November Seal Of Excellence

November 2012's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Brenda Novak's contemporary romance tale When Snow Falls. 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.


Cheyenne Christensen is a woman with a rough past. After growing up moving around and living out of suitcases, all Cheyenne wants is a happy, normal adulthood. But she's haunted by memories of an unknown women from her childhood who isn't her mother. Cheyenne thinks her life will get back on track once she wins over her longtime crush, all-American dreamguy Joe DeMarco. However, when she she unexpectedly finds herself falling for her town's badboy, Dylan Amos, Cheyenne learns that what's practical and what the heart wants aren't always the same.

"Novak is simply a superb storyteller. This small town romance feels entirely real. Even at its sweetest, Novak's tale is never saccharine; Whiskey Creek is filled with complex, sympathetic characters, struggling to reconcile their troubled pasts with a more promising future. It's a joy to watch Cheyenne come into her own, with Dylan at her side."
- Audrey Goodson Kingo, RT Editor 

"I'm a tough critic when it comes to contemporary romance. I really need to conflict to feel authentic, not just 'Oh, he's so sexy and he likes me so much, noooo!' Novak has genuine conflict and emotion here, in spades. Part of it is her fast-moving plot, there's really no time for Cheyenne to tell us she's 'not a forever kind of girl,' she's too busy dealing with a dying mother, a drug-addicted sister, a flailing business, the holidays ... the list goes on.

So you've got real conflict, an addictive plot, but we haven't gotten to the best part yet: the hunky hero. Hooo boy! I don't want to give away his identity because Cheyenne has two hunky guys after her, but Novak really steams up the pages without saying too much. I'm rambling, but really: buy this book and read it. You will love it. I promise, from one forever-kind-girl to another."
- Elissa Petruzzi, RT Editor

"I have a confession: I normally have a bit of a bias against contemporary romance. Occasionally they border on saccharine and the characters can seem a little cookie-cutter in either their down-home goodness or their narrow-minded villainy. But from the first page When Snow Falls defied all of my expectations. Novak's characters, especially her troubled heroine Cheyenne, cope with real problems, confront real insecurities and build real relationships. And rather than an overly simplified good guy/bad boy dynamic, we have two genuine, appealing heroes in Joe and Dylan. But my favorite part of When Snow Falls is probably Cheyenne's complicated bond with her sister, Presley. Raised by their dysfunctional, neglectful mother and lacking Cheyenne's support system of friends, Presley often falls prey to her worst impulses — but her love for Cheyenne is enduring, adding a layer of complexity to this wonderful, goodhearted read."
- Regina Small, RT Editor


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


Maya Rodale's Seducing Mr. Knightly is humorous historical romance done right — a treat for fans of Julia Quinn and readers looking for a sweet escape that hits the heart and the funny bone at the same time. Advice columnist Annabelle Swift has been in love with her boss Derek Knightly, the editor-owner of The London Weekly, since her first day. Determined to finally land her man, she asks her readers for advice. Hilarious hijinks ensue as Annabelle follows the dubious suggestions to seduce Mr. Knightly. It's especially fun to watch a befuddled Derek fall for Amelia, even if it's slightly unbelievable that he can't figure out who she's after. But it's all part of the fun, as the entire staff of the Weekly works together to help Annabelle win the "nodcock." Readers will root for Annabelle, too. - Audrey Goodson Kingo, RT Editor



Ever since I breathlessly whipped through the pages of The Boy in the Suitcase last year, a Danish suspense starring the perfect mix of Blomkvist and Salander in one Nina Borg, Red Cross worker and victim’s rights advocate, I knew. I knew I could hardly wait till book two! Now it has arrived, and Invisible Murder delivers even more thrills, chills and international skullduggery than ever. But the book is so much more than that. The co-authors, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, work the same magic as with the first book: they start slowly, weaving disparate characters and their stories together, then sock it to you with blood-and-guts action and real life-altering choices for Nina and the other characters. Plus, they excel at character-building and eliciting sympathy for the conflicted, driven heroine. You will race to finish this book and yet you’ll want to savor every chapter. Because who knows when the third novel will come out in the United States? I envy the Danes, who don’t have to wait. - Liz French, RT Editor


Beth Kery's Exposed to You is a sexy, heartfelt contemporary love story that will have genre fans swooning over hero Everett and rooting for heroine Joy. When makeup artist Joy Hightower is hired to paint a body tattoo on actor Everett Hughes, she can hardly remain calm around the gorgeous film star. A recent survivor of cancer, once-timid Joy is now committed to taking risks and living in the moment, and gives in to her desire. The two experience an unbelievable moment of passion, but because of a miscommunication, Joy thinks their time together was just a fling and she'll never see Everett again. When the two unexpectedly cross paths again months later, Everett is determined to make Joy realize that he's more than just a celebrity, and he only has eyes for her. But in order to make their relationship work, Joy must learn to let her guard down and share her painful past with Everett. Kery's very real, complex characters add a depth to the story that makes the unbelievably hot sex scenes in the book that much more enjoyable. - Elisa Verna, RT Editor


What do you get when you combine steampunk Victorian England, 60's radicals, time travel, an intrepid lady inventor and a renegade cowboy? One wild, unforgettable, utterly original ride. Beth Ciotta's new series starter, Her Sky Cowboy, has it all. Amelia Darcy is on a quest to restore her family's reputation and finances when her kitecycle crashes into the airship of her idol, dime novel hero and ex-Air Marshal Tucker Gentry. Tuck agrees to escort Amelia to Italy, where she hopes to find a forgotten da Vinci invention. From the moment Amelia comes on board, she charms Tuck's colorful crew — all complex, vivid and intriguing characters who definitely deserve books of their own. The two race from one nonstop adventure to another, as Amelia and Tuck are pursued by an enemy who believes Amelia may know the secret of successful time travel. This is where it gets kind of crazy: In Ciotta's world, 60's radicals discovered the key to time travel and popped up in Victorian England, altering the course of history and setting off something known as the "Peace Wars." It's a testament to Ciotta's world-building that the story feels utterly real, even at it's wildest. It's clear she had an absolute ball penning this wacky, wonderful adventure, as I did reading it. I can't wait for Amelia's brothers' stories in the next two novels! - Audrey Goodson Kingo, RT Editor


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

Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison

Sacrifice by Cayla Kluver

Beau: Cowboy Protector by Marin Thomas


Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>