Book List

Best Romance Novels of 2019

Bouchet’s masterful writing and storytelling meet science-fiction romance, in hyperdrive.

NIGHTCHASER

From the Nightchaser series , Vol. 1

A space rebel with a price on her head discovers she may have the power to alter the balance of power in a galactic struggle—just as she’s falling for a sexy trader with dangerous secrets of his own.

When Capt. Tess Bailey and her crew steal an entire lab containing a stash of vaccines she plans to take to an orphanage, she’s suddenly on the radar of the brutal Galactic Overseer and his army and realizes the lab must contain something far more valuable than medicine. Rather than surrendering, Tess flies her ship, Endeavor, into a black hole, which turns out to be a wormhole. The crew survives but their ship is damaged, and Tess now has a huge bounty on her head since the lab actually houses a stockpile of superserum which would make whomever takes it—soldiers, for instance—superstrong and impervious to disease. Landing on planet Albion 5 to hide and recharge, Tess is referred to Shade Ganavan, who agrees to fix her ship. Tess has never been more attracted to a man and thinks Ganavan is attracted to her too, yet he rebuffs every overture. In fact, he’s a bounty hunter, and turning her in will enable him to win back the birthright he gambled away. Ganavan knows Tess is special, and he might be willing to give up everything to fight by her side, but even he is stunned to discover that not only is Tess Public Enemy No. 1, but she’s also Quintessa Novalight, the Galactic Overseer’s daughter, long believed dead. Plus she may hold the secret to defeating the evil regime. Bouchet (Heart on Fire, 2018, etc.), who took the romance world by storm with The Kingmaker Chronicles, launches a sci-fi series that is chock full of intrigue, heroism, conflict, and sexual tension, with hints of spiritualism and magic.

Bouchet’s masterful writing and storytelling meet science-fiction romance, in hyperdrive.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6713-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

An un-put-down-able story that combines sensuality, tenderness, slightly far-fetched dramatic scenes, and memorable...

HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS

In late Victorian England, a sexual assault survivor and a scarred nobleman nicknamed the Terror of Torcliff marry for practical reasons but become enamored with each other—within 10 days, as the title promises.

Dr. Alexandra Lane is a successful archaeologist, but she is haunted by her own history of having been raped by her boarding school headmaster when she was 17. Though Cecelia and Francesca, her two best friends, have been supportive, Alexandra has kept something from them since then, and now, 10 years later, her secret is at risk of exposure. When she meets Francesca’s almost-fiance, Piers, at his ancestral estate on the Devonshire moors, she proposes to him, which will help her keep her secret (and because she knows Francesca doesn’t want to marry him). Piers is an angry man, especially furious with his promiscuous mother and an unfaithful former lover. But Alexandra, with her scholarly bent, fearful demeanor, and sporadic acts of courage, catches his interest. Byrne (The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo, 2018, etc.) begins her Devil You Know series with an absorbing mix of old-school gothic romance with a woman in peril and the #MeToo era, celebrating the strength of survivors (as she writes in the book's dedication). After initially misunderstanding his wife’s past, Piers transforms from a self-centered duke with a marked sense of entitlement to a supportive spouse once he learns of her trauma. Whether a change like this is wishful thinking or a realistic depiction of the allies that some women might have had under pre-feminist patriarchy, it makes for a heartwarming romance. Even more empowering is the friendship among the three women, who model female solidarity and whose personas (and nicknames: Alexander, Cecil, and Frank) reject restrictive gender roles. The story’s overt politics sit in somewhat awkward proximity to the melodramatic end of the gothic plotline, but even that conclusion is enjoyable in its own way.

An un-put-down-able story that combines sensuality, tenderness, slightly far-fetched dramatic scenes, and memorable characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31884-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

A gifted writer at the top of her emotional, sexy, romantic, and inclusive game.

A PRINCE ON PAPER

The third and final installment of Cole’s Reluctant Royals series (A Duke by Default, 2018, etc.) probes the ways social expectations can diminish a person's autonomy and how the vulnerability of deep romantic love can make people stronger.

Nya Jerami, the granddaughter of respected elders of the powerful African nation of Thesolo, returns home for a family wedding with fear and trepidation. Nya had fled to New York after discovering that her father, once a respected government minister, was guilty of blackmail, treason, and, worst of all, the politically motivated poisoning of members of his own family. Nya had always been kind, with a naturally trusting attitude that reflected the goodness in her heart. Her father’s betrayal threw her life into a tailspin, shattering her trust. Now, with her father in prison, she is “a woman who’d come to the end of the breadcrumb trail and didn’t know where to go next.” The wedding puts Nya in close proximity to her crush, Johan von Braustein, the Tabloid Prince of Liechtienbourg, who finds in Nya a potent invader of his carefully constructed defenses. Johan’s playboy persona is a cover, designed, so he tells himself, to draw media attention away from his younger brother, the heir to the throne. But having lost his beloved mother at a young age, Johan is terrified of intimacy and its potential to lead to pain and loss. As Johan’s radiant energy draws Nya in, her quiet strength entices him “to stop pretending, to stop guarding his emotions like a dragon watching over its hoard.” Their road to happiness is compellingly bumpy, with political intrigue on two continents and the interference of friends and family, many of whom will be delightfully familiar to readers of the first two installments of the series. In a book by a less skilled writer, a subplot involving a character's emerging nonbinary gender identity might feel unnecessary, but not here. Nya and Johan's swoony sexual tension evolves into a scorching exploration that recognizes Nya’s relative inexperience while rendering the pair's matched desire, fulfillment, and power.

A gifted writer at the top of her emotional, sexy, romantic, and inclusive game.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268558-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

A revelation. Hilarious, heartfelt, and hot. Hibbert is a major talent.

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN

When computer geek Chloe realizes she has allowed her chronic illness to shrink her world, she creates a list of risky adventures that her building superintendent, a hunky artist, is all too happy to share.

After ending an abusive relationship with a London socialite, Redford Morgan has taken refuge in a nearby city, working as a super in his best mate’s building. Once a promising artist, Red’s self-esteem hasn’t fully recovered, so he paints at night in private. When he catches snobbish and prickly tenant Chloe Brown surreptitiously watching him, he doesn’t realize that she admires his lanky ginger looks as well as his vitality and easygoing charm. As a coping strategy for her chronic pain and exhaustion, Chloe has become, in her words, “a socially inept control freak.” Despite himself, Red is deeply attracted to Chloe’s gleaming brown skin and rococo beauty. After they join forces for a side-splittingly funny cat rescue, Chloe agrees to exchange her website design services for Red’s tolerance of her illicit furry roommate, and a friendship is born. With alternating points of view, Hibbert (That Kind of Guy, 2019, etc.) portrays how their relationship helps Red recover from intimate partner violence and helps Chloe stop allowing her fibromyalgia to steal her happiness. The plot sounds heavy, and Hibbert certainly writes authentic moments of physical and emotional pain, but this is an incredibly funny, romantic, and uplifting book. Red is as charming, sexy, and vulnerable as can be, but Chloe steals the show with her sarcasm, wit, and eccentric coping mechanisms. Even better, Chloe is surrounded by a family of remarkable, glamorous women, including two sisters who will be featured in later installments. Hibbert centers the diversity of the English experience, avoiding both the posh and the twee.

A revelation. Hilarious, heartfelt, and hot. Hibbert is a major talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-294120-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A stunning, superior romance.

THE BRIDE TEST

A young Vietnamese woman seizes an opportunity to travel to America in hopes of finding a husband and a better life.

Esme Tran isn't ashamed that she supports her family by working as a maid in a Ho Chi Minh City hotel, but she secretly wishes for a different life for herself and her 5-year-old daughter. After a chance encounter, a wealthy American woman invites Esme to spend the summer in the U.S., hoping Esme might be a good match for her son. Meanwhile, back in California, Khai is horrified to find that his mother has taken this drastic step, but he agrees to host Esme if his mother promises never to interfere in his life again. Hoang (The Kiss Quotient, 2018) has a gift for developing layered, complex, and dynamic characters. As a man with autism, Khai has dealt with the traumas of his past by convincing himself he has a heart of stone and is literally unable to love. Esme wants a better life for herself but wonders if Khai could ever be interested in her if he knew the truth: She’s uneducated and has a young daughter she's hasn't told him about. Their misunderstandings and attempts to connect are full of grace, humor, and pathos. After an awkward sexual encounter, Khai asks his brother for sex advice in a painfully funny scene, and Esme’s feelings of anger and hurt are just as lovingly crafted. As Khai and Esme spend more time together, they find that despite their differences, they are a perfect match. Their individual character arcs—Khai learning to understand his own heart and Esme’s determination to pursue her goals and dreams—are just as pleasing and powerful as their evolution as a couple.

A stunning, superior romance.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49082-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Classic MacLean: smoking hot, emotionally rich, thrilling, and unforgettable.

BRAZEN AND THE BEAST

An ambitious, smart, and outspoken earl’s daughter faces off in business and pleasure against a gruff, protective, and sexy king of the London underworld who will stop at nothing to protect what is his.

Lady Henrietta “Hattie” Sedley wants to inherit the shipping business her father, an earl who won his title with bravery on the high seas, built into an empire. Instead, she is told to marry and have children while her foolish brother takes over. On the night of her 29th birthday, Hattie decides to render herself unmarriageable—while satisfying her keen sexual curiosity—by visiting a brothel, but the handsome brute of a man she finds tied up and unconscious in her carriage has other plans. Saviour Whittington is known as Beast in the slums where he and his siblings are feared and adored in equal measure. Benevolent protectors who rule with an iron fist, they run a smuggling operation to support their business enterprises in Covent Garden, “where darkness came like a promise, and brought with it all manner of malice.” Hattie attempts to make a deal with Beast when she discovers that her brother has done him wrong, but he has less chaste ideas. Hattie is a tall, curvy woman whose shape does not fit Regency-era beauty standards. Beast is all too happy to show her just how desirable she is in several very explicit sex scenes: “She was brilliant and bold and strong and beautiful, and when she came, she moved against a man like sin.” Beast’s own self-worth was diminished by an abusive father and a violent past he fears he will never overcome. Hattie and Beast come to see their own value through each other’s eyes, regardless of what society says about it. Strong female protagonists are the rule in genre romance, but Hattie stands out for the clarity of her goals and the intelligence with which she goes about achieving them.

Classic MacLean: smoking hot, emotionally rich, thrilling, and unforgettable.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269207-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Prepare to be rendered speechless.

FOREVER WOLF

From the Legend of All Wolves series , Vol. 3

A hardened werewolf must choose between loyalty to her pack or saving the life of a mysterious stranger in this hauntingly beautiful paranormal romance.

Varya Timursdottir is a Shielder for the Great North Pack. She upholds the laws and makes sure all the moving parts are kept going, as she knows firsthand the damage that can be done when a pack’s structure starts to crumble. She wasn’t always a member of the Great North Pack. In fact, Varya is the sole survivor of Pack Vrangelya after they were systemically wiped out. Carrying both the emotional and physical scars of the ordeal, she’s become icy, unmoving, and stern in her role as Shielder and in her dedication to pack law. During a run, she discovers Eyulf, an injured and unconscious man who smells like home, her original home in the Arctic wild. Curious about the man, Varya helps him in secret, but the pair begin to unravel the secrets of Eyulf’s existence. Enmeshed in pack politics, shifting alliances, and threats from humans and Shifters, the Great North Pack enters into an age of uncertainty and possibly war. Varya is torn between upholding her role in the pack and giving in to the feelings stirred by the curious Eyulf. Vale’s (A Wolf Apart, 2018, etc.) latest is lyrical and mesmerizing, the written embodiment of the wild depth where the Great North Pack resides. Each word is carefully selected, and the slightest actions contain deeper meanings in a story that feels expertly crafted in its subtle complexity. Though it's a romance with a bittersweet happily-ever-after that's sure to bring out some tears, the notion of what it means to belong and what Varya will do to help heal her grief-stricken homesickness are rooted at the center of it all.

Prepare to be rendered speechless.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6193-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Utterly charming and subtly subversive.

THE LADY'S GUIDE TO CELESTIAL MECHANICS

The first in a series featuring romance between women.

Lucy Muchelney’s father was a celebrated astronomer. No one knows that she was responsible for much of the math behind his most significant work. Catherine Kenwick St. Day, Countess of Moth, traveled the world to look at the stars with her husband, but his death leaves her without a sense of purpose. When Catherine decides to fund the translation of a revolutionary new text by a French scientist, these two women become accomplices—and much, much more. The Regency novel was long one of romance’s most rulebound subgenres. Waite is one of a number of authors who are proving able to satisfy Regency’s demands while getting creative with some of its tropes, and the fact that this novel depicts two women falling in love and developing an unabashedly satisfying sexual relationship is among the least of its delightful surprises. Catherine, for example, is fully aware that the era in which she lives offers less freedom to women than the Enlightenment period just past, and she recognizes that many of the male scholars she knows are supported and assisted by their wives. There’s a moment when Catherine realizes that Lucy doesn’t have the right clothes for London, a moment in which a seasoned Regency fan might expect a shopping spree. Instead, Catherine realizes that buying gowns for Lucy might make Lucy feel obligated to return her affections. The first time Lucy kisses Catherine, she asks for—and receives—affirmative consent. The passion between these women is exciting, but their thoughtfulness and kindness are just as satisfying. There are, of course, some difficult moments in their relationship, but Waite has chosen for the most part to let her heroines face real vicissitudes together instead of manufacturing melodrama.

Utterly charming and subtly subversive.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293178-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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