August Seal of Excellence

Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. This book stands out from all the others reviewed that month, in the magazine issue and on the website. August 2014's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Molly O'Keefe's contemporary romance, Between the Sheets.


The cover of Between the Sheets


"I was hesitant to pick up this book because it contains so many elements I typically avoid in romance novels: an ailing elderly mother, a small southern town and a child. But I'm glad I did, because I just discovered a new auto-buy author. The tension between Ty and Shelby caused by their individual issues makes for an intense, smoking hot story. And O'Keefe's small town feels cozy without being overly cheesy — the residents have formed a family-like network and provide each other with unwavering support. O'Keefe is a talented writer and if you're not reading her yet, get on that ASAP." — Elisa Verna

"Without a doubt, Between the Sheets is the best contemporary romance I've read all year, and in a year where contemporary romance is booming — think 30+ releases publishing a month — it really takes an exceptional story to grab and hold my attention. One of the biggest challenges for me in enjoying a contemporary romance is buying into the angst keeping our hero and heroine apart. And Molly O'Keefe completely delivers on that score: she spends enough time on Ty and Shelby's personal challenges — Ty's attempt to be a father to the son he didn't know he had, and Shelby's struggle with her Alzheimer's-afflicted mom — to make readers invest in them as individuals. For them, love isn't instant and it certainly isn't a panacea, but it is a balm. And for those of you who are suspicious of annoyingly precocious tots in romance? No need to fear: Ty's son, Casey, is a fully developed, complex kid. If you aren't hoping for a better life for him, too, by the end of the book, you might just be made of stone." — Regina Small

"Slip Between the Sheets for a small-town love story that's a stand-out amidst 2014's overabundance of contemporary romance. Molly O'Keefe gives readers all the standard ingredients of stubborn heroine, hunky hero, cute kid and quirky friends, but the combination is anything but run-of-the-mill. Heroine Shelby and hero Ty carry a world-weary authenticity and their struggles to just make ends meet and care for their loved ones will resonate with readers. That they bond first through brain-melting sex is no surprise, and watching them slowly, painstakingly trust that they can have a future together is worth the flip of every page." — Mala Bhattacharjee

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

 "Adele Griffin adds flavor and distinctiveness to the YA genre with The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone, an unconventionally told, can’t-miss novel. The book follows a young girl’s rise to fame in the New York City art scene and the mystery behind her violent death. Griffin takes an active approach to her storytelling by conducting 'interviews' with Addison’s mentors, family members, boyfriends and critics, morphing the book into a fictional biography, which comes complete with photos including everything from the wild child’s artwork, to a picture of her digs. The novel itself is entertaining, but the way the author wrote it is even more so. Griffin fuses together different voices to create one unique story that adds a 48 Hours-vibe to what otherwise would have been an engaging, but expected YA." — Danielle Valente

"Any Man I Want starts out with heroine Katrina "Kat" Montgomery, a celebrity who comes from a wealthy, successful family, casually buffing her nails as her obnoxious, self-involved ex storms out of her room after being dumped. Basically, I knew I would enjoy this story from the page one. After Kat's bitter ex attempts to destroy her image, Kat's brother calls longtime friend Carter "Big Sexy" Parks to keep an eye on her. Together they plan to uncover the truth, all while exploring their developing romance. Michele Grant has created an excellent story centered around an endearing family that has each other's backs no matter what. Kat is a graceful, down-to-earth character who could stand to have a few more flaws, but I still reveled in her perfection. Now excuse me while I go read more Montgomery adventures." — Elisa Verna


"Sandra Brown delivers another sexy, suspenseful thrill ride with Mean Streak. Marathon runner Emily Charbonneau has no idea what she's running from, or running to, when she wakes up in an isolated cabin with a stranger. Someone wants her dead, and the man with no name is the only person she can trust. Full of sizzle and deft character work and rooted in a well-plotted mystery, Brown's latest will not disappoint." — Mala Bhattacharjee


"For years, Isla has been in love with Josh, a moody artist who skips class more often than not. And as their senior year of high school begins and they grow closer together, they'll quickly learn that love and life can be rather messy. This final entry in Stephanie Perkins's breathtaking series is every bit as mesmerizing as the previous two books. Stephanie Perkins's writing has never been better and there's a certain maturity to the story and characters that kick things up a notch. While it's best to start the trilogy from the beginning to appreciate the overall arc, new readers will have no trouble diving into Isla and the Happily Ever After. A must-read and an achievement." — DJ DeSmyter


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

Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore

Dust and Light by Carol Berg

His Every Need by Terri L. Austin

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>