When a duke’s forgotten ward embroils herself in a scandal, the duke decides to deal with her himself. That’s easier said than done.
Alec Stuart is a “proud Scotsman and unwilling twenty-first Duke of Warnick,” having inherited the title unexpectedly after a long series of dukes died without issue. He prefers to avoid the aristocracy, staying in Scotland to tend his whiskey distillery and his lands, which is how it escapes his notice that he has inherited a spirited young ward along with the title. Alec doesn’t even know Miss Lillian Hargrove exists until his solicitor informs him that Miss Hargrove has gotten herself thoroughly ruined. When Alec arrives in London, the situation is worse than he thought. Out of sheer loneliness, Lily let herself be taken in by a conceited artist, who's promised to unveil a nude portrait of her in 10 days’ time. The ton is all agog, and Alec must call on friends to help him find an emergency husband for Lily before the painting is unveiled. He doesn’t think anyone is good enough for the beautiful Lily, not even himself. MacLean’s (The Rogue Not Taken, 2015, etc.) signature humor and ingenuity are in evidence throughout this novel, the second in her Scandal and Scoundrel series—such as the 17 dukes who die within a fortnight, causing Alec to inherit the title. She writes love scenes and romantic dialogue with audacity, which sometimes leads her to overwrite a bit, as when she paints Lily’s erstwhile lover as a ridiculously arrogant popinjay who is somehow a talented painter, a gifted actor, and the owner of a theater company—all while partying every night with the English nobility. Even with a few outrageous characters and a far-fetched plot, this novel is so enjoyable that the author can be forgiven for overdoing it here and there.
A biracial saloon owner hides his heritage after the Civil War but can’t bring himself to marry a spoiled white woman instead of the strong African-American woman who’s taken his fancy.
Jenkins (Homecoming, 2015, etc.) explores the years after the Civil War with the story of Rhine Fontaine, the son of a white plantation owner and the enslaved descendant of African queens. Rhine’s light skin and green eyes allow him to pass as white, and he rises to prominence in the town of Virginia City, Nevada. He’s a man of property, a rising local politician, and he’s engaged to be married to a beautiful white socialite. Only his business partner and his half brother know the truth about his parentage. When Rhine comes upon an African-American woman who's been robbed and left to die in the desert outside town, he brings her back to Virginia City, nurses her back to health, and helps her find a job cooking at a local boardinghouse. Eddy Carmichael’s cooking may be divine, but she's spent much of her life scrubbing floors to avoid ending up a prostitute like her younger sister. She’s thrilled by the new job and determined to save up money to open her own restaurant. When Rhine casts aside his fiancee and starts hanging around Eddy’s kitchen, she’s sure his motives are anything but honorable. For Rhine, the idea of marrying Eddy makes him reconsider his decision to renounce the African side of his ancestry. In spite of a few forgivable anachronisms, Jenkins’ prose is lively and fluid, her characters complex and engaging, and her plot full of interesting side stories.
For readers who enjoy love stories with steamy interludes against historical backdrops, Jenkins’ latest is not to be missed.
A Welsh grocer’s son has built a retail empire in London, but an infatuation with the daughter of an earl threatens his self-control.
When the protagonists of a romance novel cement their engagement within the first three chapters, readers can look forward to hundreds of pages of obstacles and miscommunications before the knot is tied. The second book in Kleypas' The Ravenels series (Cold-Hearted Rake, 2015) is no different, with dark secrets, troublesome relatives, and misadventures keeping Lady Helen Ravenel and Rhys Winterborne apart. But Kleypas has taken a tired trope and made it irresistible, with glittering prose and characters the reader longs to befriend. When the clumsy Welsh tycoon kisses his fiancee for the first time, she takes to her bed with a migraine. Her concerned family tells Rhys the engagement must be broken off. But Lady Helen refuses to let him go, courting scandal by coming to see him in the offices above his department store. Rhys observes her shabby clothing and assumes she’s rekindling their engagement because her family needs money, but Helen convinces him that though her family had become impoverished, the recent discovery of minerals on their estate has fixed their financial problems. He seizes the chance to compromise her virtue so her family won’t be able to prevent the match, and Lady Helen undertakes to convince her family that she really does want to marry him. As the novel progresses, layers of social polish are stripped away to reveal that both Rhys and Helen have been painfully lonely their entire lives, and they must give up other loyalties in order to be true to each other. The novel’s parade of complicated characters is set against a compelling backdrop of Victorian England, with all the fashion and technological changes of the era.
Kleypas is a masterful writer, and her latest offering will be welcomed by fans old and new.
A female private detective tackles a retired NFA player in this standout romance, the eighth in the bestselling author’s Chicago Stars series.
A champion quarterback with a Super Bowl ring to prove it, entrepreneur Cooper Graham is just as competitive in business as he used to be on the field. Piper Dove, the daughter of a private detective, is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps as the new owner of her family’s detective agency. The two meet at Coop’s Chicago nightclub, Spiral, where Piper is investigating Coop on behalf of a potential business partner when she’s mistaken for a stalker. To keep from blowing her cover, she plays along. But when Coop finds out the truth, he discovers that his alleged stalker might be exactly the person he needs to investigate suspicious activity at his club. Their instant chemistry ignites an already explosive situation at Spiral, where any number of disgruntled employees and fans might be the saboteurs behind attacks ranging from bad online reviews to drone surveillance. But each one is written with enough levity to make it feel like a challenge rather than a nightmare come true. Whether she’s fending off football groupies or disarming a neighbor who threatens her with a Nerf gun, Piper is endearingly nutty and complicated. She thinks Coop would be better off dating a beauty with a trust fund; all he really wants is a woman he can trust. As she tries to take the moral high road by protecting him, she ends up lowering her standards by lying and sneaking around. And although Coop is gifted with both charm and brute strength, his constant need to win his arguments with Piper thankfully makes him seem more human rather than too perfect or, worse, overbearing.
This thoroughly enjoyable novel delivers a swift kick to the heart—an essential summer read.
When a hard-of-hearing college senior has trouble understanding a professor in a required class, she meets a deaf graduate student who introduces her to a whole new world. When she begins to fall in love with him, though, secrets from her past threaten their happiness.
Carli is hard of hearing, but her father’s disdain for what he sees as her imperfection and her family’s unofficial motto of Handle it on your own have made her feel shamed by her hearing loss. At the beginning of her senior year of college, though, she has difficulty understanding a professor with a big mustache using only her hearing aids; Reed, a deaf graduate student in the class, encourages her to look at options the school offers for hard-of-hearing students and helps her audit an ASL class, since she’s never learned to sign. Soon Carli and Reed are an item, and Carli is quickly enfolded into Reed’s circle of friends. For the first time in her life, she feels at home and appreciated for exactly who she is. But a lifetime of judgment and insecurity makes it hard for her to believe in love and acceptance—and then a visit to her family leads to a horrifying encounter with her father, and Carli learns a devastating secret that alters her hope for a brighter future. Meanwhile, Reed knows Carli’s strength and determination could get her through anything, but her slide into despair leaves him frustrated and unsure how to help. Brown offers a powerful look into the world of hearing loss in this emotional debut, though Carli’s constant internal conflict and refrain of “I’m not good enough” get a little excessive. Nonetheless, this is a notable and groundbreaking debut by an author to watch.
A veterinary student and a CEO toe the line between business and pleasure as they juggle work, play, and their dachshunds, all while trying to figure out who is threatening a beloved animal rescue center.
Piper Summers isn’t having a good day. Not only has she gotten fired from two of her three jobs—driving taxis and delivering pizzas (leaving her only to perform singing telegrams)—but her taxi is stolen from right behind her, with Aiden Caldwell’s briefcase inside. Aiden, the CEO whose lap she had just fallen into during a singing telegram gone wrong, is instantly drawn to her, and when they come across each other yet again, he offers her a job: walking his new dog, Sophie, who happens to be very friendly with her dog, Colin. Circumstances continue to throw them together, which is great—unless those circumstances include increasingly severe damage to the rescue center where Piper volunteers. Debut author Griffin gives the reader a satisfying blend of romance and mystery while also taking the time to give us real—if a touch predictable—characters with their own personality hurdles to jump and realizations to make. Blend in an appropriate amount of playful banter and dog shenanigans, and you’ve got the makings of a promising start to a new series.
A delightfully adorable mystery-romance with a well-planned plot. And dogs!
As Gould uses kink to mourn his ex-boyfriend Hal's death at the hands of a negligent dom, he has to decide what he wants from his relationships with Kel and Greg, the married owners of Riddle, the club where Hal died.
While Gould finds himself fulfilled deeply by his submissive play with Kel and Greg, he's holding a grudge over their part in Hal's death and their decision to let Bill, the dom who left him tied up unattended, back into their space. Kel is a plus-size mistress who values trust and communication above everything else, which is hard for Gould. He lives in his own head and uses submission as a way to try to stop his overly analytical mind from assigning meaning and blame. Author Rock (Manties In a Twist, 2016, etc.) is inspired in the way she positively represents a richly diverse community of nuanced characters. She's done her research about various fetishes and aspects of the kink community, and there's a sweet wholesomeness to the way the characters care for one another. Gould's friends are bound (no pun intended) by their histories and commitments to protecting their peers. The well-rounded characters and compelling plot don't require that the reader bring any knowledge of BDSM to the table or even that they share any fetishes. This is an unexpectedly great book. It would be easy to approach it only as kinky erotic fiction, but it's also an incredibly well-written story about friendship, unconventional love, grief, and finding a community. It's as funny as it is touching, and in the end, it's about finding the love that challenges and encourages you to be your best self.
Rock's happily-ever-after is bittersweet, beautiful, and deeply satisfying.
Sleeping with the boss has never seemed so appealing.
Michael, Duke of Hadlow, has everything he needs except a secretary. Never one to stand on convention, he hires Edwina Cheltam, recently widowed, who is desperately in need of a job to support herself and her daughter, Gertrude. The brusque and logical duke seeks efficiency above all else, and as Edwina is the best candidate despite being a woman, she and Gertrude move into his house and get to work. Though Michael and Edwina are instantly attracted to each other, they ignore it in order to work together, until they embark on a mutual seduction that they know can never be “anything more than what it is.” With chapters punctuated by reasons dukes fall in love ("26. Because no one dares to tell them they shouldn't"), the story moves Michael and Edwina from feelings of lust to a blossoming love that neither can admit and which ultimately drives them apart. But when Gertrude is kidnapped by Edwina’s former brother-in-law, Michael may be the only one who can save her. The fourth full-length book in the Dukes Behaving Badly series is as smart as its unusual duke, and Frampton’s witty banter is bested only by several back-to-back scenes that prove how erotic safe sex can be. Details about Regency-era railroad business add a touch of realism to this Cinderella tale, and readers will enjoy a hero who is lovable in different ways than the average aristocrat.
A conventional Regency tale of two delightfully unconventional lovers.
When a straight California girl marries her lesbian Indian friend to help her get a green card, she didn't expect to fall in love.
Rachel is working as a glorified administrative assistant for a little-known production company and struggling to pay off her student loans. Pari is looking to make a job change that will threaten her temporary work visa. A marriage of convenience will let Pari stay in the U.S., and living in Pari's luxury condo will help Rachel pay down her student loans more quickly. Both women have demons: Rachel is recovering from a significant eating disorder while Pari is wrestling with her mother's theoretical and tentative acceptance of her sexuality. After Pari introduces her parents to Rachel via Skype, her mother informs her that she will fly in to help the two brides plan a traditional Hindu wedding—and while she's there, she'll be staying in Pari's guest room, where Rachel has been sleeping. Wedding traditions are carried out while Rachel and Pari get to know one another a little more, and Rachel finds herself drawn to Pari in ways she's unsure of how to process. Rachel is the narrator here, so the reader is a little more clued in about her negligent mom and low-key work stress than about what's going on with Pari's family dynamics or job situation. However, the romantic and sexual tension between the two is well-written and moves the story along nicely. The notable thing about this novel is its intentional inclusiveness. People of color and people with mental illnesses are not often represented in mainstream romance. That both are active parts of this story is a reason to celebrate.
A well-written novel, both sexy and romantic, with broad and inclusive representation.
When Cat, a mysterious circus soothsayer, is captured by Griffin, a wily warlord who recently won his kingdom’s crown, she's disarmed by his strength, honor, and integrity, but she's afraid that tying her heart to his can only bring weakness and complications.
Cat has spent years in a circus, hiding from her past and avoiding the destiny that’s been ordained by an Oracle, until Griffin discovers her ability to know when people are lying and forces her to return with him to his kingdom. At first he's determined to use her as a weapon to help his family, which has recently taken the throne, but soon Griffin realizes that beneath Cat’s prickly personality lies a loyal heart and a font of magic unlike anything he’s ever seen—possibly unlike anything anyone has ever seen. Sexual and emotional tension crackles as they and their small band of warriors fight to get back to Griffin's kingdom, with Cat pledging her grudging allegiance after they're attacked by such a variety of enemies that it's hard to tell who’s after Griffin and who’s after Cat. Griffin is tired of magical royalty and nobility who look down their noses at their nonmagical subjects and ruin their kingdoms through selfish greed, and he's intrigued by his soothsayer, who clearly has noble breeding but has turned her back on her own past. She isn’t giving any secrets away, but as clues trickle out, it becomes clear that someone out there wants to take her alive and that the power Griffin has seen may be nothing compared to what she’s capable of, yet fighting her feelings—for Griffin, his team, his family—becomes almost as hard as hiding her magic. Debut author Bouchet tells a swashbuckling tale through Cat’s irreverent, diffident, yet still somehow buoyant first-person point of view; this is an exquisite high-fantasy romance with masterful worldbuilding based on Greek mythology.
An exciting fantasy/romance debut: action-packed, emotionally charged, and skillfully plotted.
After a nobleman’s heart is broken by his best friend’s sister, opportunities for scandal abound in the newest Birch Hall romance (A Lady's Guide to Ruin, 2015).
From Page 1, Colin Spenser, Marquess of Farleigh, is fretfully in love with Elinor Hargrove, whom he’d watched grow from an “irritating, nosy twig of a girl” into a 25-year-old beauty. He is minutes late trying to win her heart, however, beaten to a proposal by Matthew Newburne, a rival he didn’t know he had. Although Matthew dies tragically before he and Elinor can marry, Colin has given up on Elinor, and five years later he agrees to an engagement to a young Lady Penelope. Elinor, meanwhile, is once again a guest at the Farleigh estate, looking after Colin’s energetic teenage sister, Phoebe. As it turns out, Phoebe has discovered some mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of their older sister, Marie, in India several years earlier; she blames a rake named Edward Foyle and wants revenge. Separately, Colin has his own suspicions about his sister’s death and wants a very different form of revenge. As a close friend of the family, Elinor wants to get to the bottom of these mysterious rumors but also wants to keep Phoebe out of trouble and Colin from dying in a duel with Edward Foyle. In order to get to the villain in question, Elinor and Colin both end up, unbeknownst to each other, at a scandalous party involving “decadent displays of wealth, sex, and gluttony.” The notion of scandal is everywhere in this charming novel, and at times the reader has the entertaining dilemma of wondering what the real scandal will be. The sex comes rather late but it doesn’t disappoint. Elinor and Colin are well-matched in wit, vulnerability, and awkward sexual desire, and the mystery of Marie’s death in India is resolved in a satisfying and surprising way.