June 2015 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, in the magazine issue and on the website. June 2015’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry.

“When I first read the premise of Katie McGarry’s brand-new Thunder Road series — YA angst set against the backdrop of a Kentucky motorcycle club — I was skeptical. YA and motorcycle clubs? Could this possibly work? Well, in case you were wondering: egg on my faceNowhere But Here is an outstanding entry in the YA genre. There’s such exquisite joy and heartbreak in watching sheltered Emily leave her safe, secure world in Florida to discover — and gradually warm up to — her biological father and his rough-around-the-edges family. McGarry handles issues of biology, identity, fear of the unknown  — and the courage to overcome that fear in the name of love — with a sensitive touch. By the book’s end, I wanted to throw my arms around Eli, grandma Olivia and, of course, Oz, Emily’s stalwart protector. This isn’t something I thought I’d say but: I can’t wait to visit with the Reign of Terror MC again.” — Regina Small

“The best part about Nowhere But Here is how much good girl Emily and biker boy Oz dislike each other, coupled with how much their families don’t want them to be together. Literally no one in this book wants the hero and heroine to fall in love, and that makes their HEA journey so much more satisfying. McGarry is an excellent writer, creating a world immersed in gritty MC life, filled with intriguing characters who made me curious for their backstories.” — Elisa Verna

I’m always a little leery when trying out a new MC romance: will the hero be too pushy? Will I get mad when he inevitably tries to boss the heroine around? (I also struggle with billionaire doms.) I was especially nervous about a MC YA. But of course, I should have trusted Katie McGarry. I’ve loved all her previous titles, why not this one? Turns out Nowhere But Here is a drama-filled treat. You will love it, for real. McGarry has a talent for creating a whole cast of characters you’d like to know — for YA, in particular, her adult characters are always as well developed as the teens. I loved visiting with the Reign of Terror MC!” — Elissa Petruzzi

Here are the other books we considered for our June 2015 Seal of Excellence Award:

“Light on the drama and heavy on the sex, Opening Up by Lauren Dane is pure fun. PJ Colman’s family business is selling car tires, but her passion lies in custom paint jobs. When her brother, father and uncle are reluctant to expand the company, PJ sets out on her own. Asa Barrons, owner of a sleek motorcycle shop, sees PJ’s talent and the two begin working together. While what keeps them apart isn’t a huge conflict (Asa is about 10 years older than PJ and doesn’t think she’s mature enough), PJ and Asa are both solid characters. PJ doesn’t take any bull from the men in her life, including Asa, and Asa is strong enough to stand his ground without turning into a moody jerk. Plus, he’s just freaking hot. The sex scenes are outstanding, par for the course for a Dane novel. I can’t recommend this book enough.” — Elisa Verna

“Every time I finish a book in the Twelve Kingdoms series and declare that it’s better than the last, I feel like I’m betraying my past self. After The Tears of the Rose, I thought there couldn’t possibly be a more moving portrayal of a character’s evolution or a sexier fantasy romance. But somehow, Jeffe Kennedy has proven me wrong yet again. In The Talon of the Hawk, Kennedy explores Ursula’s divided loyalties — to her sisters and the future of the Twelve Kingdoms, and to her increasingly unhinged father, Uorsin. Ursula stepping out of her father’s shadow dovetails beautifully — and painfully — with her sexual awakening, brought on by Harlan, the powerful-yet-gentle mercenary captain. For series fans, Ursula’s story pays off so much of the ongoing mythology of the Twelve Kingdoms. And Harlan’s unwavering devotion to Ursula is so poignant and perfect — I’m still swooning.” — Regina Small

“If Tom Hiddleston sparked your interest in the Trickster god then you’re going to want to pick up Joanne M. Harris’s The Gospel of Loki. This retelling of Norse Mythology from Loki’s point of view is good enough to read in one sitting. Loki is a sarcastic anti-hero who you’ll love even when he’s up to no good — and trust me, he’s often up to no good. Loki is just as good at talking his way out of trouble as he is at getting into it. Even though the book is based on myth it includes rather modern takes on the problems of fame, idol worship and not feeling like you belong. Fun and fast paced, this novel will leave you longing to learn even more about these fantastic characters. ” — Sarah McDaniel Dyer

“What begins as a steamy vacation hookup in Florida ultimately sucks Kit Finn into a web of deceit, murder and terror back in New York in Kate White’s The Wrong Man. We find ourselves playing super sleuth alongside Kit, trying to figure out what exactly is going on, though White makes sure that her carefully plotted mystery is not easy to solve. One crazy happening leads to another and you’re not sure where to turn next, or who to trust. This suspenseful read will have you examining your apartment before bed — making sure your pillows are arranged the way you left them — and feeling weary about random encounters. White sold me with her latest, and I know it will make you feel the same.” — Danielle Valente

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

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