Amanda Diehl

New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry (Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation) returns with Book Lovers, in which an ambitious literary agent’s summer trip takes an unexpected turn when she’s stuck in a small town with her professional nemesis.

Nora Stephens is known for her cutthroat drive and the dogged devotion to her clients and their manuscripts. There’s really only one person who can get through her tough exterior, and that’s her younger sister, Libby. When Libby proposes a sisters’ trip to the small town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, Nora acquiesces. Once there, Nora is surprised to run into book editor Charlie Lastra, a man she’s deeply disliked ever since he ruthlessly turned down one of her books. Apparently, Charlie is a Sunshine Falls native, and he seems different than Nora remembers from their encounters in New York City. He’s not the abrupt editor that spurned her before; he’s actually charming, which Nora finds particularly infuriating.

Henry excels at writing introspective, heroine-focused romance, and she uses the character of Nora to dismantle the stereotypical “career woman” archetype: the cold, ambitious person who sacrifices relationships for the sake of her job and often stands in the way of a more conventionally “feminine” woman’s happiness. But in Book Lovers, Nora doesn’t have to change her driven nature to find a partner who appreciates her. While Charlie is a real softie at heart, he still celebrates Nora’s desire to excel. He understands her professional ambitions, because he harbors similar ones himself.

Emily Henry wants justice for the “Big City Woman.”

And while Sunshine Falls’ small-town charm does eventually win Nora over, the most significant result of her letting her guard down is not so much her relationship with Charlie so much as it’s the reaffirmation of her love for her sister. Nora deeply cares for Libby, and as the trip goes on, Nora begins to sense that something is amiss. Their sisterly affection is a sweet delight to witness, an unconditional and supportive love that Henry celebrates just as much as Nora’s romance with Charlie.

Is it possible for Henry to write a romance that doesn’t glitter with pithy banter or that isn’t filled with characters you want to root for? So far, the answer is no. As the title suggests, readers who love meta “books about books” will delight in the details of Nora’s and Charlie’s occupations and their passion for reading. But Book Lovers is also a wonderful examination of work-life balance, the intricacies of family relationships and the realization that you shouldn’t have to compromise yourself for love.

A delightful romance that both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype, Book Lovers cements Emily Henry's status as one of the best rom-com writers around.

Hugo Award winner T. Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone is a dark, feminist fantasy that follows an unlikely heroine as she takes matters into her own hands to free her sister and other women from a cyclical system of abuse.

Princess Marra is shy and seemingly forgettable, content with being sent to a convent rather than married off for political gain. But when she learns of the death of her oldest sister, Damia, most likely at the hands of her husband, Prince Vorling, Marra worries that her other sister, Kania, will suffer the same fate. She’s destined to be Vorling’s second wife, after all.

Embarking on a quest to save what remains of her family, Marra turns to the dust-wife, a necromancer whose familiar is a demon-possessed chicken. The dust-wife tasks Marra with building a dog of bones, sewing a cloak of nettles and capturing moonlight in a jar. As Marra attempts to accomplish the impossible, she slowly assembles a team worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster montage. First, there’s Bonedog, whose creation occurs in the first chapter, an instantly gripping flash-forward to Marra midquest. Then there’s Agnes, Marra’s neurotic fairy godmother whose abilities are limited to granting good health. Rounding out the group is Fenris, a diplomatic knight who seems to have a bit of a death wish.

Fans of Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel trilogy will recognize her trademark blend of bleak world building and an affable cast of underdog characters. Marra’s evolution is an inspiration. She becomes a more confident version of herself as she works to save her sister, and then expands her mission once she realizes that if her vengeance remains focused on just Prince Vorling, it will leave many more women still in danger. But while Nettle & Bone is undeniably dark and sinister at times, Kingfisher balances the horror with well-placed levity. Any road trip is instantly made better by a demonic chicken, and who wouldn’t love a curious, energetic dog to tag along, even if he is made of bones? The more comedic characters allow readers to find comfort amid the larger, darker scope of the novel, bright spots in a world that can often feel hopeless.

Kingfisher is an inventive fantasy powerhouse, and Nettle & Bone represents the burgeoning “hopepunk” ethos at its finest, with its winsome characters and focus on their fight to make the world a better place.

Nettle & Bone is the burgeoning “hopepunk” ethos at its finest: a dark fantasy starring a demon-possessed chicken and a feminist avenger.

In The League of Gentlewomen Witches, India Holton returns to the Dangerous Damsels, her magical romp of a series complete with flying houses, adventuring pirates and tenacious witches. In this fast-paced enemies-to-lovers romance, a witch destined to take over a secret society teams up with a roguish pirate captain to recover a stolen amulet.

Charlotte Pettifer is a descendent of the famed Beryl Black, founder of the Wicken League, which fosters the talents of both young and experienced witches. It’s Charlotte’s birthright to lead the league, just like her ancestor, and she’s always thought that her destiny was also her dream job. But a treasure-hunting pirate makes her reconsider her future. When Beryl Black’s long-lost amulet resurfaces, Captain Alex O’Riley sets out to claim it—and so does Charlotte, by stowing away on Alex’s flying house.

India Holton reveals which fictional sorceresses she’d want in her own coven.

Close quarters turn Charlotte and Alex’s rapid-fire banter into a sort of foreplay, but despite their mutual antagonism, their romance skews more toward the sweet and heartwarming end of the spectrum. The dashing, daring Alex provides the perfect foil for buttoned-up and duty-bound Charlotte. It’s not exactly a grumpy-meets-sunshine pairing—more like a stuffy character falling for a free-spirited one. Alex oozes charm; he already made a grand first impression in Holton’s debut, The Wisteria Society for Lady Scoundrels, and he will further secure his spot in readers’ hearts here. They will immediately understand why Charlotte is envious of Alex’s freedom, especially as the weight of becoming the head of the Wicken League looms over her. His very existence and infectious spontaneity make Charlotte waver on her commitment to the league. Can she really live the life she wants while also fully committing to the role of leader?

Holton takes readers on a wild ride through a fun, limitless world, where frivolity and whimsy reign supreme and skilled swordwork and grand displays of magic abound. It’s all a hodgepodge of delightful silliness, with over-the-top action, exaggerated villainy and the fact that it’s possible to fall in love with your sworn enemy while recovering an ancient amulet. Think Mel Brooks meets The Princess Bride with a dash of Austen-esque comedy of manners. And then crank that all up to 11.

It’s impossible to know where the series will go next, but after finishing The League of Gentlewomen Witches, readers will be completely on board for more of Holton’s imaginative, rollicking romances.

Mel Brooks meets The Princess Bride, with a dash of Austen-esque comedy of manners, in India Holton’s imaginative, rollicking romance.

Romance readers fell in love with India Holton’s madcap and magical version of Victorian England in her debut, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels. Now, she’s back with more daring witches, dashing pirates and flying houses in The League of Gentlewomen Witches, which follows Charlotte Pettifer, a witch who will one day take over as leader of the titular society, as she teams up with pirate Alex O’Reilly to recover a powerful amulet. We talked to Holton about which fictional witches she would want in her coven and what the Victorian setting allowed her to say about the power of femininity.

How does this book compare to The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels? There’s still a grand sense of adventure, but what else can returning readers expect?
The main thing returning readers will get from The League of Gentlewomen Witches is more. More action, more enemies-to-lovers romance, more tea and more explosions, in all senses of the word. The League takes the Wisteria Society experience up several degrees! Also, the literary allusions focus on Jane Austen this time, which seemed appropriate for my feisty Charlotte and fierce (but rather nonplussed) Alex. 

“I’ve always felt that bookish, introverted and sensitive women can be just as powerful as the warrior type . . .”

Your world is so inventive and fun! What were your inspirations? Was there anything specific you wanted to change about the Victorian period? Why did you decide to blend history and fantasy?
My inspirations for the world were honestly right out of my own head. But I was also influenced by the fun, madcap energy of old rom-com movies and TV shows. 

I chose a historical setting because the things I wanted to say about women were really emphasised by a Victorian milieu, rather than an imaginary world. For example, I’ve always felt that bookish, introverted and sensitive women can be just as powerful as the warrior type, given an opportunity. By placing my heroines in a time period in which women were constrained to be ladylike (“the angel of the house”), I could explore this more easily. So it wasn’t so much about changing the Victorian period as using what it offered for my purpose. Although the books offer light fun, at their heart is a contemplation of how we as a culture view women—and indeed men, too—and how that can harmfully influence their relationships with themselves, as well as with others.  

Do you have any tips on balancing romance with action?
An action-filled plot is a wonderful opportunity to bring two characters together in the forced proximity of a shared problem. But if they have different ideas about solving that problem, or different goals, therein lies the tension. The conflict between them reflects the conflict that incites the action. Also, tying the momentum of their personal relationship to that of the overarching plot provides continual opportunities to address the romance, even while things are exploding all around them. 

The League of Gentlewomen Witches feels a bit spicier than its predecessor. Was that a conscious decision on your part or just where Charlotte and Alex’s journey took you?
My very first glimpse of this story was a scene that included them fighting, then kissing in the rain. I became absorbed in the intensity between the characters and actually developed the entire plot around this one moment. So it didn’t really surprise me that Charlotte and Alex demanded more heat than Wisteria’s Cecilia and Ned.  

If you designed your own magical, moveable house, what details would be essential?
First and foremost, plenty of bookshelves! Also, a comfortable chair in front of the wheel, set high enough that I could see out the window, since I am very short. And a rooftop deck, with good fencing around it because I’m scared of heights! 

Read our review: “The League of Gentlewomen Witches” by India Holton

If you could cast your own League of Gentlewomen Witches, which famous witches (fictional or historical) would you include in your magical girl gang?
Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle, Samantha Stephens from “Bewitched,” and Nanny Ogg and Agnes Nitt from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. (Not Granny Weatherwax—she’d take over in the worst way.)  

What can we expect next from the Dangerous Damsels series?
I don’t want to say just yet who will be featured in book three; I want to see if readers can guess. But I’m so very excited to share their story, because I fell in love at first sight with both characters. It involves one of my favorite tropes: fake marriage. It also includes rivals-to-lovers, forbidden love and only one bed, of course! 

What are you reading and loving right now?
I’m in the middle of Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese, which is a truly delightful rom-com due out this fall. And I’ve also started If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher, which is a charming, hilarious rom-com.

Photo of India Holton courtesy of the author.

The whimsical romance-fantasy-historical fiction mashup of your dreams returns.

★ Delilah Green Doesn’t Care

Children’s and young adult author Ashley Herring Blake makes her adult debut with Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, a queer small-town romance between—let’s be frank—two total babes who are most certainly worthy of their swoony whirlwind of a love story.

Delilah Green has no desire to return home to Bright Falls, Oregon; the tiny town is full of painful memories of a childhood spent feeling abandoned and isolated by her stepfamily. But when her estranged stepsister, Astrid, offers Delilah a large paycheck to photograph her wedding, Delilah finds herself back in Bright Falls for the first time in years. She hopes to get the trip over as soon as possible, but then she reunites with Claire Sutherland, a single mom who runs the local bookstore. Delilah recalls Claire being one of Astrid’s pretentious, “mean girl” friends, but she’s matured into a warm, kind and all-too-alluring woman. 

This tender story of growth and change is about becoming a person your younger self can be proud of. Delilah and Claire’s connection starts as a sexy sort of antagonism, an attraction they just can’t get out from under their skin, but it soon blossoms into a wild vulnerability neither expected. Blake’s impressive talent is on display on every page, especially when it comes to tracking the evolution of her central couple’s relationship. Romance readers are sure to welcome her (and Delilah) with open arms. 

Love at First Spite

An interior designer and an architect work together to build the perfect revenge in Anna E. Collins’ Love at First Spite.

Dani Porter’s already gotten mad about her cheating fiancé. Now, she wants to get even. When a vacant lot opens up next to her ex’s house, the place where they were supposed to live happily ever after, she quickly snatches it up. Her plan? Build an Airbnb right next door to block his beautiful view. To help with the project, she hires Wyatt Montego, a grumpy architect who works at her design firm. Their personalities immediately clash, but they soon find their groove within the large-scale project, moving from strangers to friends to something more. 

Given how much time and emotion she invested in her last relationship, only to then have her trust completely shattered, Dani is wary of love. And Wyatt is hiding his own sensitivities beneath his terse, stuffy exterior. The renovation and design elements provide the story’s foundation, giving Dani and Wyatt’s slow-burning chemistry plenty of opportunities to sizzle. This is a sweet story of healing after heartbreak, finding your person and debating the wrong and right ways to eat a sandwich.

If You Love Something

Some romances aren’t about finding something new, but rebuilding and reclaiming something you’ve lost. DeShawn and Malik Franklin haven’t seen each other in years and, as far as they know, they’ve been divorced for just as long. 

DeShawn is a successful executive chef in the Washington, D.C., area, but his comfortable lifestyle gets shaken up by one phone call from his dear grandmother. She reveals that she has cancer, she won’t be seeking treatment and she’s finalizing her will and plans to leave half of her estate to Malik, with whom she is still very close. But, there was a mix-up with DeShawn and Malik’s divorce paperwork: They’re still married.

When DeShawn’s uncle contests the will, DeShawn agrees to pretend that he and Malik are back together, hoping the ruse plus the fact that they are still technically married will make it easier for Malik to fight for his rightful share. But once they reunite, old problems and even older attractions emerge. 

Fans who love a bit of family drama in their romances, as well as some fake dating (between spouses!), will tear through Jayce Ellis’ endearing If You Love Something. DeShawn and Malik are clearly the right person for each other—they just met at the wrong time. Ellis shows how both men have worked on themselves and grown in order to become better romantic partners. If You Love Something will give you all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Perfecting the rom-com is no easy feat. But these authors have cracked the code. Their satisfying romances boast heaping doses of lightness and humor, as well as some perfectly deployed and fan-friendly genre tropes.

In romance, the teaching occupation transcends time and subgenres. Reasoning with a kid, whether it’s a toddler or a teen, can require some unshakeable persistence, and the teacher heroines of these two romances are patient, empathetic and just a bit stubborn. It’s no wonder that when faced with these determined women, two guarded heroes finally take a chance on love.

The latest installment in Marie Harte’s Turn Up the Heat series, Hot for You, finds multiple meanings in the phrase “hot for teacher” as a love-shy firefighter meets a charming teacher and her daughter amid disastrous circumstances. 

Firefighter Reggie Morgan first encounters Maggie Swanson when she’s lying unconscious on the side of the road. Minutes earlier, Maggie and her 6-year-old daughter, Emily, had stopped to rescue a stray puppy, and the young teacher was clipped by a passing car. When Reggie responds to the hit-and-run call, he finds a distraught girl, one ugly dog and a woman in need of medical attention. 

Maggie’s injuries aren’t serious, but thanks to a fracture, her dominant arm has to be in a sling for several weeks. Reggie can’t help but check up on her, which puts him at risk of breaking his personal rules about avoiding serious romantic relationships. Maggie, on the other hand, is quickly and uncomplicatedly attracted to Reggie. After all, he made quite an impressive knight in shining armor, and Emily and Reggie get on like a house on fire. But Maggie senses there is something beneath the affable firefighter’s exterior that holds him back. 

Reggie is an attentive and kind hero whose previous relationship with another single mother ended with him nursing a seriously broken heart. Maggie slowly coaxes him to trust her and their feelings for each other, giving this tender love story an emotionally resonant arc as Reggie learns to be vulnerable again. As an added bonus, Harte throws some wonderful puppy hijinks into the mix of this sizzling and sweet contemporary romance.

Author Anna Bennett offers a Regency take on the teacher heroine and kicks off a new series with Girls Before Earls, an angsty historical romance between a headmistress and a slightly curmudgeonly earl.

Gabriel “Blade” Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, has had it with his teenage niece and ward, Kitty, who has been kicked out of several schools. His attention is firmly set on making an advantageous match in London, and Kitty’s scandalous behaviour is driving him to distraction. He hopes to find her another school, far away from his life and London, and sets his sights on the seaside Bellehaven Academy.

Hazel Lively, the headmistress of Bellehaven, has settled into her spinsterhood (she’s practically ancient, having reached her late 20s) and dreams of turning her struggling school into a success. Hazel and Blade immediately lock horns when he arrives to enroll Kitty in Bellehaven, as Hazel correctly senses that Kitty is acting out because of her distant relationship with her uncle. Hazel declares that she’ll agree to admit Kitty on one condition: Blade must visit every two weeks. 

That two-week space between encounters places Girls Before Earls firmly in the delicious slow burn category. Readers who love a bit of banter and antagonism between the leads will especially love this romance, as Hazel and Blade are natural opposites with diametrically different approaches to life. Hazel is a dreamer who wants to nurture the minds of young women and help them on their paths to greatness. Meanwhile, Blade is pragmatic and dry, with a mind for business and structure. Bennett keeps the relational momentum going with each new scene Hazel and Blade share and with every obstacle they need to overcome. It’s quite the uphill battle to happily ever after, but despite her lofty ideals, Hazel is a tenacious force to be reckoned with. Blade may be stubborn, but he never stood a chance against a headmistress who dedicates her time to teenage girls.

Bennett knocks it out of the park while also setting up plenty of opportunities for side characters to get their own love story in future installments. The entertaining Girls Before Earls is an utter delight until the very last page.

Two teacher heroines give their respective heroes lessons in love.

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