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. February 2014's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Rachel Caine's Romeo & Juliet retelling, Prince of Shadows.

February 2014 Seal of Excellence - Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine (cover)

 

"Rachel Caine has done the unthinkable: she made me enjoy Romeo & Juliet. Told from the perspective of Benvolio, the vicious feud between the Capulets and the Montagues takes on a poignant and utterly devastating gravity as it ensnares poor Mercutio and his doomed lover, Tomasso. And while Benvolio's exploits as the thieving Prince of Shadows and his genuine affection for Rosaline are utterly captivating, it is the weight of Mercutio's overwhelming grief that had this reader in tears. I don't say this lightly: buy this book. Buy it for anyone who loved — or hated — Romeo & Juliet. Buy it for anyone who loves ill-fated romances and for those who love a happily ever after. Buy it for people in hiding like Mercutio, and for bookish, clever girls like Rosaline, loyal and brave friends like Benvolio, for people like sweet dutiful Juliet and professional unrequited lover Romeo. Buy it for you. Go. I'll wait." — Regina Small

"Prince of Shadows is the kind of breathtaking, exciting, gripping retelling of classic literature that doesn't just do justice to the original but enhances it. Rachel Caine takes Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and makes the tragic, timeless story all the richer for focusing on Benvolio Montague and the mysterious Rosaline Capulet, and how their own love grows alongside the poisonous seeds of discord that soon wreck two noble houses. Caine's emotional, dramatic and bittersweet tale not only explains Romeo and Juliet's sudden heat for one another, but casts a poignant light on Mercutio, one of the Bard's most beloved supporting characters — culminating in the ending we all know so well. Without a doubt one of the best releases of 2014, this is a book you don't want to miss." — Mala Bhattacharjee

"I'm one of those readers who loves most any kind of book, from genre fiction to the densest of classics. But I had trouble wrapping my mind around Caine's concept — was she rewriting Romeo & Juliet? When the raves started pouring in I picked it up, and it's really something to be experienced for yourself. It's no easy task, taking on the Bard's work, but this book lover is pleased to report that Caine pulls it off. She enhances the story we all know so well, pulling those oft-neglected yet beloved characters to the fore, giving them their due, all while staying true to what Shakespeare first set down with his quill. One to check out, surely." — Elissa Petruzzi

 

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

 

"Tessa Dare does it again! Romancing the Duke is laughter, passion and a love letter to fans of all stripes. With modern-day in-jokes and references galore, Dare's Castles Ever After series-starter tells the tale of Izzy Goodnight, who inherits both a castle and the reclusive, grumpy, Duke of Rothbury who owns it! If you love Harry Potter and cosplay and Regency romance, then this is the perfect mash-up for you. You won't regret watching the instantly dueling Izzy and Ransom realize that you have to embrace who you really are before you can embrace love." — Mala Bhattacharjee


   

  "Whenever I see that Laura Lippman has a new title out, I chase after it with serious grabby hands. After I'm Gone is a special one, which is saying something for Lippman, because it's really stuck with me. It's a story of those women left behind, the fallout from a charismatic man, the detritus he left in his wake. That they rise up and triumph, with stumbles and epic falls along the way, made this lover of strong female characters cheer. It's a complex narrative, with jumps in time and multiple POVs, per Lippman's usual style, and it's gripping, evocative and really just great." — Elissa Petruzzi
     
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"Kristen Proby's Loving Cara is a light, fun, sexy small town romance that readers will easily finish in one sitting. This is a book for all the ugly ducklings who pined after the "hot guy" in high school, but never mustered up the courage to go after him. Despite heroine Cara growing into a beautiful, successful, happy woman, some of her teenage insecurities still remain as she begins a relationship with the man she couldn't have in high school, making her a humble, relatable character. Rancher hero Josh strikes the perfect balance of sweet, caring and just a little dominant without being a completely overwhelming alphahole. The book alternates between Josh and Cara's point of views and the author pulls this off with incredible talent. If you haven't read anything by Kristen Proby yet, trust me, she lives up to the hype." — Elisa Verna

     
 

"When Lost Lake begins, Kate has just woken up after a year of being asleep. If that sounds like the stuff of fairy tales, it's with good reason — author Sarah Addison Allen has a talent for imbuing the ordinary with a glimmer of magic. The "year of sleep" isn't literal, but Kate has been sleepwalking through the past year of her life, after her husband Matt died suddenly. Now it's moving day and Kate and her daughter, Devin, are set to move into the home of Kate's bossy mother-in-law. But then there's another bit of magic: Devin finds an old postcard from Kate's great-aunt, the owner of a beautiful set of lakeside cabins. Seized by impulse, Kate and Devin set off for Lost Lake to reconnect with Eby, Kate's great-aunt, and have one last beautiful and magical summer." — Regina Small


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

Line and Orbit by Lisa Soem & Sunny Moraine

Archetype by M.D. Waters

Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>

Tags: RT Daily Blog, Romance, Young Adult
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