An Edwardian-era duke and duchess are torn apart by the expectations of their families and the death of their child.
Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven fully admits that she trapped her husband into marriage. But that was only because she loved him so much and was sure he would never offer for a social mushroom like her. Unfortunately, her husband, Malcolm, was still having a hard time forgiving her when their baby daughter died at birth. Overwhelmed with the pain of losing Malcolm’s love and their child, Sera ran away to America. Now, nearly three years later, she’s back in London, seeking a divorce on the floor of Parliament, determined to put her disastrous marriage behind her. She needs the divorce so she can own property in her own name. She wants to be the sole proprietor and most cherished entertainer at the Singing Sparrow, a tavern in Covent Garden where she sings on stage in disguise. What Sera doesn’t know is that Malcolm has never stopped searching for her and has no intention of giving her a divorce. He plays along, though, forcing her to help him find a replacement bride at his country estate. Sera sees no choice but to bring reinforcements in the form of her scandalous sisters. MacLean (A Scot in the Dark, 2016, etc.) delivers a dense, richly woven tale of betrayal and grief and family loyalty. The main characters lack self-confidence, believing themselves unlovable and therefore not trusting each other’s love. But they are lovable, to each other and to the reader. The only disappointment is that MacLean misses an opportunity to depict a meaningful marriage in spite of infertility. Children, it turns out, are still central to a successful fictional marriage.
Librarians are used to being stereotyped, but when Melissa "Bernie" Bernard is caught scowling in the background of a romantic viral video, the result is sudden and unbearable: she becomes a meme. As Disapproving Librarian Disapproves makes the rounds online and journalists start asking her for comment, Bernie decides to take a brief leave of absence and let it blow over. But one journalist, Colin Rodriguez, makes an offer too tempting to pass up; if she allows his colleagues at Glaze.com to make her over, he’ll set up a month of dates for her and write about them, allowing her to banish her new reputation as undateable. After she warily accepts, the dates start off terribly but slowly improve as Colin gets to know Bernie and as Bernie takes some of his dating advice. But as they get to know each other, it becomes clear that the best match for Bernie may actually be Colin. Title’s (Kentucky Home, 2013, etc.) humor and insider knowledge of libraries add pleasing depth to the galloping plot, and the chemistry between Colin and Bernie is crackling for a book with relatively few passionate scenes. Combined with Title’s remarkable ability to naturally work feminist discussions about dating and femininity into the plot, the book represents the best of a new kind of contemporary romance: socially aware and laugh-out-loud funny, with a love story that’s real enough to imagine reading about on Twitter.
A delightful start to Librarians in Love, a promising new contemporary-romance series.
Love is a riddle that even a genius can’t solve alone.
Most noblewomen would be delighted to find themselves accidentally betrothed to a duke. Not Lady Daphne Forsyth. She’s decidedly different from the people around her, no matter how many rules of human behavior she observes and decodes. She’d rather focus on the Cameron Cipher, a legendary puzzle she inherited as part of an unexpected bequest from Lady Celeste Beauchamp, a champion of women's rights who left her house to Daphne and three other bluestockings. But her benefactress’s nephew, Dalton Beauchamp, Duke of Maitland, continues to distract her. Despite Daphne's clear preference for mathematics, Dalton can’t stop thinking about her, and her blunt honesty only serves to intensify their connection. After an unexpected death in the house, their dangerous hunt to solve the cipher keeps both from noticing what their friends can see: they’re in love. Daphne’s love of her freedom, however, may be stronger. In the second entry in her Studies in Scandal series, Collins (Ready Set Rogue, 2017) expands the world of Beauchamp House, and the friendship between the four heiresses provides a charming backdrop to the story. Daphne’s intelligence and inability to comprehend social interactions are thoughtfully drawn, and it’s a delight to see a classic Regency hero so smitten with a truly unusual heroine. Driven by multiple passionate scenes and the hunt for a murderer, it’s a swift and intense read.
A bluestocking Regency romance of unusual intensity.
A spy posing as a slave in Civil War Virginia risks her own life and the outcome of the war by falling in love with a fellow spy of another race.
After being freed from slavery as a child, Ellen “Elle” Burns has one purpose. She is “going to help destroy the Confederacy.” But to do that, she has to do something she never imagined possible—pose as an enslaved woman on loan to a family of spoiled whites. Her “masters” are living the high life in spite of a punishing Union blockade that’s causing widespread suffering and starvation in Richmond, Virginia. Elle’s photographic memory makes her extremely valuable to the Loyal League, a network of black spies working to undermine the Confederacy. But her careful work is thrown into disarray by the arrival of Malcolm McCall, a detective in the Pinkerton network who is posing as a Confederate soldier paying social visits to the household where Elle works. Malcolm is a skilled spy and a good person, but Elle has a hard time bringing herself to trust a glib and charming white man whose job requires him to be a gifted liar. Little by little Malcolm wins her over, but the painful racial dynamics around them threaten to poison their relationship. Malcolm must treat Elle as less than human in front of others while convincing her in private that he values her as highly as any white woman. The first installment in Cole’s (Mixed Signals, 2015, etc.) Loyal League series defies genre stereotypes at every turn. It's both a romance and a spy novel, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in, and it offers a nuanced portrayal of Civil War–era racial politics. Any reader who thinks romance novels are pure fluff will be schooled by Cole’s richly drawn characters, who must overcome generations of trauma in order to let themselves love each other.
A masterful tale that bodes well for future work from Cole.
Cat and Griffin continue their quest to bring just leadership to the three realms but must navigate hostile landscapes, magical creatures, and even a gladiator-style to-the-death battle before they can overcome the malevolent ruler of Tarva to unite it with Sinta.
Bouchet’s sophomore title (A Promise of Fire, 2016), the second in a planned trilogy, is as consummately crafted as the first. Cat has found happiness with her love, Griffin—the warrior who overcame the vicious, greedy Sinta royalty, winning his family the right to rule the kingdom—yet has hidden her true identity as the Lost Princess of Fisa, one of the other two realms of Thalyria. But Cat is more than a princess or warrior; more even than the legendary Kingmaker foretold in prophecies. In fact, as the blood heir to Fisa, she is a demigoddess. In Griffin’s mind she is the key to bringing the three realms together under their combined rule. In her mind, she’s the “harbinger of the end. Destroyer of realms.” Cat blames herself for the deaths of her siblings and is unable to see herself as a hero in any way, but when Griffin and his small band of warriors decide to take her advice and travel to find a magical race of creatures to help protect their borders, she refuses to stay behind. The quest leads them to the Chaos Wizard, a world of snow and ice, a maze navigated with magic thread, a classic riddle, and a battle with a Cyclops—with unexpected allies and a few jaw-dropping moments of true deus ex machina that make it clear Cat has some extraordinarily powerful friends in high places and that it looks like the gods are smiling on Cat and Griffin’s plans for a new world order. With breathtaking storytelling, high-octane action and adventure, intense romance, and threads to ancient Greek mythology that both ground the worldbuilding and spin it in new, imaginative directions, Bouchet sets the bar for high-concept fantasy romance.
In a world where magic exists but has been brutally suppressed, the heir to the company which made the violent system possible begins to question everything when he's saved by, then falls in love with, a mage.
Awkward Byron Cole has never questioned the “fact” that people who practice magic are a threat to society, and since his family business, Cole Industries, is instrumental to the draconian subjugation of people who have magic, it’s never occurred to him to do so. Everything changes the day his subway train is delayed due to terrorist attacks by mages. When the passengers are routed to the street, an explosion detonates nearby, and an attractive man Byron noticed in his car suddenly produces a magic shield, saving everyone in the vicinity. Since unsanctioned magic is punishable by death, the mage, Levi, is arrested and blamed for the attacks. Yet Byron wonders why he would save them all if he was a terrorist who wanted them dead, Asking the first question leads him down a rabbit hole into a quiet rogue magic world he never knew existed and toward the unthinkable reality as to whom the real public enemy is. Byron is in a unique position to change the world for the better, and when he discovers the horrific plans Cole Industries has for Levi—the sweet, sexy mage who saved his life and to whom he is wildly attracted—as well as the entire magical community, he knows he can’t sit by and do nothing. For the first time in his life he finds the courage to stand up to his uncle and fight for something, risking everyone he loves. Debut author Brisby creates a stunning and sophisticated view of an America manipulated by fear into brutally oppressing its magical population, then offers an inspirational and redemptive social revolution leveraged by a few brave friends finally willing to do the right thing and a romance strong enough to motivate them.
A powerful, thought-provoking, and spellbinding debut; timely, too.
After a decade of birthday hookups, a man and woman whose magical love was destroyed by their warring families face their pasts and rediscover one another. First in a series.
When tragedy and betrayal ripped apart their families, Nicholas Chandler and Livvy Kane’s romance was collateral damage. Nicholas stayed in New York to run the family business while Livvy fled, living a nomadic lifestyle as a tattoo artist. Unable to completely sever their physical connection, they continued to meet once a year for a night of passion in what Livvy calls a “repetitive cycle of pain and desire.” But when Livvy returns home to care for her ailing mother, neither disapproving relatives nor the pain of reopening old wounds can keep them away from each other. Rai (Night Whispers, 2013, etc.) approaches her characters with sharpness and sensitivity, deftly establishing Nicholas and Livvy's deep connection in the opening pages. Nicholas' disciplined compartmentalization of his life requires shutting out feelings that would force him to reconsider his choices, while Livvy's tendency to collect unruly emotional baggage is literally written on her skin. Rai is at the forefront of a new wave of romance writers for whom themes of racial and ethnic identity, gender and sexuality, and mental health are not extras but integral to the romance plot because they are necessary for building characters and their worlds. Livvy’s experience of depression in particular is authentically portrayed: “Guilt and sadness and darkness were like a fine overlay on her entire life, a veil with the power to tarnish anything good that came her way.” A tremendously intriguing cast of secondary characters across three generations includes the couple's siblings, whose stories readers will clamor for. Without ever losing focus on Nicholas and Livvy, Rai shows how porous and mutable the lines between the past and the present, the personal and the familial, the body and the soul really are.
A sexy, emotionally intense romance wrapped in a fascinating family saga, this is the complete package: hot, heartbreaking, and supremely satisfying.
Memories of teen heartbreak surface when a Silicon Valley businesswoman at a personal and professional crossroad returns to her roots in California hill country—and runs into her first love.
Long (Wild at Whiskey Creek, 2016, etc.) brings us back to Hellcat Canyon in this third novel in her contemporary romance series. The town and its residents will provide a familiar backdrop to readers of the previous books, who will place Avalon Harwood as the daughter and sister of recurring characters and invest in her losses and dreams. Chief among them is Avalon’s adolescent soul mate, Mac Coltrane, who never loved anyone like he did his childhood frenemy and has felt unmoored all his life since their parting. The son of a rich resident of the town, Mac reinvented himself after the family money vanished but avoids emotional ties. Meeting after a dozen years, the former couple find themselves quarreling over the rightful ownership of his old house and bickering as they skate around the truth of why their love ended so abruptly. Renewing their childhood pattern of smirking competition, they lob sallies at each other through creative revenge tactics, but the game is underlaid by their decadeslong unconsummated sexual tension. As comic scenes alternate with moments of potent memory and sizzling desire, the new relationship unfolds in the manner of a tango. Cheeky repartee, liquid imagery, and quiet reflection on roads not taken show the author’s expanding stylistic palette (notwithstanding the clichéd allusion to rom-com classic Say Anything, which seems to be epidemic in the genre).
For fans of Americana romance and Susan Elizabeth Phillips and those who root for the healing of a bruised heart, especially one that scorned romance or let it go as a childish thing.