Dolly R. Sickles

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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 Some people may think sending letters is outdated, but when we are far from those we love, letters offer a lifeline.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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Two fun, flirty rom-coms with celebrity characters have hidden depths beneath their glittering surfaces.

Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series comes to a close with First Comes Like. Jia Ahmed is a beauty expert and influencer. She’s well-versed in fashion and camera angles and promoting posts—in short, she knows how to highlight not only the best parts of her look, but also the best parts of her life, the pieces she wants to amplify and share with the world. And when she takes up an epistolary romance with a hot Bollywood soap opera star through her direct messages, Jia is on cloud nine. He’s heir to an influential family, he’s giving her the romance she didn’t know she needed and he’s oh, so dreamy. He’s also oh, so fake.

Dev Dixit doesn’t have time for romance—between moving to America, closing out his brother’s estate and taking on the care of his niece, his schedule is full. But when he realizes someone is catfishing Jia, his sense of honor kicks in and he decides to help. It’s not that she’s beautiful and compelling and interesting—he’s just a great guy. Really. So, of course when they’re photographed in a sultry position, Dev has no option other than to agree to her request that they fake date for a bit, just to get the paparazzi off their backs.

Every page of First Comes Like is bursting with fun, especially for pop-culture junkies, but Rai also addresses deeper questions about fame and access and culture. Online personalities and romances versus real-life relationships; imposter syndrome; microaggressions about heritage and culture and Bollywood cinema. The large cast of characters surrounding both Jia and Dev are lovingly and individually drawn, and it’s hard not to feel swept up into both of their families. All that, and there are helpful tips for selfies courtesy of Jia!

Read an interview with Alisha Rai about the first book in the Modern Love series, The Right Swipe.

Former Hollywood actress River Lane travels to the tiny town of Moose Springs, Alaska, in Sarah Morgenthaler’s Enjoy the View. Determined to keep a stake in the film industry, River has shifted to working behind the screen and plans to direct a documentary about Moose Springs. She grew up in Wyoming, so the rugged landscape isn’t as daunting as the people of Moose Springs, who don’t want publicity about their little slice of heaven. River’s got a lot riding on the success of her directorial debut, which explains her short temper and brashness. She’s bold and she’s brave, and, thanks to local hottie Easton Lockett, she’s got an in for her Moose Springs documentary. The mountaineer agrees to guides River’s team into the Rockies to climb Mount Veil, their local 14er. Perennial peacemaker Easton is a lot nicer and more receptive to outsiders than other men in Morgenthaler’s series, but he’s no less cautious and protective of Moose Springs.

Morgenthaler’s romance is pure escapism and competence porn, full of adventure, beautiful mountain vistas and knowledgeable alpine climbing guides. It’s like “Northern Exposure” meets Cliffhanger; River’s reckless bravery keeps her on the edge of the mountain and readers on the edge of their seats. As a woman in Hollywood, River has walked a fine line between nice and pleasant and not making waves, because too much of the latter meant her career would be over. But now that she doesn’t have to walk that particularly unfair tightrope, she’s unsure of the right balance to strike in her life going forward. River and Easton have an adrenaline-filled journey to their happily ever after, but it’s the boldness and patience, community and independence they learn from each other that makes it the most satisfying.

Two fun, flirty rom-coms with celebrity characters have hidden depths beneath their glittering surfaces.

These five queer romances are the perfect blend of swoon-inducing and serious, balancing delicious escapism with examinations of thorny issues such as family expectations, the grieving process and the corrosive influence of the British class system.

 The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

Set in Georgian-era England, Cat Sebastian’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb takes a charming, gratifyingly original perspective on love across the class divide. The titular Kit is a gruff retired highwayman-turned-coffee house proprietor who truly despises the aristocracy. Edward Percy Talbot, Lord Holland, is one of the British class system’s greatest beneficiaries. A dandy and marquess, Percy is the heir to a prosperous dukedom held by one of England’s most notorious abusers of aristocratic privilege and power.

Kit is skeptical when the conspicuously costumed and brazenly flirtatious popinjay starts to haunt his coffee shop on a daily basis. Percy’s position in the world is more precarious than one would expect, however, and he approaches the disillusioned highwayman to do one last job. Their mission: steal a book that Percy’s father keeps on his person at all times, one whose contents will provide leverage and financial security for Percy, his stepmother and his infant half -sister.

Kit retired after his last job went wrong, incurring a serious injury and losing his best friend and partner. Because of this, he trains Percy to take the main role in the heist, putting them in close physical proximity.

Their sexual tension is a living, breathing thing on the page, but mercifully, Sebastian doesn’t leave them in want for long. And there’s plenty of sparkling dialogue to go with their physical connection. Kit has very clear opinions about the privilege Percy is fighting to protect, and their conversations about class and politics are uniformly excellent and fascinating. Kit Webb will surprise and delight not only fans of Sebastian and queer historical romance but also readers who are new to both.

—Carole V. Bell

Hard Sell

Hudson Lin’s intricate, weighty Hard Sell follows the ramifications of a sexy one-night stand. A business acquisition reunites private equity investor Danny Ip and finance guru Tobin Lok seven years after the childhood friends finally gave in to their mutual attraction. Danny is interested in buying and shutting down WesTec, a buzzy tech startup. As an independent financial consultant, Tobin has been tasked with helping WesTec avoid bankruptcy, or at the very least, making sure Danny doesn’t undervalue the company in order to make a profit. The spark between them remains despite the time and distance—but so do the complications around their potential romance, which extend beyond Tobin’s tricky professional position.

When they were growing up, Tobin’s tightknit family was big and meddlesome, but it was also a bastion of safety and belonging to Danny, who was Tobin’s older brother’s best friend. As an only child whose single mother was constantly working, Danny thought the Loks’ house was heaven. But for Tobin, the youngest son with a desperate crush on Danny, his family’s “well-intentioned smothering” was and remains difficult.

Lin creates a loving, traditional family with the Loks, but she also shows their tone-deaf attitudes toward Tobin’s life as a gay man in a very real, palpable way. Tobin’s mother calls regularly, and his brother sends photos of Tobin’s nephew. Tobin yearns for acceptance beyond superficial inclusion, but he has no idea whether a potential relationship with Danny would make things better or immeasurably worse.

Much is at stake for these men, who have banked their love for one another for nearly a decade. But when Danny and Tobin finally give in to their hearts, the result is euphoric.

—Dolly R. Sickles

 Satisfaction Guaranteed

When Cade Elgin travels from her New York City home to Portland, Oregon, for her aunt’s funeral, she’s totally unprepared for her inheritance: her aunt’s sex-toy store, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Cade is a careful, conservative businesswoman, with no room in her life for shenanigans or the wacky gold lamé preferences of her fellow funeralgoers. Fortunately, her new business partner-in-inheritance, Selena Mathis, has the passion and whimsy to balance Cade’s business prowess. Having taken a self-imposed oath of celibacy after some relationship troubles, Selena doesn’t want anything to do with the unexpected attraction she feels for Cade.

Oregon writer Karelia Stetz-Waters employs humor like a finely trained chef, sprinkling in lighthearted moments precisely when heavier topics require a little levity. Death, inheritance and responsibility are weighty conversations for any new romantic duo, but Cade and Selena’s ability to synchronize with one another is remarkable. Satisfaction Guaranteed is a standout romance with humor, heart and two characters who step out of their comfort zones together.

—Dolly R. Sickles

How to Find a Princess

Alyssa Cole returns with the second installment of her Runaway Royals series, How to Find a Princess, and it’s just as fun, smart and challenging as last year’s How to Catch a Queen. Readers can count on this series to deliver total immersion into a sweeping, romantic alternate reality and intelligent, complicated female characters.

Beznaria Chetchevaliere is an investigator for the World Federation of Monarchies, and she’s searching for Makeda Hicks, the lost heir of the idyllic kingdom of Ibarania. Decades ago, Makeda’s grandmother had a hot summer fling with the then-heir to the throne, Prince Keshan. The pragmatic Makeda is thrown by this information, which reveals that a family tall tale is not only true but also potentially life-changing. She’s already reeling from recently losing her job and her girlfriend, so seeing the magic in her potentially royal lineage feels impossible; rather, it seems like a solemn, daunting duty she never asked for.

Cole’s allusions to the animated 1997 film Anastasia will delight fans, and anyone fascinated by the story of the Romanov princess will be tickled, but Cole’s take on the lost heir mythos is a more mature tale with hefty stakes.

—Dolly R. Sickles

 Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

In Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Alexis Hall (Boyfriend Material) explores contemporary class and societal expectations through believable characters who struggle with substantial pain and self-doubt.

Rosaline is a bisexual woman with a privileged pedigree. Both of her parents are highly successful doctors, and she grew up in one of London’s most affluent districts. But after a surprise pregnancy during her time at Cambridge, she’s now a doting mom who makes delicious baked creations with her precocious 8-year-old daughter, Amelie.

Competing on the BBC’s popular baking competition show “Baked Expectations” could be Rosaline’s ticket out of financial disaster. But even though she rejected the path her parents chose for her, Rosaline hasn’t managed to throw off the values and expectations they inculcated in her. When she arrives at the competition to find it full of potential love interests, she sees them through a class-based filter. Rosaline may stand up to biphobia, especially around her daughter, but she also repeatedly, reflexively upholds class and gender biases. For example, she deems her lovely co-star Harry off-limits because of his working-class accent and profession.

Despite the heavy subject matter, this rom-com provides a cornucopia of cringey, laugh-out-loud moments. Its combination of social insight and comedy makes for a surprisingly twisty tale. (Rosaline has multiple love interests, and it’s not clear who she will choose for large swaths of the story.) This complexity also means that the central romance doesn’t get as much page time as one would expect. The scenes between Rosaline and her eventual soul mate are gorgeous but scarce, which might leave some readers wanting more. Nonetheless, Hall’s creation is a joy—a deeply emotional and ultimately rewarding story about a woman finding her true path and true love, surrounded by delicious baked goods on a BBC soundstage.

—Carole V. Bell

These queer romances have the perfect balance between sweet love stories and substantial issues like grief and class.

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This pair of enemies-to-lovers romances takes readers on a bicoastal journey from classic Los Angeles showbiz glitz to sleek Manhattan high-rises.

LA-based YA author Bridget Morrissey hits the ground running with her first adult novel, Love Scenes. Morrissey’s Angeleno bona fides shine through in this sweet and thoughtful rom-com that tackles real-world problems of addiction, sobriety and second chances with wit and wisdom.

Told in first person, Love Scenes follows Sloane Ford, actor and second-generation Hollywood royalty, as she contemplates retiring from the industry following the disastrous demise of her longtime gig on a TV crime procedural. But she’s quickly roped in to being the consulting producer of a new movie written by her stepfather, directed by her sister, co-starring her mother and starring Joseph Donovan, a fellow actor she never wanted to work with again after his difficult behavior during the one and only movie they made together.

Sloane’s gigantic family, with parents and siblings and steps galore, has the potential to overwhelm everything else in this romance—particularly since, in true Hollywood fashion, everyone is involved in showbiz. But they’re well rounded and secondary to the real focus of the story: Sloane and Joe. Despite the professional, generational and financial privilege Sloane could easily fall back on, she works hard and recognizes all the ways she’s been given a leg up in her career. She also recognizes, eventually, Joe’s genuine effort to make amends. He was an emotional wreck and struggling with alcoholism when they last worked together, but now he’s sober and dedicated to keeping it that way. What follows is real emotional growth, true friendship and a satisfying love story.

Lauren Layne proves once again that she’s the queen of contemporary New York City romance with To Sir, With Love. Her breezy dialogue and delightful characters will fully immerse readers in this dreamy and sophisticated love story.

It’s easy to connect with Gracie Cooper right out of the gate. She’s an earnest, hopeful character anyone would love to call a friend. She’s crazy about her best friend’s baby, names the pigeons she feeds in the park, blurts out everything and blindly gives herself over to the attraction she feels to “Sir,” the mystery man she’s been chatting with under the name “Lady” through a dating app called MysteryMate. All of that, and she’s set aside her own dreams to keep her late father’s champagne shop, Bubbles & More, in business.

Gracie thinks she’s fallen in love with Sir. But if she has, how can she also be so drawn to Sebastian Andrews, the man whose company wants to buy out Bubbles & More’s lease? At first glance, Sebastian is the villain in this fairy tale, but the more Gracie learns about the businessman, the more the goodness in her recognizes the goodness in him. Sebastian is kind and supportive and recognizes the community impact his business decisions could cause. And the more time they spend in one another’s company, the more he suspects the possibility of Gracie being the Lady to his Sir.

This hopeful, happy love story sparkles with fairy dust, even as Layne makes it clear how high the professional and personal stakes are for her main couple. The superb characterization of Gracie and Sebastian and the parallel journeys they take toward one another make To Sir, With Love a wonderfully satisfying romance.

This pair of enemies-to-lovers romances takes readers on a bicoastal journey from classic Los Angeles showbiz glitz to sleek Manhattan high-rises.

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The stakes are high, the danger is imminent and the sexiness is through the roof in this trio of romantic suspense novels.

Author duo Kit Rocha is back with the second installment of the Mercenary Librarians series. The first, Deal With the Devil, introduced librarians Maya, Dani and Nina, who brokered a deal with a group of AWOL supersoldiers known as the Silver Devils to survive in a post-apocalyptic Atlanta. The Devil You Know is another exciting dystopian adventure packed with danger, sexy romance and fascinating world building.

Maya may not have the combat skills of her fellow librarians, but she’s got as much grit, determination and intelligence in her self-described “soft and squishy” body as anyone in her squad. Raised with the wealthy and well educated, she learned to speak dozens of languages and mastered advanced mathematics, astronomy, programming, cryptography and biochemistry. Now Maya uses her brilliance to help her small community learn to freeze-dry food while building a repository of information more useful and practical than any 20th-century library.

Gray is the consummate sniper—stoic, determined and laser-focused. The Silver Devils, who were once a private security group for medical and tech conglomerate TechCorps, were granted superhuman abilities by implants. But now those implants are deteriorating, and Gray has begun to experience seizures. Despite the secret kernel of affection he keeps buried in his heart for Maya, he’s more interested in keeping her alive and safe than in his arms.

Rocha’s writing is tight and purposeful, keeping readers on their toes as they, along with Maya and Gray, try to figure out who they can actually trust. There are moments of both gasping surprise and laugh-out-loud humor in this fun and totally unique romance.

Alexandra Ivy’s Faceless will ruin any preconceptions readers may have about safe, sleepy small towns.  

When Wynter Moore was 4, she witnessed the murder of her mother in a robbery gone wrong. Despite that trauma, she’s grown into a peaceful woman who lives a quiet life. For the past 25 years, Wynter has returned annually to her mother’s grave in Pike, Wisconsin, and Wynter’s longtime friend Noah Hunter is there waiting for her every time. Loyal, kind and dependable Noah has loved Wynter from afar ever since they met in grief counseling as teenagers, but he’s been hesitant to take things further because he knows that good friends are far more valuable than lovers. 

But then Wynter receives an unexpected envelope containing a still shot from surveillance footage of her mother’s murder, a clue that could unlock the killer’s identity. She turns to game warden Noah, who has been trained in observation and security, to help her investigate.

Ivy ably balances Wynter’s overwhelming emotions upon revisiting her mother’s death with the addictiveness of unraveling the truth. There’s a lot of details to unpack in this book, along with a lot of characters, which unfortunately turns down the slow burn of this friends-to-lovers romance to a simmer. It would have been nice to see a little more of Wynter and Noah’s romantic progression, but in the hectic world of romantic suspense, Faceless offers a breather: It’s a love story with a gentler pace, despite the life-threatening danger the main couple finds themselves in.

Adriana Anders ratchets up the tension to stratospheric heights in the highly anticipated follow-up to 2020’s Whiteout, Uncharted. Set in the Alaskan wilderness, this forced proximity romance delivers a suspenseful TKO.

With staccato-style sentences, Anders brings new and returning readers up to speed on the ruthless Chronos corporation, which has deployed a team of mercenaries and scientists to gain access to a deadly virus. The only thing standing in Chronos’ way is hotshot pilot Leo Eddowes and the other members of her secret military unit. 

Leo and her team have traveled to Alaska in search of a scientist who stole a vial of the virus from Chronos. When the daring Leo decides to follow a lead without the rest of her team, she ends up crashing her plane in the wilderness after being attacked by Chronos’ goons. Leo is saved by the mysterious Elias Thorne, who has his own tortured history with the evil corporation.

Uncharted is ultimately a romance about trust and instinct. Who can you trust? When should you let down your guard? Anders has created two great protagonists who are equally skilled and equally wary of one another. Every sentence, every scene, is packed with emotion, and readers can feel Leo and Elias falling in love as they team up to make it out alive. The landscape provides as strong a foe as the enemies who are pursuing the pair, which makes the story all the more stressful. This is an exhausting book, but in the best possible way. It’s like the literary version of a Bruce Springsteen song, one that’s meant to be sung loudly and reverberate from every pore into the universe.

The stakes are high, the danger is imminent and the sexiness is through the roof in this trio of romantic suspense novels.

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Enemies to lovers is a favorite romance trope, and two new titles up the ante by making their central couples not just personal rivals but professional ones as well.

The prolific Meg Cabot is an expert in matters of the heart, having written love stories between characters from middle school to middle age. In No Words, the third book in her Little Bridge Island series, readers are once again whisked away to the lovely Florida Keys for a little sun, fun and romance.

Jo Wright is a children’s author who recently received an invitation to speak at Little Bridge Island’s first book festival. She’s successful and beloved by her legions of young readers, not just for the adventures in the books she writes but for the way she interacts with and treats them.

The lure of good money is hard for Jo to resist, but she wants nothing to do with one of the festival’s other invitees: arrogant novelist Will Prince, the man who once maligned Jo’s work to the New York Times. When she hears that Will is going to be out of the country that week, visiting the set of a film adaptation of his new book, she agrees to attend. Too late she discovers that not only does Will own Little Bridge Island, he is bankrolling the festival and very much in attendance.

Worshipped by the legions of women who read his angst-filled dramas, Will’s the Nicholas Sparks to Jo’s Judy Blume. She’s not interested in an apology, but the Will she meets on Little Bridge Island is awkward and sweet, and willing to go to great lengths to make amends. In a refreshing twist on the trope, he’s an enemy who begins the book hoping to change their status and ready to put in the work.

No Words doesn’t have much in the way of tension or conflict, making it a quick, easy and lighthearted read (despite the huge cast of side characters). Cabot is a whiz at writing dialogue that’s both charming and believable, and she riffs on her years of experience in the publishing industry in snarky, silly ways that will bring readers plenty of laughs alongside this love story.

Julia London’s It Started With a Dog is a fun rom-com full of dog puns and good-natured, never mean-spirited competition that pits two like-minded coffee aficionados against one another.

When Harper Thompson and Jonah Rogers accidentally swap phones, neither knows that the trajectory of their life will be changed forever. In the process of getting the phones back to their rightful owners, Harper and Jonah learn that they have much in common, from favorite movies and food to their love of dogs and coffee. Both even have professional nemeses: each other.

Harper’s shiny new coffeehouse, Deja Brew, is bad news for the Lucky Star coffee shop, which is owned by Jonah’s family. The town isn’t big enough for two coffee shops, and something must be done. Harper and Jonah decide to organize a delightful battle of the baristas, but one for a good cause. As a way to raise funds for a local dog shelter, each shop will foster a rescue dog and urge their patrons to vote for their adorable new mascot to be named King Mutt.

London does a great job of developing characters who are likeable, engaging and relatable. Harper’s Type A personality is tons of fun (in London’s capable hands, she’s never irritating or unbelievable), and Jonah’s ability to step in and save the day for his family is a perfect example of how attractive sheer competence can be. It Started With a Dog is almost as good as a lavender latte.

Enemies to lovers is a favorite romance trope, and two new titles up the ante by making their central couples not just personal rivals but professional ones as well.

Kerry Winfrey’s Very Sincerely Yours is a sweet and lighthearted rom-com that will appeal to readers who prefer stories that focus more on character than conflict.

Teddy Phillips spent the last six years believing that being in the background was just as important as being in the spotlight. At least that’s what her boyfriend, Richard, was happy to let her believe. She built him up, letting his needs take precedence in their relationship, and he let her. Because he was a doctor and therefore important, and she just worked at a vintage toy shop, which was unimportant, he was also happy to let her shoulder the weight of making their life easier. Orderly. Maintained. Boring.

It isn’t until Richard asks Teddy to move out that she realizes she’s lost herself along the way. She’s put more focus on making the people in her life happy and content rather than focusing on what she wants to do and to be. Bolstered by good friends, a bucket list and a resolution to “find her thing,” Teddy reaches out to Everett St. James, the host of “Everett’s Place,” a local children show that’s gone from one of Teddy’s guilty pleasures to a treasured comfort watch. That’s due in large part to Everett, who is soothing, kind and focused on building up his young viewers’ self-esteem.

Everett is a technicolor man who lives in the spotlight that Teddy has shunned. He’s doing exactly what he wants and is happy to offer advice to the children who write to his show. So when an adult woman writes in to get advice, he answers. Teddy and Everett begin a truly satisfying epistolary relationship through email, which is one of the most enjoyable elements of the book. Their personalities and humor shine through their notes to each other. Everett, in life and in epistolary prose, is a wonderful creation. Next to his rich, full characterization, Teddy can feel a bit lackluster and unsure, but it’s hard not to relate to her all the same. Who hasn’t felt less important, less settled, less driven . . . just less, at some point?

Very Sincerely Yours is a reminder of how important it is for you to focus on you—on the things that make you happy, that make you feel good, and on all your goals and hopes and dreams.

Kerry Winfrey’s Very Sincerely Yours is a sweet and lighthearted rom-com that will appeal to readers who prefer stories that focus more on character than conflict.

Martha Waters is back with the second book in her Regency Vows series, To Love and To Loathe. This absolutely perfect Regency romance is chock-full of chatty, flirty characters and delectable scoundrels. It’s charming, happy and perhaps best of all, it’s got a scandalous wager between enemies.

The tension between the widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham, is through the roof. Their flirting is legendary—everyone can see it—and in an era ruled by gossip, it seems obvious the two will wind up together. Except, of course, to Diana and Jeremy, because these frenemies love to bicker.

Over one particularly dicey row, Diana makes Jeremy a wager that comes back to haunt her. She bets Jeremy that he’ll marry within a year, or she’ll give him 100 pounds. But Jeremy, who’s reeling after his last mistress criticized his skills in the bedroom, proposes something even more shocking. He suggests they have an affair for a fortnight, because he knows the sharp-tongued, honest to a fault Diana won’t shy away from telling him the truth.

What follows is a saucy and scandalous romance that’s addictive fun while capably portraying both characters’ internal conflict. Waters sets a jaunty pace with flirty dialogue, easy camaraderie and enjoyable characters. All the typical trademarks of Regency era are present, but thanks to Waters’ charm, this story feels timeless and young and fun.

This absolutely perfect Regency romance is chock-full of chatty, flirty characters and delectable scoundrels.

Rosie Danan returns with The Intimacy Experiment, a steamy contemporary romance that is every bit as enjoyable as her debut, The Roommate. It’s a triumph of feminist fiction, supporting the importance of healthy emotional and physical intimacy and showing how to make the world a better place with love.

Startup executive Naomi Grant thinks of herself as something of a superhero. She’s a former porn star who left behind her previous name and identity to build an enormous platform and take-no-prisoners public image, which she has used to transition into a career as a sex educator. But given the cultural stigma surrounding sex work, she isn’t welcome in the lecture circuit or in higher education.

She’s the perfect foil to Rabbi Ethan Cohen, one of the city’s hottest bachelors, who’s been tasked with attracting a younger generation to the faith. His own background is somewhat nontraditional, in that he was a career academic before devoting his life to his faith.

Faced with budget woes and low participation, Ethan decides to pursue a controversial initiative with Naomi by asking her to co-host a seminar series on modern intimacy. Rather than judging her former career as a sex worker, he focuses on her intelligence and the successful company and message she’s created. Not only does he acknowledge the brain behind Naomi's beauty, he also understands that the things she’s talking about are important to the millennial generation his congregation needs to survive.

The Intimacy Experiment is sexy and modern and fun, but also thoughtful and authentic. Danan avoids tired stereotypes: Ethan isn’t the least bit squeamish about sex, and Naomi is vulnerable and open when considering their budding romance. There’s a lot at stake for both of these flawed, richly layered characters. For them to love each other, openly and without reserve, is a risk to their professional reputations. And even without all of that, it takes a brave person to tell another, “I think I could be good at loving you,” and mean it. It takes a brave person to believe they’re worthy of that love. Danan crafts a beautiful arc as Naomi learns to stand in the real world and let her true self shine through, reconciling both her “superhero” and “secret” identities, and trusting that Ethan will love all of who she is.

Rosie Danan returns with The Intimacy Experiment, a steamy contemporary romance that is every bit as enjoyable as her debut, The Roommate.

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