February Seal of Excellence

February 2012's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Kristen Callihan's new historical romance Firelight. 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. 


The masked Lord Benjamin Archer is feared by society. He has a reputation for being decisive, and he's on a path of revenge. When he marries his enemy's daughter, the beautiful Miranda who is a commoner by birth but has secret powers of her own, Lord Archer does not expect his young wife to demand the very thing that no one thinks he has — his heart.  

"One part historical romance, one part paranormal fiction and one part gothic mystery this book blends genres to create something truly unique. From the heroine's powers to the hero’s tragic secret and even the interplay of the newlyweds’ dangerous emotional dance to cross the chasm between them, everything about this book exceeded my expectations." - RT Editor

"The element that stood out the most for me in this spectacular tale was Callihan’s masked and tormented hero. He could have easily strayed into Phantom of the Opera or V for Vendetta territory and instead everything about Lord Benjamin Archer is a delicious surprise." - RT Editor

"There's been lots of buzz about how Firelight is different, and that's just what makes it such a great read. The conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart (you know, mostly ... ) is real life and death instead of social life and death — which significantly upped the stakes and made me root for the characters as I kept reading late into the night. It was also really refreshing how Miranda knew she was hot (instead of being all, 'Oh my stars!' about her looks), and she how she was fully aware of the ramifications of her gorgeousness. And I would be remiss not to mention Miranda's fun sisters, who added some levity to a darker tale. All in all, a winner! Definitely give it a try." - RT Editor

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


Fans of traditional historical romance will enjoy the Regency romp that is The Duchess Diaries by Jillian Hunter, the latest in her Bridal Pleasures series. When Charlotte Boscastle’s diary, full of her lurid daydreams about Gideon, the Duke of Wynfield, goes missing, Charlotte is willing to do whatever it takes to recover the book. That is exactly how she winds up in a compromising position with said Duke (but without her journal) when the rest of the impetuous Boscastles storm Wynfield’s townhouse. As Charlotte and Gideon, now a newly-engaged couple, continue to hunt for the journal and prepare for their wedding, readers will recognize familiar faces from earlier novels in the series. Hunter does an excellent job of showcasing the era in the newest chapter of Scarfield Academy and it’s headmistresses. However, readers who are new to the series may be better served by starting with the first book, A Duke’s Temptation.



International bestseller Spin by Canadian author Catherine McKenzie gets its U.S. debut this month. When Kate Sanford lands an interview at her dream job, music magazine The Line, on her 30th birthday, she thinks her woes as a struggling journalist are over. But after Kate shows up to her interview still drunk from partying the night before, her hopes of a bright future are crushed. But one of The Line editors offers Kate a second chance, with a special catch. Kate must go under cover at a rehab facility to dig up dirt on Holllywood’s current “It Girl” for a special gossip column. As Kate assumes the role of a depressed alcoholic and enters rehab, she finds that her facade isn’t so far from the truth. This touching story of self-realization and new beginnings is a funny, consuming read that touches on serious issues without being too overwhelming and gives readers a brutally honest look inside rehab.


Cindy Gerard wraps up her popular Black Ops series with Last Man Standing, and romantic suspense lovers are in for a treat with this fast-paced adventure. Hardened ex-solider Joe Green leaves Stephanie Tompkins with a lie on his lips; Joe tells Stephanie that he doesn't love her in order to keep her safe from the far-reaching arms of the government conspiracy that he's trying to dismantle. However, Joe doesn't count on Stephanie's resolve to keep her warrior safe, and this woman on a mission will do whatever it takes — even trek to the prisons of Sierra Leone — to get her man back home in one piece. Gerard's detailed, evocative writing brings every moment of this action-packed novel to life. Readers will cheer for Stephanie and Joe as they make a daring escape back to the States, however for maximum enjoyment of this story, we suggest that you start with the 2008 series starter, Show No Mercy. 


The first book in Joey W. Hill’s Arcane Shot series, Something About Witches, is a surprise at every turn. The heroine, Ruby, is a truly flawed character that makes awful choices as she battles to overcome the grief and loss caused by evil from the underworld. The author is amazingly adept at creating empathy and understanding for Ruby, which makes it hard for the reader, or the hero, Derek, to be upset for too long over the mess that she has made of her life. Readers will end up cheering for the oh-so-honorable Derek as he wrestles the darkness for Ruby’s soul. This story is full of drama and angst, but also healing and redemption. Paranormal readers will not be able to put this book down until they learn all of the characters’ secrets. But be warned, there is a lot of heartbreak on the long journey to happily ever after for these two!


Young Adult author Jennifer Lynn Barnes takes a break from her popular Raised by Wolves series for her new tale Every Other Day. In a world where the paranormal is normal, Kali is something different. Every other day she’s a normal teenage girl, but on the alternate days, she’s a demon hunter with primal instincts and incredible healing powers. Although it goes against her loner nature, when Kali sees the sign of a soul-sucking chupacabra on her new classmate Bethany, she gets involved in an attempt to save the cheerleader. But the result plunges Kali, Bethany and their new friends into a conspiracy that goes deeper than they ever could have imagined. With a wide cast of secondary characters and a plotline that is different from what has become typical paranormal YA fare, the end of Every Other Day will leave readers anxious for the next installment in this fast-paced series.


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

Catch Me by Lisa Garner

Secrets of the Lost Summer by Carla Neggers

The Confession by Charles Todd

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>