Seal of Excellence: February 2018

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. February 2018's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood


Books have taken me through looking glasses and mysterious wardrobes plenty of times, but I don’t think I’ve ever tumbled into such a menacing place as the Hinterland. The Hazel Wood is a rich tapestry of dangerous delights, and it effortlessly balances charm, malice, beauty and fear. Alice’s family has darker secrets than she thought, and readers will hunger for answers. This is a must-read for fans of darker-than-dark fairy tales! — Emily Walton

I love a good fairy tale, so I was excited to read Albert's debut when I heard all the buzz. But it was so much more than I'd hoped! What she's done is extraordinary, inventing her own, dark twisted tales, with the same tone and feel as traditional fairy tales, but totally new! I was enchanted from the very first page and can't wait for the next.— Elissa Petruzzi

This highly anticipated debut (a major motion picture is already in the works) is for everyone who likes fairy tales of the fractured variety. Chilling and atmospheric, this fantasy thriller is at times macabre, at others poetic — and always impossible to put down. While the author draws on a traditional fairy-tale formula, she very cleverly turns it upside down and presents to readers a story as fresh as it is dark. The diverse characters, gritty twists and turns, vivid imagery and captivating premise make this the perfect choice for fans of Lewis Carroll, Lev Grossman and Edgar Allan Poe. The must-read of the season! — Carrie Townsend

To learn more about The Hazel Wood, read our debut author spotlight with Melissa Albert!

Get it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

And the other nominees are …

A Duke in the Night

Though A Duke in the Night is not quite a second-chance romance, Clara and August did share a meaningful moment on the dance floor years before that neither has ever forgotten. August's overzealous need to expand his empire (and remain a small part of Clara's life) coupled with the acts of his completely justified (though admittedly duplicitous) sister places him closer to Clara than he ever imagined possible. But Clara is not about to fall at August's feet (which makes me like her even more, obviously). In fact, Clara never worried about marriage at all. She had a very different mission in mind: teaching and encouraging young women with aspirations that extend beyond making a good marriage. Both Clara and August frustrated me, but in a good way! As staunchly independent individuals, it was HARD for them to reconcile their need to maintain autonomy with their desire to open up their lives and share it with another. It isn't an easy journey to their HEA, but it IS an entertaining one! — Kristin Stec

Get it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play


All good things must come to an end, even Beverly Jenkins’ Old West trilogy ... though it doesn’t go out with a metaphorical bang — but a literal one! What’s better than a heroine meeting her betrothed after shooting him? In Regan Carmichael’s defense, she did think handsome Dr. Colton Lee was a bandit. Tempest has everything readers have come to love from a Beverly Jenkins story. Regan and Colton’s romance starts out rocky, but eventually burns so bright. Extra delights include Colton’s shy and sweet daughter and his wild sister. — Emily Walton

Read our interview with Beverly about Tempest here!

Get it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

Two Man Station checks all the boxes on my personal 'perfect romance' list — danger, coworkers-to-lovers, a single dad and beautiful prose to boot. With two cops stationed remotely with only each other as company, the love that grows between them feels natural and realistic. Gio and Jason both have big personalities with well-drawn backstories that make their entwined story addicting, and what they endure together makes it that much more satisfying. Jason's son, Taylor, is absolutely adorable, and steals the spotlight in the best way possible. Following these two has set my expectations high, and I can't wait to see more from Henry. — Alyssa Duspiva

Get it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! You can also find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and purchase an item from the vendor, we receive a percentage of the profit (even if you don't buy the item we've linked to). Thank you for supporting RT Book Reviews!