August 2017: Seal of Excellence

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. August 2017’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare.


Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal was 100 percent one of those books I just couldn’t bear to put down until I was finished — it was too good! I could tell I was doomed as soon as Emma showed up to the Duke of Ashbury’s home in his former-fiancee’s wedding dress … demanding payment for the work she did on the dress. Emma’s nerve is electric, and the romantic and sexual tension between her and Ash is off the charts. Ash himself is so incredibly dashing … but brooding … and heartbreaking. Tessa Dare really shows off her mastery in this title, and for fans of the marriage-of-convenience trope? This book is a love letter to you! — Emily Walton

When Emily tells me that I absolutely have to read a book, I listen. She did not steer me wrong with The Duchess Deal! There are so, so many reasons why this book is fantastic, but the hero’s painful past and very visible physical scars is what truly sealed the deal for me. Let’s be honest — aesthetically sexy heroes are a dime a dozen. Washboard abs are ubiquitous. Sure they all have hearts of gold beating beneath their perfectly defined pectoral muscles, but it’s generally their appearance that first sets our hearts aflutter. After a devastating and painful war injury that scarred more than half of his body, Ash believes that his appearance is more likely to inspire disgust than lust (his nasty ex-fiancée is to blame for these feelings of inadequacy). But then Emma appears in his study — in a wedding dress no less! She doesn’t shy away from Ash, but stands her ground, demanding the payment she is owed for a wedding gown she crafted for Ash’s former fiancée. Romance is the furthest thing from Ash’s mind when he impulsively offers to make Emma a duchess in order to bring the ledger back into balance, but even the most curmudgeonly heroes can’t fight the pull of true love … — Kristin Stec

The marriage-of-convenience tropes is truly one of my favorites, I just love it because it puts it puts the author in the spot of, “Well, what now?” When you read so many romances, as I do, I find that MOC books have so many more delightful plot twists, as the hero and heroine are already hitched. My second true love is a practical heroine. Ash proposes to Emma, and while she’s shocked, she anaylzes the situation and says what we all probably would, in common vernacular: Well, duh! Truly delightful,.  — Elissa Petruzzi

Get it: Amazon | | Kobo | GooglePlay | iBooks

And the SOE nominees were …

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey

In the beginning, Afterlife seems like a normal procedural crime thriller … until the main character dies, and realizes a new world was just underneath the one he knew. Now Will Brody must attempt to help his living girlfriend and FBI agent, Claire McCoy, find a terrorist in Chicago — from the afterlife. But it’s not a lone terrorist who is killing people at random — an ancient evil has risen and is threatening the living and the dead. Afterlife is a gift to any reader, and for me, it hit every thing I love in a book: building tension, excellent worldbuilding, a truly terrifying antagonist and a power couple for the ages. It’s no wonder Afterlife got a 5 GOLD Star rating — and a movie deal to boot! — Alyssa Duspiva

Get it: Amazon | | Kobo | GooglePlay | iBooks

Seeking Sarah by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

I love books with tales of familial deception and drama and Seeking Sarah delivers both in spades, but the emotional core is equally strong. You see, Brooke’s mother, Sarah, passed away years ago … so she believes. When a family tragedy has Brooke believing differently, she learns that Sarah is actually alive and well — with a brand new family! The hurt Brooke feels pushes her from reconciliation to revenge, but her plan ends up being more costly than imagined. — Emily Walton

Get it: Amazon | | Kobo | GooglePlay | iBooks

Peep our QA with Reshonda to learn more about Seeking Sarah

The Forbidden by Jodi Ellen Malpas

Very few things in life are truly black and white. Occasionally, a moral gray area appears. The Forbidden explores one of those very murky gray areas.

It’s difficult to explain exactly why The Forbidden is so gripping without spoilers, but I am going to try. The hero, Jack, is trapped. He is deeply unhappy in his personal life, but after accepting a business investment in return for his loyalty to the donor, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to untangle himself from the mess. Then he meets Annie. Annie is an architect who’s just started her own firm. She’s also just purchased her first apartment. Life is good for Annie (far better than it is for Jack). Jack tries to warn Annie off, but a series of serendipitous events keep bringing them together. Although the fallout from their relationship could be disastrous for both of them, intense chemistry makes it impossible for them to break things off. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly — readers should expect plenty of traditional Jodi Ellen Malpas twists that will keep you guessing about the ending. — Kristin Stec

Get it: Amazon | | Kobo | GooglePlay | iBooks

Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! If you want to know more about Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal, we’ve got a great QA we recommend reading. You can also find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.

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