Last week I wrote about Paris. Ah, Paris. Whether in memoir or fiction, books set in Paris always have an extra background character, because Paris is such an evocative location.

Recently I’ve enjoyed a few books that used setting so strongly and effectively that it almost seemed they were another member of the cast.

Nancy Thayer lives in Nantucket and her books tend to be set there. I’ve read a good amount from this author who is usually more women’s fiction than romance, but I have to tell you, I think her recent release, The Guest Cottage, is my favorite yet and possibly the most romantic. It has so many interweaving elements that work together so well to create this lovely tapestry of two families who, through a trick of fate, have to co-exist in a Nantucket beach house for the summer and wind up impacting each other’s lives.

When Sophie’s husband leaves her, she decides to use a small inheritance from a beloved aunt to rent a guest house on Nantucket. She and her teen son and pre-teen daughter need a little time and distance from her husband, so when a friend offers up her family’s Nantucket beach house, she jumps at the chance. Unbeknownst to any of them, her friend’s cousin has also rented out the cottage—to a young tech entrepreneur who has recently lostcoconut cake his wife to a senseless tragedy, and is trying to help his young son cope with his mother’s loss. The two single parents decide to share the beautiful, roomy house, and as the days pass, the everyday magic of Nantucket and one very special house with an exquisite piano just might move two very different people from feelings of harmony and good will toward intimacy and passion. I enjoyed watching Trevor and Sophie fight their attraction to one another, with age difference—she’s six years older than he is—and competing romantic interests at play. But as they navigate their attraction while integrating their daily lives, they each become powerful allies in healing each other and their young families. A sweet, uplifting read.

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Yesterday was the release date for The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, a debut by Wisconsin writer Amy Reichert.  This delightful confection begins with a snarky restaurant reviewer who crushes the dreams of a Milwaukee restaurateur, but in a quirky twist of fate unknowingly meets her in a bar as she is drowning her sorrows over the recent loss of her fiance and the horrible review she received. He complains about her fair city, she challenges him to let her show her the highlights, and the two are well on the way to a love story when he figures out who she is, and doesn’t quite know what to do about it. The story is both fun and moving, with the added joy of discovering a city you never thought you’d want to get to know better but find yourself getting swept away by, to your own surprise. I definitely plan on spending some quality time in Milwaukee in the future! Ms. Reichert, kudos to you!

Finally, I’m a fan of Lauren Willig, and I recently had the opportunity to read this week’s release, The Other Daughter. This was a real departure for Willig, who’s best known for her Pink Carnation series (which comes to a close next month) and has two stand-alone, dual-history novels under her belt as well. The Other Daughter is much more reflective than Willig’s typical fare, and main character—and sole narrator—Racheother daughter willigl Woodley questions her identity at every turn. Not surprising, given the fact that the departure point for the novel is that, after her mother dies suddenly, Rachel learns she is the illegitimate daughter of an earl. Determined to unmask her father’s betrayal, she accepts the help of a socially connected writer to create a new identity and access London’s high society, but in her search for vengeance, discovers who she truly is, and to what lengths she is—and isn’t—willing to go in order to be true to herself. Set in the glittering but brittle 1920s, when Britain’s “Bright Young Things” floundered to find a place in a confusing new world shadowed by the emotional and societal devastation of the Great War, Willig uses this unique and distinct time and place to explore family, identity, and the power of love.

It’s been a great year for women’s fiction and romance! What are some of your favorites so far?

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.comShe mostly writes about books and romance for NPRThe Huffington Post and Kirkus.