Christie Ridgway

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This Could Be Us

In Kennedy Ryan’s satisfying This Could Be Us, a woman rebuilds her life and finds an unexpected love. Soledad Barnes prides herself on her homemaking and family-tending prowess. But then her husband’s betrayal and their ensuing divorce puts it all at risk. Armed with determination and love for her daughters, as well as a posse of fabulous sisters and girlfriends, Soledad figures out a way to use her domestic goddess skills to keep a roof over her family’s head. When the incredibly sexy Judah enters her life, he feels so right—but Soledad doesn’t know whether she can trust her heart again. Ryan’s vibrant characters and delightful descriptions of food and friendship perfectly complement Sol’s story. Readers will want to eat at her table and be one of her best pals, cheering her on to a very deserved happy ending. This tender, sensual and sigh-worthy tale also includes nuanced glimpses of Judah’s joys and concerns as the father of twin boys with autism.

Happily Never After

Two cynics change their minds regarding matters of the heart in Happily Never After by Lynn Painter. Desperate to stop her wedding to a cheating groom, Chicagoan Sophie Steinbeck turns to Max Parks. An architect by day, Max has fallen into a side gig of showing up to nuptials and pretending to be a lovelorn objector. Sophie and Max hit it off right away, and soon they’re teaming up to help others at (off?) the altar. Though they stubbornly resist the idea of a relationship with each other, their chemistry is off the charts and the fun they have together—whether they’re objecting or just hanging out—will leave the reader wondering why Sophie and Max try so hard not to fall. With smoking love scenes and memorable secondary characters, Happily Never After is a delight.


An unlikely heroine passes herself off as a governess in Trouble, Lex Croucher’s Regency rom-com. Her kindhearted sister is unable to take on the job and her family is desperate for funds, so Emily Laurence travels to the home of the Edwards family, hoping to disguise her identity, lack of interest in children and generally surly attitude toward mostly everything. Croucher borrows some genre conventions—a remote house, a brooding widower hero, children needing care—and adds the unscrupulous Emily, whose prickly exterior hides a fierce loyalty to those she loves. Which, surprisingly to the imposter governess, turns out to increasingly include her eccentric fellow staffers, the Edwards children and Ben, Captain Edwards himself. But secrets abound, and Emily’s own make her certain no happiness awaits her. Readers will revel in watching Emily learn to trust in this fun, funny and fast-paced story.

There’s nothing more heartwarming than watching deeply cynical or understandably wary characters find love in spite of themselves.
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Canadian Boyfriend

Jenny Holiday’s Canadian Boyfriend, in which a dance teacher tends to her own emotional wounds while helping a young widower manage his new reality, is a true romance gem. When one of Aurora “Rory” Evans’ students, Olivia, returns to class after losing her mother, Rory is especially attentive to her and Mike Martin, Olivia’s pro hockey-playing dad. Rory and Mike connect immediately, and after Rory moves in to work as a nanny, they become intimate friends . . . and then lovers. Standing in the way of something more permanent is his grief, her people-pleasing ways—and the fact that when Rory was in high school, she told everyone that Mike was her boyfriend, seeing as he conveniently lived in Canada. Still, the bond between them won’t disappear, no matter what they tell themselves. Told in alternating first-person perspectives that are full of both revealing introspection and engaging banter, the heart-wrenching journey of Rory and Mike is tender, painful, joyful and, most of all, honest. This is everything a romance novel should be: a story of two people who learn from each other and are better together than apart.


A Were and a Vampyre wed to broker an alliance between their two species in Bride, an impressive change of pace for rom-com queen Ali Hazelwood. Reminding herself that their union will only last a year, Misery Lark steels herself to live with Alpha werewolf Lowe Moreland and his people—who view her with open hostility and dislike. But Lowe himself is harder to read. While he’s at first studiously detached, he begins to connect with Misery over his irrepressible little sister and then aids in Misery’s search for her missing best friend. Danger and power struggles continually surround the pair, but Lowe and Misery offer each other a respite from all that . . . and then more. Told primarily in Misery’s snarky and amusing first-person voice, there is plenty of action, stirring love scenes and intriguing world building that will leave readers wanting more. Snippets from Lowe’s point of view offer insight into the tender interior beneath his tough exterior. Paranormal romance fans will swoon over this one.

Wild Life

Two lonely people find their way to each other and new lives in Wild Life by Opal Wei. Both Zoey Fong and Davy Hsieh have big plans, and neither of them expects or welcomes an attraction that goes from a smolder to full-on flames in a heartbeat. But after former boy band star Davy accidentally absconds with a crucial slide from scientist Zoey’s workplace, she follows him to his private island. Things only get more madcap from there in this hilarious spin on Bringing Up Baby. Wei writes well-drawn, one-of-a-kind characters that will elicit readers’ sympathy and laughter as they spur each other to grow and change. Put together the aforementioned sexual chemistry, a big cat (heard but not seen) and geese (both seen and heard, eliciting an appropriate amount of terror, if one knows geese) and the result is a vibrant, fast-paced and highly entertaining romance.

Fangirl Down

Tessa Bailey sets fire to the pages in Fangirl Down. When bad-boy golfer Wells Whitaker quits the sport in frustration, he stands up Josephine Doyle, his biggest fan, who recently won a lunch with him. Wells’ conscience nags him about the missed meal and he seeks Josephine out, only to find her golf shop in shambles from a hurricane. Wells hits upon an idea to help that will also get him back on his game: She’ll be his new caddy, and they’ll split the prize money. It’s delicious to watch the grouchy golfer find he has a heart after all as he falls for the sunny Josephine. Bailey is known for her witty repartee and Wells and Josephine don’t miss a beat, in addition to having some off-the-charts love scenes. Josephine’s endeavors to manage her diabetes without insurance add some gravitas to this delightful, laugh-out-loud love story.

Sex, Lies and Sensibility

Nikki Payne offers an engrossing tale that is part family drama, part romance and all deep emotion in Sex, Lies and Sensibility. After their father dies, sisters Nora and Yanne Dash are left with nothing but a dilapidated inn on an island in Maine. To complicate matters, they must rehab the place into a successful business in a year or lose everything. Their first glimpse of the environs doesn’t improve their moods, especially given that they’re the only two Black people around. And while Abenaki eco-tour guide Ennis “Bear” Freeman may be gorgeous, Nora doesn’t need a man. She has good reason not to trust them and she also notices that Bear is reticent to talk about his past. But as their businesses begin to work together, the attraction can’t be denied. Nora and Bear’s past mistakes keep them wary, even as familial and outside forces work against their possible happiness together. Payne will grab readers by the heartstrings even as they fall in love with noble, ambitious Nora and Bear and the eclectic cast of this compassionate novel.

Ali Hazelwood goes paranormal, plus wonderful new takes on Sense and Sensibility and Bringing Up Baby.
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★ An Inconvenient Earl

Julia London delivers a delightful heroine and a happy ending that at first appears impossible in An Inconvenient Earl. To her everlasting relief, Emma Clark’s cruel earl of a husband left her behind in England when he embarked on an expedition to Africa. After many months, a stranger arrives with the bad tidings that her husband has died, meaning Emma will be left without a home or funds—unless she doesn’t tell anyone the news. That tangled web is made even stickier when the very attractive Luka Olivien, Earl of Marlaine, arrives to return Emma’s husband’s pocket watch. He knows that she’s a widow but she . . . doesn’t? Luka’s confused by her increasingly clear attempts to dodge what he knows to be true, but he also can’t resist the charming and now smitten Emma. Characters from previous books make welcome appearances in this fourth entry in London’s Royal Match series, and while this Victorian romance seems like a romp, there is wrenching emotion and a beating heart of gold underneath. 

The Night Island

Jayne Ann Krentz’s Lost Night Files series follows a trio of women who team up to determine the cause of their new psychic abilities. In the latest spooky entry, The Night Island, one of the trio, podcaster Talia March, is trying to figure out what happened to Phoebe, a fan who had some vital information but has recently disappeared. Professor Luke Rand is also on Phoebe’s trail, and clues lead him and Talia to Night Island, where an exclusive, unplugged retreat is about to begin. The pair soon discover that they’re in danger from someone at the retreat and maybe from the island itself, which is inhabited by creepy and threatening vegetation. The Pacific Northwest setting enhances this shivery, senses-tickling read. As usual, Krentz’s name on the cover guarantees imaginative, immersive entertainment.

Red String Theory

A scientist and an artist test their opposite philosophies of life and love in Red String Theory by Lauren Kung Jessen. Rooney Gao is a struggling, striving artist in New York City. Jack Liu is a NASA engineer in Los Angeles. They have one night of near-magical connection, but then their numbers exchange goes awry. Fast forward a few months and Rooney is hired by NASA to be Artist-in-Residence with Jack as her liaison. Their attraction blossoms again, but logical Jack can’t swallow Rooney’s belief in the Chinese legend that a red string of fate connects everyone to their true love. The pair contemplate science, art, fate, choice and belief as they fall in love. Jessen writes such sympathetic, well-rounded characters that even cynics may believe in soulmates after reading this brainy, kisses-only love story.

Plus, a delightful Victorian romp and a brainy contemporary love story charm our romance columnist.
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The Takedown

Carlie Walker’s The Takedown is an engaging story filled with danger, drama and introspection—and a Christmas romance you won’t want to miss. When CIA agent Sydney Swift learns her sister plans to marry crime lord Johnny Jones, she instantly regrets the familial distance she’s encouraged due to her dangerous job and agrees to help the FBI take Johnny down. At Grandma Ruby’s for Christmas, Sydney must keep her mission a secret even as she’s sharing quarters with not only Johnny, but also his best man and head of security, the far too attractive Nick Fraser. Celebrating the season while sussing out the Jones clan’s nefarious next moves isn’t easy, and Sydney does some soul-searching about her career while trying not to fall for Nick, who must be as bad as Johnny—right? This untraditional Christmas tale is as fun as can be and will have readers whipping through the pages.

Three Holidays and a Wedding

Bad luck turns to good fortune in Three Holidays and a Wedding by Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley. Maryam Aziz is on her way to her sister’s wedding, and Anna Gibson is about to meet her boyfriend’s parents. But both are stranded along with their entire flight after a blizzard traps them in the adorable and fantastical town of Snow Falls, Ontario, where the sequel to a beloved Christmas movie also happens to be filming. As Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid al-Fitr approach (the novel is set in 2000, when all three celebrations fell within days of one another), Anna must deal with the displeasure of her boyfriend and her attraction to the movie’s leading man, while Maryam manages her extended family and her childhood crush, Saif. Jalaluddin and Stapley expertly braid the three faiths together and each character sparkles in their own way. The holiday(s) spirit is strong in this one!

Faking Christmas

For pure festive rom-com fun, look no further than Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey. Laurel Grant thinks of herself as the “other twin,” the one who constantly screws up, while her identical sister Holly lives on a farm with her husband and kids, raises goats and cooks like a dream. Laurel is the social media manager for a magazine promoting the charms of Ohio, and may have pretended her sister’s life was her own to get the job. But then her boss invites himself to a holiday meal. Luckily, Holly doesn’t mind letting Laurel step into her place . . . with the exception of playing wife to her husband. There’s another man for that role: Laurel’s nemesis, grouchy and fun-averse Max Beckett. Of course, there’s a blizzard and romantic sparks and misunderstandings, as well as movie marathons and dance parties. Max learns to smile on occasion and Laurel finds out she’s not such a screw-up after all. This is hot chocolate in book form—warm and sweet.

A Holly Jolly Ever After

An unlikely pairing enjoys a scorching Christmas romance in A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. After years in good-girl roles followed by a shocking divorce, actor Winnie Baker is ready to end her people-pleaser ways and take charge of her life. First up is starring in a Christmas soft-core porn film alongside ex-boy band member, Kallum Lieberman (who was “the funny one”). Though she’s been in the entertainment business since childhood, the challenge of acting sexy, especially pretending to enjoy sex on screen, is such a hurdle that Winnie confides in Kallum—and he’s eager to help. He’s had a crush on her since her early TV days, and awakening her to carnal pleasures is a joy that threatens to turn into love. But their idyll in Christmas Notch, Vermont, the charming backdrop for their movie, is supposed to be no-strings. The love scenes smoke, the characters and their sidekicks are funny and sweet, and readers will root for Winnie to get all she deserves.

Wreck the Halls

In Tessa Bailey’s Wreck the Halls, the progeny of an infamous female rock duo get involved in a band reunion—and with each other. The Steel Birds broke up before their respective kids, Beat and Melody, were born. But their legend lives on, and since Beat’s in a financial bind, he tries to get the women back on stage. Though Melody only met him once when she was a teenager, she feels so connected to Beat all these years later that she jumps on board with his idea. The holiday reunion setup and The Steel Birds are interesting, but it’s Beat and Melody’s intense bond that drives the story and gives it oomph. Bailey masterfully sells the sublime connection between the two characters, whether in conversation or more carnal situations. It’s delicious and delightful, the stuff of pure fairy tale romance, and readers won’t want it to end.

The annual avalanche of festive love stories is upon us—here are the books you should put on your list.
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★ 10 Things That Never Happened

A man trying to do right ends up doing one big wrong in Alexis Hall’s 10 Things That Never Happened. Sam Becker enjoys almost everything about his job managing a bed-and-bath store, except for his awful boss, Jonathan Forest. While confronting said boss, Sam hits his head and—well, the details don’t matter when the result is that he fakes amnesia to avoid being fired and moves in with Jonathan so that he can be looked after. That screwball setup leads to a poignant love story, told through Sam’s amusing first-person voice. The close perspective puts the reader shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam, who is actually holding some important stuff back. Closed-off Jonathan is a typical workaholic, yet the attraction between the two housemates grows and becomes impossible to ignore despite the boss-employee taboo. The Christmas season, Jonathan’s zany family and an important company event complicate matters, but the authentic emotion at the center of this romance will win readers’ hearts and make them care deeply about these characters and their hopeful happy ending.

The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch

Two childhood friends explore their deep connection in The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch by Jacqueline Firkins. Trained artist Imogen has given up her dreams to care for her mother in their small town on the Oregon coast. But when Eliot Swift, the rich-boy crush she never got over, comes back to town, she’s forced to reexamine her choices and the true state of her heart. Eliot must look within too, facing feelings and failings he’s been running from for a decade. Firkins delicately peels back the layers of her main couple to expose their raw emotions. Imogen and Eliot are multifaceted, fascinating personalities, and readers will cross their fingers for a happy ending even though it feels impossible. Love scenes of smoking passion and warm tenderness give this romance an extra sparkle. 

The Once and Future Fling

Leigh Heasley’s imaginative and adventurous The Once and Future Fling is set in a world in which time travel exists and dating people from different eras of history is a sought-after experience for the idle rich. Ada Blum, however, is anything but idle: She’s near-desperate to escape the ramifications of her high-profile relationship with state Sen. Samson St. Laurent by finding a match in another time. Regency-era bachelors aren’t catching her interest, so she takes a chance on 1920s New York City—and that’s where things turn thorny. Henry Levison, a violinist and maybe-criminal from the ’20s, catches hold of her heart, but Samson has also reentered the picture. Gangsters and more time-hops keep things entertaining while readers wonder how—and when—this heartfelt story will end.

Also in this month’s romance column, a time travel romance and a tender small-town love story will delight readers.
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In many romance novels, love requires exposure: of one’s true desires and inner secrets, often of one’s most vulnerable self. In this month’s best romances, characters can only find happiness after first finding themselves—and sharing that truth with their partner.

Behind the Scenes

Karelia Stetz-Waters pens a tender love story in Behind the Scenes. Director Ash Stewart is preparing to pitch a movie near and dear to her heart—a rom-com about two lonely women who fall in love—so she turns to successful business consultant Rose Josten for help polishing the proposal she’ll present to movie executives. While the entertainment industry is not Rose’s forte, she’s intrigued by the idea of the film as well as by the cool yet vulnerable Ash. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace that suits the cautious main characters; while Rose and Ash fall fast, they don’t trust that their attraction will result in anything real. Readers will cheer for these capable, talented and mature women, both of whom have fascinating careers and interesting hobbies. They just need to find the right person to help them fill the empty spaces and heal their wounds. Rose and Ash’s feelings for each other are never in doubt thanks to Stetz-Waters’ expertly written longing and lush love scenes. And a fairy tale-perfect happy ending guarantees smiles as the last page is turned.

Also in BookPage: Read our review of the Behind the Scenes audiobook.

Not Your Ex’s Hexes

After Rose Maxwell’s sister took over her role as witch leader-in-waiting, Rose is in need of some new life goals. An ill-advised horse-napping at the beginning of April Asher’s dashing and delightful paranormal romance Not Your Ex’s Hexes results in Rose sentenced to community service at an animal sanctuary under the close supervision of half-demon vet Damian Adams. All kinds of sparks fly between them, but he’s grumpy and she’s not interested in relationships. But a friends-with-benefits arrangement seems possible and maybe even sensible until they must face danger—and all the emerging emotions they’ve vowed not to feel. In fact, Damian is sure he can’t actually be feeling them, having been hexed as a teen, but all signs are pointing to the opposite. Asher’s second installment in the Supernatural Singles series is full of action and well-constructed characters. Heart-tugging animals and steamy love scenes make this otherworldly romance a charmer.

Do I Know You?

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka have written an intriguing twist on the second-chance romance in Do I Know You? In honor of their fifth anniversary, Eliza and Graham Cutler head to a luxury resort in Northern California, hoping a vacation might revive their stalled marriage. Upon learning that there’s been a hotel mix-up and they have two rooms booked instead of one, Eliza impulsively proposes that they sleep separately. Moreover, she suggests they take on new personas so they can meet as strangers and possibly rediscover a spark between them. While hiking, eating and exercising together as their alter egos, Graham and Eliza each come to value new things about the other and recall what led to their original commitment. Readers will root for both characters in this mature and intimate examination of a relationship.

The Duke Gets Even

A happy ending seems impossible in Joanna Shupe’s The Duke Gets Even. Andrew Talbot, the Duke of Lockwood, is desperate to wed an heiress and fill his family’s coffers. But then his antagonistic relationship with free-spirited American Nellie Young transforms into a burning passion. The duke lost out on love in the previous installments of Shupe’s Fifth Avenue Rebels series, and it doesn’t seem like his luck will change: He needs to marry for money, and Nellie can’t imagine life as an English duchess. An affair with Andrew as he seeks the right bride will have to be enough, except, of course, it quickly isn’t. The appealing Nellie wants more for herself and other women of her time, and she’s not at all ashamed of her sexual appetites. Honorable Andrew feels the weight of his responsibilities, yet the fiery ardor he shares with Nellie—featured in feverish love scenes—turns his world upside down. Sensuous and sophisticated, The Duke Gets Even is a satisfying climax to a wonderful and romantic series.

Make a Wish

Romances between a single father and a nanny are a beloved genre staple, but author Helena Hunting explores the trope sans rose-colored glasses in Make a Wish. When she was 20 years old, Harley Spark worked as a nanny for newly widowed Gavin Rhodes. She fell in love with his baby daughter, Peyton, and perhaps with him, before Gavin and Peyton moved away. Seven years later, Gavin and Harley reconnect—and there is an obvious attraction between them. Their happily ever after appears inevitable, until grief, guilt and in-laws step in. Make a Wish chronicles Gavin and Harley’s authentic doubts and fears, with sizzling love scenes and sweet moments creating a sigh-worthy love story.

In this month’s best romances, characters can only find true love after first finding themselves.
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Liar City

Allie Therin’s instantly intriguing Liar City is set in an alternate Seattle where some people are empaths, able to read others’ emotions just by touching them. The story begins when Reece, an empath and part-time police consultant, receives a mysterious phone call telling him that Reece’s detective sister, Jamey, needs his help. When Reece arrives at Jamey’s latest murder investigation, he also encounters the caller: empath hunter Evan Grayson, also known as the Dead Man. Enigmatic and relentless, Evan is on a mission to stop the killings, which may have something to do with the imminent passage of an anti-empath law. Reece is a very appealing viewpoint character, and chapters from Jamey’s perspective are equally engaging. Evan and Reece’s chemistry crackles throughout Liar City’s nonstop action, but be warned that they do not exchange even one intimate touch. However, as this fantastic paranormal is the first installment in Therin’s Sugar & Vice series, hopes abound for the future.

The Portrait of a Duchess

An aristocratic title reunites an estranged couple in The Portrait of a Duchess, Scarlett Peckham’s hotly anticipated second book in her Society of Sirens series. When she was young, Cornelia Ludgate secretly married horse breeder Rafe Goodwood, which freed her from the strictures of high society and allowed her to pursue painting. Twenty years later, Cornelia is an established artist and an activist for women’s rights. But when her long-estranged husband unexpectedly inherits a dukedom, he proposes that they go public with their marriage. Doing so would provide Cordelia with extra income to devote to her cause and would grant Rafe instant notoriety, which he intends to parlay into governmental reform. Though the iconoclastic pair deny their feelings, their attraction sizzles and they enjoy a mutual understanding when it comes to their desire to take lovers of all genders, both together and apart. Scorching love scenes make this white-hot read a standout.

Cold-Blooded Liar

Karen Rose begins an exciting new romantic suspense series with Cold-Blooded Liar. An anonymous tip leads San Diego detective Kit McKittrick to a body wearing a pair of pink handcuffs, echoing a murder spree 15 years earlier. To solve this latest killing, Kit must first uncover the identity of the tipper. It turns out to be do-gooder psychologist Dr. Sam Reeves, whom Kit instantly likes but must consider a suspect all the same. Kit is not a trusting woman, but as more deaths occur and the murderer hits closer to home, she must turn to Sam to help her nab the killer. The crimes are brutal, but Rose balances the story with a heroic team, lovable dogs and Kit’s warmhearted foster parents. It’s a gripping and satisfying tale, even if Kit has yet to kiss the good doctor by story’s end—which readers will surely be rooting for in the next installment.

Scarlett Peckham’s long-awaited sequel to The Rakess is here! Plus, two suspenseful series get off to a thrilling start.
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Hotel of Secrets

In Hotel of Secrets, Diana Biller whisks readers away to 1878 Vienna. Hotel Wallner is Maria Wallner’s somewhat tarnished family legacy, thanks to her unmarried parents’ decadeslong affair. She’s determined to help the place regain its former glory during Vienna’s traditional ball season. American Secret Service agent Eli Whittaker arrives at the hotel to investigate the theft of secret codes but is soon beguiled by the beautiful, sophisticated Maria and her glittering city. This delightful, highly recommended romance is chock full of fascinating history as it enchantingly depicts late 19th-century Austria, and its secondary characters are just as three-dimensional and as appealing as the leads.

Ana Maria and the Fox

Three Mexican heiresses make a splash in British high society in Liana De la Rosa’s endearing Victorian romance, Ana Maria and the Fox. When France invades Mexico, Ana Maria Luna Valdés and her sisters are sent to London for their safety. Once there, Ana Maria makes the acquaintance of Gideon Fox, an ambitious member of Parliament. The grandson of a formerly enslaved woman, Gideon is passionate about ending the slave trade and finds a sympathetic ear in Ana Maria. Sparks fly between the pair, even though Ana Maria’s already engaged to a man her powerful father approves of. But then political machinations put Ana Maria in danger, and she must turn to Gideon for help. The Lunas are a welcome addition to historical romance, and as series starring sisters are always fan favorites, readers will surely anticipate more happily ever afters from De la Rosa.

Romantic Comedy

A sketch comedy writer finds love in the time of COVID-19 in Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sally Milz writes for a weekly late-night comedy show—think “Saturday Night Live.” During the frantic pace of production, she finds herself crushing on the show’s latest guest host, popular singer-songwriter Noah Brewster. Sally’s convinced she’s too average to keep his attention, and she smothers the smoldering attraction. But two years later, an email from Noah shows up in Sally’s inbox, and they become pandemic pen pals. Might they make a go of it after all? Sittenfeld does a stellar job making the reader feel not just the hectic excitement of comedy show life and Sally’s surges of adrenaline as she interacts with Noah, but also the wistful, heartfelt hope of two people sharing their pasts and their dreams via email. Noah and Sally are a charming and, of course, funny pair who are easy to root for all throughout this delightful read.

Eligible author Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book takes inspiration from “Saturday Night Live”—plus, two unabashedly glamorous historical romances.
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The Boyfriend Candidate

Fans of the fake-dating trope will love The Boyfriend Candidate, Ashley Winstead’s charming rom-com. When her cheating boyfriend dumps her, librarian Alexis Stone dons a red dress and heads to a swank bar to find a one-night stand. All goes well, until a fire alarm leads to her being caught on camera with the man she’s about to bed: Logan Arthur, a politician who’s running to be the governor of Texas. Logan and his team persuade Alexis to pretend she’s his longtime, previously secret girlfriend until the election. Luckily, Logan is extremely attractive and his progressive policies match her own. Cue shy Alexis finding her voice and the brash Logan continually getting distracted by the enchanting librarian. Told in Alexis’ fresh first-person voice, this heartwarming romance has both poignant introspection and a hero who sacrifices his dignity when faced with kittens and gerbils.

The Secret Service of Tea and Treason

The Secret Service of Tea and Treason, India Holton’s delightful third installment in her Dangerous Damsels series, takes place in a fantasy version of Victorian England populated by pirates, witches and spies. Alice Dearlove is a top operative with a dangerous new assignment: Find a secret weapon and stop the assassination of Queen Victoria. But to do this, she must pretend to be the wife of her professional rival, Daniel Bixby. The highly entertaining adventure that follows includes flying houses, cutthroat pirates, scary witches, farcical fun, whimsical wordplay and a castle with secret passages and professional ghosts. Daniel and Alice race around England to try and solve the case, all while putting out (literal) fires, falling in love and engaging in tender scenes of sensual awakening.

Sugar, Spice, and Can’t Play Nice

Family pressures and personal ambition clash in Sugar, Spice, and Can’t Play Nice by Annika Sharma. Fashion designer Payal Mehra has a spectacular no-strings-attached night with Ayaan Malhotra, the son of family friends and someone who is as commitment-averse as she. Unfortunately, the morning after is such a disaster that both assume they’ll never see each other again. Then their families put forth a business proposition to the couple—one that will be sealed with an arranged marriage. While both initially loathe the idea, Ayaan and Payal realize how beneficial their union could be. She’ll get funding for her clothing line and save her family’s business, while he’ll get 50% of his family’s company. They decide to go ahead with the engagement, believing they can break things off before they get dire. Readers will root for Payal and Ayaan, both of whom are buffeted by family expectations and disappointment yet persevere. Their slow journey to confidence in themselves and contentment in each other is layered with lush descriptions of South Asian fashion and food.

The pining, the will-they-won’t-they, the “Oh no, guess we have to kiss now”: Nothing beats a good fake-dating romance.
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The True Love Experiment

Romance blooms on reality TV in Christina Lauren’s The True Love Experiment. Celebrated romance author Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is struggling with writer’s block, worrying about whether she’ll ever find love and going through a sexual drought. When she receives an offer to star on the titular dating show, she agrees, hoping to use the program as a way to present her work in a positive light. Producer Connor Prince usually makes short nature docuseries but bows to pressure from his boss to make something more profitable. Cue Fizzy and Connor trying to ignore their immediate attraction; he’s cast eight other guys for her to date, after all. Fizzy is funny, fast-talking and brash, while Connor is a half-Brit single dad whose staid side is overcome by Fizzy’s insistence that they prioritize joy. A delicious, drawn-out happy ending caps this delightful, heartwarming and sex-positive story.

The Duchess Takes a Husband

A bargain for bedsport lessons takes center stage in Harper St. George’s The Duchess Takes a Husband, in which a Gilded Age widow seizes control of her life. Camille, an American heiress who married into the British aristocracy, suffered during her marriage to her abusive husband and was never fully accepted in London society. But now that her husband has died, she’s free to pursue her attraction to Jacob Thorne, co-owner of the infamous Montague Club. He needs a fake fiancée for business reasons, and Camille will play the part if he helps her figure out whether she can enjoy sex. Soon, Jacob discovers he wants to please Camille in all things, encouraging her to assert herself in the bedroom and to explore her burgeoning interest in the women’s suffrage movement. This swoonworthy romance is filled with yearning, tender sensuality and heated love scenes that set fire to the page. The glimpses of the suffrage movement are fascinating, and Camille’s growth is especially gratifying.

The Viscount Who Vexed Me

Julia London tugs at the heart with her new Victorian romance, The Viscount Who Vexed Me. Harriet “Hattie” Woodchurch may have friends among the ton, but she doesn’t have a fortune of her own. She takes a position as secretary to the new Viscount Abbott, Mateo Vincente, who is also the duke of the fictional country of Santiava. Hattie knows he’s above her, but she can’t stifle her attraction to the reserved, quiet gentleman. For his part, Mateo finds himself most comfortable with his down-to-earth scribe, even as pressure grows for him to choose an aristocratic wife. Hattie’s resolve to earn her independence and Mateo’s unconventional interests (he bakes!) make the pair easy to root for as their mutual longing grows. A colorful cast of characters, including frenemies, wicked little brothers and a determined matchmaker, adds to the pleasures of this entertaining tale.

Christina Lauren returns! Plus, catch two heartwarming historical romances that will utterly charm you in this month’s romance column.
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A Lady’s Guide to Scandal

A young widow gets a second chance at happiness in A Lady’s Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin. After a miserable 10-year marriage, Eliza, Lady Somerset, is finally free—and rich, if she can keep the Somerset name scandal-free. That seems easy enough for the timid and soft-spoken Eliza, but when latent desires arise, she travels to Bath to take up a paintbrush and take in some of what society has to offer . . . including the attentions of the wicked Lord Melville. The plot thickens with the return of Eliza’s first love, who has never forgotten her. With two such attractive yet different men vying for her heart, can Eliza break old habits, be her own person and reach for what she truly wants? This kisses-only tale is a delight, and readers will be guessing just who Eliza finds her happy ever after with until the very end.

A Rulebook for Restless Rogues

Two old friends become more in Jess Everlee’s Victorian romance A Rulebook for Restless Rogues. David Forester and Noah Clarke have been friends ever since David appointed himself Noah’s protector in boarding school. David now runs The Curious Fox, a queer club in London, and he still looks after Noah, a talented tailor who spends some nights as his alter ego, Miss Penelope Primrose. David cares for all the patrons of his club and tries to keep them safe in a time when they could be jailed or worse. When The Curious Fox’s owner threatens to shut it down, David’s life is thrown off balance just as he realizes his feelings for Noah might go beyond friendship. Readers will sympathize with the difficulties David and Noah face dealing with the law, their families and the risk of changing their long-standing relationship in this sweet and satisfying romance.

Play to Win

Play to Win by Jodie Slaughter offers up a delicious premise: Stuck-in-a-rut nail tech Miriam Butler wins millions in the lottery—but for legal reasons, she has to alert her estranged husband, construction worker Leo Vaughn. Miriam offers Leo a generous lump sum to sign divorce papers. But this new opportunity gives Leo a chance to rethink his life, and he realizes his love for Miriam never died. Can they make a second chance work? Of course it’s delightful to imagine an end to financial problems, but Slaughter shows that Miriam and Leo still have to overcome the identity issues and expectations that once broke them apart. Told in their no-holds-barred voices, this romance is sexually frank, starkly intimate and often sizzling.

Sophie Irwin’s Regency-set novel boasts an impressively unpredictable love triangle, plus standouts from Jess Everlee and Jodie Slaughter in this month’s romance column.
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The Blonde Identity

Ally Carter will keep readers laughing with The Blonde Identity. A woman awakens in Paris, unable to remember her name or why she’s there. Soon she encounters a mysterious hot guy who claims she’s an operative named “Alex” being pursued by international spies. When bullets start flying, it seems he’s right, and as they make a run for it, they learn a thing or two about each other. Her name is actually Zoe, she must be Alex’s identical twin and the hot guy, Jake Sawyer, is a spy in his own right. The pace never lets up and neither does the fun in this sexy fluff of a story. To truly enjoy it, readers will need to suspend disbelief and a few of the laws of physics, but who cares when the characters are so charming, the antics so entertaining and the plot so cinematic? Known for her young adult titles, Carter seamlessly makes her adult debut with this highly enjoyable romantic suspense novel. Don’t miss it!

Give the Devil His Duke

Wrongs are righted, arrogance is humbled and good deeds are rewarded in Anna Bradley’s Give the Devil His Duke. Penniless Lady Francesca “Franny” Stanhope has worked up the courage to confront her greedy uncle in hopes of securing financial help for her ailing mother. But at her uncle’s home, Franny encounters Giles Drew, the Duke of Basingstoke and her cousin’s new fiancé. Franny distrusts Giles—his father caused her own family’s ruin—but he’s undeniably handsome and more than a little suave. As they encounter each other at society events, Giles can’t help his preoccupation with his bride-to-be’s relative, which does not go unnoticed by the ton’s gossips. Then scandal forces Giles to go all out to save his reputation and hers—by marrying Franny. Balls, gowns and friends destined for their own installments in this new series contribute to the charming ambiance of this sweet and sexy Regency romance. 

Someone Just Like You

Childhood frenemies unite for their parents’ joint anniversary party in Meredith Schorr’s Someone Just Like You, set amid New York City’s vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Molly Blum grew up hating and pranking Jude Stark, who gave as good as he got. But surely they can team up to organize a celebration without reverting to old ways. Except . . . no. Jude is more irritating than ever. Family and friends point out that every woman he dates looks just like Molly, and she’s been dating a series of guys who look just like Jude. Can they settle past grievances and figure out why the sparks between them now seem sexy rather than angry? The first-person narration hums with Molly’s energy and honesty in this pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com.

Plus, a charming Regency love story and a pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com in this month’s romance column.
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Love Me Do

Lindsey Kelk’s sparkling Love Me Do is a fish-out-of-water rom-com with a Cyrano twist. Phoebe Chapman arrives in Los Angeles from England seeking a much-needed vacation and a distraction from her ex’s impending nuptials. Her sister was going to host her, but an unexpected business trip leaves Phoebe navigating the Hollywood Hills on her own. She’s fascinated by the neighborhood, by her sister’s sprightly personal trainer, Bel, and particularly by hunky carpenter Ren Garcia in the house next door. But since she’ll only be in town a short time, Phoebe tries to help Bel win the romantic Ren’s heart, using her writing skills to pen a killer love letter. Can this tangled web be straightened out? Kelk offers a golden-hued, fairy-tale vision of LA, complete with a wild celebrity party and a mischievous octogenarian actor. Told from Phoebe’s self-deprecating and charming first-person perspective, Love Me Do is pure fun.

My Rogue to Ruin

The wild Wynchester family is back in Erica Ridley’s My Rogue to Ruin. An artist and forger, Marjorie Wynchester has always been overshadowed by her more flamboyant siblings. While she carries the same fire in her heart to right wrongs, she’s never felt capable of taking the lead on one of their crime-solving endeavors—until now. That fire leads her straight into the den of a notorious blackmailer and into the arms of Lord Adrian Webb, who has had a scandalous reputation ever since being banished from society by his father. But Marjorie sees the goodness in Adrian and as they team up to stop the blackmailer and save Adrian’s sister from ruin, they both begin to see themselves differently and appreciate family in a truer way. Cleverly plotted and filled with nonstop action and the delightful and talented Wynchester clan (including their fabulous woodland pets), this Regency romance will have readers speeding through the pages and smiling all the while.

My Roommate Is a Vampire

The title of Jenna Levine’s debut says it all: My Roommate Is a Vampire. This breezy contemporary romance introduces the reader to Chicagoan Cassie Greenberg, a struggling 32-year-old artist who’s just desperate enough to respond to a too-good-to-be-true Craigslist ad for a roommate. The ad was posted by the awkward and strangely formal Frederick J. Fitzwilliam, who claims to sleep during the day and work at night. Though Cassie’s a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, it takes time for her to suss out that Frederick’s a vamp, but by then, she’s already lusting after her charming, handsome and cool-to-the-touch roommate. Though hundreds of years old, Frederick appreciates Cassie’s looks, her art and just her. With steamy scenes and a bit of danger, this is an amusing, lighter look at love with the undead.

Jenna Levine’s debut romance delights our columnist! Plus a sparkling rom-com and the latest Wynchester love story.

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