Book List

Best Romance Novels of 2018

An elegant, poignant, and joyful romance and a must-read for Regency fans.

THE BRIDE TAKES A GROOM

When childhood friends—fortune hunter Hugo Penhallow and wealthy but oppressed heiress Katherine Brooke—decide to wed, neither can imagine what the future has in store for them or how marriage can save them.

After having been wounded in Canada, Capt. Hugo Penhallow comes home to straitened circumstances and calls on his former playmate Katherine, who jumps on his arrival as salvation and asks him to marry her. Her rich parents are looking for an advantageous match, and while Hugo doesn’t have a title, Penhallow is “an old and illustrious name that loomed large, extremely large, among the haut ton." Unfortunately, in the years since they last met, Katherine’s parents have taken draconian measures to keep their lively daughter in check, and she’s become an angry, suspicious young woman. Once married, Katherine retreats behind a protective screen of brittle hauteur, and the ever genial Hugo realizes he might regret his impulsive decision to marry her. A honeymoon visit to Hugo’s cousin Gabriel, his lively wife, Livia (the couple from Berne’s debut, You May Kiss the Bride), and Gabriel’s formidable grandmother Henrietta, who takes Katherine under her wing, chips away at her insecurity, and once the couple heads to London for the season, the bride begins to wonder if there’s hope for them after all. Startling news sends them back to Hugo’s childhood home, where, surrounded by his large family, Katherine continues her journey of rediscovering her true self. Berne’s third Penhallow title maintains the exquisite writing, lush emotion, and complex characters we’ve come to expect, this time with a heroine who is knocked back time and again but finds herself strengthened by the choices she makes, the people she helps along the way, and, to her pleasant surprise, the remarkable man beside her.

An elegant, poignant, and joyful romance and a must-read for Regency fans.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-245182-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

Bouchet’s stunning Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy ends the way it began, with creativity, brilliance, and a breathtaking...

HEART ON FIRE

From the The Kingmaker Chronicles series , Vol. 3

Cat and Griffin continue their divinely orchestrated odyssey to unite the three realms of Thalyria through tragic losses and dangerous obstacles.

Having pledged her heart, body, and soul, as well as every magical and material weapon at her disposal, to her husband, Griffin, Cat is pleased with their progress in overthrowing the violent, capricious, and self-interested governance of the magic class in the three regions of Thalyria. “He took Sinta with an army….Then we took over Tarva together, with our own blood, sweat, and agony.” Now they are turning their sights on Fisa, Cat’s own homeland, ruled by her vicious, power-hungry mother. Griffin and Cat lost a cherished ally in their battle for Tarva, and they’ll lose two more before they can march on Fisa, sending Cat into a tailspin of emotions that lands her in Tartarus, the misty valley that houses doomed souls like Prometheus and Tantalus. Cat has a lot to live for: she’s carrying her first child, she loves her husband and her new family, she’s the embodiment of hope for the people of Thalyria. But first she must save herself from the harrowing prison ostensibly designed to last forever, and in order to do that, she has to embrace her magic and step into the full glory of who she is, learning to forgive herself and to believe she is worthy of everything good she has wrought. Then she must confront her mother with all the magic, strength, self-possession, and compassion she has learned along the way and step fully into her destiny as the queen of a united Thalyria, with King Griffin by her side.

Bouchet’s stunning Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy ends the way it began, with creativity, brilliance, and a breathtaking balance of heart-pounding adventure and heart-wrenching emotion.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2607-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

A delightful and sexy take on love between a suave African prince and a nerdy epidemiology student.

A PRINCESS IN THEORY

From the Reluctant Royals series , Vol. 1

Cole makes her Avon debut with a romance that draws on familiar genre tropes only to upend them.

An arranged marriage, a mistaken identity, and a handsome prince from an imaginary country are just a few common tropes in the first book in Cole’s (An Extraordinary Union, 2017, etc.) Reluctant Royals series. But with ironic nods to Disney and Mills & Boon, Cole gives 21st-century twists. Naledi, a graduate student in epidemiology, juggles lab work, a waitressing job, and a drunken mess of a best friend. Being raised in foster homes has given her the toughness she needs to succeed as a black woman in an often hostile world but also a vulnerability. Naledi hasn’t been lucky in love, and she wonders whether she’s “like a faulty piece of Velcro; people tried to stick to her, but there was something intrinsically wrong in her design.” When she gets an email addressing her as the long-lost betrothed of Prince Thabiso of the small (fictional) African country of Thesolo, Naledi hits delete. Little does she realize that the incompetent new waiter she's been trying to train is, in fact, the “Playboy PanAfrique,” come to New York to check out his intended. Thabiso insinuates himself into Naledi’s life, and they become friends and, soon after, lovers. Thabiso’s big ego and sense of entitlement are tempered by his exposure to working-class realities, while Naledi discovers how wonderful it can be to open up and connect. Of course, catastrophe is just around the corner, and its resolution comes only after they journey to Thesolo, where Naledi can discover her roots while at the same time working to stop an outbreak of a mysterious disease.

A delightful and sexy take on love between a suave African prince and a nerdy epidemiology student.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268554-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Bright, funny, poignant, and entertaining—everything historical romance fans could ask for.

NO EARLS ALLOWED

An ex-soldier is charged with bringing an earl’s daughter home from the shabby orphanage she's running but finds himself drawn to the woman and the children—and is tempted for the first time ever to ignore his mission.

A former soldier in the Napoleonic War, Maj. Neil Wraxall is the illegitimate yet claimed son of the Marquess of Kensington. When Neil’s father asks him to bring the daughter of the Earl St. Maur home from the orphanage she’s taken over, he expects to simply drag her out of the building. However, when he arrives to find the place in chaos and Lady Juliana threatened by a local crime lord, he realizes she won’t think of abandoning the dozen boys in her charge. Rolling up his sleeves literally and metaphorically, he sets out to put the place in order so she’ll be willing to leave, but the more he spends time there, the more he understands she never intends to leave—and maybe he doesn’t want to, either. Getting his wartime brothers in arms to help him ease the physical threat in the neighborhood does nothing to shield him from the emotional risk Lady Juliana represents, since as a bastard son and a psychologically wounded warrior, he's not the man for her. On the other hand, she is the most determined woman he’s ever met, and if she decides to convince him to stay, he might reconsider. Galen (Third Son’s a Charm, 2017, etc) continues her Survivors series with another compelling title that combines complicated emotional issues with humor, suspense, and blazing sexual tension while highlighting the power of empathy, conviction, and honor.

Bright, funny, poignant, and entertaining—everything historical romance fans could ask for.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3901-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

A charming book for the modern romance lover.

THE PROPOSAL

After a disastrous and highly public proposal gone wrong, a no-nonsense freelance writer rebounds with her knight in shining armor.

Nikole Paterson has been dating her boyfriend for all of five months when he goes for broke and proposes to her on the Jumbotron at a Dodgers game. When she turns him down and he leaves, furious, the attitude in the stadium begins to turn, and that’s when Carlos Ibarra and his sister, Angela, step in. Pretending to be her friends, they get her out of the park and back on her home turf. Knowing that neither of them wants to be in a serious relationship at the moment, Nik and Carlos give in to their mutual attraction and decide to just have something casual. While Nik struggles with suddenly feeling vulnerable and Carlos is dealing with possible health problems in his family, their fling becomes more and more serious until the two have to reckon with just how much they mean to each other. Guillory’s (The Wedding Date, 2018) sophomore novel continues in the same universe as her first, with previous couple Drew and Alexa showing up briefly to visit. However, Nik and Carlos are the stars of this outing, both standout characters who feel incredibly real. Guillory is a deft hand at creating likable, memorable characters and free-flowing conversations that make you feel like you’re eavesdropping on some cool 30-somethings at a hip bar. Carlos’ family and Nik’s friends add to the unique joy of the mix. While there isn’t much of an overall plot, the majority of the book being devoted to just watching Carlos and Nik going on dates and being cute, it’s hard to get upset about it because the whole thing is just so delightful.

A charming book for the modern romance lover.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-58768-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

The fourth novel in the Hellcat Canyon series highlights Long’s deftness at staging small-town romance.

THE FIRST TIME AT FIRELIGHT FALLS

An elementary school principal with a Navy SEAL body woos a down-to-earth florist who realizes romance is worth fighting for.

Eden Harwood is too busy being a single mom to her 10-year-old and managing her thriving business to go on a date. Veteran Gabe Caldera really wants to change her mind. But when do two adults with too many obligations find the time to explore the possibility that they might be perfect for each other? It may have to be in the parking lot of the school where Gabe is the principal, or his office, or on a soccer field, or in a car in a secluded spot off the road. Long (Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, 2017, etc.) sets up a playful courtship between her protagonists, with every rushed conversation ending on a cliffhanger that they pick up the next time they cross paths. She’s also skilled at ratcheting up the sexual tension alongside the emotional connections that the two build through their repartee, which may make the reader nostalgic for a time before everyone filled out online dating profiles. The charm of the novel also comes from the fact that its setting has been fleshed out over several books, and the cast of characters in the town has expanded and deepened, echoing the author’s Pennyroyal Green historical romance series. The novel varies its tone well in the first half, mixing comic dialogue with hints of Gabe's and Eden’s secret depths. Though it succumbs a little to melodrama in the second half, when Eden’s past comes back to town, the overall impression is of lightness and hope. This blend of sweetness and conflict evokes Nora Roberts’ early Americana.

The fourth novel in the Hellcat Canyon series highlights Long’s deftness at staging small-town romance.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267290-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Unforgettable; have some tissues handy.

THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY

From the Ones Who Got Away series , Vol. 1

The 12th anniversary of a school shooting reunites two survivors in a second-chance romance that explores the lasting effects of trauma.

Olivia Arias returns to her Texas town to participate in a documentary commemorating the night her prom was invaded by two gunmen. On film, she recounts the moments before the tragedy and how she took shelter in a janitor’s closet. What she doesn’t reveal to the filmmaker is that she was in the janitor’s closet making out with Finn Dorsey, her school’s football star. No one needs to know that detail, especially since Finn arrived at the prom with someone else and left Liv alone in the closet to save his date once the shooting started. Though she’s willing to participate in the documentary, since proceeds go to help the victims’ families as well as "research that could help prevent things like this from happening," she isn’t expecting Finn to show up to add his own memories. After the shooting, Finn became a local hero—he was shot protecting his date, Rebecca—and his family moved away when the media attention became too much. Liv is in no hurry to have a reunion and relive her feelings for him. However, with both of them staying at the same small lodge during filming, seeing each other becomes unavoidable. Every page is packed with tension, and the frightening plausibility of the school shooting could easily have overwhelmed the promise of a happy ending. Loren (By the Hour, 2017, etc.) undertakes a careful balancing act with tenderness and tact as she introduces men and women who were forever changed by one horrific night. Liv and Finn's romance—wary, hesitant, and incredibly patient—is a soothing balm for the characters and reader alike. With the issue of gun violence at the forefront, this isn't an easy story, but every word, scene, and bit of dialogue is thoughtfully crafted.

Unforgettable; have some tissues handy.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5140-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

More charmingly scandalous Gilded Age romance that will thrill any historical romance reader.

A SCANDALOUS DEAL

From the The Four Hundred series , Vol. 2

When a lady architect tries to construct the hotel of her dreams, she builds herself a love story as well.

Lady Eva Hyde is beginning to believe the gossips who have named her Lady Unlucky. But it’s not because she’s had three fiances and all three have died; it’s because she hates boats, but sailing to New York City is the only way to save her architect father’s reputation and finances now that his mind is going and he's no longer capable of designing anything. Onboard, her unluckiness lifts briefly when she meets a handsome stranger and they share a nice dinner—and her first intimate encounter. She’s mortified by her behavior the next day, especially after discovering that the handsome stranger is Phillip Mansfield, hotel magnate and, as her father’s client, the man she needs to win over. Mansfield, ambitious and at odds with the city establishment, is not pleased to learn that after hiring the famous E.M. Hyde, he’s been sent the man's daughter instead. Trying to keep the project on track, and also to keep Eva nearby, he allows her to fill in; though she tries her best to keep their relationship professional, their chemistry keeps pulling them together in quiet corners. When so-called accidents start to happen whenever she’s on-site, Eva is concerned only with making the most of her chance to be an architect, and she and Phillip both need to decide whether their careers should be more important than their attraction. Shupe (A Daring Arrangement, 2017, etc.) has done it again—the second book in her Four Hundred Series is engaging and steamy from the second chapter, featuring an ambitious heroine every contemporary reader can cheer for. Her detailed writing evokes the extravagant buildings and precarious politics of Tammany Hall with precision, offering the perfect setting for the melodrama of the sweeping plot. It’s not necessary to read the series in order, but with stories this fun, readers won’t skip any of Shupe’s books.

More charmingly scandalous Gilded Age romance that will thrill any historical romance reader.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267891-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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