Dolly R. Sickles

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LA may be a city of smoke and mirrors, but this trio of romances is a friendly reminder of how important it is to delve beneath the surface and get to the heart of the matter in, well, matters of the heart.

Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Taj McCoy’s debut romance isn’t interested in superficial Hollywood glitz; rather, it’s an exuberant story about a relatable Everywoman whose shine has lost a bit of its luster. The title may be Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, but it takes Savvy a while to bounce back after her boyfriend, Jason, breaks off their six-year relationship over dinner after announcing he needs an “upgrade.” Her tightknit group of gal pals squad up for Savvy’s sake, encouraging her plan to overhaul her life. On the docket are goals like getting a promotion, writing a cookbook, renovating her grandparents’ house in Los Feliz and losing weight. Absent are the things that really count, like bolstering her self-confidence and learning to love herself as she is. A key moment in her journey comes early on, when she epically misjudges handsome Spencer Morgan. Because of his dusty clothes, she assumes he’s experiencing homelessness and brushes off his flirting, only to learn that he’s actually a contractor. It’s the opposite of a successful meet-cute, but it does result in a profound moment of self-reflection. Savvy feels constantly judged for her weight, and she projected that sense of constant negative scrutiny onto Spencer. Moments like this drive the plot; McCoy is less focused on romance than she is on thoughtfully constructing her heroine’s journey to enlightenment. Luckily, Savvy is a particularly zeitgeisty heroine: a woman on a quest to improve both her physical and mental well-being.

Funny You Should Ask

Young adult author Elissa Sussman may be poised for a breakout hit with her first novel for adults, Funny You Should Ask. This tightly written romance follows a successful writer and a Hollywood A-lister who previously crossed paths during an interview that changed the trajectories of their lives. Chani Horowitz is now a writer of essays, profiles and commentary, but a decade ago she was just kicking off her career. She was thrilled to land a profile piece of the next James Bond, a wholesome Montana boy named Gabe Parker. He was handsome and dazzling, and Chani was totally crushing on him. They clicked immediately and then spent a momentous weekend together in LA, roaming from Gabe’s house in Laurel Canyon to a high-profile movie premiere to a gay club, reveling in the city’s culinary scene and endless supply of things to do and places to see. But afterward, Chani returned to New York City with her boyfriend, Gabe married his new co-star, and neither of them were happy. Funny You Should Ask bounces back and forth between Chani and Gabe in the present and during their lost weekend. There are a ton of details to unpack, with a lot of different characters in a lot of different times and places. But Sussman’s smart writing and firm control over the narrative steadily lead you on to the next page, and the next page, and the page after that. She also uses the dual-timeline structure to great effect in support of the eventual happy ending. 

Business Not As Usual

Dreamy Daniels, the heroine of Sharon C. Cooper’s latest contemporary romance, Business Not As Usual, truly lives up to her name and will charm the pants off readers (and off her love interest, too). Dreamy’s personal mantra is that anything is possible if you believe. She plays the lottery every week with her grandfather, confident with her whole being that she’ll be a big winner one day. A hard worker with a vision for starting a nonprofit for aspiring female entrepreneurs, Dreamy makes do in the meantime by working as a secretary for a tech guru. But then she meets venture capitalist Karter Redford who, despite being the son of acting royalty, turns out to be a kindred spirit who sees the value in a little intellectual elbow grease. He appreciates both her shiny, wild exterior and the resilient, creative thinker beneath it. To Karter, the fact that Dreamy lives in one of LA’s underprivileged neighborhoods doesn’t matter. But his mother thinks that Dreamy isn’t cultured, sophisticated or educated enough to be a good match for her son. Cooper, however, doesn’t fall back on such stereotypical characterizations. Dreamy and Karter are intelligent, mature adults who root for each other, which in turn makes the reader root all the harder for them in this flirty, fun and refreshing romance.

Los Angeles may be a city of smoke and mirrors, but this trio of romances is all about getting real.

Kenya Davenport is the ideal contestant for “Cosplay or No Way,” a reality competition show that follows cosplayers as they construct elaborate ensembles based on their favorite fictional characters. She’s smart and funny, with pop culture savvy, a passion for anime and quips for every situation. Her nerdy interests may not overlap much with those of her engineer parents, but she’s fine with that. So is her BFF, Cameron Lassiter. Cam’s her ride or die, her partner in crime. He’s not into cosplay like Kenya, but he still agrees to pose as her boyfriend r in the final round of the show, where the contestants enlist their real-life partners in the construction of their final costumes. It’s both more and less awkward than it should be, because Cam’s secretly been in love with Kenya for years.

Author Seressia Glass displays a talent for natural dialogue and effortless humor, which shine in the interactions between Cam and Kenya. Cam is particularly lovable: He seamlessly integrates into his role of fake boyfriend and proves time and time again, even outside of the demands of the show, that he’s there for Kenya. His steady, unerring support bolsters her inner strength, and he always lets her know that she’s remarkable, with or without a costume or mask.

Glass touches on a handful of real-world issues without slowing the forward momentum of the central love story. Yes, Kenya is fat. Yes, Kenya and Cam are an interracial couple. Yes, her parents whittle down her confidence. But Kenya dances to the beat of her own drummer and knows that she’s all the better for it. She doesn’t expect or want Cam to protect her when the show’s judges make snide comments about her weight and physical appearance; she’s more than capable of either doing that herself or choosing to ignore these types of slights. Glass constantly strikes the right balance in these moments, acknowledging the problems Kenya would face on reality TV or in her relationship with her parents while maintaining The Love Con’s exuberant, hopeful tone.

Kenya and Cam’s partnership proves that while plenty of things in life are a con, their love isn’t one of them. The Love Con is a unique glimpse into the world of cosplay that will lighten your heart and make you smile uncontrollably. 

Seressia Glass’ The Love Con is a unique glimpse into the world of cosplay that will lighten your heart and make you smile uncontrollably.

With her latest contemporary romance, K.M. Jackson will win the hearts of any reader who loves Keanu Reeves (especially if they’re a Gen-Xer).

Bethany Lu Carlisle is a 40-something artist on the brink of a breakout—and a Keanu Reeves superfan. Her Keanu fixation is how Lu copes with life’s stresses: There’s a Keanu role out there to suit any mood, ready to provide a cathartic pick-me-up. So when news of the star’s forthcoming wedding hits the tabloids, Lu hits the road with the lofty goal of confessing her love to him.

Riding shotgun on her cross-country dash is BFF Truman “True” Erickson, a great guy and even better friend. A college economics professor, True recently wrote a popular book and is making the rounds on local talk shows, but his friendship with Lu keeps him humble and grounded. He’s loved Lu for years, but since he started out as her brother’s bestie, his affection has gone unnoticed. She’s his Keanu.  

Lu and True have the familiarity and intimacy of lifelong friends, but true to the friends-to-lovers trope, their communication stinks. They may have decades of life experience and disappointments behind them, but they are still their own worst enemies until they give in to the inevitable spark. Their journey is quirky and full of misadventures, while being poignant and heartfelt and full of emotion. 

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is charming even when it’s working through heavier emotional issues like grief and healing. Jackson brings a light-hearted and personal touch to the smallest of details, from the chapter titles echoing the names of Reeves’ movies to the pointed moments when True uses Lu’s full name to get her attention.

Is Keanu Reeves the perfect boyfriend? Answers may vary, but Jackson has definitely written an extremely enjoyable friends-to-lovers rom-com. How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is a fun story with humor and heart, and a supremely satisfying conclusion.

Is Keanu Reeves the perfect boyfriend? Answers may vary, but Jackson has definitely written an extremely enjoyable friends-to-lovers rom-com.

With Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words, Annika Sharma kicks off a new contemporary rom-com series about four South Asian friends living in New York City. Four besties make up the Chai Masala Club, also known as the CMC. Kiran, Payal, Akash and Sonam are as varied and vibrant as the Empire State, which Sharma has imbued with a heartbeat and perspective to rival the story’s other secondary characters. The city is more than just a place; it’s the foundation for everything that happens to the CMC.

A perfect literary companion to the author’s popular podcast, “The Woke Desi,” this romance focuses on Indian immigrant Kiran Mathur, a biomedical engineer and dynamic woman raised by traditional, conservative parents. She often feels the pull of opposing obligations among her family, her culture and herself, but her list of things she’d like to accomplish before turning 30 is her own, for the most part. The things that were quickly crossed off, like seeing the Empire State Building and a Broadway play, were fun and easy. Riding a horse, playing games at an arcade and dancing under the stars are so far unchecked but, again, fun and easy to accomplish. The things that really matter, like falling in love and reuniting her older sister, Kirti, with Ma and Baba . . . those are more serious. More daunting. 

Kiran’s new neighbor, Nash Hawthorne, is a fellow big-city transplant whose goal is to become a child psychologist at a hospital downtown. He’s handsome, tempting and as interested in Kiran as she is in him. But whereas he lost his parents as a child, Kiran grew up in the shadow of her family. Not only does Nash have to learn about Kiran’s Indian parents, he has to learn about the obligations any child feels toward their parents.

Sharma packs every sentence with information in this book. And every bit of information hints at important decisions the characters must make. Nash is uninformed about Kiran’s culture, but he works hard to learn about and understand her. Where he sees disapproval and isolation, Kiran sees tradition and responsibility. Kiran has to take into consideration the fact that Kirti was disowned for falling in love with a man her parents didn’t choose, and that her parents would be devastated if Kiran didn’t marry an Indian man.

It’s a lot of responsibility, and the heaviness of tradition weighs profoundly on Kiran’s shoulders. She works hard to stay present, but her wants and desires are constantly in battle with her parents’, and with her own reluctance to step out of line. Sharma poses the difficult question of how younger generations can evolve while still observing the practices of generations past. How lenient should we be with our parents and grandparents about their outdated opinions and practices? Are they even outdated? Should we try to teach them to be better? More future-thinking and progressive? How do you move forward if everybody stays on pause and never grows?

There’s a lot to think about in this forbidden love story, chiefly how brave someone must be to follow their heart. Falling in love is terrifying, but in the end Kiran and Nash find their four-letter word.

In this dynamic rom-com, Annika Sharma explores how younger generations can evolve while still observing the practices of generations past.
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What better time than the holidays to set aside a little “me time” with a good book? Romances are always good for your heart, but if you want some added adrenaline, try one of these suspenseful romances.

SCAPEGOAT
Jannine Gallant kicks off the appetizer course with Hidden Secrets, the third installment of her Siren Cove series. This cozy mystery is as comfortable as the lifelong friendship between restaurateur Quentin Radcliff and antiques shop owner Paige Shephard. It starts off with a simmer, after Quentin moves back home to open his latest restaurant, and kisses Paige on a whim. The slow burn kicks in when they decide to push the boundaries of their relationship and take a chance on love. After all, they’ve loved each other forever—they have to decide if they “can figure out how to be in love.”

But sometimes love isn’t the only answer, particularly when it’s been in front of you for a lifetime. Love and attraction and chemistry are the easy parts—trust is the challenge. Quentin’s last two girlfriends have turned up dead or missing, and he’s the scapegoat. Were it not for Paige’s unwavering trust in him, the investigation might not have turned its attention to an old, unsolved crime. And when Paige attracts the killer’s attention through her most recent antiques acquisition, she comes between him and the cover-up that’s been going on for years.

GUILTY CONSCIENCE
Marie Force is 13 books into her Fatal series and doesn’t see herself slowing down any time soon, thank goodness. Her most recent installment, Fatal Invasion, is a meaty main course, full of love and heartbreak, insider trading and organized crime, and a race to the finish line that’ll leave you breathless.

Fans of “it couple” police Lieutenant Sam Holland and Vice President Nick Cappuano will rejoice. They’re back and as likable as ever. One of the best hallmarks of this series is that although Sam is involved in every book of the series, each installment focuses on a different member of her investigative team. Invasion focuses on Sergeant Tommy “Gonzo” Gonzales, and his battle with an opioid addiction caused by debilitating guilt over the death of his partner nine months ago. Like most functional addicts, Gonzo is able to mask his illness from his fiancé and his colleagues. But hiding the truth and living with his addiction is bleeding over into every facet of his life. His police work is failing, his love life is failing, and his will to care is failing. So on top of the team’s main investigation—the murder of a wealthy couple whose two young children come to live with Sam and Nick—they have to circle the wagons to help one of their own heal. This is an excellent series that hits every emotional, psychological and romantic note.

What better time than the holidays to set aside a little “me time” with a good book? Romances are always good for your heart, but if you want some added adrenaline, try one of these suspenseful romances.

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Friends always make better lovers. It’s probably a scientific fact, somewhere. But in the world of romance, it’s a truth that can be proven time and again. Lovers come in all shapes and sizes, for any length of time, but if you want a lasting relationship with staying power, friendship is the key. (And apparently, being named “Hunter” also helps.)

Connie Mann kicks off her new Florida Wildlife Warriors series with Beyond Risk, a satisfying mystery with a robust cast of characters, a small-town feel and the wild, adventurous forest around the Ocklawaha River. But what really sets it apart is the tight camaraderie of the Tanner family, and the friendship between Charlee Tanner and Hunter Boudreau that develops with natural grace into a satisfying romance.

The story opens on the one-year anniversary of a tragic paddling trip Charlee led, in which someone drowned. Her big family of law enforcement and Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) officers are on hand to usher her off on a new paddling adventure, but it’s Hunter’s presence that she’s most drawn to, as “he’d also stood between her and the world, giving her a safe space to heal.” If only the big, bad, former Marine and FWC hottie could keep that barrier between her and the world, he might be able to save her from a stalker before her life flips upside down again. Mann proves that she knows her subject matter by interjecting as many dangers from the natural world—snakes, alligators and the river itself—as from violent offenders, but she also fills the story with so many characters that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. Look beyond the multitude of clients, family and community members and focus on the easy way Charlee and Hunter migrate from friends to lovers. There’s nothing risky about that.

Lora Leigh and Veronica Chadwick dish up another friends-to-lovers romantic suspense in One Tough Cowboy, a love story between a sexy cowboy and the girl that got away.

In this instance, the sexy cowboy, Hunter Steele, is also a sexy small-town sheriff and the girl that got away is Samantha Ryder, who moved to Detroit with her family at eleven and is now a police officer. After three deaths in Deerhaven, California, Hunter and Samantha reunite. One of the dead is his uncle, another is her aunt, but all three victims have died from suspicious, supposedly accidental pain medication overdoses. The similarities are just too coincidental for them to be random, and with the mayor’s wife being the third victim, it all adds up to some serious small-town corruption. Chadwick is a new to this reviewer, but Leigh’s trademark drama and sexy romance is easily identifiable and as heart racing as ever. The pair’s Moving Violations series is off to a red hot start.

So if you don’t want to just “love the one you’re with,” look a little deeper into those you consider your closest friends. Could be true love’s been with you all along. And if you find someone named Hunter, grab him!

Friends always make better lovers. It’s probably a scientific fact, somewhere. But in the world of romance, it’s a truth that can be proven time and again. Lovers come in all shapes and sizes, for any length of time, but if you want a lasting relationship with staying power, friendship is the key. (And apparently, being named “Hunter” also helps.)

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Judging by the number of cowboy covers lining the bookshelves at my local library, there is no shortage of interest in that tried and true Wild West archetype. Whether you’re looking for a sweet homesteader yarn set at the turn of the twentieth century, a contemporary coming-of-age tale or a suspenseful nail-biter, there’s something for every romance reader.

Jo Goodman’s A Touch of Forever is a sweet marriage of convenience story set in 1902. Third in her Cowboys of Colorado series, this novel can still easily be read as a stand-alone. Goodman is an expert at developing compelling, interesting and likeable characters, and this entry is totally absorbing. Railway surveyor Roen Shepard is new to town working on a project for the Northern Railway. When he meets single mother Lily Salt, he is immediately taken with her quiet grace and dignity, and her sense of humor and hard work. When he poses the marriage of convenience idea to her in attempt to fend off his ex-mistress, who’s come to town with unwanted news (and advances), Lily agrees for practicality’s sake. What ensues is the slow-burn development of a friendship that gracefully develops into a romance. A Touch of Forever is gorgeously done and almost compulsively readable.

Carolyn Brown’s Cowboy Rebel follows the journey of Tag Baker and his evolution from adventurous daredevil to responsible ranch owner. Like the other protagonists in Brown’s Longhorn Canyon series, Tag is richly developed and part of a sprawling, inclusive family. His wild, risk-taking ways defined him ever since the death of his best friend. Nikki Grady is an admirable woman who’s worked hard in life to get where she is. Her nursing career is hard-won, and one she’s unwilling to risk via a romance with a reckless cowboy. But the more she gets to know Tag, the more she opens herself up to the possibility. That is, if she can ditch her drag of a mother, Wilma, whose conversations and scenes with Nikki were hard to get through at times. Fortunately, Tag and Nikki are compelling enough to re-garner the readers’ attention and remind you why this rebel gets the girl.

Luck of the Draw is a second-chance love story with B.J. Daniels’ trademark undercurrent of danger. When Garrett Sterling comes across a man dragging a struggling woman across a ravine, he intervenes. But once he gets a good look at her, he realizes it’s Joslyn Charles, the woman he thought was the love of his life. Joslyn disappeared almost two years ago with no word, and now claims to not recognize him. Her head injury is very real, which makes the possibility of amnesia plausible—it just makes filling in the blanks all the more frustrating for Garrett, particularly since they’re in the crosshairs of a killer. Daniels is a perennial favorite on the romantic suspense front, and I might go as far as to label her the cowboy whisperer. 

Judging by the number of cowboy covers lining the bookshelves at my local library, there is no shortage of interest in that tried and true Wild West archetype. Whether you’re looking for a sweet homesteader yarn set at the turn of the twentieth century, a contemporary coming-of-age tale or a suspenseful nail-biter, there’s something for every romance reader.

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Sweeping gestures of romance are timeless, as is Romancelandia’s fascination with Highlanders. This month, I’ve got two stellar romances. Both have Scots galore, Highlanders who fall hard for their loves, and both have grand, sweeping gestures.


Alyson McLayne takes us back to her popular Sons of Gregor MacLeod series about five boys fostered together to become brothers, who are destined to become Highland lairds. The fourth installment, Highland Captive, begins with Laird Gavin MacKinnon, callous and bitter in the aftermath of his son’s disappearance two years ago from an annual festival. He’s never given up hope of finding Ewan and is shocked to discover that the beautiful woman he meets at the market, Dierdre MacIntyre, is the woman who’s had his son for the last two and a half years. When he and his brothers go to collect Ewan, they decide to nab Dierdre at the same time and sort out the particulars later. But for Gavin, getting Ewan back is only the beginning. He’ll have to sort out his feelings for Dierdre during this complex, twisty story.

McLayne delivers a highly emotional, deeply satisfying tale of deceit and revenge, longing and loneliness, and ultimately of forgiveness and love. It’s a very fresh perspective in the world of Scottish Highland historicals.

Laura Trentham takes us forward in time to present-day Highland, Georgia, with her charming and sweet romance, A Highlander Walks Into a Bar. First in a new series, this book made me grin the whole time I read it. It’s comedic gold.

Things kick off with a harried Isabel Buchanan, who’s stretched to her limit navigating the Atlanta traffic to collect her mother, Rose, from the airport. (If you’ve ever driven in Atlanta, you will feel her pain.) Rose has been in Scotland doing research while Izzy’s been focused on planning the town’s annual Highland festival. And Rose’s trip was a resounding success, as evidenced by the six-foot-tall souvenir she brought home, Gareth Connors.

Alasdair Blackmoor is a risk manager and former risk-taker who’s come to the deep South to collect his Uncle Gareth and save him from the American tart he’s taken up with. As it turns out, Rose isn’t much of a tart, but her daughter Izzy is definitely captivating to Alasdair.

There’s a bit of a fish out of water tale here, mixed with an opposites-attract angle that caught and held my attention to the very end. Trentham’s casual, inviting writing is wonderful, showcasing her clever wit in every turn of phrase. The attraction between Izzy and Alasdair has great, natural chemistry, and while Rose and Gareth are secondary characters, I really enjoyed their romance as well. It was nice to see 50-somethings giggle and fret on their journey to love. This isn’t a fast-paced race to the finish line. Slow down and savor it.

Two stellar new romances have Scots and grand, sweeping gestures galore.
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I am a military brat who spent the first four years of my life on a base in Hanau, Germany. My grandmother sent me a care package once a week with Band-Aids, Scotch tape, McDonaldland cookies and a letter. So began my love of epistolary relationships. As an adult, I write regular letters to our son and his friends in college and send postcards to friends from my adventures around the world. It’s thrilling to see epistolary relationships in literature. Some people may think sending letters is outdated, but when we are far from those we love, letters offer a lifeline. Not since Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series have I found two such charming stories of love and romance and notes.

British author Jenny Colgan’s 500 Miles From You made me smile from start to finish. Written in three parts, it’s a charming yarn from across the pond. Despite the sad circumstances that introduce us to nurse Lissa Westcott, this is a hopeful, beautifully written story. On a day that changes her life forever, Lissa witnesses a hit-and-run accident that kills Kai, a young man she knows. She accompanies him to the hospital, performing CPR all the while, yet he still dies. Five hundred and eighty-three miles north by northwest is Cormac MacPherson, an army veteran and nurse/paramedic.

Lissa’s unsuccesful struggle to save Kai’s life results in a signficant mental cost for her. In an attempt to help Lissa “recalibrate” and deal with her trauma, her company sends her to a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands. Cormac’s town. The result, of course, is that he swaps places with her in London. Despite the carrot dangled in front of him for moving up the corporate ladder, Cormac knows the exchange program is a way to send the “burnouts” to the countryside to recuperate. But as it turns out, the exchange program was the right move. In working together over email, consulting on cases and learning about each other, Cormac and Lissa click.

Historical romances often use notes and letters as a device for conversation, and though Colgan uses electronic mail rather than snail mail, she creates a refreshing, slow-building romance. Lissa and Cormac learn as much about themselves as they do each other, and despite the panic both face in deciding to actually speak on the phone or meet in person, the heart wants what the heart wants. This is a story that will make the reader’s heart sigh.

Tash Skilton’s Ghosting: A Love Story is another lighthearted epistolary tale with a very modern, youthful vibe. There are so many things that work in this refreshing contemporary romance by first-time collaborators Sarvenaz Tash and Sarah Skilton. It’s part Sleepless in Seattle, part Roxanne and part “Friends.” It’s a perfect, ’90s-esque enemies-to-lovers rom-com, but for the new millennium.

Miles Ibrahim and Zoey Abot are ghostwriters who work for competing online dating sites in New York City. They spend their workdays in the digital realm, meeting, flirting and messaging clients. IRL, however, native New Yorker Miles vacillates between fury and heartbreak over his recent breakup with his fiancé, who’s now pregnant (and suspiciously farther along than originally purported). New-to-town Zoey feels unwelcome, and yearns for space to herself and room to breathe.

Skilton weaves a tale full of pop-culture references, meet-cutes and geek-speak that will be like catnip to digital natives. The dialogue is quick, snappy and smart. Readers need to be as up on their literary references (Miles refers to his parents’ relationship as a “Capulet/Montague saga”) as they are on their Instagrammable moments. Miles is Egyptian American and Jewish, and refers to himself as a “millennial multitasking Jewslim,” and Zoey is Filipina American; they are the embodiment of the multicultural time and place in which they’re falling in love.

Between two sets of families, friends and dating app clients, there are admittedly a lot of characters to keep up with. It’s prophetic that their respective clients, Bree and Jude, fall for each other; they are, after all, somewhat alternate versions of Miles and Zoey. The steady tension of Miles continuing to dwell on his broken engagement, and Zoey learning that her frenemy Miles is the online personality she fell for, slows the pace somewhat. But it’s hard to hold it against this young, trendy and effortlessly cool debut.

I am a military brat who spent the first four years of my life on a base in Hanau, Germany. My grandmother sent me a care package once a week with Band-Aids, Scotch tape, McDonaldland cookies and a letter. So began my love of epistolary relationships. As an adult, I write regular letters to our […]
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They say the best relationships begin as friendships. In the case of this spotlight on two friends-to-lovers romances, it’s easy to see that the old adage was as true in the Regency era as it is today. In a delightful twist on the beloved formula, both of the soon-to-be-couples fall in love while fighting against toxic masculinity. 

Learning to open up to your own potential is as important as learning to open up to the person you love, and when you start as friends, it makes the whole process a lot less frightening. That's the lesson learned by the protagonists of Megan Frampton's second book in her Hazards of Dukes series, Tall, Duke, and Dangerous. Despite her noble birth, Lady Ana Maria Dutton was treated as a servant by her stepmother. When her half-brother, Sebastian, becomes her guardian after the deaths of her father and stepmother, he is determined to reinstate Ana Maria to her rightful place in society. A dutiful, respectful woman of the ton should hold such a position in high regard. Right? But nowhere on Ana Maria's list of new, genteel responsibilities is room to discover herself, or to fall in love. And after years of subjugation, Ana Maria is bursting with a colorful lust for life.

Sebastian and Ana Maria’s childhood friend, Nash, grew up with a physically and emotionally abusive father and is now a solemn, quiet man who feels like he’s one heightened emotion away from becoming his sire. His grandmother wants him to marry so that his violent cousin won’t inherit the dukedom, but Nash’s upbringing has left him terrified of emotional intimacy.

Due to their abusive pasts, Ana Maria and Nash came to adulthood with no overarching sense of self. They've never been asked what they want. And sadly, they have never even asked themselves what they want . . . until now. Because of their longstanding friendship, Nash sees Ana Maria, just as she sees him. Nash enjoys how Ana Maria challenges his willpower and pulls him out of his hermitage, and Ana Maria knows that Nash will protect her while giving her free rein. But she wants to marry for love, and he refuses to loosen the leash on his emotions enough to let love become a possibility. Hidden behind the cravat is a man wrestling to escape the chains of toxic masculinity who loves a proudly progressive woman.

Lyssa Kay Adams delivers a contemporary friends-to-lovers tale in the third installment of her Bromance Book Club series, Crazy Stupid Bromance. The leads have gone step further than in Frampton’s period piece, delivering a modern man who’s already ascended, and a modern woman who’s already found herself.

Noah Logan is a man after my own heart, with a rebellious teenage-hacker past and current life as a computer security expert. He’s a likable nerd with a penchant for romance novels, as evidenced by his membership in the Bromance Book Club, and a deep love for his best friend, Alexis Carlisle. When a woman shows up at Alexis’ cat cafe claiming to be her sister, Noah is her go-to guy for guidance (and a discreet background check).

Alexis’ cafe, ToeBeans, has become a safe haven for women who have been victims of sexual harassment. It’s no surprise when customers confide in her, given the publicity afforded to Alexis’ own harrassment suit against a celebrity chef, but the reveal of her supposed-sister is different. Personal. So she puts any romantic inclinations she may feel toward Noah on the back burner until she can figure out what’s up.

This book is packed with likable characters who propel the fun, flirty story at an enjoyable pace. Noah and Alexis have terrific, very plausible chemistry, and with the contemporary setting, they have fewer hurdles to overcome than Ana Maria and Nash. But it’s not all glitter and rainbows, because Alexis is still dealing with the very real fallout of being in the public eye as well as recovering emotionally from her ordeal.

Frampton and Adams have written a favorite trope with the exact joie de vivre that readers expect from the romance genre, regardless of the era. It’s especially cathartic to read uplifting, hopeful stories that validate why the guy or the gal you like is also the person you love.

They say the best relationships begin as friendships. In the case of this spotlight on two friends-to-lovers romances, it’s easy to see that the old adage was as true in the Regency era as it is today. In a delightful twist on the beloved formula, both of the soon-to-be-couples fall in love while fighting against […]
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Two magical romances highlight the power of women through their depictions of witty, intelligent and powerful heroines.

G.A. Aiken returns with The Princess Knight, the daring second book in the Scarred Earth Saga. I loved the saga’s first installment (The Blacksmith Queen), in which Queen Keeley fulfilled a prophecy to become queen of the western lands—and rival to her youngest sister, Queen Beatrix, the selfish queen of the east. Gemma Smythe, the middle sister of the family, is the proverbial black sheep because she joined a warrior guild rather than becoming a blacksmith like the rest of her mother’s people.

Two years into Queen Keeley’s reign, the battles are bloody, the stakes are high and the tension is through the roof. Both queens are first on the battlefield, leading by fearless example. And readers, they are brutal. Gemma has spent the time since Keeley’s coronation training her sister’s supporters to fight ferociously, executing fast and hard attacks that prevent Queen Beatrix’s army from defending or retaliating. Even among the other warriors and magical beings, Brother Gemma of the Order of Righteous Valor war monks is ruthless.

She sets off on her true hero’s journey when she embarks on a quest to avenge a slaughter at another monk’s monastery, only to realize Queen Beatrix is stealing religious artifacts that will give her unimaginable power. At Gemma’s side is the Amichai warrior Quinn, who can shape-shift into a centaur. He’s a brave man in general, but especially so when he dares let down his guard enough to evolve from being Gemma’s friend to her lover.

This is an elaborate, richly developed world with a robust cast of characters. Though it’s a technically a standalone novel, you would still do yourself a service by starting with the first book, because there’s a lot going on in Aiken’s fun fantasy romance.

Nalini Singh returns to her Guild Hunters series with Archangel’s Sun. This is an epic saga that depicts the battle between lightness and darkness, where angels aren’t the little pudgy pink cherubs of Raphael’s imagination. No, these angels are avengers and bringers of death. They’re dark and intense and so sexy you need to look over your shoulder to make sure karma won’t zap you for giving into the temptation they pose.

This 13th book in the series centers on Sharine, an angel known as “The Hummingbird” who is treasured for her legendary kindness. When Raan, the love of her immortal life, died, she was both emotionally and practically unprepared, because angels do not die unless they are slain in battle. And yet, her archangel did. For centuries, Sharine has mourned Raan’s death with such heartbreaking intensity that her mind fractured and her entire being was nearly overwhelmed by sorrow. Insidious voices inside her mind bombarded her, telling her that everyone she loves dies and no one could stand her—harsh self-criticism for such a peaceful, artistic soul.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read all our reviews of Nalini Singh’s work.


When the ruling group of archangels requests that she step in to help Titus, Archangel of Africa, nobody is more surprised than Sharine herself. He’s a powerful and respected warrior with a short fuse who insists on getting his way—especially since he’s battling zombies known as the reborn who are multiplying at catastrophic rates. At 3,500 years old, Sharine is still millennia older than Titus. Her period of mourning made her vulnerable, but it’s not long before she begins to prove her determination and strength, becoming a formidable complement to Titus’ own power. Sharine’s self-confidence returns as she recognizes how fortunate she is to have loved and been loved fiercely in return, and realizes that a second, equally passionate romance may be in the cards with Titus.

Aiken and Singh are two of the finest writers of fantasy and paranormal romance working today. Whatever intensity level you prefer when it comes to love and magical warfare, Romancelandia’s got you covered.

Two magical romances highlight the power of women through their depictions of witty, intelligent and powerful heroines.

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