December 2014 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. December 2014’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Suzanne Chazin’s procedural mystery, Land of Careful Shadows.

“Just when I think the year is over and I’ve read all the best books I could possibly read, last week (last week!) I picked up Suzanne Chazin’s latest … and I’m really glad I did. The hero of this sleeper hit is detective Jimmy Vega, who hails from the Bronx (disclosure: ME TOO). He’s currently investigating the murder of an undocumented Latina immigrant, which sends him back to the largely white and well-to-do town he spent some of his adolescence in. Chazin has a sensitive touch as she explores the struggles of undocumented immigrants, as well as the tension involved in assimilating into “mainstream” white society at the cost of one’s own cultural identity. As an American-born Puerto Rican cop, Jimmy clashes with the Guatemalan immigrants he investigates while also grappling with some of the same biases they face as people of color. Chazin presents a sympathetic and morally complex tale with enough twists and turns to keep readers hanging on to the finish.” — Regina Small

“I’m a big fan of mysteries, so discovering a new author to love is a big deal. Safe to say I’ve added Suzanne Chazin to my list! Her mystery reads almost like a character study, as detective Jimmy Vega deals with a murder, a missing child, his own troubled teenage daughter and the ghosts of his past. We get such incisive looks into so many lives, the mystery is almost an added bonus. You’ll really feel for Vega as he stands as a man alone, not accepted by the immigrants nor his fellow cops, trying to do the right thing in a world of grey.” — Elissa Petruzzi

“Land of Careful Shadows immediately throws the reader into the mystery right along with Detective Vega, a charming, smart protagonist, and doesn’t slow down until the end. This examination of an often overlooked aspect of suburban life is intriguing, and Chazin pulls it off with grace.” — Elisa Verna

Here are the other books we considered for our December 2014 Seal of Excellence Award:

The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy – I had been waiting for this second installment of Kennedy’s fabulous Twelve Kingdoms series since I turned the final page of The Mark of the Tala, our June SOE winner. While Andi, our previous heroine, always doubted her worth, the same could not be said for Princess Amelia. Ami was the beloved beautiful princess, the crown jewel of the Twelve Kingdoms. And when she married handsome prince Hugh of Avonlidgh, it seemed like she’d already found her happily ever after. But The Tears of the Rose tears Ami down — and rebuilds her. After Hugh’s shocking and sudden death, Ami is paralyzed with grief and without direction. Pregnant with Hugh’s child, she is torn between kingdoms, seeking — ultimately empty — gratification in the idea that she is the human avatar of the goddess Glorianna. The irresistible White Monk, Ash, shakes Ami out of this grandiose, false vision of herself. He helps her find the real Ami – not a goddess, not a pampered princess, but a person of conscience. Kennedy does a pitch-perfect job of not only charting Ami’s belated journey into adulthood, but of making her love for Ash emotional and believable.” — Regina Small

“Reisz’s Original Sinners series messes with your head in the best way possible. With The Saint, readers’ emotions were put through the wringer, but in The King, we get more of a wacky adventure, featuring one of the series’ most beloved characters — Kingsley Edge. The highlight of this book is the relationship between Kingsley and his lesbian assistant Sam, and their bond over struggling to grow up queer. The relationship between Søren and Kingsley is also developed further, and Søren has some of the most romantic one-liners of the series thus far. I can’t wait for the next one!” — Elisa Verna

“We’ve been dying to get our grabby hands on Chase’s book ever since the big reveal that Chase was a woman — Lady Georgiana, in fact, someone series fans already knew! MacLean doesn’t disappoint as she wraps up her Rules of Scoundrels series, weaving those loose ends closed while giving us an exciting, heart-wrenching romance. Watching Georgiana attempt to re-enter society for the good of her daughter, though she’s thwarted at every turn, will make you root even more for this independent heroine to finally get her HEA. All her scoundrels are happily paired off, after all. Doesn’t Chase deserve the same?” — Elissa Petruzzi

“There’s a lot to love about Eileen Dreyer’s latest heroine, Fiona Ferguson, in Twice Tempted. Does she care about losing her rightful place in society when her heartless grandfather turns both her and her sister out of his house … and onto the streets? Not one whit. The only thing Fiona cares about is her twin, Mairead, a brilliant mathematician and astronomer who suffers from a form of Asperger’s Syndrome. Fiona’s commitment to her sister is admirable, especially since she’s fairly content to live her life as a near penniless spinster just to keep Mairead close to an observatory. So it’s really no wonder that Alex Knight is smitten with Fiona. As a friend of their brother, Alex is desperate to keep Fiona and Mairead safe, even if he can’t stop thinking about Fiona. While Fiona and Mairead are the heart of Twice Tempted, Alex is definitely a worthy man — the white Knight as Chuffy calls him — for our heroine.” — Regina Small

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

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