-love hero, Prince Amjad Al Shaalan kidnapping the Princess Maram Aal Waaked of a neighboring country. (Although readers will surely appreciate that Maram is a willing captive, this princess has her own end game in mind: she longs to win the elusive prince's heart.) However, when the couple is forced to re-enter society, they are plunged into a dangerous game of court politics. Witty banter between the couple and a fast-moving pace will keep readers engaged in this delightful series romance tale!


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

Blind Faith by CJ Lyons

The Bride Wore Scarlet by Liz Carlyle

Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison


July Seal of Excellence >>

June Seal of Excellence >>

May Seal of Excellence >>