Christie Ridgway

★ Wolf in the Shadows

Maria Vale sweeps readers into a compelling paranormal world in her fifth entry in the Legend of All Wolves series, Wolf in the Shadows. Julia Martel, pampered shifter princess of Montreal, has been kidnapped by the Great North Pack, who live apart from human society and ritualistically shift to their wolf forms every full moon. Though she was raised to be “exquisitely inconsequential,” Julia finds her inner strength as she lives with the pack and gets to know Arthur, a wolf at the bottom of the pack's hierarchy. Vale's storytelling is immersive and fascinating as she chronicles Julia's metamorphosis from plaything to predator. And Arthur is a uniquely appealing love interest: keenly attentive, sensitive and always willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Lushly described set pieces, from Julia's embrace of her animal nature to the couple's smoking hot love scenes, make for a fiercely beautiful read.

Husband Material

A couple grapples with life, love and being true to themselves in Husband Material by Alexis Hall. It's been two years since Lucien “Luc” O'Donnell and Oliver Blackwood got together in Boyfriend Material, and the opposites-attract pair are happy together—and happy to witness the people around them tie the knot. But does that mean they should follow suit? Narrated by Luc in a self-deprecating and often sarcastic first-person voice, the next phase in the men's romance plays out with the help of their loyal but sometimes screwball friends. Family drama adds serious layers and provides an opportunity for soul-searching, even as Hall's bouncy dialogue tumbles along through plenty of rom-com fun. As they grapple with their future, examining both compatibility and commitment, Luc and Oliver are amusing, authentic and eminently deserving of their happily ever after. 

Quarter to Midnight

Karen Rose's latest romantic suspense novel, Quarter to Midnight, begins a new series set in New Orleans. When his father, a former police officer, dies under suspicious circumstances, chef Gabe Hebert hires a PI agency to look into the matter. Molly Sutton, former cop, former Marine and forever badass, takes on the case. A patron of Gabe's renowned restaurant, she's long admired his culinary skills and his good looks, and she's committed to getting answers for him, no matter what she may uncover in the process. Rose always constructs an appealing team to aid her main couple and further engage the reader's emotions; this time, the crew includes a brave young med student, a pair of canny brothers and two witty and determined older women. It's a twisty, dangerous ride all the way to the end, with the French Quarter setting and the descriptions of Gabe's food adding an extra je ne sais quoi to this entertaining read.

The long-awaited sequel to Boyfriend Material is finally here, plus two thrilling love stories in this month's romance column.

Maggie Moves On

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score is a rom-com that will especially delight lovers of HGTV and will charm practically everyone else. Happy-to-wander Maggie Nichols makes a living as a house flipper and documents her success on a popular YouTube channel. When she selects a mansion in Kinship, Idaho, as her next fixer-upper, she meets hunky landscaper Silas Wright and promptly loses her heart. Can she learn to settle down with a man who's firmly rooted in his charming hometown? An Old West-style myth (lost gold!) adds to the fun, which also includes hilarious family group texts and a real standout of a hero. Silas oozes confidence and charm, especially when he's crooning impromptu with his stepmother on a bar stage. Maggie Moves On is a sexy, sweet and easy read, but readers may still find themselves wiping away sentimental tears at its unabashed and all-encompassing happily ever after. Relax and enjoy this one while dreaming of dream houses, blissful blended families and Idaho finger steaks.

You Were Made to Be Mine

Julie Anne Long offers a historical romance to savor with You Were Made to Be Mine. Former British spy Christian Hawkes is fresh out of prison and out of funds. For an exorbitant fee, he agrees to find Lady Aurelie Capet, the Earl of Brundage's runaway fiancée. Christian has his suspicions about the earl, suspicions that prove horribly true when he tracks down the beautiful Aurelie, who has taken a new name and is hiding out at the Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house in an effort to escape from her wicked fiancé. As with the four previous novels in the Palace of Rogues series, this book is teeming with fascinating characters, and every paragraph crackles with life. Long's third-person narration allows for entertaining glimpses into the cast, from would-be footmen to the delightful proprietresses of “TGPOTT” (as embroidered on signature handkerchiefs). Christian and Aurelie are a couple that is eminently worth rooting for, and their desperate yearning and aching tenderness are sure to linger long in readers' hearts.

The Romance Recipe

Two women deal with career, family and romantic turmoil in The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett. Amy Chambers, the owner of struggling restaurant Amy and May's, and Sophie Brunet, the restaurant's chef, are each harboring a secret crush on the other. Sophie has recently realized that she's bisexual, and Amy's confidence in herself makes her as intimidating as she is alluring. Amy isn't wont to open up to anyone, especially someone like Sophie, who Amy worries might be looking for new experiences instead of commitment. But even as they attempt to keep things between them casual, Amy and Sophie's potent physical chemistry draws them together. Sensual feasts abound, both in luscious culinary creations and detailed sex scenes, as Barrett masterfully portrays the sensation of infatuation growing into true love.

Dive into two romances that are as emotional as they are steamy, plus a sweet and sexy rom-com for HGTV lovers.

The Bride Goes Rogue

Joanna Shupe sets the pages on fire in the passionate Gilded Age romance The Bride Goes Rogue, the third entry in her Fifth Avenue Rebels series. Romantically minded Katherine Delafield has always looked forward to marriage, even though her own union has been arranged by her father. Her intended, New York City tycoon Preston Clarke, is a man she’s only seen from afar, and she’s stunned and humiliated when she learns that Preston has no intention of honoring his agreement with her father. Intent on making up for lost time, Katherine attends a scandalous masquerade ball and enjoys an exciting dalliance with a masked man—who turns out to be none other than her ex-betrothed. Despite their shock at discovering each other's identity, neither truly regrets that steamy encounter . . . and all the other ones that follow. The ruthless Preston proves to have a heart after all, and despite being a naive ingenue, Katherine surprises him with her ardent desires. Shupe skillfully brings the opulent setting to life, and Katherine and Preston’s love story will leave readers with racing hearts and satisfied smiles.

From Bad to Cursed

The peace of the magical town of Thistle Grove is threatened in From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper. Four supernaturally gifted families live side by side in relative harmony in this Illinois community. The paranormal citizens make a living providing exciting, supposedly fake experiences to tourists, aka “normies”—at an occult superstore, for instance, or a haunted house. But during one of the town’s celebrations to mark the festival of Beltane, a mysterious curse nearly strips young witch Holly Thorn of her powers. Holly’s upstanding cousin Rowan Thorn and town wild child Isidora Avramov are ordered to investigate. Rowan and Issa have been enemies for years, but as they hunt down the person who cast the curse, their antagonism morphs into a surprisingly strong mutual attraction. From Bad to Cursed is an all-senses escape into a vivid and inventive world. Written from Issa’s snarky first-person perspective, this paranormal rom-com is sure to delight.

Something Wilder

Readers are invited along on an exciting adventure in author-duo Christina Lauren’s Something Wilder. Lily Wilder leads tourists on fake treasure hunts through the beautiful desert landscapes of Utah. It’s a career path made possible by Lily’s infamous treasure hunter father, Duke Wilder—and made necessary by her late father’s lack of financial planning. To her unpleasant surprise, Lily’s latest group of clients includes Leo Grady, the man who got away (or, more specifically, left her) 10 years ago. Even as they grapple with their past and what drove them apart, unforeseen danger requires Leo and Lily to combine their reserves of courage and cleverness to survive. The authors clearly hold the red rocks and canyons of Utah dear and describe them in loving detail throughout. Something Wilder is laden with suspense, intrigue and fun as its main couple faces down danger and learns to love again.

These three romances by Joanna Shupe, Lana Harper and Christina Lauren are perfect seasonal reads.

★ Never a Duke

In Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes, a determined lady teams up with an almost-gentleman to search for women who have gone missing in Regency London. Ned Wentworth, who was adopted into a wealthy ducal family as a child, is intrigued to receive a note asking for aid from Lady Rosalind Kinwood, known for her dedication to charitable causes. Instinct urges him to demur, but Rosalind’s beauty and her fear for her missing lady’s maid calls to him. As Ned and Rosalind meet to discuss his investigation, a slow-burn romance full of understated yet heart-aching yearning begins. Burrowes’ writing style evokes classic Regency romance with its witty repartee and loving attention to clothing. Tortured-yet-tender Ned is an unforgettable hero who learns to value himself as much as those around him do. This is the seventh entry in Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series, and fans will revel in glimpses of past couples and feel delighted that the worthy Ned has found love at last.

Mad for a Mate

MaryJanice Davidson pens a furiously paced, full-of-fun shifter romance in Mad for a Mate. Magnus Berne, a brown werebear of Scottish extraction, is surprised when Verity Lane washes up on the beach of his private island. He’s fascinated by her presence, then even more fascinated to learn she’s a squib—a werecreature that cannot shift—and is part of a club that takes dangerous dares to prove their worth to the world. When fellow club members begin dying, Magnus worries about the lovely Verity, and though usually reclusive, he opens himself up to her world and heart. Nimble-minded readers will delight in Davidson’s almost stream-of-consciousness style and occasional authorial interjections. She never spoon-feeds readers the rules of her paranormal world, which keeps the pace brisk and suits Mad for a Mate’s all-around quirkiness.

When She Dreams

Amanda Quick returns to the glamorous 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, California, in When She Dreams. Intrepid Maggie Lodge resolves to discover who is trying to blackmail her employer, a popular advice columnist. As part of her investigation, she travels to a conference in Burning Cove along with her newly hired (and newly minted) PI, Sam Sage. The conference’s subject intersects with one of Maggie’s personal interests: lucid dreaming, a state in which dreams can act as a conduit to psychic abilities. After a conference attendee’s suspicious death and an encounter with a scientist who is obsessed with Maggie’s abilities as a lucid dreamer, the pair realize this might be much more than a case of simple blackmail. Maggie’s can-do attitude finds a perfect complement in ex-cop Sam’s world-weariness. Falling in love is an unexpected delight for both of them, but longtime fans will not be surprised by Quick’s imagination and mastery of storytelling, which never fail to entertain.

Tired of gloomy vampires and brooding werewolves? Two lighthearted, fizzily fun paranormals, plus a truly unforgettable Regency hero, await you in this month’s romance column.

★ Boss Witch

A witch hunter is on the prowl in the Midwest in Ann Aguirre’s delightful Boss Witch. Clementine Waterhouse, one of the owners and operators of the Fix-It Witches repair shop, vows to save her family and coven by distracting Gavin Rhys, a sexy Brit who’s arrived in town to snatch away the power of any witch in the vicinity. Gavin and Clem quickly discover a powerful spark of sexual attraction between them, and it’s enough to keep them both bewitched, bothered and bewildered until reinforcements are called in from Gavin’s team. Can they craft a solution to an age-old enmity and find a forever love? Boss Witch may be a paranormal romance, but Gavin and Clem have problems every reader can relate to: meddling family, impossible expectations and fears of intimacy. There’s plenty of amusing whimsy piled into Aguirre’s imaginative story, made all the more charming by her energetic and vivid writing style. Boss Witch will make readers believe in the unbelievable, and wish for a little magic for themselves.

To Marry and to Meddle

A couple finds their new marriage less than convenient in To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters. For years, Lord Julian Belfry was satisfied with his scandalous reputation as the owner of an unsavory theater. He’s only the second son of a marquess, after all, and not set to inherit any grand title. But respectability would certainly sell more tickets, and he thinks that marrying the beautiful but impoverished Lady Emily Turner will help him reach that goal. Emily agrees, as she’s more than ready for a married lady’s relative independence—and it doesn’t hurt that Julian is handsome and charming. But as the pair learns to live together, they must confront uncomfortable truths about themselves. Will these new revelations make or break their union? Waters’ prose harkens back to foundational Regency romance author Georgette Heyer, but Emily and Julian’s individual journeys of learning to like their authentic selves are timeless. A witty cast of secondary characters and glimpses of backstage theater life add to the fun.  

Going Public

A workplace romance starts slow then burns hot in Going Public, the second book in Hudson Lin’s Jade Harbour Capital series. Elvin Goh loves his job as assistant to Raymond Chao, a hotshot fixer and partner at private equity firm Jade Harbour, even if Elvin’s all-hours and hands-on assignments mean he can’t ignore the many lovers who parade in and out of Ray’s bed. Elvin and Ray are already a great team, but sorting out a thorny, potentially dangerous problem in a Jade Harbour holding brings the pair closer together—and into a new kind of intimacy. Watching sweet, innocent Elvin and jaded playboy Ray navigate new waters will melt readers’ hearts. Lin excels at revealing the inner workings of her characters’ minds, and when they wear their feelings on the sleeve of a luxury business suit . . . well, the appeal is multiplied.

Calling all fans of opposites-attract love stories! We’ve got three steamy recommendations for you in this month’s romance column.

★ Hook, Line, and Sinker

Two delightful people find both themselves and true love in Tessa Bailey’s sequel to It Happened One Summer, Hook, Line, and Sinker. Film production assistant Hannah Bellinger’s latest project is being shot in her late father’s small hometown of Westport, Washington, where she met fisherman Fox Thornton the summer before. They’ve been texting buddies ever since, and she bunks at his place during the shoot. Fox is funny and incredibly handsome but a self-avowed shallow player, so she’s certain she’d never fall in love with him. Except there is so much about Fox to love: his humor, his self-deprecation, the way he believes in her (not to mention his unending sex appeal). Fox is constantly there for Hannah, and the evolution of their relationship from pals to passionate lovers feels authentic at every step of the way. Bailey is a master at articulating emotion through both narrative prose and dialogue, and readers will feel everything going through the hearts of this charming yet imperfect couple. Every page in this fabulous novel is pure romance gold. 

Kamila Knows Best

Farah Heron retells one of Jane Austen’s classic in Kamila Knows Best. Accountant Kamila Hussain lives a busy life taking care of her father, her dog and her many friends. But is she paying enough attention to her own needs and what she might really want . . . such as Rohan Nasser, a man she’s known forever? Heron’s prose completely captures the breezy, confident tone of her modern Emma. Like Austen’s protagonist, Kamila is a devoted daughter, inveterate matchmaker and she’s just a bit self-centered. But she’s as vivacious and fun to read about as Heron’s descriptions of clothing, decor and mouthwatering meals. A warm, wisecracking set of secondary characters and contemporary concerns fortify the rom-com plotline. A very good groveling scene (a trope beloved by many romance readers in which a character humbles themselves for love) is included, along with a recipe for biryani in this all-around delicious love story.

The Lady Tempts an Heir

Harper St. George’s lush Victorian romance, The Lady Tempts an Heir, sees a brash American fall at the feet of an English lady. Maxwell Crenshaw, the heir and manager of a prosperous ironworks, leaves New York City to check on his ailing father in London, which means he’s right back in the world of Lady Helena March. She’s oh-so proper and oh-so beautiful, and when they are both pressured by their families to marry . . . well, why not give themselves some breathing room by faking an engagement? In the way of these things, of course, Max and Helena find passion and then love, falling for each other as they discover they share similar stances regarding the rights of women and the plight of factory workers. But they live on separate continents and they’d agreed this wasn’t to last, right? Max and Helena’s sensuous, engaging and entertaining love story is deepened by St. George’s pitch-perfect evocation of the tender yearning of lovers separated by distance and circumstance.

Tessa Bailey strikes rom-com gold and Jane Austen’s Emma gets a delightful modern makeover in this month’s romance column.

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