A capable historical romance featuring games of chance and games of the heart.

NEVER KISS A DUKE

From the Hazards of Dukes series , Vol. 1

A sudden loss of nobility leads a former duke to his future bride.

When is a duke not a duke? When he’s Sebastian de Silva and he’s just been informed that his parents were not legally married, so his claim to be the Duke of Hasford is null and void. Unsure how to handle this abrupt change in circumstances, he and his friend Nash stumble into Miss Ivy’s, a new gambling house gaining renown for allowing any person with sufficient funds to play. He’s immediately interested in the proprietor, Ivy Holton, a ruined aristocrat who chose to open her own establishment rather than marry the man who'd won her hand from her father in a wager. Though she also finds him attractive, he ends up working for her, and he needs to stay employed for the first time in his life, meaning he can’t pursue her. As they continue to work together, however, there are multiple chances for the two to explore the chemistry that’s obvious to everybody but them—and finally, a “spectacular opportunity” presents itself and the two kiss. Ivy immediately apologizes for taking advantage of an employee, though soon after she and Sebastian agree that “it wasn’t just a kiss,” and a relationship begins to bloom. But if anything is to come of their attraction, Sebastian will have to make his peace with his new place in the world, and Ivy will have to decide whether she is willing to sacrifice her hard-won independence. This is the first entry in Frampton’s new Hazards of Dukes series, and if it does not quite live up to the magic of her earlier books, it’s still satisfying. Though Frampton (Never a Bride, 2019, etc.) is able as ever in developing promising subplots and a strong heroine, the tension of the plot is frequently lost, and Sebastian’s motivations can seem muddled. Despite this, both hero and heroine are likable, their amorous scenes are delightfully steamy, and Frampton has set up future installments well enough that readers can look forward to them.

A capable historical romance featuring games of chance and games of the heart.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286742-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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 compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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