February 2016 Seal of Exellence

LITTLE SECRETS by Megan HartEach 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 2016's RT Seal of Excellence — the editors' pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Megan Hart's Little Secrets!

As soon as I finished Megan Hart's Little Secrets, I knew I needed to talk (read: bully) everyone on RT's editorial staff into reading it. At first blush, Little Secrets seems to have all the trappings of a horror movie — it does star a fragile heroine growing ever more paranoid as the signs of ghostly activity in her new house begin to pile up. But what Hart gives readers is so much more; it's a crackling psychological thriller with depth. Working within the idiom of horror, Hart brings an unsparing, incisive look at family and relationships that is totally surprising at every turn. Don't bother trying to guess the ending. You won't. — Regina Small

Megan Hart has been one of my favorite authors for years (years, people!). The thing I love best about her writing is that no matter the genre, the book she's written is always so much more. This isn't just a haunted house story: it's about motherhood and marriage and the fragility of life and oh, I could go on. But you'll just need to read it, and then start an obsessive email chain about it like the RT editors did. — Elissa Petruzzi
 
It's hard to explain Megan Hart's Little Secrets without a lot of hand gestures and cringing. The subtly with which Hart deals with a troubled marriage is fantastic. In good haunted house stories there's always something keeping the characters in the house or from finding out facts sooner; using the heroine's pregnancy as a way to immobilize her and signify issues being ignored was unique and well handled. The ambient creepiness of this book ramps up until an ending that is impossible to guess. It will leave you immediately seeking out someone whose also read it. You may end up like the RT staff, furiously texting each other in the middle of the night. — Sarah McDaniel Dyer

I read Megan Hart’s Little Secrets during the big east coast snowstorm … and I’m glad I did! Otherwise I’m not sure I would have been able to put it down. Hart spins a disturbing story, one where you don’t know whom to trust. Is Ginny slowly losing her mind? Are those around her trying to convince her she is? Or is the house she and her husband recently moved into truly haunted? — Emily Walton

Here are the other books we considered for our February 2016 Seal of Excellence Award:
 
My American Duchess by Eloisa James
 
Eloisa James delights with another page turner about a Regency-era Runaway Bride in My American Duchess. Merry has called off her fair share of weddings in America, leaving her in search of a husband among English nobility. All goes well with Lord Cedric ... until she meets his twin brother. With one sensual conversation, touches of humor, a strong presence of family loyalty and, of course, passion, readers will find themselves completely engrossed in Merry's tale. — Danielle Valente
 
Eloisa James is an auto-buy author for me, so it's no surprise that I loved My American Duchess. It's a real treat to watch an American experience Regency England, saying all the things we want to! Merry's frizzy hair and distaste for watered-down lemonade make her a relatable and lovable heroine. Without spoiling anything I'll also say that it was wonderful to get to see Merry and Trent really spend time together and get to know each other. These two definitely earned their HEA. — Elissa Petruzzi
 
Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren
 
I don't say this lightly, but Wicked Sexy Liar may be my favorite Christina Lauren title ever. Before picking up this last book (insert weeping emoji here) in the Wild Seasons series, I really didn't have much interest in London, Lola's surfer chick roommate, or Mia's ex, Luke, who barely appeared in the earlier books. So much the better: I was blown away by this deeply moving and wickedly hot romance. Christina Lauren sets up Luke as a shameless lothario running from commitment, who soon melts when he sees how guarded and self-protective London is. The problems they face as a couple — Luke trying to leave behind his caddish ways and London fighting an ingrained sense of caution and reserve — are achingly real. Oh, and any book that treats playing video games as a prelude to sex gets my personal stamp of approval. — Regina Small
 
Countdown to Zero Hour by Nico Rosso

There is so much to love in Nico Rosso's first outing in the Black Ops: Automatik series, Countdown to Zero Hour: the tough-as-nails chef heroine trying to save enough cash for her own restaurant, the hot-as-hell hero who gets her caught up with the Russian mob and the intense undercover operation that's about to put them both in mortal peril. My favorite part? As usual, it's a toss-up between sex and food. When Chef Hayley isn't cooking up romance and intrigue with bodyguard Art Diaz, she's preparing mouthwatering Russian cuisine that I could've read about (or eaten) all day. One question: Does anyone know where I can get some good pelmeni? — Regina Small

Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin

If you like stories about second chances then you'll love Jen McLaughlin's Dare To Run. Lucas is a member of the Sons of Steel Row and he has long admired Heidi, the local bartender, from afar. The two have always had chemistry, but it never goes beyond flirtation. That is of course until a rival gang threatens Heidi's safety and Lucas swoops in like a white knight to save the day. Make no mistake, the story is a rough depiction of life in a very violent gang. There's blood, guns, knives and some serious altercations. However, Heidi and Lucas manage to rise above it all to find love (and have some super hot sex). You'll be rooting for this couple all the way to their HEA. — Kristin Wise

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