Christie Ridgway

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Never Rescue a Rogue

Virginia Heath’s Never Rescue a Rogue is a sophisticated Regency gem. In this second entry in the Merriwell Sisters series, world-weary nobleman Giles Sinclair battles ennui by trading barbs with journalist Diana Merriwell, his best friend’s sister. Though their charming family and friends think they would make a perfect pair, they both disagree and are firmly entrenched in their singleness. But when Giles becomes a duke, a discomfiting lack of information on his real parentage could spell disaster. There’s no one better at uncovering the full truth than Diana, so Giles enlists her help—and subsequently loses his heart. Giles introduces the jaded Diana to passion and she steadily overcomes her fear of losing her independence, all while their slow-burn attraction blooms into steamy love scenes. The dialogue is delightful and the wordplay a pleasure to read, and the well-developed and heart-tugging backstories of both leads give this romance an authentic heft.

Better than Fiction

A woman reexamines her ideas about love in Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin. Drew Young’s self-deprecating, humorous, first-person narration lets readers know unequivocally how she feels about her late grandmother (admiration and loyalty, which explains Drew’s determination to keep open the bookstore her grandmother left her) and about love (doesn’t trust it an inch, thanks to her deadbeat dad who left Drew and her mom for another family). When successful and sexy romance author Jasper Williams arrives for a special event at the bookstore, Drew is sure he’s too good to be true. But he’s also too attractive to resist. As they become better acquainted, Martin revels in the requisite rom-com scenes, including the delicious fan favorite that is “There’s just one bed.” Romance readers will feel vindicated by Drew’s growing appreciation of feel-good fiction, and will root for her and Jasper to get a happy ending equal to those in his novels.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck

Some Dukes Have All the Luck, the first entry in Christina Britton’s Synneful Spinsters series, stars a most unlikely pair. Ash Hawkins, Duke of Buckley, travels to the Isle of Synne to reclaim his wayward young wards after they flee London. Once there, he encounters naturalist Bronwyn Pickering, who has always been more interested in beetles than becoming a bride. The striking and sexy Ash ignites something in Bronwyn, and when he offers a marriage of convenience—promising she can continue her scientific studies, something her domineering parents have tried to prevent her from doing—she seizes her chance at greater independence. Of course, the marriage is soon complicated by feelings, Ash’s recalcitrant wards and a roaring sexual attraction. Bronwyn is easy to admire, especially as she overcomes her social awkwardness to care for the three girls entrusted to her. Ash is a classic “I’m not good enough for anyone” hero; it’s always gratifying when they’re proved wrong. With its bookish heroine, brooding hero and smoking love scenes, Some Dukes Have All the Luck is sigh-worthy fare.

Bookish meets brooding and optimist meets cynic in these opposites-attract love stories.
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A Curse of Queens

The world continues to roil with the whims of the gods in A Curse of Queens, the action-packed fourth installment in Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles. When her pregnant sister is cursed, gifted healer Jocasta concocts a plan to lift the magic. A team is assembled to embark on the dangerous quest, and Jocasta is both thrilled and dismayed to learn that Flynn of Sinta will be part of the expedition. Jocasta has loved him since childhood, and unbeknownst to her, his heart belongs to her as well. But after losing his entire family, Flynn believes he protects them both from inevitable pain by not declaring himself. Bouchet excels at developing grounded characters with relatable frustrations and desires, even amid the adventure and magic of fantasy romance. Flynn’s longing for Jocasta is tender and touching, and Jocasta’s determination to succeed is understandable and admirable. Bouchet strikes a perfect balance between evocative Greek mythology-inspired world building and grand romance in this fabulous adventure.

The Belle of Belgrave Square

Romance blooms within a marriage of convenience in The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews. Socially awkward heiress Julia Wychwood dreads balls and parties. When her manipulative parents make it clear that they intend to marry her to a widower she feels nothing for, Julia impulsively turns to the only man she does feel something for: the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt. He’s known for being the Hero of Crimea . . . but also for his illegitimate children and the dark rumors surrounding his family estate. Julia elopes with him anyway, and they try to build a life together in the quiet Yorkshire countryside, but Jasper’s murky past stands between them. His secrets ignite Julia’s curiosity, and the man ignites her in other ways, too. Will Jasper reveal enough of himself to win her love? A bookish heroine readers will identify with, subtle love scenes and some impish children make this romance a true delight.

Bad Girl Reputation

Author Elle Kennedy explores what happens when a party girl and her bad boy first love grow up in Bad Girl Reputation. After her mother dies, Genevieve West temporarily returns home to the small coastal town of Avalon Bay, which she’d fled a year before to escape her self-destructive lifestyle. Having remade herself in the time since then, Gen doesn’t dare fall back into bad habits—especially her ex, Evan Hartley. She knows they’re bad for each other, but she can’t seem to stop having hot and heavy hookups with him while she’s in town. As she becomes further enmeshed with family and friends, Gen wonders if she can stay in Avalon Bay and stay true to her new, better self. These imperfect, honest characters are trying to figure out life, and their vibrant personalities burst onto the page. Thanks to Kennedy’s easy, breezy dialogue, readers will feel like they’re elbow-to-elbow with Gen and Evan at the bar and the poker table in this vibrant, feel-good and fresh romance.

True love is hard won but all the more precious in this month's best love stories.
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Ruby Fever

In Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, the world is dominated by magical families known as Houses. Catalina Baylor is the Deputy Warden of Texas and a Prime, an extremely powerful magic user. She’s moving her House and her fiancé, assassin Alessandro Sagredo, into a new compound when an important politician is killed and a powerful family friend is severely injured. An assassin kingpin is responsible for both events, and now he has his sights set on Alessandro. Can they stop him before he succeeds? Ruby Fever starts with a bang and races on from there. This installment has everything Andrews’ readers love: a large cast of magical characters, fast-paced plot and dialogue, and imaginative scenes of electrifying combat described in technicolor detail. Told in Catalina’s engaging first-person voice as she capably handles all that’s thrown at her, this superlative romance doesn’t have a single dull moment. Sit back and happily immerse yourself in Andrews’ unparalleled paranormal world.

Do You Take This Man

The central couple of Denise Williams’ Do You Take This Man doesn’t really have a meet cute. In fact, it’s more of a meet mad. RJ Brooks is a high-powered, ambitious divorce attorney with a surprising side gig: She officiates marriage ceremonies. Which is why she keeps meeting and mutually antagonizing event planner Lear Campbell again, and again, and again. The enemies-to-lovers trope is a romance fan favorite for a reason, and when RJ and Lear finally succumb to their attraction, their love scenes sizzle. There’s enough authentic angst between the two, both of whom have been hurt badly in the past, to keep the reader doubting and wishing for their happily ever after in equal measure.

Aphrodite and the Duke

First loves try to get it right the second time around in J.J. McAvoy’s “Bridgerton”-esque Regency romance, Aphrodite and the Duke. Aphrodite Du Bell can’t help but feel her acclaimed beauty might be something of a curse. The only man she ever cared for, Evander Eagleman, the Duke of Everely, married someone else. In the four years since, she’s retreated from society. But when it’s her sister’s turn to hunt for a husband, Aphrodite gets dragged back to the London season. There, she’s reunited with Evander, who’s newly widowed and immediately begins to pursue Aphrodite. She thinks she’d be mad to trust him again with her heart, until he reveals what prompted his first marriage and they begin to work through their differences. However, new dangers await the couple. The characters’ somewhat formal voices lend a verisimilitude that balances the enjoyable escape of McAvoy’s Regency world of balls, gowns and romance.

Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy series returns! Read our romance columnist's review of Ruby Fever.
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★ 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.
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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.
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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.
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★ 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.
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★ 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.
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★ 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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Stories that chronicle the discovery and cementing of a soulmate are unfailingly popular, whether they spring from mythic origins or feature a dramatically foiled kidnapping. The endings are no surprise, but it’s the endless ways to reach that happy moment that make romance fans come back again and again and again.

Electric Idol

Neon Gods author Katee Robert returns with another contemporary take on Greek mythology in Electric Idol. Psyche, the daughter of Demeter, is being groomed to take her place in the city of Olympus’ hierarchy when she encounters Aphrodite’s son, Eros. He’s as deadly as he is beautiful, and his work as his mother’s ruthless fixer has made him a legend. But when Psyche does him a good turn, she attracts not only Eros but also the lethal intentions of his mother. Robert employs one of the most beloved romance tropes, the marriage of convenience, when Eros offers to marry Psyche in order to protect her. Two strangers becoming quickly but intimately acquainted, then falling in love and finally committing to each other, is not only delicious, it’s practically a microcosm of the entire romance genre. Electric Idol has danger, a clever heroine and just enough world building to not weigh down its best feature: the emotional metamorphosis of the seemingly monstrous Eros into a kind and adoring lover. Don’t miss this sexy and sensational book.

Seoulmates

Seoulmates completes Jen Frederick’s lovely and lyrical duology about Hara Wilson and her journey to Seoul, South Korea, to find her roots. In the first book, Heart and Seoul, Hara found her birth mother and fell in love with the charming and rich Yujun—only to learn that he is her stepbrother. (In Korean culture, a romantic relationship between stepsiblings is completely taboo.) As Seoulmates begins, the pair are trying to decide if being together is worth becoming outcasts from both their family and society. Hara feels conflicted, but not about her love for Yujun or her fascination with the culture and food of Seoul, which Frederick describes in lavish (and delicious) detail. The intimate first-person perspective allows readers’ hearts to ache and soar along with Hara’s as she experiences both disaster and triumph. Learning to navigate a different culture and language as well as new relationships is a hard road, but Hara is stronger than her doubts. Even though a happily ever after looks out of reach, Hara learns to trust herself and the people she’s let into her life in this highly enjoyable read.

Highland Wolf

Love blossoms for a laird’s daughter after she’s saved from an unwanted marriage in Highland Wolf by Lynsay Sands. On the verge of being forced to marry one of her uncle’s friends, Lady Claray MacFarlane considers leaping to her death, but she’s rescued by a mercenary known as the Wolf. He plans to return her to her father, but he also has a secret—he’s her betrothed, Bryson MacDonald, who was thought to have perished years ago. Though Claray initially befuddles her no-nonsense husband-to-be with her soft spot for wounded animals, she ultimately proves herself to be the stalwart partner he needs. Danger lurks, but that doesn’t stop the lusty pair from finding time for each other in smoking-hot scenes. Sands keeps the action moving, and readers will fall head-over-heels for the ferocious Wolf and his growing tenderness for his lady. The detailed descriptions of medieval life and well-drawn characters make Highland Wolf a standout historical romance.

On a Night Like This

There’s something enchanting going on in Lindsey Kelk’s On a Night Like This. Told in a breezy first-person voice, this charming British rom-com finds personal assistant Fran Cooper taking on a temporary assignment that involves spending the night on an Italian island that is playing host to an over-the-top celebrity- and billionaire-studded event known as the Crystal Ball. Tired of stewing over her cheating fiancé and stalled life, Fran decides to sneak into the party. Once there, she meets Evan, who seems to have stepped out of her most romantic daydreams. Their eyes meet and it’s magic, but Evan insists they have this one night of friendly fun without thoughts of the future. This is sigh-worthy, entertaining escapism, all dressed up in sequins. The exotic locale and Cinderella touches add to the kisses-only fun.

Count Your Lucky Stars

Old friends find good fortune in Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur. Olivia Grant is still recovering from the end of her relationship with her high school sweetheart when she gets a golden opportunity for career advancement: planning a last-minute wedding between local VIPs. Color her shocked when the best woman is none other than her childhood BFF Margot Cooper, with whom she had a spring break fling during her senior year. The two avoided discussing their feelings when they parted, but 11 years later, sparks still fly between them. This extremely sexy rom-com is full of lingering glances and fiery love scenes, and there’s an awesome circle of found family helping the old friends and sort of new lovers sort through their feelings. While there are obligatory scenes played for laughs, Bellefleur also makes the sincere observation that the person who sees you the clearest is often the person who scares you the most. Thoughtful conversations about relationships balance the comedy in this ultra-satisfying read.

The details may change, but one thing in romance remains guaranteed: a happily ever after.
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The Redemption of Philip Thane

A self-described wastrel gets a chance to change in The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne. In exchange for a hefty sum, the low-on-funds titular character agrees to deliver a speech on his wealthy aunt’s behalf during Plough Day, a local holiday in the small village of Whittlesey. On the journey there, he picks up the beautiful and brainy Margaret Allen. She needs a ride due to a broken carriage; he needs distraction from the boring task ahead. Margaret doesn’t succumb to his wiles, and after giving his speech, Philip can’t wait to leave town . . . but then he wakes up the next morning and discovers that it’s Plough Day all over again. And again. And again. In this Groundhog Day-style story, Philip realizes he’s fated to repeat both the speech and his attempts to woo Margaret, all without success unless he can mend his selfish and arrogant ways—and maybe also fall in love. Berne has penned an extremely clever and entertaining addition to the canon of “rake redemption” romances, and readers are bound to find it smart, tender and surprisingly sweet.

Weather Girl

Matchmaking goes awry in Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Meteorologist Ari Abrams teams up with sports reporter Russell Barringer to bring together their feuding bosses, who are also ex-spouses. But as they work to spark a do-over for the pair, they find themselves also feeling a little amorous—toward each other. The gun-shy Ari, who’s recently broken off an engagement and is unsure how to share her experiences with depression, begins to take a chance on single dad Russell, but can they stay the course and really commit? This is mainly Ari’s story, and it’s told in her engaging first-person voice, with Russell filling the role of the wonderful guy who hopefully isn’t too good to be true. Secondary characters add sparkle and fun, and there are brief but deeply enjoyable glimpses of newsroom life in this delightful romance.

The Rebel and the Rake

An aristocrat and a well-educated lady’s companion try to maintain their distance—and their disguises—in Emily Sullivan’s Victorian romance The Rebel and the Rake. Rafe Davies, the second son of an earl, plays the role of charming dilettante while actually spying for the Crown. His latest mission is to discover the source of anonymous threats made to John Wardale, a very wealthy self-made man, while attending a house party at Wardale’s Castle Blackwood in the Scottish Lowlands. Posing as a callow rogue has never bothered Rafe before, but then he meets Sylvia Sparrow, a quiet bluestocking whom he wishes to impress with more than his good looks and facile conversation. While Sylvia is similarly attracted to Rafe, she knows nothing can come of a relationship. She’s hiding aspects of herself, the most damning of which is that she was once imprisoned on suspicion of being an anarchist. But hearts cannot be denied, and the pair are soon sharing steamy love scenes while their true natures are gradually revealed. Danger and desire intertwine in this tale of deception and injustice, an engrossing read that follows two characters who deserve their happily ever after.

Two historical romances twist tropes to their own clever ends in this month’s romance column.

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