September Seal of Excellence

September 2012's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Meljean Brook's steampunk tale Riveted. 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. Brook treated us to her stunning Iron Seas series starter, The Iron Duke, which won our October Seal of Excellence in 2010. This is the first time an author has won a Seal of Excellence Award twice for books in the same series!

 

Exiled from her home in Iceland, Annika Fridasdottor works on airships that travel the world so she can search for her missing sister. Thus far, her quest has been fruitless and just as frustrating as David Kentewess' own journey. As a boy, David was tasked by his dying mother to return to her homeland. Unfortunately, with no clues to where this is, David is left to roam the globe as a vulcanologist in an attempt to locate his mother's birthplace. He is heartened to hear Annika's accent which is so much like his mother's, but with extreme secrecy necessary to keep her people alive, Annika feels she cannot take David home ... nor can she return herself until her own quest is complete and her sister is safe.

"Riveted is everything that's good about speculative fiction, steampunk and romance! Meljean Brook melds gorgeous prose, a multiracial cast and social commentary that's subtle and biting in turns, creating one of the blockbuster reads of the year. If you like your books smart, sexy and LGBT-inclusive, this is your must-have!" - RT Editor

"I've been hooked on Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series since the beginning, but what made Riveted stand out for me is the utterly charming heroine and genuinely noble hero, who manage to be wonderful friends while generating nonstop heat. It's a given that Brook is in a league of her when it comes to world-building and edge-of-your-seat adventure, but this one proves she's also a master at creating sexy, swoonworthy romance." - RT Editor

"I can't say enough good things about Riveted: it's a first-rate read with a fully realized steampunk world that is beautifully immersive. Even though I've haven't read either The Iron Duke or Heart of Steel, Brook and her complex, engaging leads, Annika and David, pulled me in from page one. It's rare to see an author touch on tough social issues like persons with disabilities and the challenges faced by LGBT folk, but Brook does so with sensitivity and grace, with no trace of moralism or didacticism. Riveted has tremendous heart." - RT Editor

 

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

 

Jude Deveraux's exceptional writing talents are on full display in her latest contemporary romance Stranger in the Moonlight. Kim and Travis have a heartwarming history that translates beautifully into an intense romantic connection now that they are older. Travis is a handsome, successful lawyer who is no longer content to live his life by people's rules, so when he reunites with the sexy, sassy Kim, he thinks he is more than ready to rush headlong into a relationship. But Travis soon learns that finding Ms. Right is only the beginning of happily-ever-after. There is a lot to love in this story including a picturesque setting, a quirky cast of characters, an incredibly likeable heroine and a hero whose baggage is just too heavy for one man. 


   

 

This month Eloisa James will charm readers with her fairy-tale twist on the Ugly Duckling story, The Ugly Duchess. The Regency-set tale will capture your heart (and your imagination) as a pair of best friends marries. But when heroine Theodora (aka "Theo") discovers that her perfect husband James, who happens to be both handsome and the heir to a dukedom, only proposed because his father gambled away her fortune, her trust is shattered and she banishes him from her life. James takes to the high seas, determined to forget the only woman he's ever loved, while Theo stays in England and must hold her head up high despite the ton's cruelty. But when he returns years later, can he convince Theo that theirs is a love that transcends reason? "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder how you can get a tattooed pirate duke of your very own," raves RT's Whitney. "This is a tale that matches the true heights of James' storytelling prowess and it's a guaranteed winner for historical romance fans."

     
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In a Fix is a lively and imaginative urban fantasy offering from debut author Linda Grimes. Ever wished you had a double to perform all those unpleasant tasks you'd rather not do? Like dealing with an overbearing mother-in-law? Or sitting through a dull class or business meeting? Well, look no further than quirky heroine Ciel Halligan. Ciel is an aura adapter — a human chameleon who can change into anyone else — with a burgeoning business where she offers just such services to clients. But her latest gig, securing a marriage proposal for a gorgeous debutante, goes south when her client's boyfriend is kidnapped by modern day Vikings. The humor here is top notch as Ciel clashes with her childhood friends — and potential love interests — Mark and Billy, who still treat her like a kid in need of protection. Grimes shows tremendous skill in her creation of Ciel, a wisecracking spitfire with a desire to prove herself.

     
 

It is truly remarkable how Nalini Singh is able to continuously produce absolutely brilliant books full of adventure and romance. Fans and newcomers alike will immediately fall hard for Singh's newest hero, Jason, in this month's Archangel's Storm. Worn and weary, yet not broken, there has never been a character in more need of the healing balm of love, except for heroine Mahiya. Raised in a restrictive court, Mahiya is conditioned to expect betrayal at every turn, so when she is blood bonded to Jason at her aunt's request, she prepares for psychological warfare from the dark, brooding angel. But instead of becoming enemies, the two find solace in each other's arms. With deadly political plots coming from every side, the pair fears that their time together will be fleeting, but every second the two spend together is pure magic. Readers who have followed Singh's Guild Hunter series will love the newest entry, and for those not yet familiar with this paranormal world, this book is a perfect place to fall in love with Ms. Singh's superb writing.


   

 

"I've always been a big horror fan, not gore-for-gore's sake horror, but holy-crap-I'm-so-scared horror, where your brain freaks you out — not your stomach. Smart horror, that makes you think while giving you the willies," says RT's Elissa. And Gretchen McNeil's awesome, scary, smart, excellent Ten falls into this category, right alongside old-school Christopher Pike and Stephen King. The book is kind of a take on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, and it's no coincidence that Pike, King and Christie are readers' go to spooky/scary authors. McNeil is just another name to add to this list. Her teens are smart, almost reminiscent of the characters from the movie Scream. But before you pick up this excellent YA tale, Elissa warns readers, "I got spooked reading Ten on a sunny day. And you definitely will too!"


   

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

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Loving Lady Marcia by Kieran Kramer

 

Visit The RT Seal of Excellence Index >>