Book List

Best Romance Novels of 2014

Enthralling and breathtaking.

DO OR DIE

From the Reluctant Heroes series , Vol. 1

Attorney Phoebe Kruger is tasked with negotiating client Ian Dunn’s prison release, against his will, so he can rescue two kidnapped children, not realizing that doing so will set events in motion that will threaten dozens of lives—and a few hearts.

Considering his reputation as a former Navy SEAL and a suspected international jewel thief, Phoebe finds it a little odd that Ian is in jail for getting drunk and losing control of his car. But when an accident incapacitates Ian’s usual attorney, Phoebe is sent in his place. As a recent hire at the respected firm that represents Ian, she isn’t surprised when he’s hesitant to work with her. She is shocked, however, that he’s unwilling to accept a sweetheart deal designed by the government to get him out of jail scot-free in exchange for rescuing two kidnapped kids without causing an international incident. What neither Phoebe nor Martell—the attorney working on behalf of the government—knows is that Ian has his own agenda for being in prison, and if he leaves, for whatever reason, it will threaten the people closest to him. So once they spring him, Ian takes Phoebe hostage, then must rescue his brother and his family from the mob, assemble a team, connect with the FBI, work out a rescue plan with limited resources, deal with the devil in the form of an international assassin and work through long-standing family issues while navigating a sizzling-yet-unwelcome attraction to his new, unasked-for attorney. As outlandish as the plot sounds on paper, Brockmann effortlessly and expertly tosses hundreds of details into the air and juggles them with brilliance. The first in her Reluctant Heroes series, the novel will captivate readers with its intense, action-filled plot, alpha-and-a-half hero, and his smart, perfect-for-him heroine, as well as secondary characters who contribute pathos and humor.

Enthralling and breathtaking.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-54379-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

Dare starts her new series with a unique storyline, a sweet, fun nod to literary fandom, and two main characters who are...

ROMANCING THE DUKE

Izzy Goodnight has long given up on fairy tales, so she is shocked to learn that she has inherited a castle and must figure out what to do with the wounded duke who lives there.

As the daughter of a scholar famous for penning a series of tales about knights and maidens, Izzy knows a thing or two about fairy tales. However, she also knows hunger and financial desperation thanks to the same father, who never took the time to ensure she was cared for after his death. In fact, Izzy has spent her life looking after her father and supporting his career, so his betrayal in this manner is even more crushing. Learning she has inherited a castle from one of her father’s advisers sends her fleeing to the property, only to find a dilapidated building and the wounded duke who used to own it—and who is quite surprised and angry to learn he no longer does. Since Izzy has no money and the duke needs help, they agree she will stay on and help him get his affairs in order, and he will pay her for her services. Getting to the bottom of the mystery forces them to work closely together, and both are stunned when a strong attraction flares between them. But Izzy is the beloved daughter of a famous author, and her father’s adoring public comes calling, causing tension in the household. Add in Izzy’s self-consciousness regarding her plain appearance, the continued dispute over the castle and various quirky secondary characters, not to mention a few secrets and dangers along the bumpy path to the couple’s happily-ever-after, and you have the recipe for an effervescent, heart-tugging romance.

Dare starts her new series with a unique storyline, a sweet, fun nod to literary fandom, and two main characters who are perfect for each other yet never would have met if they weren’t each at a nadir in life’s journey.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-224019-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Higgins exhibits her storytelling artistry with another stunning romance that includes her trademark touches of...

IN YOUR DREAMS

When Emmaline Neal needs a date for her ex-fiance’s wedding, Jack Holland volunteers, eager to escape to Malibu from freezing Manningsport, New York, and the community that’s branded him a hero.

After rescuing four local teens from a car accident, Jack feels stifled by his sudden celebrity, especially since he feels unworthy. Hearing that friendly local cop Emmaline needs a date for a wedding in sunny California, Jack jumps in. Emmaline is the most down-to-earth person he knows, and helping her save face with an ex seems like a fair trade-off for some warm weather and a respite from his town’s suffocating admiration. For Emmaline, Jack is the last man in the world she wants to take since she has a huge crush on him but knows he's way out of her league. “Jack Holland was ridiculously gorgeous....Tall and blond with eyes that were so clear and perfect and pure that they made a person think of all sorts of ridiculous synonyms for blue.” However, with no one else on the horizon, she agrees, then falls for him even more when he poses as her lover and defends her to the awful ex and his bridezilla, not to mention the oblivious psychologist parents who are convinced she's gay. Sleeping together only complicates things, and back home, they fumble their relationship. Jack’s exquisite ex-wife is determined to get back together with him, while he’s suffering from a case of PTSD he refuses to acknowledge. While Emmaline knows Jack is attracted to her, he never shows any signs of fighting for her when it matters. Wounded and unsure, Jack and Emmaline examine their hearts and decide to fight for their unexpected yet perfect-for-each-other happy ending. Higgins returns to her popular Blue Heron series, creating two appealing, authentic characters who take a staggering emotional journey cushioned by humor and love.

Higgins exhibits her storytelling artistry with another stunning romance that includes her trademark touches of laugh-out-loud humor and tear-jerking pathos.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-373-77931-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harlequin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

Emotionally rewarding and elegantly written, with textured characters and a captivating plot, this is James at her best.

THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X

When Lady Xenobia is hired to restyle Thorn Dautry’s country estate to help him win a perfect bride, they're both loath to admit they’ve met their perfect matches.

The illegitimate yet beloved son of the Duke of Villiers, Thorn has made his own successful way in the world through his cleverness and entrepreneurial spirit. Rich beyond imagining, he's now turning his energy toward finding a wife. He has his eyes on Laetitia Rainsford, a quiet beauty with a harridan for a mother. The Rainsfords are short on cash, and Laetitia’s father is holding out for a huge dowry, despite Lady Rainsford’s disdain for the illegitimate, untitled Dautry. Thorn buys a country estate previously owned by a debauched lord, and he must completely refurbish the buildings and land before inviting his family and the Rainsfords to a house party that he hopes will end in an engagement. On the advice of his stepmother, Thorn hires Lady Xenobia—known to her friends as India—to manage the overwhelming project, and she executes every detail with grace and elegance. India is the daughter of a marquess, and Thorn knows she is above his reach, so he at first tries to ignore their flaming attraction, then gives in to it but clings to the idea of biddable, easygoing Laetitia as an appropriate bride. India and Thorn each have deep-seated insecurities and strong personalities, and their secretive courtship is intense and explosive. They are clearly perfect for each other but blinded by their own uncertainty and society’s expectations. Star romance author James revisits her best-selling Desperate Duchesses series with this compelling and passionate book. India and Thorn (aka Tobias, first met in This Duchess of Mine (2009) as a youth) are complex, intriguing and endearing, and their romance enchants. Secondary characters enhance the emotional stakes, and fans will enjoy another peek at popular hero Villiers and his wife, Eleanor.

Emotionally rewarding and elegantly written, with textured characters and a captivating plot, this is James at her best.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222389-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

Combining history, magic and adventure, the book balances emotional depth with buoyant storytelling.

VALOUR AND VANITY

Renowned glamourists Lord and Lady Vincent become the victims of an elaborate scam that leaves them in dire straits until they conceive of a daring strategy to strike back.

After an extended voyage with her family, Jane and Vincent are anxious to find some time to themselves, traveling to Murano. They have a letter of introduction from the prince regent and hope to work with an artisan to experiment on infusing glamour—magical illusions of sight, sound and light—into glass. On the way, they're waylaid by pirates, then rescued by a fellow passenger who takes them under his wing in the city. Without papers or money and with Vincent suffering a concussion from the attack, they're grateful for the gentleman’s help. Once they make progress on their revolutionary glamour process, however, they're detained by the local police and accused of fraud. Realizing their “friend” is a con man who has disappeared with all their notes and finished work, Jane and Vincent are left broke, in debt and under suspicion: “They had no funds and no friends at all. The only resources they had were the clothes upon their backs, and even those they owed money for.” Unable to find employment, Vincent becomes dispirited, especially when he must depend on the meager salary Jane manages to secure from a nearby convent. Things look up when a chance sighting of one of the crooks enables Vincent and Jane to turn the tables on them: “[S]he could see his mind working and putting together pieces of a plan, as surely as if he was plotting a glamural.” Kowal continues her creative Regency-set Glamourist Histories series with a clever, captivating plot that culminates in a magical heist storyline. Before we get there, though, we are treated to a touching examination of a loving marriage under duress and the connections and collaborations these extraordinary partners must create and reaffirm with each other and those around them in order to thrive. 

Combining history, magic and adventure, the book balances emotional depth with buoyant storytelling.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3416-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

A worthy conclusion to an extraordinary series.

NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER

After she’s spent the last decade incognito, posing as the most enigmatic (male) casino owner in England, a ruined lady re-enters society to secure her daughter’s rightful place in the beau monde, attracting suitors, enemies and the attention of a handsome newspaper magnate.

Lady Georgiana Pearson has been happily free of the strictures of Victorian society since she ruined herself at the hands of a man she thought she loved and bore a daughter, scandalizing polite society and setting herself firmly beyond the pale. Since then, she's partnered with three other titled social pariahs to create The Fallen Angel, the most successful gaming club in London, which deals in scandal and secrets as much as gambling. Under the guise of the mysterious “Chase,” who works in the shadows and is represented by yet another alter ego, Anna—whom every assumes is Chase’s mistress—Georgiana is secretly one of the most powerful figures in England, though none but her partners know her true identity. Blissfully disreputable, she is suddenly aware of her limitations when society’s scorn turns toward her beloved daughter, and she decides to seek an aristocratic husband to raise her daughter’s social standing. However, her return to society draws more than a few eyebrows, as well as the interest of all the scandal sheets, including one published by newspaper magnate Duncan West. Understanding there are layers to this story, West digs into Georgiana’s past and realizes Georgiana and Anna are one and the same, then misreads the hold “Chase” has on her, even as he finds himself falling for her. West has dangerous secrets of his own, ensuring he can never offer her the security or respectability she wants, but he intends to free her from Chase’s influence and pave the way for her happiness, realizing too late how misguided that plan is. MacLean wraps up her popular Rules of Scoundrels series with the clever plotting, exquisite writing and lush sensuality she is known for.

A worthy conclusion to an extraordinary series.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-206851-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

Heart-wrenching and uplifting, with witty dialogue, emotional depth, and details that give substance and texture to an...

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HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS

Sick, broke and homeless, Annie Hewitt must retreat to the cottage her mother left her, even if it is on a remote island off the coast of Maine—and even if Theo Harp, the boy who tried to kill her when they were teenagers and who is now a best-selling horror author, is ensconced in the Gothic mansion next door.

After making her narcissistic mother’s last days as pleasant as possible, Annie falls ill with pneumonia and bottoms out financially. Desperate, she makes her way to Moonraker Cottage, the small home Mariah loved and bequeathed to Annie, along with a deathbed promise of a valuable legacy hidden there. Annie has avoided the island since she was a teen, when she developed a huge crush on Theo—the psychopathic boy who played on her emotions and ultimately tried to kill her. She’d like nothing better than to never see him again, but once she arrives, in the dead of winter, she finds herself drawn into the lives of the people at Harp House: Jaycie, the injured housekeeper with a tragic past; her mute daughter, Livia; and Theo himself, sexy as sin and, she realizes, completely different from the evil teen she remembers. The longer Annie stays, the more it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want her there, but for the first time in her life, she feels a sense of purpose and belonging, and she’s not going anywhere without a fight. Harp House and Moonraker Cottage both conceal a wealth of secrets, and finding the truth could offer the whole island a better future. Ventriloquist Annie, with her cozy puppets and emerging fierceness, might save everyone—especially Theo, whose past has convinced him he's a villain but who is really a hero at heart. Romance star Phillips takes a new and intriguing direction that reads like an homage to the classic gothic novel yet maintains her typical pitch-perfect characters and compelling, complex plot.

Heart-wrenching and uplifting, with witty dialogue, emotional depth, and details that give substance and texture to an already entertaining, engrossing story.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-210607-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Singh shines with elaborate, compelling worldbuilding and scorching sexual and emotional tension.

SHIELD OF WINTER

As an Arrow, Vasic has been conditioned to remain even more detached than most Psy, so when he's asked to guard Ivy, an empath who may hold the key to their society’s survival, he's unnerved by her emotionalism and his long-buried desire to belong.

The corrupt Psy-Council has fallen, and the remorseless regime of Silence—the enforced practice of remaining emotionally distant—has been lifted. The members of the elite Psy paramilitary group known as Arrows are independent now, loyal to no one but themselves. Forging a wary alliance with Kaleb Krychek, the de facto leader who caused the council to fall and has since stepped into its void, the Arrows must help staunch the spread of a deadly psychic contagion that threatens the lives and sanity of the Psy race. Krychek suspects that empaths may be the answer, though their emotional nature was brutally stifled under the Silence. Vasic, second-in-command of the Arrows, is assigned to find and protect empath Ivy Jane, who has been living beyond the grid after undergoing a devastating state-mandated “emotional reconditioning.” Vasic is a cold creature of the shadows, and he knows he can never be forgiven for the damage he’s done under the command of the Psy-Council. However, the more time he spends with Ivy, the more her honest emotions affect him, reawakening feelings he barely remembers. Somehow, under Ivy’s accepting and fascinated gaze, Vasic just might learn to feel again—emotions like hope, passion and love. But first, Ivy and Vasic must vanquish the contagion and a life-threatening legacy from Vasic’s violent past. Paranormal author Singh continues her popular Psy-Changeling series with an emotionally intense and gratifying romance while advancing a new reality for her complex psychic society set on Earth a few generations hence. Shadowy Arrows make great redeemed alpha heroes, and pairing profoundly damaged Vasic with the blatantly empathic Ivy works brilliantly.

Singh shines with elaborate, compelling worldbuilding and scorching sexual and emotional tension.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-425-26401-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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