Amanda Diehl

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Bestselling author Katee Robert’s Crimson Sails series returns with Blood on the Tide, which picks up right where its predecessor, Hunt on Dark Waters, left off. In another sexy, seafaring adventure, a vampire teams up with a selkie in order to recover her family heirlooms and find a way back home.

In Hunt on Dark Waters, readers met Evelyn, a witch who stole from her vampire ex, Lizzie, and tumbled through a magical portal into the purgatorial Threshold, a watery world between realms full of enormous monsters. In Blood on the Tide, Lizzie is hot on Evelyn’s tail, but unsure of how she’ll get back to her own world and in desperate need of a guide through the Threshold. After Lizzie rescues a selkie named Maeve, the two women form a shaky partnership. Maeve will guide Lizzie through the horrors of the Threshold in search of Evelyn and the Crimson Hag, the infamous ship that picked her up. In return, Lizzie will help Maeve recover her stolen seal skin, which allows her to shift forms.

Calling all lovers of villains and morally gray characters—this one’s for you! As you might expect, Lizzie has real bite, and she truly lets nothing stand in the way of finding Evelyn. Maeve is a match for Lizzie thanks to her own supernatural strength, and watching the women battle against their environment and the cunning of the Crimson Hag crew is nothing short of thrilling. Action drives the plot, with sexual tension and lustful stares placed amid high-octane adventure.

Robert uses the murky morality of her heroines to up the stakes of their relationship. Both Lizzie and Maeve have not only been betrayed and have had precious things taken from them, but also known and dispensed cruelty. Trusting each other doesn’t come easily, but they’re faced with few other options. Blood on the Tide emphasizes the danger that comes with trust and the vulnerability it requires, which creates potential for both betrayal and rewards.

Robert deepens the world building of her series, exploring the Threshold through the eyes of both an inhabitant and an outsider just as she did in Hunt on Dark Waters. There’s a heady mix of genres here, from fantasy adventure, to sizzling romance and a dash of horror, as Lizzie and Maeve face downright frightening baddies. It’s over all too soon, thanks to Robert’s compulsively page-turning storytelling, and readers will be left eagerly wondering where the Crimson Sails series will take us next.

Read our review of the first Crimson Sails novel, ‘Hunt on Dark Waters.’

Calling all lovers of villains and morally gray characters—Katee Robert’s latest fantasy romance is for you.
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If you asked romance author Tia Williams what her favorite genre is, you might be surprised to learn it is horror. In fact, she once took a yearlong class on Dracula, taking an interest in the mythology of immortality and the fearsome, seductive title character. Williams chuckles as she says, “I’d love to write [a horror novel], but it always comes out as a romance when I sit down.” 

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde is Williams’ fourth contemporary romance, and while it’s filled with her trademark balance of sexy love story and emotional moments both beautiful and tragic, there’s something new here: a full-bodied embrace of the fantastical and the serendipitous. Williams describes A Love Song for Ricki Wilde as a “modern fairytale,” one that adheres to Williams’ own preferences as a fantasy fan who focuses more on characters than rules; Ricki Wilde never gets bogged down into the hows and whys of world building. “I like ‘Game of Thrones’ because despite the dragons, it feels very much like The Godfather,” she explains. She notes one of her other major inspirations is Jude Deveraux’s iconic 1989 time-travel romance, A Knight in Shining Armor, where a heartbroken woman ends up centuries back in time. 

“Readers have to feel safe and that’s something I think about with every sentence.”

The titular character doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family, an Atlanta clan that runs a string of successful funeral homes. “Death bums Ricki out,” Williams says. She has no desire to step into the family business and feels universes away from her socialite siblings. So Ricki instead chooses to strike out on her own, move to Harlem and open up a floral boutique, adorably and aptly named Wilde Things. As Ricki puts down roots, a cast of fascinating characters orbits around her. There is Ms. Della, an elegant nonagenarian who offers Ricki a place to rent in her brownstone; Tuesday, a tenacious former child star who becomes Ricki’s new friend; and Ezra, Ricki’s love interest, a mysterious and sensitive man with a gift for music. When asked what would serve as the soundtrack for this book, Williams says with a smile, “A lot of Prince. Specifically ‘God,’ which is mainly an instrumental.” Coincidentally—or perhaps not—a framed image of Prince and Vanity’s 1983 Rolling Stone cover hangs on the wall above her head as we speak.

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde allowed Williams to explore and research not just pop music but also flowers and fragrance, voodoo practices and spirituality, many of which are interests the author already enjoyed. Ezra’s devotion to art and culture was inspired by Williams’ own love of music: She once owned a Billboard book on popular songs and would go page by page, learning everything she could about each hit and how it was made. Ricki’s tender care for her delicate plants and appreciation of their exotic, complex fragrances echoes Williams’ former career as a beauty editor and writer. “I remember discovering all these different kinds of flowers and their scents,” she says. “I had no idea night-blooming jasmine existed and what that smelled like.” However, her biggest research focus was 1920s Harlem.

Book jacket image for A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams

“I love the 1920s era: Hollywood, the Lost Generation in Paris, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes,” she says, and Williams includes flashbacks to this fascinating time in Harlem’s history alongside the present-day scenes. These additions create a rich sense of place, filled with Williams’ admiration for not only Harlem’s community and cultural renaissance, but also the ways art and activism provide solace and fuel resistance in the wake of devastating waves of racial violence. In Ricki Wilde, Williams writes, “What you haven’t reckoned with, you’re doomed to repeat. America was a ghost story with no end.” Shifting back and forth between the past and present, Williams shows the violence that’s been perpetuated against Black people and their communities. “American history and its causes do not exist in a vacuum and there’s a lot of generational trauma,” she says, but notes that even in the midst of hopelessness, there is love. It’s a dichotomy echoed in the book’s balance between life and death. Because Ricki’s been surrounded by death for most of her life, she seeks to offset it by tending to and nurturing her plants; Ms. Della possesses both the satisfaction of a life well-lived and the spirit to keep going.

That complexity, that sense of the fullness of life is also present in Ezra and Ricki’s relationship, which begins with a magnetic attraction but deepens as they, in Willliams’ words, get “lost in the soft, beautiful things”; their love grows through creating and experiencing art. Williams’ own work has already inspired adaptations, with The Perfect Find being made into a Netflix film last year starring Gabrielle Union and Keith Powers. Should Ricki Wilde get an opportunity to make the leap from book to screen, Williams thinks that KiKi Layne would make a good Ricki, especially given her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. Actress Zazie Beetz is also a contender, as Williams says her more bohemian style would help bring Ricki to life. As for an on-screen Ezra, it’s no contest: The quiet, commanding presence of John David Washington is Williams’ pick. 

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde has more twists than a well-versed romance reader might expect. Both the shift in genre and the obstacles Ricki and Ezra face (which we refuse to spoil), require a lot of faith in Williams. Readers may at first think they’ve mistakenly picked up a historical fiction novel, not a contemporary romance, and they may wonder how Williams is going to pull off that coveted happily ever after. One thing, however, is for certain: ears will be shed, whether from Williams’ evocative, emotional writing or how Ricki and Ezra realize they’ve found the person who truly understands them, all the way down to their bones. Williams hopes people will trust her all the way to the end. “There’s a genre rule when it comes to romance. Of course, readers might not know how an author is going to get there, but there will be a HEA. Readers have to feel safe and that’s something I think about with every sentence,” she says. 

Read our starred review of ‘A Love Song for Ricki Wilde’ by Tia Williams.

There’s a lovely moment in the book where Tuesday is desperately trying to figure out who she is outside of her past life as an actor. She thinks writing a memoir might be her next career move, but it’s not quite igniting her passions. “Maybe you were a memoirist,” Ezra says. “But identity changes all the time, I’ve found. There’s a few more ‘yous’ you haven’t met yet.” Growth and change are central to Ricki Wilde, whether it’s the passing of time or the courage to pursue a dream. And in talking with Williams, it’s clear there are many “hers”—the Prince fan, the history buff, the beauty writer, the fantasy reader—that overlap and intersect, contributing to the fertile soil from which A Love Song for Ricki Wilde was able to blossom. But what about the other versions of Tia Williams that readers haven’t met yet? The heightened, magical world of Ricki Wilde is a brave and exciting step toward something new. Maybe, horror novelist is next. Or perhaps just, as she suggests, “damn good storyteller.”

Photo of Tia Williams by Francesco Ferendeles.

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde is a magical, surprising change of pace for the Seven Days in June author.
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The New York Times bestselling author of Seven Days of June, Tia Williams returns with A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, a modern fairy tale that follows a woman as she finally takes the leap to pursue her dreams and finds magic and wonder along the way.

The titular character hails from Atlanta, where she’s the odd daughter out among her socialite sisters. Ricki has no desire to partake in the family dynasty, a highly successful chain of funeral homes. Instead, she hopes to do some sort of work nurturing plants and flowers. In need of a change and longing to escape the shadow of her family’s accomplishments and well-known name, she moves to the famed neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. There, Ricki opens up a small floral boutique, aptly named Wilde Things, and rents a downstairs apartment in a brownstone owned by spirited nonagenarian Ms. Della. It doesn’t take long before Ricki begins to build a heartwarming and truly tender found family around herself, making friends with former child star Tuesday and taking in the advice of Ms. Della.

Tia Williams has the range: Why the author was drawn to a more magical tone for her latest romance.

And then she meets a mysterious, music-loving man named Ezra. They instantly form a connection, reveling in their shared appreciation of art and design. Ezra is sensitive and private, and he recognizes a fellow old soul in Ricki. But no romance is without obstacles, and there are such substantial hurdles to a satisfying happily ever after that readers may wonder whether Ricki and Ezra can clear them. The answer is unequivocally yes. Williams wouldn’t introduce a perfectly suited pair like this without giving them the fairy-tale ending they deserve. Ricky is particularly winning: earnest and genuine, opening her heart to others even though she’s never felt fully accepted by her family. Readers will fall in love with her as she easily agrees to Ms. Della’s offer to move in, sincerely chats with Tuesday and gently accepts Ezra’s complicated circumstances.

There’s a glamorous quality to Ricki Wilde that suits the headiness of its love story. Williams often switches between present-day and 1920s Harlem, giving readers a lively picture into the aesthetic glories of the Harlem Renaissance and its lasting contributions to media and culture. No matter the era, romance hangs in the air, much like Ricki’s beloved night-blooming jasmine. Williams’ previous novels have been expertly written, full of longing emotion, but there’s a surprising new ingredient this time: a sense of enchantment around every corner. Tissues are recommended, even if simply for the beauty of Williams’ writing. Once you’ve finished A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, you’ll undoubtedly be jealous of those who get to experience it for the first time.

Once you’ve finished A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, you’ll undoubtedly be jealous of those who get to experience it for the first time.
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Jo Segura’s debut, Raiders of the Lost Heart, harkens back to foundational adventure films like Romancing the Stone and The Mummy as well as the action-packed, globe-trotting romance novels of the ’80s and ’90s. Archaeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejia travels to Mexico in hope of unearthing the remains of her ancient Aztec ancestor during a once-in-a-lifetime archaeology dig. Unfortunately, the dig in question is being led by Corrie’s academic rival and fellow archaeologist, Dr. Ford Matthews. Both need this dig to succeed for personal and professional reasons, but they’ll have to battle the harsh jungle environment and their own lingering feelings first. 

A tenacious heroine is a must for any good adventure rom-com, and Corrie fits the bill and then some. She’s fiery, nerdy and a little quirky, with a knack for getting into the most chaotic of situations. Corrie’s career advancement has often been hampered by a white man taking all the glory, and she’s not about to let that happen again. While Ford may be an intelligent archaeologist, Corrie feels he relies too much on his own charisma and avoids getting his hands dirty. Corrie, however, craves adventure and being in the field, and is most at home trudging through the elements instead of sitting behind a desk. 

Ford needs this dig to work out, as the great press would ensure more jobs to help him pay for his mother’s medical treatment. But he also knows the privilege he wields and has begun to reckon with that. He doesn’t quite know what to do with his complicated emotions towards Corrie—other than physically surrender to them and sort it all out later. If the tension of an archaeological deadline and all the different ways the jungle can kill weren’t enough to keep the momentum at a steady pace, Ford is also doing his best to hide a sizable secret, one that could jeopardize his professional integrity and whatever goodwill he is slowly winning from Corrie. 

Both the romance and action are slow burns, with Segura taking her time to develop both before a dramatic third act. Someone in the camp is sabotaging the dig and Corrie and Ford need to find out why, but they’re distracted by their quick banter and the looming sexual tension of having to share a tent. While slightly disjointed at times, this is a fun romance that clearly appreciates its adventure romance predecessors. It’s a hopeful sign of good things to come, both by Segura and possibly the genre as a whole: There’s been a dearth of adventure romance novels for far too long, and Raiders of the Lost Heart is a thrilling addition to the canon that will hopefully kick off a new wave of the subgenre.

An adventure romance a la Romancing the Stone and The Lost City, Raiders of the Lost Heart will hopefully kick off a new wave of the subgenre.
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Katee Robert launches a pirate fantasy romance series with the sexy and adventurous Hunt on Dark Waters.

A witch and a thief, Evelyn doesn’t mind courting a bit of trouble, going so far as to steal some jewels from her vengeful vampire ex-girlfriend. She just didn’t expect that escaping her ex’s clutches would result in her tumbling through a portal and into the Threshold, a sort of oceanic waiting room between realms. 

Bowen is a member of the Cwn Annwn: a gang of pirates who patrol the Threshold and vanquish any monsters seeking to terrorize the realms beyond. Bowen, who has no memory of his life before he was tasked with leading the crew, has seen stranger things in the Threshold than a cunning witch appearing out of nowhere. Unfortunately for Evelyn, now that she’s aboard Bowen’s ship, the Crimson Hag, she’s bound by the laws of the Threshold to stay there forever. But Evelyn has never played by rules, so she keeps an eye out for a chance to betray Bowen and find her way home, even as they grow closer while battling otherworldly enemies. 

Why Katee Robert is reviving the pirate romance.

Whip-smart, snarky and most definitely chaotic good (perhaps even chaotic neutral), Evelyn gives as good as she gets and makes every scene she’s in more interesting. Bowen is straight man to Evelyn’s loose cannon: He’s loyal to his crew and takes his responsibilities seriously, and Evelyn quickly finds that getting under his skin is her new favorite pastime. She’s lusty and loud, and never hides her attraction to Bowen, even when they’re at each other’s throats.

However, this is not a will-they-won’t-they romance: The question is rather whether Evelyn and Bowen will make it out alive. Hunt on Dark Waters is a fast-paced and delightful fever dream of fantasy creatures, mysterious magic and sizzling sexual innuendo. Many of Robert’s recent romances have been sexy twists on fairy tales or myths, but Robert threw everything but the kitchen sink into this romance, letting her imagination run wild to create something completely original. Hunt on Dark Waters stands out for its sheer entertainment and excitement. It’s “yes and . . .” from the very first page. Embrace the chaos.

Katee Robert’s Hunt on Dark Waters is a fast-paced and delightful fever dream of fantasy creatures, mysterious magic and sizzling sexual innuendo.
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When Tessa Bailey’s Bellinger Sisters (It Happened One Summer and Hook, Line, and Sinker) duology went megaviral on TikTok, readers everywhere learned what romance fans had known for years: If you want rom-com hijinks and a high heat level, there is no one better than Bailey. Her latest book, Secretly Yours, is a steamy opposites-attract love story that will only increase her legion of admirers.

Secretly Yours is the start to a new duology, A Vine Mess. Can you tell us a little bit about this new book and the overall setting for the series?
The setting is Napa! After writing a series in the misty Pacific Northwest, I was in the mood for a sun-drenched vineyard. In this duology, we’re going to find love for the Vos siblings; they are heirs to a vineyard that is influential and respected but has perhaps seen better days. Julian Vos, a regimented history professor, is my first victim in Secretly Yours. He begins receiving mysterious love letters at the same exact time that he begins falling for his gardener, Hallie, a free spirit who flouts convention and comes with a trio of slobbery dogs. Julian is fiercely attracted to Hallie. Even though he is positive they could never work as a couple, he can’t stop fabricating reasons to see her. 

Since wine and vineyards feature prominently, did you do any research on winemaking or vineyard upkeep?
Yes, I drank a lot of wine as my main form of research and found it very educational. I also watched a lot of documentaries on winemaking. The process is a lot more complicated than I could have imagined. There is no set method or recipe for wine. It is a constantly evolving art form, especially with new technology. If I learned anything from the eight documentaries I binged, it’s that grapes are extremely temperamental, vintners are more like scientists and I just want to drink the wine. There are a lot of great vineyards within driving distance of where I live on Long Island, New York, and they served as inspiration for my Napa setting.  

“I drank a lot of wine as my main form of research and found it very educational.”

Hallie and Julian are total opposites in a grumpy-meets-sunshine sort of way: Hallie is bubbly and upbeat, while Julian is more on the stuffy side. What do you enjoy about writing an opposites-attract romance? Do you have an ultimate favorite trope to write?
I cannot seem to quit opposites-attract romances. There is something very satisfying about two extremely different personality types finding common ground. There are so many opportunities for them to teach each other new perspectives on everyday life and really unlock something momentous in each other. For instance, in Secretly Yours, Hallie has an organic, unplanned approach to flower placement. Julian wants rows and structure, but when he sees Hallie’s finished product, he acknowledges that the lack of structure is what makes the garden beautiful and interesting.

My favorite trope to write is enemies to lovers, but the storyline must be very specific for me to fall in love enough to write a book of that nature. It’s important to me that, while the hero might be an “enemy” at first, he actually has a soft, Tootsie Roll center when it comes to the heroine. 

At times, Julian and Hallie’s diverging personalities create conflict between them. How did you balance making these two people so different while still giving them a workable path toward happily ever after?
I really think it goes back to perspective. Julian has this rigid, almost unrealistic schedule. Every moment of the day is accounted for. Due to some past trauma, he believes the careful life balance he has created in order to preserve his mental health will collapse if he doesn’t adhere to his strict daily plans. But he learns through observing Hallie (and constantly having his schedule interrupted by her and the pooches) that everything doesn’t collapse if his plans get derailed.

On the opposite end, Hallie learns that a little structure won’t kill her. It’s really rewarding to take characters on a journey that allows them to see the world differently and learn something about their own resilience. 

Book jacket image for Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey

Why did you decide to have Julian receive physical love letters rather than “wrong number” texts or anonymous social media messages?
I took the old-school route because physical letters are more classically romantic and felt more appropriate for this particular series. Letters are a Big Gesture. They would be more of a surprise to receive than a direct message on social media, and have a little more gravity to them. If someone took the time to write words on actual paper and send them to me, in my opinion, those words would carry a lot of weight. 

While Secretly Yours has funny moments and great banter, Julian and Hallie are also dealing with serious things. Julian has anxiety and experiences panic attacks, while Hallie is grieving the death of her grandmother. How do you keep a romance from feeling too light or too dark?
This is the challenge going into a modern romantic comedy. Readers expect there to be high stakes on the road to happily ever after. We don’t need the path to be easy, simply because the book has humorous situations or a humorous tone. A lot of us deal with the heavier aspects of life by laughing or creating levity. So that is my balancing act—making sure there is depth to the characters and their struggles, while also making sure the champagne bubble, fizzy feeling of romance is on the page. I can usually feel when I need a more poignant scene or if the story needs a break from carrying a heavy emotional load. It’s just a sixth sense. Time for a food fight!

For those who may be picking up a Tessa Bailey book for the first time, what can they expect? What’s the recipe for a Bailey romance? 
Heat, humor and heart. In one of my books, a reader can expect lovable, relatable characters who are usually at a transition point in their lives—such a coincidence that they happen to meet their love interest at the same time! Expect to laugh and potentially even get a little misty during the quieter moments. Perhaps most notably, expect open-door love scenes. Like, way the heck open. 

Read our review of ‘Secretly Yours’ by Tessa Bailey.

As someone who has read many a Bailey romance, I know things can get pretty steamy. Where would you rate this one on a scale of 1 to 10?
I usually put my books around a 7, but it’s all a matter of perspective. Some will say 10! Others will say 5. A lot of readers lately come to my books having been fooled by the cute, illustrated cover into expecting a closed-door rom-com, but there will always, always be ample steam in my books. I love experiencing the more intimate moments with my characters and putting them in those vulnerable scenes on the page. Their walls come down and they connect on a physical level . . . and afterward, something usually goes wrong. Like one of them gets a job offer in Milwaukee. Mwahaha. Romance writers are evil at their cores. 

What can we expect in book two, Unfortunately Yours? Who will be the main couple?
In the second book of the Vine Mess duet, we get Natalie Vos and August Cates’ love story. This book owns a massive chunk of my heart—there was just some extra magic sprinkled into it. I can now say definitively that I’ve written my favorite hero of all time. It’s enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience and forced proximity. All the banter. A prank war. And a pesky cat. We meet Natalie and August in Secretly Yours, so I hope readers will be excited for their book.

What have you been reading lately? What books should readers have on their radar?
The last book I read was Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan, and it blew me away. It’s a second-chance romance between a divorced couple. They have older kids and a business together, so there are a lot of fraught interactions and high stakes. It’s mature and riveting and feels oh, so real. The tension, emotional and sexual, is top-notch. I highly, highly recommend it. Kennedy knocked it out of the park.

Photo of Tessa Bailey by Nisha Ver Halen.

The bestselling author’s Secretly Yours is the perfect blend of sweet and steamy.
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In Trish Doller’s Off the Map, two lost souls find each other during a road trip across Ireland. 

Carla Black is a bit of a rolling stone, traveling the world in her old Jeep Wrangler. She’s careful not to stay in one place too long, form attachments or put down roots. Her next adventure is a drive through the Irish countryside to attend her best friend’s wedding. The groom’s best friend, Eamon Sullivan, has been tasked with meeting up with Carla in Dublin and helping her navigate to the venue.

The attraction is immediate when the pair meet at a local pub, and they end the night by hooking up in Eamon’s apartment. It’s refreshing to see two characters recognize their connection, satisfy their curiosity and handle the morning after like adults, especially since they’ll be stuck in a car together for a few days. 

Close quarters lead to more nights together, but also deep conversations. Traveling is one of Cara’s last ways of connecting with her father, whose early onset dementia is getting progressively worse. She’s been honoring his love of travel by seeing the world on her own, but she wonders how sustainable and healthy her nomadic lifestyle really is. Meanwhile, Eamon realizes he’s never prioritized himself and his own dreams of venturing outside Ireland. 

The trip is only supposed to take a few hours, but Carla’s penchant for exploration and Eamon’s desire to start taking more risks in life have the two of them taking all manner of beautiful, disastrous and hilarious detours in the Irish countryside. Doller’s detailed prose creates a noticeable sense of wonder as readers experience Ireland from the perspectives of both a first-timer and a local who is learning to look at the land with a new set of eyes. With its lush pine woods and mischievous herds of sheep, Off the Map could have been commissioned by Ireland’s board of tourism.

Steamier than the previous books in Doller’s Beck Sisters series (Float Plan, The Suite Spot), Off the Map is a sexy romp across the rolling green hills of Ireland. It’s easy to forget that Carla and Eamon have somewhere to be and can’t spend the entirety of their trip tucked away in the corner of a cozy pub or dancing beneath the stars. Romantic and whimsical, Off the Map will leave readers craving adventure and perhaps even tempt them into booking a trip to the Emerald Isle.

A romance that takes place during a sexy and whimsical Ireland vacation, Off the Map will leave readers craving a vacation to the Emerald Isle.
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In Happy Place, New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry returns with a tender contemporary romance full of vulnerability, growth and love.

Every year for the last decade, college sweethearts-turned-engaged couple Harriet and Wyn have joined their friends at a cottage in Maine for a weeklong getaway. It’s something they’ve always looked forward to—but not this year. Because Harriet and Wyn broke up six months ago, and they haven’t told their friends yet. Uncertain of how the group will take the news, they don’t want a cloud hanging over their very last trip to the cottage, which is going up for sale.

For a whole week, Harriet and Wyn must play the part of a couple in love to preserve their ruse, including sharing the cozy master bedroom. As the vacation plays out, Harriet and Wyn get over their initial nervousness and fall back into sweet little routines and playful banter as their passion for each other resurfaces. The trip might be just what Harriet and Wyn need to find each other again.

Happy Place feels very much like the Henry that fans have come to adore through rom-coms such as People We Meet on Vacation and Book Lovers, but this time with the added complexity of a larger cast. Harriet and Wyn’s coupledom is one of the foundations of their close-knit friend group, and Henry illustrates the benefits and challenges of being in a relationship that’s also a vital part of a community. Happy Place also makes room to explore one of Henry’s perennial concerns: how women internalize misogyny and societal pressures. Harriet is an overworked surgical resident, and her aversion to causing waves and speaking up about her own wants, needs and limits has pushed her to a breaking point. Her placative nature leads her to stew in her own stress, constantly pushing things down and never relieving her simmering anxiety. In addition to regaining her connection with Wyn, the week at the cottage teaches Harriet that her problems—whether romantic, professional or emotional—don’t have to be shouldered alone.

Harriet and Wyn’s chemistry is effervescent, bubbling up each time they remember how and why they fell in love in the first place. They’re the perfect combination of sweet, sexy and silly, and it’s obvious why everyone (including, eventually and undoubtedly, the reader) is rooting for their happily ever after. Happy Place proves that Henry is a writer with “no skips,” her oeuvre as expertly crafted as a perfect summer playlist.

Emily Henry’s effervescent and tender Happy Place is as expertly crafted as a perfect summer playlist.
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Author Uzma Jalaluddin returns with another classic love story retelling set in Toronto’s Muslim community. While her last romance took inspiration from ’90s rom-com classic You’ve Got Mail, Much Ado About Nada offers a contemporary twist on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Nada Syed feels blocked, both professionally and personally. She had high hopes for her app Ask Apa, which would have offered users culturally sensitive advice. But after being betrayed by a business partner, she finds herself working an engineering job that stifles her creativity and desire to do good. With her 30th birthday on the horizon, she’s questioning all the decisions that have led to her being single, living with her parents and failing to become the successful tech CEO she’s always dreamed of being.

Haleema, Nada’s best friend, thinks attending Deen&Dunya, a Muslim conference full of fandom and fun, will help Nada get out of her rut. Haleema’s fiancé, Zayn, and his brother, Baz, are joining them, but unbeknownst to Haleema, Nada and Baz have a long and tumultuous history. Despite being thrown together for the duration of the conference, both Nada and Baz want to keep their complicated feelings for each other a secret. 

Jalaluddin has a real talent for crafting protagonists, and Nada is just as complex and enjoyable as the heroines of Ayesha at Last and Hana Khan Carries On. Nada faces all the unfair societal and familial pressures that can weigh on women as they enter their 30s, and her feeling of a giant clock ticking away her remaining time to accomplish goals will hit home for a lot of readers. Jalaluddin adds depth and specificity to this experience by showing how these pressures manifest in Nada’s Muslim community and family. 

Nada and Baz’s cheeky romance is the perfect balance to Much Ado About Nada’s social commentary. Their interactions sizzle with sexual tension as they dance around each other, and their adorable mutual attraction is charmingly obvious to everyone but them. Baz and Nada’s eventual union is a sure thing from the moment they reunite, but it’s still a delight to see them get there in their own time. 

One of the best things about Jalaluddin’s work is the sheer amount of joy she brings to her characters, her writing and her happily ever afters. She clearly delights in reinventing known classics, using beloved heroines as a foundation to create modern women who don’t want or need to sacrifice their ambitions for other parts of their lives. With Much Ado About Nada, Jalaluddin has written yet another winner—and this time it’s one with a particularly heartwarming, tender and feminist resolution.

Uzma Jalaluddin’s Much Ado About Nada is a heartwarming, tender and utterly winning adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
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Kristin Vayden returns to her Cambridge Brotherhood series with In the Eyes of the Earl, which pairs a scholarly heroine with an aristocrat who moonlights as a spy. 

Collin Morgan, Earl of Penderdale, has been suspended from his sensitive position at the War Office because someone has assumed his identity and is using it to commit crimes. However, Collin subscribes to the notion that if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. He embarks on his own investigation, following the trail to Cambridge and reuniting with an old friend who is now a professor. What he doesn’t expect is to immediately clash with his friend’s tenacious daughter. 

Like many women who dreamed of academic pursuits during the Regency, Elizabeth Essex is limited by her gender. Her father’s status means she’s tolerated in academic spaces, but her studies are rarely taken seriously. Elizabeth secretly teaches a small, close-knit group of women, and Collin’s presence jeopardizes what she’s worked so hard to protect. She offers to help Collin, despite their clashing personalities, as it will allow her to keep tabs on him and prevent him from uncovering her scandalous activities.

Collin and Elizabeth are a well-matched couple who clearly appreciate each other’s independence, wit and intelligence, and Collin’s spycraft experience pairs perfectly with Elizabeth’s love of analysis and research. As they banter their way through the investigation, they share thrilling deductions as a form of foreplay, lending a sprightly quality to the romance that balances the serious nature of Collin’s predicament. 

In the Eyes of the Earl is an exemplary entry point to the Cambridge Brotherhood series and may be the best installment thus far. Vayden sets a rollicking pace as she combines an engaging romance with a perplexing whodunit, resulting in a love story that’s fresh, fun and full of secrets.

Kristin Vayden’s fresh, fun In the Eyes of the Earl combines an engaging Regency romance with a perplexing whodunit.
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Poet and young adult author Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s adult debut, Witch of Wild Things, is a story of family legacies and complicated sisterhood, told with romantic and lush magical realism. 

For the entirety of Sage Flores’ life, she’s known three things. First, the old gods have no love for Flores women and have thus cursed them. Second, she feels anything but lucky to have inherited one of her family’s many “gifts,” which in Sage’s case is the ability to identify plants and commune with their spirits. Finally, she wants no part of either her inherited abilities or retribution from meddling gods. The death of her younger sister, Sky, only solidified Sage’s decision to escape her hometown of Cranberry, Virginia, and never look back. But eight years after Sky’s death, Sage finds herself back amongst her old childhood haunts and slowly starting to accept her uncanny talents. 

Returning to her old job at the Cranberry Rose Company, Sage, accompanied by Sky’s ghost, uses her powers to discover new and rare flora in the area. One of her coworkers is a familiar face: Tennessee Reyes, the boy who left her heartbroken in high school. While Tennessee and Sage are workplace rivals at first, their competitiveness is easily quelled as they nerd out on plants and bloom as friends (and then possibly more) while out in nature.Their romance is sweet and subtle, something Gilliland unfolds carefully while Sage deals with the larger obstacles in her life, namely her family. 

Sage is the beautiful heart of Witch of Wild Things, with her herculean efforts to both protect herself but still allow for vulnerability. She’s delightfully funny and heartbreakingly flawed; rooting for her comes easily. There are magical family secrets to uncover, cultural identities to reckon with and relationships to mend, most notably with her other sister, Teal, whose ability to summon thunderstorms and lightning have stirred up plenty of trouble in town. Even when the plot momentum ebbs, Gilliland keeps readers enthralled with her luxurious prose. Sage’s work with plants gives Gilliland plenty of opportunities to create gorgeous imagery for readers to lose themselves in. And the sexy Tennessee’s knowing smirks will make readers weak in the knees right along with Sage. 

Transportive and bursting with heart, Witch of Wild Things is a tender masterpiece of magical realism.

Transportive and bursting with heart, Witch of Wild Things is a tender masterpiece of magical realism and a sexy love story to boot.
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By day, Tara Chen, the heroine of Amy Lea’s Exes and O’s, works as a nurse. In her free time, she shares her love of romance novels on Instagram and TikTok. However, despite being an avid supporter of love, her own personal track record hasn’t been successful. Prompted by the end of her engagement, she decides to track down 10 of her exes to learn more about why their relationships ended. Best-case scenario? One of them realizes he’s made a terrible mistake, and Tara finds herself in a real-life second-chance romance. 

Tara’s new roommate, Trevor Metcalfe, is a firefighter who takes a casual approach to relationships. While Tara and Trevor don’t see eye to eye on love, he’s more than happy to be her wingman in her quest for romance. As Tara invests more and more time seeking out old flames, it becomes increasingly obvious that her happily ever after is with the sweet and supportive tattooed firefighter by her side. 

Tara’s unabashed love of romance novels will deeply resonate with fans of the genre. No matter the social media platform, romance lovers have a knack for finding community, and it’s lovely to see that depicted in Tara’s experiences as an influencer. She speaks the lingo fluently, which feels like a delightful inside joke between her and the reader.

Those who enjoy a slow-burn love story will especially want to bump this to the top of their to-be-read pile. Tara’s affable and friendly demeanor often catches Trevor adorably off guard, especially when she attempts to befriend his hookups. Helping Tara with her quest allows Trevor to examine his own way of approaching relationships and figure out why he’s been so avoidant of long-lasting attachments. 

Lea’s voice is so bright and witty that the more emotional parts of the story will sneak up on even the savviest romance readers. Exes and O’s is equal parts tender and laugh-out-loud funny, with an earnest appreciation for the genre singing loudly from every page. With her sophomore novel, Lea proves she’s here to stay. As for what comes next? The sky’s the limit.

Exes and O’s is equal parts tender and laugh-out-loud funny, with an earnest appreciation for the romance genre singing loudly from every page.
Review by

Author Olivia Dade returns with the highly anticipated third installment in her Spoiler Alert series, Ship Wrecked, an opposites-attract romance that begins with a one-night stand.

Sociable, lively Swedish actor Maria Ivarsson and reserved Wisconsinite Peter Reedton share a steamy night together, after which Maria sneaks out while Peter is asleep. Neither thought they’d ever see each other again, but they’re abruptly reunited when they both land a role on “Gods of the Gates,” an epic fantasy TV show. Their chemistry in the bedroom definitely translates on screen, but old baggage also bubbles up during their scenes together. Maria’s actions tapped into Peter’s long-held insecurities, and even though she regrets leaving the way she did, he would rather just move on. Peter’s not about to ruin both of their acting careers by airing out their dirty laundry on set, so they work together as amicably as possible—for six whole years. But as the show approaches its final episode, their pent-up feelings begin to resurface. Can Peter and Maria walk away a second time? 

Ship Wrecked is quite the slow-burn romance, given that its central couple keep each other at a professional arm’s length for over half a decade. Maria wants to make things up to Peter but worries that doing so will reveal the depths of her attraction to him, which never fades. As they settle into a cordial working relationship that slowly evolves into a friendship, they realize how well they complement each other. The affable and brash Maria gets Peter out of his shell, and Peter, who is an absolute sweetheart and a true cinnamon roll, provides a calm shelter where Maria can rest. It’s particularly lovely to see Dade’s passion for promoting body diversity in romance extend to a male character, an area in which the genre still has a lot of room for improvement.  

This rom-com definitely emphasizes the “com,” with Dade’s trademark blend of nerdy love, sexy banter and comedic shenanigans, but there’s still space for more serious notes, such as Peter’s and Maria’s individual struggles with the mental and emotional toll of being in the spotlight. Ship Wrecked is a charming, tender exploration of acceptance, celebrity and getting a second chance to make a lasting and loving impression.

In Olivia Dade’s charming, sexy Ship Wrecked, a one-night stand leads to a six-year slow-burn romance.

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