March Seal of Excellence

March 2012's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Alison Gaylin's new mystery, And She Was. 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. 

 

This unusual mystery introduces readers to Brenna Spector, a P.I. who happens to suffer from hyperthymesia, which causes her to remember everything she's ever experienced in perfect detail. When a suburban wife goes missing, her husband hires Brenna. Her condition helps her identify that this missing person's case is actually related to the abduction of a little girl that took place over a decade ago in the same neighborhood. Brenna's investigation leads her deeper into the mystery, so she teams up with cop Nick Morasco to try to uncover the truth. However, this is not the only murky relationship in her life, Brenna is also navigating a fraught truce with her teenage daughter and dealing with her feelings for her ex-husband. It's up to Brenna to work through these complications and unmask a killer before the person fades back into the background of suburbia.

"This novel will speak to mystery and romance readers alike. Heroine Brenna is intriguing and the way that Gaylin layers the past and present ensures that readers go along with Brenna as she slips in and out of memories. Bravo!" - RT Editor

"I am new to Alison Gaylin's books but this made me want to revisit her previous stories. And She Was has well-written characters, and amazing passages that I loved so much that I tweeted to friends. Seriously, I LOLed." - RT Editor

"And She Was keeps you guessing, with a taut and twisty mystery and great protagonists. I found PI Brenna fascinating and enjoyed the warmth of her budding friendship with cop Morasco. Plus, her assistant, Trent, is a total scene stealer!" - RT Editor

"It's impossible to say whether And She Was is more of a plot-driven or character-driven story. Gaylin fully develops her missing persons investigator heroine Brenna Spector plus a host of secondary characters while handily moving along mysteries in the past and present. I can't wait for the next one!" - RT Editor

 

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

 

Spellbound Falls by Janet Chapman is a surprise at every turn. The story begins with single mom Olivia Baldwin being rescued by the enigmatic Maximilian Oceanus. Unsure of how to treat Mac once he and his son take up residence at her family-run camp, Olivia is sure of one thing — she is not looking for a relationship. But after many lonely years, perhaps an affair with this sexy almost-stranger is in order. Mac and Olivia agree to a no-strings summer fling, but they abandon this plan after their mutual admiration quickly turns to love. However, when Mac's real identity is revealed, will Olivia be able to handle his secret? The author infuses the plot with touches of the paranormal, which slowly grow to a tremendous climax that literally changes the world. And while this book can definitely be read as a standalone, clear your calendar because once you read this Janet Chapman story, you will not be able to stop until you've devoured all of her books.

     

 

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne is full of the talented historical romance author Madeline Hunter's signature style. Readers will lose themselves in the drama of Emma Fairbourne's life, which Hunter illustrates with brilliant historical detail and precise prose that is reminiscent of writing of the time. As Emma tries to keep her father's auction house running after his mysterious death, she knows it's an uphill battle. First, she must resort to subterfuge, because no one would frequent an auction house run by a woman. Then, she learns that Darius, the imperious Earl of Southwaite, actually owns half the business and wants to shut it down. Finally, Emma discovers that her father had been blackmailed into trafficking smuggled goods — and the evildoers know exactly what to say so that Emma will continue the practice. Although Emma would love to turn to Darius for help, he's made his position on smuggling quite clear. But when these co-workers strike up a much more intimate partnership, can he convince Emma to reveal her secrets? Expect to cheer for this pair who, despite their differences, make an excellent couple. 

     
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If sheik heroes are your thing, then you can't do any better than Strangers in the Desert by Lynn Raye Harris. The author crafts a beautiful love story about a reunited couple that has too much history to move forward, but too much passion to be denied. Two years ago Isabella stumbled into the desert, and was presumed dead by her new husband Prince Adan, who took on the job of rearing their newborn son alone. Now, he must remarry in order to become the king of his country, but someone has just found Isabella. Will he be able to convince her that their son deserves a real mother? Can she explain what really happened? Readers will empathize with both characters and see the difficult situation from every angle. From Prince Adan's justifiable anger towards the wife who abandoned him and their son, to Isabella's pain as she struggles to remember her past, this story is full of deep emotion. An intriguing premise, well developed characters and a fast moving plot make this book a keeper!   

Morgan and Whitney Dish on Strangers in the Desert >>

     
 

The YA fantasy Allegiance by Cayla Kluver is truly fantastic. Young author Kluver whisks readers back to the warring countries of Hytanica and Cokyri for the series second. As the tension between these nations simmers to a boiling point, even readers new to this series will get swept away by the plight of Hytanica's teenage queen: married to a man she doesn't love and whose nation is fighting that of the man who holds her heart. When war does break out, Kluver does an excellent job of conveying the heartbreak of the fighting on every well-crafted page. Fans of Tamora Pierce and other fantasy YA series, sans dragons and paranormal creatures, will delight in Kluver's storytelling ability. Allegiance will leave readers with just one question — when is the next book coming out?


   
 

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea kicks off the Royal Entourage series by Sophia Nash, which follows several eligible English bachelors who — after a night of heavy partying with the Prince Regent — have been banished to the countryside until they find wives. Alexander Barclay is planning to pick out a pretty young thing, and (reluctantly) settle down when he comes across Roxanne Vanderhaven, clinging to a cliff for dear life. Her husband has orchestrated Roxanne's tragic death, and when Alexander keeps her from plunging to a watery doom, Roxanne vows revenge. Alexander decides to let Roxanne come stay at his home, posing as a cousin until she can prove that her husband was trying to murder her — but it's not long before this well-matched pair are starting to make sparks. Comedy and mystery abound in this delightful Regency romance. However, Nash also reveals her characters' tender sides, particularly as Roxanne worries about the age difference between her and the younger Alexander.


   

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

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

 

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>