May Seal of Excellence

May 2012's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Michele Jaffe's new young adult novel, Ghost Flower. 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. 


Jaffe's new YA tale will have readers on tenterhooks until the end of the mystery. When runaway Eve takes a job from rich siblings Bain and Bridgette to impersonate their dead cousin, Aurora, she has no idea of the challenge she is actually accepting. It is not long before Bain and Bridgette's true natures reveal themselves and Eve notices sinister tones to their wealthy extended family's overtures. But when Eve discovers that Aurora disappeared on the same night that the rich girl's best friend plunged to her death, it is clear that there is more going on than Bain and Bridgette have let on — and Eve might be their next target ...

"Ghost Flower is twisty and beautifully written and scary enough in parts to make me want to leave a light on while I slept. Highly recommended for mystery fans and anyone who loves ghost stories." - RT Editor

"Jaffe was one of my favorite historical romance authors so it's thrilling to find that she's found a home in another genre that I love so much. This tale is absolutely captivating, don't expect to be able to put it down!" - RT Editor

"Jaffe's books are always awesome! I loved her adult mystery Bad Girl (and was mad that there weren't more with those characters) so I was ready for a treat. And Ghost Flower delivers. It's reminiscent of old school Christopher Pike, the rich-kid characters are just as bratty as you want them to be, and Jaffe's writing is so evocative you really feel like you're in Arizona right along with them."- RT Editor


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


Mary Balogh pens a poignant tale with The Proposal, the Survivors' Club series starter. Chock full of Balogh's trademark touches, including a tender, emotionally complex romance between two mature, well-rounded characters, the story will please genre fans. Readers will cheer for stoic, emotionally scarred Lord Hugo Trentham as he slowly learns to court the ever-proper Lady Gwendoline Muir. Hugo rescues Gwendoline after she twists her ankle while walking on the Duke of Stanbrook's estate; Hugh himself has come to the duke's house to reunite with a group of former soldiers who once used the estate to recover from their physical and mental injuries following the Napoleonic Wars. A merchant's son, he knows Lady Gwedonline is out of his league, but he is drawn to her gentle beauty. Historical romance enthusiasts will appreciate Balogh's skill in accurately portraying a courtship across the era's rigid class divides, but the book's pace slows a bit in the second half when Gwendoline makes Hugo work a bit harder than necessary to win her hand.



Beguiling the Beauty is a brilliant series starter. Sherry Thomas skillfully tells a tale of loss, unfulfilled expectations and selflessness that all tie together into a memorable happily ever after. Readers will fall in love with intelligent and beautiful Venetia and the science-minded and analytical Christian. When Christian sets eyes on Venetia, it's love at first sight for the young duke, but Venetia is already married to someone else. Although society conspires to tear this couple apart before they ever have a chance at love, circumstances pull them back together time and again. Historical romance fans will particularly appreciate the unexpected elements of this tale, including the scenes set in the young America and all of the academic facts that Thomas weaves through the narrative.



Master storyteller Elizabeth Lowell once again delivers an absolutely thrilling (and chilling) romantic suspense novel with her latest release, Beautiful Sacrifice. Taking on the Mayan 2012 doomsday prophecy, Lowell introduces readers to archaeologist Lina Taylor, who studies pre-Columbian cultures and is also part Mayan herself. Despite her heritage, Lina doesn't give credence to the talk of an impending apocalypse, but this doesn't stop fanatics on both sides of the debate from trying to use her to further their own ends. With treachery and deceit around every corner, the only person Lina can trust is Hunter Johnston, a security expert who has been auditing Lina's classes. Hunter offers her protection, but in a world where ancient myth and modern warfare intersect, it may be impossible to keep Lina out of the line of fire. In this story, Lowell successfully strikes the delicate balance between romance and suspense. Unfortunately, at times, the plot gets mired in scholarly discussion. However, the author's unique, non-paranormal take on a topical issue will keep readers turning pages until the very end.   


Bitterblue is the stellar sequel to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and the companion to Fire that earned a 4 1/2 Gold from RT. Those looking for a remarkable heroine who rivals The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen need look no further; Bitterblue is your girl. Now a young queen, Bitterblue is trying to pick up the pieces of her nation of Monsea, after she comes to realize that her evil father, the former King Leck, ruled the nation using his twisted mind control. This is an incredibly emotional, moving tale of growing up and uncovering the truth about one’s own dark past. Beautifully written, this story is best enjoyed by those who have read the other novels in Cashore’s Graceling series, but holds its own as an addictive page-turner.



Mechanic, occasional vigilante and recovering alcoholic Conway Sax is one of the more compelling characters in recent American crime fiction, which is entirely due to Steve Ulfelder's exceptional talent for plotting, characterization and dialogue. The Whole Lie digs deeper into Conway's past and present relationships, as well as providing a twisty mystery with a believable resolution. Corruption, blackmail, past lovers and more collide in this series second from the talented new author.


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

A Deeper Darkness by J.T. Ellison

No Longer a Gentleman by Mary Jo Putney


Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>