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. April 2016’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Annabeth Albert‘s novella Knit Tight.
While Albert’s latest Portland Heat novel is short, it packs a heck of a lot of emotion in those scant 132 digital pages. The men at the center of the story, Brady and Evren, are so delightfully charming, you’ll want to peel them off the screen of your e-reader and take them home with you. From the way they treat the people around them and how they tackle their issues in their own lives to the way they slowly open up to each other and start to let love in, there’s not a single moment in this story that doesn’t feel honest and real — and so worth experiencing yourself. Whether you’re a fan of male/male romances already or this is your first LGBTQ love story, you’ll find yourself looking for more once you close the book, because this is what love is supposed to look like. — Jennifer Peters
There’s no sweater curse here! Apologies for the knitter’s humor, but Albert artfully combines several cult-ish worlds (that of knitting/crafting, coffee houses and Portland) into a really lovely romance. Evren and Brady’s relationship develops at a slow burn — an impressive feat for a novella. There’s a great supporting cast, and you’ll really root for these two men to find love, as Albert makes them so deserving. Albert’s descriptive prose is just perfect, I can just see the coffee house and the lattes Brady so lovingly crafts. Now to vacation in Portland so I can enter the cozy contest too … — Elissa Petruzzi
Knit Tight is so adorable it’s going to make you want to move to Portland and buy some yarn. I really love stories where siblings are roped into a parental role, and watching Brady learn he doesn’t have to shoulder everything on his own was wonderful. You can get through this read in a few hours at a coffee shop — and, trust me, once you start you won’t want to put it down. — Sarah McDaniel Dyer
And the nominees for April 2016 Seal of Excellence are …
Historical romances have quickly become my favorites under the romance umbrella, and Amanda Quick’s delightful romance/mystery Til Death Do Us Part is one of many reasons why. While the whodunit is a big part of the story — and a brilliantly fun and dangerous romp through 19th-century London — the romance is what really hooked me. Calista is the perfect everywoman: smart, kind, successful and a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps heroine whom you’ll be rooting for from the start. Trent, on the other hand, is the kind of hero who takes a few extra pages to fall for; he’s gruff and a bit surly, but when Calista catches his eye, he becomes a lovable curmudgeon — to say the least. Seeing their romance unfold so carefully and realistically was everything I look for in a romance, and I honest-to-god swooned a few times while reading. Future boyfriends: Beware! It will take work to top Trent. — Jennifer Peters
Romance fans know that Quick/Castle/Krentz can pretty much wow us in any genre. Her latest is a great example, as this is a killer (pun intended, basically always) historical mystery and romance. You’ll also get to learn lots of fun factiods about Victorian attitudes and customs surrounding funerals and death, which I found to be incredibly interesting. Just more proof that Quick is a master. And as a true mystery buff, this plot took me a while to unravel. All in all, very good fun! — Elissa Petruzzi
I love books about the Wild West, but I find most of them skimp on just how bloody the west was. That’s not the case with Melissa Lendhardt’s Sawbones. I also love stories about women who refuse to let anything stand in their way, and this story of a female doctor who won’t let anything stop her from practicing medicine on the frontier really fit the bill. This book is full of historical detail but definitely not for the faint of heart. — Sarah McDaniel Dyer
Nobody But You by Jill Shalvis follows two wildly independent people as they forge a path to love. Sophie is newly divorced and determined to prove that she can make it on her own, even if that means that the only thing she takes from her wealthy ex is the boat he loved more than her. Meanwhile, Army Special Forces officer Jacob just spent nine years trying to make it without family and he’s accepted that it’s no way to live (clearly these two could learn from one another). The two meet after Sophie sneakily tries to dock her boat in his slip for free each night (tee hee, that’s an actual plot point, not a euphemism) and sparks fly immediately. Of course, Sophie is a bit gunshy after her divorce (the random women who keep tracking down her boat for the purpose of sleeping with her ex-husband aren’t helping) and she tries desperately to push Jacob away, disappearing for nights at a time without a safe place to dock. Their chemistry is undeniable (making for plenty of steamy, sexy pages), but it definitely takes them a while to realize that they need to be together forever. — Kristin Wise
Like all good historical romances, A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels describes a lush era — an appropriate atmosphere for romance, while also schooling its readers on history (in this case, the Battle of Quatre Bras). This story delivers with a delicious sham betrothal as our leads, Cooper and Dani, work together to find the blackmailer who risks upending both of their families. Their banter is delightful and Dani is a terrific and fresh heroine! — Emily Walton
Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! You can find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.