With everything going on this fall, it will take a truly exciting book to capture readers’ attention. These outstanding debut novels—which concern themselves with the eternal topics of love and war—more than fit the bill.

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie (Algonquin, Sept.1): Our review calls this novel “a Cinderella story set in Ghana.” Beautiful but poor Afi is selected as a bride for handsome, rich Elikem, who only wants to be left alone with his girlfriend and their daughter. “Medie subtly develops Afi’s character as she…goes from being an innocent, awestruck village girl to a sophisticated, confident woman, accustomed to privilege and luxury, set on a creative career...and mad as hell.”

The Roommate by Rosie Danan (Berkley, Sept. 15): “A deliciously fresh romance with strong characters and feminist themes,” this novel tells the story of Clara, who moves to California and falls in love with the last person she would have expected: her roommate, Josh, who’s a porn star. Our review calls it “a staunch rejection of societal shame about sex and pleasure—one that will speak to romance readers young and old.”

Missionaries by Phil Klay (Penguin Press, Oct. 6): After winning the National Book Award for Redeployment, a collection of short stories about U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Klay returns with a first novel in which “a host of journalists, mercenaries, soldiers, and well-meaning innocents are thrust into a quagmire in Colombia…giv[ing] his concerns about intractable violence a broader scope.”

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. (Putnam, Jan. 5): This epic novel tells the story of Samuel and Isaiah and the way their love disrupts life on the Mississippi plantation where they’re enslaved. Our review says, “Jones spins a sprawling story of jealousy and passion that foregrounds Black queerness, asserting that queerness has always been part of the Black experience—not just in the slave past, but the African one as well….An ambitious, imaginative, and important tale.”

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.