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. May 2016’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Joanna Shupe’s historical romance Magnate.
I love a Regency-set historical, but sometimes it’s fun to watch people fall in love some other time. Shupe’s depiction of The Gilded Age, when so much change was happening, is an enchanting backdrop for her love story. Her heroine can go out to dinner (alone!) with the hero! How things end up at that dinner, well … is all part of why historical romances are so great. The hero here will make your heart hurt as he struggles to love his lady as she so well deserves. A real treat! — Elissa Petruzzi
With her meticulous research of New York City during the Gilded Age, Shupe’s new series, The Knickerbocker Club, takes her readers into the worlds of both the wealthy old-world Knickerbockers and the up-and-coming nouveau rich. Along with her finely developed characters, she gives an informative view of stocks and speculation and pairs a man and a woman from vastly unconventional backgrounds in this sexually charged, intense, poignant and powerfully written love story. — Joan Hammond
Historical fans will delight in traveling back to New York’s Gilded Age thanks to Shupe’s latest passionate, emotional tale. Though her hero Emmett has climbed his way out of the Five Points slums, his position within a steel empire does not leave him chasing “elite” women. Then he meets Lizzie — whose stock exchange knowledge rivals that of brokers on the floor. Will their professional and personal relationships be able to coexist?— Danielle Valente
And the nominees for May 2016 Seal of Excellence were …
Wow. Post-apocalyptic fans rejoice, because Joe Hill’s latest, the much anticipated The Fireman, puts readers right at the forefront of what could be the end of the world. This is a definite must-read for fantasy fans, but with violence-galore, it may not be for everyone. “Draco Incendia Trychophyton,” the fictitious disease referred to as “Dragonscale,” infects its victims and marks them will scrawling designs of black and gold. A few characters describe the marks as pretty, and they certainly sound pretty — until the disease causes the sick to spontaneously combust. There’s no cure in sight and our heroine Harper Grayson is at the center of it all. As the stakes rise, Harper soon needs help. With an increasingly unhinged husband, assistance comes from unlikely places — a man with a fireman’s jacket and a British accent and who can seemingly master the fire burning under his skin. Haunting and engaging, this one is impossible to put down. — Emily Walton
There’s something about Joe Hill’s prose in The Fireman that lets you know that he carefully selected every word of this 700-plus page horror novel. You’ll be sucked right in from the very first page, wondering what is happening and why, as people around the world begin to burn. Nurse Harper Grayson is a great protagonist, she’s likeable and not a pushover and a worthy guide as we learn about Hill’s world — and the mysterious Fireman. — Elissa Petruzzi
Christine Rimmer successfully ushers the shotgun bride trope into the modern age with James Bravo’s Shotgun Bride. Our heroine Addie is pregnant, and our hero James is not the father — but you try telling her grandfather Levi that! When Addie is as baffled as I am by the thought that a woman must be married in order to have a baby, I begin to really love her. Meanwhile, James is your all around good guy hero. Despite being kidnapped and held at gunpoint, James has a serious sense of loyalty toward his friend Addie and he is determined to stand by her side. I think we all know where this is going, yes? The cover gives away more than I ever could, so suffice it to say there are lots of hijinx on the way to this duo’s HEA. But how does it all happen? You’ll get no more spoilers from me!— Kristin Wise
Mallery has a way of placing you right in the middle of the gossip and small-town drama of Fool’s Gold — and you won’t want to pack your bags any time soon. In her latest, Best of My Love, the contemporary romance fan-favorite brings us Shelby Gilmore and Aidan Mitchell’s love story, which is just as sweet as our heroine’s bakery treats. Best of My Love adds depth with a dark backstory, which will make you root for the duo even more. These two “friends” promise to stay just that — so Shelby can learn how to trust men and so Aidan can change his approach with women — but will this be possible?—Danielle Valente
At first glance Britt-Marie, of Fredrik Backman’s Britt-Marie Was Here, is the sort of insufferable woman you wouldn’t want to run into at the grocery store — the sort of woman who’s aggressively passive-aggressive. In her 60s, she’s set in her ways. But when she can’t ignore her cheating husband any longer, she strikes out on her own — first stop, the unemployment office. This novel is an engrossing read, with a delightful band of characters from the town of Borg, where Britt-Marie moves to be the temporary recreational center caretaker. Soon she finds herself swept up in the town and the “coach” of the local children’s soccer team. The poor woman doesn’t even like soccer! Though her ex-husband adored it. There’s plenty of unexpected friendship, lots of laughs and even heartache, plus an ending that sticks with you long after the book is closed. — Emily Walton
Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! You can find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.