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.
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 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.
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.
Mystery, adventure, and romance are spiced with Bollywood glamour in this heart-stopping novel.
Nikhil Joshi, an Indian-American cruise-ship doctor, is drowning his sorrows in Jack Daniel’s. Two years earlier, his pregnant wife, Jen, a physician working in a Mumbai slum for Doctors Without Borders, was murdered before his eyes; unbeknownst to her husband, Jen was working to expose an illegal organ-transplant enterprise committing gruesome “murders to carve out organs.” Suddenly, Jess Koirala, a beautiful Bollywood dancer, appears in Nikhil’s life with an uncanny knowledge of Jen and the circumstances of their marriage. Jess tells Nikhil that she can channel Jen because she received Jen’s heart in a transplant; she even shows him the scar on her chest from the operation. Nikhil becomes obsessed with her and her intimate knowledge of his life. But Jess is being blackmailed by Jen’s killers into pursuing Nikhil to find the incriminating evidence that Jen was murdered for; her blackmailers are even terrorizing her 7-year-old son in order to force her to cooperate. Soon, Jess is being hunted down by both the Mumbai mob and the police, who are racing to find the damning evidence. Will Nikhil fall into the extortionist’s web and become involved with gorgeous Jess or wake up and smell the chai? Will Jess be able to extract the location of Jen’s evidence from Nikhil and save her son’s life, or will she weaken in the face of Nikhil’s overpowering charisma? Dev (The Bollywood Bride, 2015, etc.) masterfully probes Jess' and Nikhil’s rawest emotions through her multilayered Rubik’s cube of a plot. Every time the reader thinks he or she has figured out the end of the novel, the story’s quick-paced narrative, which races back and forth from the U.S. to India, takes another hairpin turn, leaving the reader breathless. This is riveting, heart-pounding drama.
Dev takes the characters and the reader on a death-defying ride. A novelist at the height of her powers.
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.
A career soldier inherits a dukedom and a crumbling Scottish castle. When he travels there to confront the recalcitrant steward, he is unexpectedly captivated by both the place and the steward's sister.
Maj. Gabriel Forrester finds out in the same breath that he is great-nephew to the Duke of Lattimer, that the duke has died, and that he, Gabriel, is the only living heir. He’s forced to leave the Spanish battlefield to sort out his unwanted inheritance, especially his estate in Scotland. When Gabriel reaches the estate, he finds that the steward went missing four years ago, and his fiery sister, Fiona Blackstock, is running things at Lattimer Castle. English soldiers are none too popular at Lattimer, but Gabriel is used to facing down enemies. “This is my first time being in hostile territory that I actually own,” he says. In addition to suspicious tenants and servants, Gabriel must unravel the reason Lattimer has failed to turn a profit in recent years. Is it the overly large household staff, all kinsmen hired by Fiona to save them from poverty? Is it the loyal Maxwell clan, who wants to sabotage Lattimer’s holdings so their own clan chief can buy the property for a good price? Gabriel has every reason to suspect Fiona of being sympathetic to the mischief-makers who have been stealing the estate’s sheep, damaging its irrigation equipment, and putting its flour mill out of commission. But he soon sees that Fiona will be loyal to anyone who puts the interests of the estate’s tenants first—even if that person is English. Enoch’s (Some Like it Scot, 2015, etc.) new No Ordinary Hero series promises to be compelling from beginning to end, if this first installment is any indication.
A thrilling and sexy story about the joy that can be found in doing one’s duty.
A widowed restaurateur falls for a young waiter in a Detroit-set romance with heart, sweat, and tears.
When his husband, John, died five years ago, Asher let both their restaurant and his personal connections drift. Hoping to breathe life into the dying Idlewild, Asher replaces his entire staff. One of his new hires is Tyler, a recent pre-med grad taking a break from his march to an M.D. Tyler’s intense, youthful exuberance and optimism shake Asher from his distant reserve. But Tyler is in a long-term relationship with Malik. While Asher has moved on in some ways from John’s death, he's in deep denial about his emotional readiness for a new love. Sierra (What It Takes, 2016, etc.) has created a very natural and psychologically astute portrayal of a romantic relationship, by turns funny, delightful, and painful. A poet, Sierra often surprises with a lovely turn of phrase: to describe Tyler’s mixed racial and gender identity: “Tyler knows of the middleness of his body”; on the toll of restaurant life: “Morning is tight in his bones, and he hurts with exhaustion.” Less successfully, Sierra uses the tension between “the two Detroits,” personified in Asher’s wealthy suburban upbringing and Tyler’s East Detroit background, to build conflict; in those passages, the writing can seem didactic. A leisurely read that allows its characters to unfurl in layers, revealing how love of another reflects our true selves back to us in sometimes surprising and challenging ways.
A lovely, finely wrought romance that reminds us that to truly love another, we must know our own hearts.
Glory Greenleaf has big dreams and a penchant for drama, while Deputy Sheriff Eli Barlow believes in law, order, and Glory’s incandescent talent, so when their soul-scorching attraction interferes with her big break, Eli realizes he may love her too much to hold on to her.
Eli and Glory have been in each other’s orbits since childhood, when Eli became best friends with Glory’s brother, Jonah. The Greenleafs were chaos and quicksilver, quite different from the quiet order of his own home. But where Glory always had her music and its dedication and discipline, Jonah was about shortcuts and the easiest way to get what he wanted. Eli and Glory have been dancing around each other for years, not yet ready to explore their deep emotional connection, not to mention their chemistry, until they finally shared a toe-curling kiss at a party, and years of awareness exploded. Two days later, Eli arrested Jonah for transporting meth. Glory stopped talking to him, while her plans to leave town and follow her dreams were cut short. Now, nearly a year later, movie star Franco Francone is in town and interested in helping Glory reach for the stars, given she’s willing to reach for him. And a pretty little blonde is interested in Eli. Eli and Glory cross paths as they spend time with other people, even while they’re still hyperaware of each other. Glory’s hopes for stardom inch ever closer, with nudges from friends, but she and Eli have to resolve their feelings for each other before either of them can move forward. Historical favorite Long’s (Hot in Hellcat Canyon, 2016, etc.) second foray into contemporary romance is a study in longing and angst, with Eli and Glory awash in emotional confusion yet so perfectly attuned to each other that there’s no question they’ll figure it out, despite the taut conflict. The journey, however, is exquisite, combining humor and intensity with consummate writing and storytelling and a musical leitmotif that ratchets up the sexual tension as effectively as Bolero.