An entertaining, thoughtful take on the odd-couple romance.

RANCHO DE AMOR

A New York book editor travels west to track down the reclusive author of a bestseller in this debut romance.

The prestigious titles published by New York’s Banter House Books don’t include anything like Rancho de Amor, a romance that’s become a huge, bestselling sensation by first-time author Loretta de Bonnair. With Banter House verging on financial collapse, it would love to publish de Bonnair’s next moneymaking novel, a difficult prospect since she’s older, gives no interviews, and has no contact information. All anyone knows is that she lives in tiny Sisquoc, California, so that’s where Banter House book editor Catherine Doyle, a 28-year-old brunette, heads when she gets the uncongenial assignment to find and sign de Bonnair. In Sisquoc, Catherine learns that no one knows how to contact the romance writer. No one, that is, but handsome, blue-eyed, brooding ranch manager Sam Wilson, who promises to act as go-between for Catherine and a rival press. Since Catherine first meets Sam as he’s getting thrown out of a bar, he doesn’t make a great first impression. To their mutual surprise, they’re attracted—but Sam has secrets of his own that could derail everything. In his novel, Harder tells a fairly familiar opposites-attract story that is boosted by its clever central mystery. The couple’s obstacles are unsurprising—she’s wary of passion; he hasn’t found the right woman to love—but emotional moments are described lyrically, and the book is insightful about issues like de Bonnair’s displeasing locals with her “environmentalism and socialism.” Quirky details also amuse: a B&B bedroom filled with taxidermic roadkill, an academic study titled “Hay Bales, Heifers, and a Feminist Hermeneutic of the Heroine in de Bonnair’s Rancho de Amor,” and a local poetaster.

An entertaining, thoughtful take on the odd-couple romance.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6431-8

Page Count: 246

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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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

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A light, low-conflict Georgian romance.

THE SPINSTER AND THE RAKE

In Devon’s historical romance novel, a bold English countrywoman meets a duke with a secret.

It’s 1795, and Edward Stanhope, the Duke of Thornfield, is beset by a house party full of young ladies vying for the unmarried man’s attention. In frustration, he retires to his private library, where he finds yet another woman—Miss Georgiana Bly, regarded by many of her peers as a plain country spinster. He asks her to leave, but she defies him, not realizing that he’s the duke; to force her to go, he threatens to kiss her. However, she calls his bluff, which sets in motion a series of events that ends with them engaged. Georgiana has little experience in posh society, so Edward and his aunt go about training her in the proper ways of being a duchess. At the same time, she takes it upon herself to train the cold and sometimes socially awkward duke to be warmer and more easygoing. The couple quickly find that they share a love of literature, but Edward seems incapable of providing the emotional intimacy that Georgiana craves. Edward finally confesses that he’s always felt that his mind works differently than others’—readers may interpret his description to mean that he has an anxiety disorder or is on the autism spectrum, although this is never specified—and he worries if he’ll inadvertently drive Georgiana away. Then Georgiana’s father becomes embroiled in a scandal that could undo everything. Devon, the author of The Wallflower’s Wild Wedding (2021), effectively drops hints about Edward’s secret from the very first pages. However, he’s far from a rakish character, despite the novel’s title, as he dislikes all but a very small circle of people. Georgiana is an enjoyable heroine who’s well versed in politics and literature and a quick study when it comes to the rules of society, even as she flouts the ones that she thinks are silly. Overall, the novel is rather short on conflict, and the action often pauses at length so that the characters may have long conversations about William Shakespeare or Parliament. Still, the characters are a lively, well-realized group.

A light, low-conflict Georgian romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68281-613-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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