Author Alexis Hall is adored by fans and critics alike for his signature blend of witty repartee, endearing characters and warmhearted love stories. He’s already proven himself to be one of the best writers of contemporary rom-coms with books like Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, and in 2022, he’s making the jump to historical romance. January saw the release of the Regency-era romp Something Fabulous, and this summer fans will finally get their hands on A Lady for a Duke, one of the most the hotly anticipated romances of the year.
Read the official summary from Hall’s publisher, Forever, and you’ll immediately understand why:
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo, she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become. As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
You can get A Lady for a Duke at your local bookstore or library on May 24, 2022. But in the meantime, you can sigh at the absolutely gorgeous cover below.
New voices are rising to the forefront in sci-fi, fantasy continues to flower in new and surprising ways, and a YA icon is about to make her long-awaited adult debut.
Goliathby Tochi Onyebuchi Tordotcom | January 25
Riot Baby, Onyebuchi’s 2020 novella, was one heck of a calling card, and he’s letting his prodigious imagination and piercing social critique run rampant in his first adult novel. Set in the 2050s, Goliath follows a large cast of characters as they roam a crumbling Earth that has been largely abandoned by the upper classes, who have decamped to space colonies.
Hunt the Starsby Jessie Mihalik Harper Voyager | February 1
If you’ve already been introduced to Mihalik’s sci-fi romances, chances are you’re already obsessed with her. Equal parts pulpy fun and steamy love stories, Mihalik’s books are for everyone who’s watched the scene of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s first kiss more times than they’d like to admit. This start to a new series introduces a bounty hunter with a heart of gold, her alien nemesis-turned-employer and an outrageously cute alien that’s like a cross between a cat and fox—and can communicate telepathically.
The Atlas Sixby Olivie Blake Tor | March 1
Dark academia will never go out of style if I have anything to say about it. And it looks like a sizable portion of BookTok agrees with me, as Blake’s self-published series took the platform by storm in 2021. The first novel of the series, which follows six talented, ambitious magicians as they compete to win a place in an elite secret society, has been revised and expanded for its release by a traditional publisher.
The Ravenous Dead by Darcy Coates Poisoned Pen | March 15
The Whispering Deadwas one of last year’s little wonders, a horror novel with a surprising amount of humor and heart among all its terrors. This sequel continues Keira’s quest to uncover her lost memories and bring peace to the spirits of the dead, but gives her a new enemy in the form of a ferocious ghost that refuses to go gently into that good night.
The Kaiju Preservation Societyby John Scalzi Tor | March 15
National treasure John Scalzi recently finished a complex sci-fi series, so it makes sense that his first book after that accomplishment is a standalone adventure that sounds like an absolute blast. (It also is the only book that takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic that I’d actually be willing to read.) A delivery app driver desperate for a better job, Jamie jumps at the chance to work for an “animal rights organization.” But Jamie soon learns that the job actually means traveling to a different universe to take care of kaiju! Kaiju are Godzilla-type beasties, but in Scalzi’s version they are not automatically aggressive; they’re more like huge, dangerous pandas. If this book is half as good as the book in my head, it will be a masterpiece.
The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller Tor | March 22
Even if it didn’t have that absolutely magnificent cover, I would be anxiously awaiting this fantasy debut, which follows Charm, an emperor’s mistress who is also a necromantic witch. When the emperor is poisoned, he tasks Charm with not only solving his murder but also deciding which of his three terrible (large, adult) sons should ascend to the throne.
Wild and Wicked Thingsby Francesca May Redhook | March 29
Set on a resort island off the English coast, this book basically sounds like a mashup between Practical Magic and “Downton Abbey.” It’s set right after World War I but in an England where magic has been banned, due to its horrific applications during the war.
Sweep of Starsby Maurice Broaddus Tor | March 29
There can never be enough ambitious, sweeping space operas in the world, and Broaddus’ start to a new series sounds truly epic. In his vision of the future, humanity has colonized the solar system. Our heroes hail from the Muungano Empire, a collection of city-states established by African space pioneers that is in danger of being destroyed by other human civilizations.
In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power Del Rey | April 5
It’s kind of wild that ancient Greece isn’t a more common inspiration for fantasy worlds, so kudos to YA author Rory Power for using it as a backdrop for her adult debut. This series starter introduces two twins with unnaturally long lives and supernatural powers who help their father rule over their small country. But their father is getting unpredictable and his abilities are fading, while at the same time an independence movement is growing, so the twins have to work together to keep the kingdom under control. All I’m saying is that this kind of sounds like fantasy “Succession.” “Succession” with magical powers? Yes, please.
God of Neverland by Gama Ray Martinez Harper Voyager | April 12
I am someone who loved, and I mean truly, deeply loved, the first season or so of “Once Upon a Time.” So here’s hoping that this fantasy about a grown-up Michael Darling returning to Neverland to find a missing Peter Pan (here characterized as a god of chaos and childhood) will fill the Storybrooke-size hole in my heart.
The Fervorby Alma Katsu Putnam | April 26
After writing a rather excellent espionage thriller (last year’s Red Widow), Katsu is returning to her idiosyncratic brand of horror: awful events in world history made even worse through supernatural frights. This tale of a demon terrorizing the inhabitants of a World War II-era internment camp will be one of her most personal works yet, as she’ll be drawing from her own family history and heritage as a Japanese American.
Nettle & Boneby T. Kingfisher Tor | April 26
Through what I’m sure is some form of black magic, Kingfisher’s books are both totally hilarious and deeply scary. That particular combination is why her latest book, a subversive take on fairy tales, is so very exciting. Nettle & Bone will follow a princess on a quest to save her sister—by murdering her sister’s awful husband.
Book of Night by Holly Black Tor | May 3
It seems impossible, but YA fantasy icon Black has never written a novel for adults. Until now. Book of Night centers on Charlie Hall, who lives in a world where it’s possible to magically manipulate shadows. Doing so can alter another person’s memories and perceptions, but the cost is time lost from your own life. Charlie is a bartender and con artist, but she has ties to the shadow trade that prove difficult to sever.
Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller Tachyon | May 10
The author of acclaimed speculative novels Blackfish Cityand The Blade Between will release his first collection of short fiction, which is sure to please fans of cli-fi, weird sea creatures, queer SFF and pretty much everyone who wants to read something brilliant, strange and new.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo Tor | May 10
After The Chosen and the Beautiful, her luminous, dreamy take on The Great Gatsby, Vo is heading to the West Coast wonderland of Pre-Code Hollywood. Of course, in her version of the film industry, wannabe movie stars like protagonist Luli Wei must sign magical pacts, selling their entire selves to companies ready to exploit them.
All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay Berkley | May 17
There’s almost nothing I can tell you about the plot of this book, but it doesn’t really matter because Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the best writers of historical fantasy of all time. This book will return to the Renaissance Italy-inspired world first introduced in the superb A Brightness Long Ago, and I will be ready for him to take me wherever he wants to go.
A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland Tordotcom | June 21
Rowland’s Conspiracy of Truths duology seems destined to become a cult classic; the blisteringly smart fantasy novels flew a bit under the radar but won the hearts of all who read them. I would not be surprised if A Taste of Gold and Iron makes Rowland the next big thing in fantasy. This queer romance set in a world inspired by the Ottoman Empire sounds like a blockbuster hit and a perfect use of Rowland’s talents for world building, intrigue and complex relationships.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey Tor | July 19
The genre-hopping Gailey seems to be settling down (at least for now) in a delightfully specific niche: female-led thrillers with a supernatural twist. If last year’s The Echo Wife could be described as Alfred Hitchcock meets “Orphan Black,” this tale of the daughter of a serial killer sounds like “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” mixed with Shirley Jackson, aka the dark cocktail of my dreams.
A Half-Built Gardenby Ruthanna Emrys Tordotcom | July 26
Cli-fi’s been around long enough that authors are starting to find innovative twists on what was, originally, a pretty bleak sort of formula. (Humans destroy Earth! Here’s the depressing society that’s arisen afterward!) Acclaimed fantasy author Emrys offers her rather brilliant twist on the subgenre. In 2083, the Earth has just begun to heal from the ravages of the climate crisis. But then aliens show up, intent on saving humanity by taking them off the planet—whether they want to or not.
The Spear Cuts Through the Waterby Simon Jimenez Del Rey | August 30
It’s almost impossible to overhype The Vanished Birds, Jimenez’s debut novel (the first chapter alone was award-worthy). Not one to rest on his laurels, Jimenez is immediately switching from sci-fi to fantasy: His sophomore novel will follow a warrior who teams up with a goddess to overthrow a tyrannical emperor.
Correction, January 18, 2022: This article previously misstated the gender of Jamie in The Kaiju Preservation Society. Jamie is not gendered in the novel.
There’s never been a better time to be an SFF fan than right now.
The cozy renaissance is upon us, gothic thrillers are about to be everywhere and historical mystery lovers are going to have a truly fantastic year.
The Goodbye Coastby Joe Ide Mulholland | February 1
Modern master of mystery Ide will be updating one of the most iconic detectives of all time: Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. It’s a perfect pairing—a figure that couldn’t exist anywhere but Los Angeles, brought to the present day by one of the city’s most acclaimed writers.
A Game of Fearby Charles Todd William Morrow | February 1
The Inspector Rutledge series represents the best of what historical mystery has to offer, and A Game of Fear, Rutledge’s 24th case, has a particularly intriguing hook: Lady Benton claims she witnessed a murder, carried out by Captain Nelson. But there’s no body, no blood and Captain Nelson has been dead for several years. Charles Todd is a mother-son writing duo, and the death of Caroline Todd last year gives this mystery an extra poignancy.
Cherish Farrahby Bethany C. Morrow Dutton | February 8
Morrow—who has shown so much range as a writer, from her bestselling contemporary YA fantasy with sirens (A Song Below Water) to her reimagining of Little Women (So Many Beginnings)—makes her adult debut with this slow-burning tale of power and manipulation, following a Black girl who ingratiates herself to her Black best friend’s adopted white family.
Our American Friendby Anna Pitoniak Simon & Schuster | February 15
After writing a novel (The Futures) and a thriller (Necessary People), Pitoniak is splitting the difference with her third book, a decades-spanning espionage thriller that follows glamorous, mysterious Lara Caine, a Russian model who eventually becomes the first lady of the United States (Remind you of anyone?).
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley William Morrow | February 22
Foley’s big breakout, The Guest List, was absolutely everywhere in 2020. The Paris Apartment is another glamorous mystery with a sprawling, secretive cast—namely, the inhabitants of the titular apartment complex.
This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wroebel Berkley | February 22
I will never, ever get tired of complicated sister relationships or cults, and lucky for me, the Darling Rose Gold author’s sophomore thriller goes all in on both. Natalie Collins’ sister, Kit, has been sucked into Wisewood, a cult operating on a private island off the coast of Maine. When Natalie receives a threatening email from someone in the cult, she sets out to save Kit.
Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist Dutton | February 22
All I have ever wanted is a revival of the romantic, gothic thriller, and thanks to the incredible success of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, I may have finally gotten my wish. 2022 is replete with creepy tales of degenerate families in crumbling manors, and Mayquist’s is one of the most promising of the lot. In this modern take on the subgenre, med school dropout Lena takes a job as an assistant to the rich and powerful Verdeau family. But when she learns that they are the ones ultimately responsible for her family’s poverty, she decides to get revenge.
The Verifiersby Jane Pek Vintage | February 22
A particularly pleasing recent development is that publishers seem to have finally realized the allure of the cozy, or cozy-adjacent, mystery. Could the cozy be due for a critical reevaluation a la the romance novel? (Please say yes!) All this to say, we expect more books like Pek’s hilarious, utterly winning debut in the near future. Claudia Lin has stumbled into what she believes is her perfect job: working at an online-dating detective agency. She’s content with her duties of ferreting out catfishers and tracking down ghosters, but when a client disappears, the mystery novel-obsessed Claudia jumps at the opportunity to solve a real case.
The Club by Ellery Lloyd Harper | March 1
There are a lot of thrillers out there that incorporate social media and try to have Something to Say about our current digital reality. But very few of them were as smart or nuanced as Lloyd’s 2021 debut, People Like Her. For their next trick, the husband-and-wife writing duo tackles the world of exclusive celebrity clubs. Set on a private island off the English coast, this is the thriller for you if you’re anxiously awaiting the next season of “The White Lotus.”
Give Unto Others by Donna Leon Atlantic Monthly | March 15
Commissario Guido Brunetti is one of those urbane, witty sleuths that people want to be as much as they love to read about. See also: Martin Walker’s Bruno and Louise Penny’s Gamache. A new case with Leon’s clever Venetian sleuth is always cause for celebration, but this one is especially intriguing as it purports to contain new and startling information about Brunetti’s past.
Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian Minotaur | March 15
Is it too early to hand out the award for most creative cozy premise? Because I highly doubt anyone’s going to come close to Pandian’s new Secret Staircase mysteries. When Tempest Raj returns home to San Francisco after losing her job, she ends up working for the family business, Secret Staircase Construction, which makes hidden passageways, incredible treehouses and any other whimsical creation a client’s heart desires. And then, of course, someone is found dead in a supposedly sealed passageway.
Nine Livesby Peter Swanson William Morrow | March 15
Swanson has a gift for not only crafting a killer premise, but also creating characters that are just as intriguing. In his latest mystery, nine people receive a list of names, and one of those names is their own. And then those nine people start getting picked off, one by one.
Secret Identity by Alex Segura Flatiron | March 15
A mystery set in the comic book industry in 1975? Say no more! Billed as a mash-up between The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clayand the novels of Patricia Highsmith, this book sounds like the coolest, nerdiest neo-noir you’ll ever read.
Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard Crooked Lane | April 5
Hilliard’s Greer Hogan series started with a bang last year; The Unkindness of Ravenswas “moody and tense, literary and urbane, and an edgy delight to read,” according to our cozy column. This time around, librarian Greer faces that most iconic of cozy scenarios—a wedding disrupted by murder, with an entire guest list’s worth of suspects.
Insomniaby Sarah Pinborough William Morrow | April 12
You may have heard of Pinborough due to a little book (and later Netflix miniseries) entitled Behind Her Eyes, which boasts one of the most go-for-broke, completely wild final twists of, honestly, maybe all time? So who even knows what’s going on in her next thriller, which follows Emma, a woman whose mother committed a horrible act when she turned 40. Now on the cusp of her own 40th birthday, Emma is consumed with fear that the same fate awaits her.
Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild Putnam | April 19
Something about me that I am very comfortable admitting is that I love a charismatic murderer. You want to tell me how you got away with it and why they had it coming for an entire novel? I’m all ears! So I’m especially excited for Rothchild’s debut, which introduces readers to Ruby, who is being accused of her husband’s death. She didn’t do it (and she’s not a sociopath, okay?), but she has killed three other people before.
The Mad Girls of New Yorkby Maya Rodale Berkley | April 26
An acclaimed romance author, critic and advocate for the genre, Rodale is one of several authors who recently made the Gilded Age one of historical romance’s hottest and most interesting settings. She’s bringing all that expert knowledge to bear in her mystery debut, the launch of a series that follows trailblazing female journalist Nellie Bly. Rodale’s first mystery starring Nellie will depict one of her most famous real-life stunts: going undercover at an insane asylum.
Harlem Sunset by Nekesa Afia Berkley | May 3
The Harlem Renaissance-set Dead Dead Girls was one of last year’s best mysteries, and it looks like amateur sleuth Louise Lloyd’s next case will not only delve into the secrets of her own past, but also jeopardize her future with her girlfriend, Rosa Maria.
The Haciendaby Isabel Cañas Berkley | May 10
This historical gothic thriller has a priest who is also a witch, and I don’t really think there’s anything else to be said. But, if you insist: Cañas’ debut is set right after the Mexican War of Independence and boasts a creepy house, a handsome but mysterious man and what just might be the ghost of his first wife.
The Murder Ruleby Dervla McTiernan William Morrow | May 10
The acclaimed author of the Cormac Reilly mystery series is releasing her first standalone novel, which follows a young law student who seems like a passionate anti-death row advocate, but is really out to get one of the supposedly innocent men her organization is defending.
Renovated to Deathby Frank Anthony Polito Kensington | May 31
HGTV shows leave me completely cold, but even I think this book sounds like the coziest thing imaginable. Peter Penwell is a bestselling mystery author and his husband, JP, is an actor who used to star on a cop show. The couple recently became reality TV stars while chronicling the renovation of their home, but their second season gets off to a murderous start when they find one of the owners of their new project dead at the foot of a staircase.
A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong Minotaur | May 31
Armstrong is the acclaimed writer behind the gritty, addicting, yet still somehow heartwarming Rockton series, which is set in an off-the-grid town in the Canadian wilderness. She’s one of the last authors you’d expect to write an Outlander-style timeslip mystery. Which only makes her new series, where a modern-day homicide detective wakes up in the body of a Victorian maid, all the more intriguing.
Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman Minotaur | June 7
The author of the Regency-era Lily Adler mysteries jumps forward to the (very hot right now) 1920s, and will hopefully bring her previous series’ perfectly balanced blend of escapism and social commentary to this tale of a working-class woman who stumbles upon a dead body at her favorite speakeasy.
The Lies I Tellby Julie Clark Sourcebooks Landmark | June 21
Clark’s second novel, the runaway bestseller The Last Flight, was exactly what you want in a summer thriller: snappy but smart, fast-paced but with characters that felt like real people. So my expectations were high even before I learned that Clark will be taking on one of my very favorite crime novel archetypes—the con artist. Meg Williams ruined Kat Roberts’ life, and Kat’s been bent on revenge ever since. But when she finally catches up to Meg 10 years later, she begins to doubt everything, including whether Meg really should be the target of her ire.
The Half Life of Valery Kby Natasha Pulley Bloomsbury | June 28
In my humble opinion, one of the most underrated historical settings for a mystery or thriller is Soviet Russia. It’s bleak, it’s cold and almost everyone has a reason to lie or a secret to keep. So I was delighted to learn that acclaimed, idiosyncratic historical fantasy author Pulley’s first thriller would be set in 1963 Siberia. The Half LIfe of Valery K will follow a former nuclear specialist who is freed from a gulag, only to be taken to a mysterious town that seems to be absolutely suffused with dangerous radiation.
The Ruinsby Phoebe Wynn St. Martin’s | July 5
The last gothic on our list, Wynn’s sophomore novel takes its cues from Patricia Highsmith as much as it does from Daphne du Maurier. You’ve got wealthy, messed up people, the disgustingly gorgeous backdrop of the Mediterranean coast and a creeping suspicion that something is about to go terribly wrong. But in an intriguing little twist, The Ruins seems to wed those Ripley influences with the more modern template of a feminist coming-of-age tale.
Omega Canyon by Dan Simmons Little, Brown | November 1
It’s been seven years since the acclaimed author of The Terror released a novel, and this new historical thriller sounds heartbreaking and addicting in equal measure. Paul Haber fled Nazi Germany and has devoted his scientific abilities to the American quest for the atomic bomb. But when a German spy tells him that his wife and child, whom he thought died in a concentration camp, are actually still alive, he’s faced with the terrible choice of whether to save his family or betray his newly-adopted country to fascism.
Grab your magnifying glasses and notepads, and get ready for 2022.
Foodie-friendly rom-coms, literary love stories and some very hot takes on Greek myths—all these things and more await romance fans in 2022.
The Roughest Draftby Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka Berkley | January 25
The powerhouse YA romance duo (and real-life married couple!) will make their adult debut in a very meta fashion. Two writers who found great success with a co-written novel owe one more book to their publisher. The only problem? They now hate each other, and haven’t spoken in three years.
Lockdown on London Laneby Beth Reekles Wattpad Books | February 1
And lo, the romances inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic hath begun. This kaleidoscopic romance by the author of The Kissing Booth follows various couples in the same London apartment building during a seven-day lockdown.
Out of the Blueby Alison Bliss Forever | February 1
The wonderful Bliss was writing rom-coms before they were cool—check out her underrated A Perfect Fit series. She now returns after a few years away (an eternity for a romance writer) with this rom-com about a woman who falls for her personal trainer.
Ramón and Julietaby Alana Quintana Albertson Berkley | February 1
A retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in San Diego, California, Ramón and Julieta will swap out Renaissance aristocratic families for contemporary fast-food and taqueria dynasties.
Not the Witch You Wedby April Asher Griffin | February 8
The witchy rom-coms that were everywhere last fall are back in 2022! Asher’s stands out from the pack with its urban setting (New York City) and by including other supernatural beings—chiefly a wolf shifter as a love interest.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Careby Ashley Herring Blake Berkley | February 22
Anticipation is high for Blake’s opposites-attract love story, which is a sapphic spin on the small-town romance.
Kamila Knows Bestby Farah Heron Forever | March 8
Heron’s Accidentally Engaged was an utterly adorable treat (with truly scrumptious descriptions of food), and she’s upping the ante with this follow-up by adding another favorite romance trope: a Jane Austen adaptation. Kamila Knows Best will be a modern take on Emma (the cool kid’s choice for best Austen novel to adapt? Discuss.).
How to Be a Wallflowerby Eloisa James Avon | March 29
James is heading back to the Regency period after wrapping up her Georgian-era Wildes of Lindow Castle series. In this start to a new series, a British heiress and an American businessman go to war over a London clothing emporium.
Going Publicby Hudson Lin Carina Adores | March 29
Romances set in various high-stakes businesses were all the rage a few years ago, and Lin’s 2021 release Hard Sell was both a throwback and a breath of fresh air. All the corporate complications and power dynamics were present, but Lin’s diverse characters and soulful, deeply felt love story updated the subgenre while also bringing it down to earth. So readers will be in good hands for her next book in the Jade Harbour Capital series, which will venture into the tricky territory of a relationship between a devoted assistant and his boss.
The Wedding Crasherby Mia Sosa Avon | April 5
Another frothy, wedding-centered treat from the author of The Worst Best Man, Sosa’s new rom-com pairs a diehard romantic with a cynical man in search of a modern-day marriage of convenience.
Part of Your Worldby Abby Jimenez Forever | April 19
This romance between a sophisticated, city-dwelling ER doctor and a small-town carpenter seemingly has rom-com written all over it. But given that this is Jimenez we’re talking about, it’ll probably also be sneakingly profound and tear-inducing in both happy and sad ways.
The No-Showby Beth O’Leary Berkley | April 26
The author of The Flatshare and The Road Trip returns with another satisfyingly messy, refreshingly human rom-com. Her third novel sounds a bit like a less vengeful version of John Tucker Must Die: Three women get stood up by the same man, but then they all forgive him and are all still in danger of falling in love with him. (Who is this paragon to inspire such devotion??? We’ll find out this spring.)
Book Boyfriendby Kris Ripper Carina Adores | April 26
After wrapping up zir wonderful Love Study series last year, Ripper returns with another brainy but heartfelt contemporary romance. One of many recent romances that star either authors or people who work in publishing, this book will follow Preston Kingsley, an editorial assistant who’s in love with his best friend and expresses his love via a thinly veiled fictional version of himself.
By the Bookby Jasmine Guillory Hyperion Avenue | May 3
YA superstar Julie Murphy kicked off the Disney Princess-inspired Meant to Be series last year with If the Shoe Fits, her reality TV-set, rom-com spin on Cinderella. This year, the baton passes to Guillory, who will take her cues from Beauty and the Beast in the series’ second installment.
Book Loversby Emily Henry Berkley | May 3
Beach Read author Henry returns to the world of publishing for her third novel, an enemies-to-lovers romance between a literary agent and a book editor.
From Bad to Cursedby Lana Harper Berkley | May 17
From Bad to Cursed brings fans back to the cozy, perfectly spooky town of Thistle Grove, the extremely enviable setting of Harper’s first romance, Payback’s a Witch. In this sequel, thrill-seeking sorceress Isidora Avramov has to team up with her buttoned-up archnemesis to clear her family’s name after someone starts sabotaging the town’s Beltane festival.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi Atria | May 24
It’ll be a huge year for National Book Award finalist and bestselling author Emezi, who in February publishes Bitter, a sequel to their YA novel Pet, and then in late May releases their first romance novel, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, about a woman’s healing after loss and her second chance at love. Upon announcing the book deal, Emezi tweeted that they started writing the novel in 2019, “one of the worst years of [their] life,” and attributed the title’s inspiration to Florence + The Machine’s song “Hunger.” Each of Emezi’s books has been more powerful and groundbreaking than the last, with some of the essays in their 2021 memoir, Dear Senthuran, providing a closer look into their experiences and processes as such a wide-ranging storyteller.
A Lady for a Dukeby Alexis Hall Forever | May 24
After carving out a niche for himself as the Richard Curtis of contemporary romance, Hall is finally bringing his signature wit and lovable, idiosyncratic characters to the world of historical romance! A friends-to-lovers tale set in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, A Lady for a Duke follows Violet Carroll, a trans woman who is reunited with her oldest friend after making a new life for herself after being presumed dead at Waterloo.
Wicked Beautyby Katee Robert Sourcebooks Casablanca | June 7
We truly do not deserve Robert. Not only is she giving us two Dark Olympus romances in 2022, but the second (after January’s Electric Idol) will be her own delicious spin on the figure of Helen of Troy. In Robert’s version, Helen is gunning for the title of Ares, placing her in direct competition with Achilles and his partner, Patroclus. But all three soon realize they might be better together than on opposite sides—both professionally and personally.
Husband Materialby Alexis Hall Sourcebooks Casablanca | August 2
If you read the entry for A Lady for a Duke and wondered wistfully when Hall would gift us with another contemporary rom-com, do not fear! Not only will Hall be releasing a modern-day romance in 2022, it will be a sequel to Boyfriend Material! Luc and Oliver are happily together, but everyone around them is getting married . . . are wedding bells in their future?
Here's to another year of tropes galore and Happily Ever Afters for all!
We were enormous fans of Project Duchessby romance mainstay Sabrina Jeffries, which introduced an entire family of complicated, dangerously attractive dukes. Our expectations were already high for Jeffries’ follow-up and then skyrocketed even further when we saw this glorious cover!
The Bachelor will tell the love story of Lady Gwyn Drake, the only daughter of thrice-married matriarch Lydia. When flirtatious and independent Gwyn is blackmailed, her twin brother hires their gamekeeper, Joshua Wolfe, to keep her safe. A former war hero struggling to adjust to civilian life, Joshua struggles to accept his attraction to Gwyn. But with danger stalking the woman he can’t help but love, Joshua will have to risk opening his heart before it’s too late.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Sabrina Jeffries about Project Duchess.
Get your first look at the stunning cover of Sabrina Jeffries’ The Bachelor!
Mary Jo Putney’s Rogues Redeemed series made our 2017 best romance covers list, and I would be shocked if something similar doesn’t happen this year. Seriously, look at this.
This quite frankly awe-inspiring cover art was inspired by Jacques-Louis David’s iconic portrait of Napoleon (right), which is fitting for a romance that takes place during the chaos of his abdication, escape from Elba and ultimate defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. British intelligence officer Simon Duval is called back into service when Napoleon returns from exile, throwing his new marriage to Suzanne Duval in jeopardy. Read on for an exclusive excerpt below!
Simon had been one of many guests at her wedding to the Comte de Chambron. She’d been only fifteen, dazzled by suave Jean-Louis and thrilled to be making such a grand marriage. Since Simon had been near her age, they’d developed a teasing friendship in the days before the wedding, but that had been a lifetime ago.
She settled in the chair to the right of the fireplace. “How did you find me?”
“Captain Gabriel Hawkins.” Simon took the seat opposite her. “He and I shared an alarming adventure in Portugal some years back. By chance we ran into each other and, as we exchanged news, I learned that he’s just returned from a voyage to Constantinople and you were a passenger.”
She stiffened. “Did he tell you my circumstances?”
Voice gentle, Simon said, “He said you were in the harem of a powerful and deeply corrupt Turkish official, and that your aid was invaluable in rescuing two English women, including the young lady who is now his wife.”
Those were the bare facts. She hoped that Hawkins had said no more than that. “And in return, he rescued me and brought me here.”
“Hawkins said he offered to take you to France, but that you chose to join émigré relatives who were in the French community in Soho.” His perceptive gaze was evaluating her and the clean but worn sitting room. She could guess his thoughts. In London, Soho was the French quarter where the wealthy émigrés lived. The poor ones struggled to make a living in this rundown neighborhood in the St. Pancras parish.
Answering his unasked question, she said, “After Napoleon abdicated, those cousins returned to France to reclaim their property. I was not surprised to find them gone. But no matter. I prefer to make my own way in England rather than return to France. There is nothing for me there.”
His gaze flicked around the worn sitting room again. “Forgive me for asking, but how are you managing?” “I sew well and I’ve been doing piecework. Soon I should be able to find a permanent position.” She smiled wryly. “But I do wish I’d been able to bring the jewels I had when I was a favorite in the harem! I’d have been able to buy my own shop.”
“Money makes everything easier,” he agreed, his brow furrowed. “I’m fortunate that my mother came from a successful English merchant family and her fortune remained on this side of the channel.”
“Very prudent of your mother and her family.” She cocked her head to one side. “Are you here only to look up a distant family connection? Perhaps you are bored now that you’ve sold out of the army?”
“Not bored, though I am rather at loose ends,” he admitted. “But as soon as Hawkins mentioned you, I wanted to see if you were the right Suzanne Duval, and if so, to learn how you are faring.”
Mr. Potter returned, a tea tray in hand. The tray was dented pewter and there was a chip in the spout of the teapot, but her landlord presented the refreshments with the air of a duke’s butler. There was also a dish of shortbread.
“Thank you, Mr. Potter!” Suzanne said warmly. “You and your wife have outdone yourselves.”
“The pleasure is ours, my lady.” He inclined his head and withdrew from the room.
“My lady?” Simon asked as she poured tea for them. “He knows that you’re an aristocrat?”
“He was just being polite, though you might have changed that.” She sipped her tea, then offered him the shortbread. “Have a piece. Mrs. Potter is a wonderful baker.”
He followed her advice and murmured appreciatively after he bit into it. “She is, and she doesn’t stint on the butter.” He finished his tea in a long swallow and set the cup down with a clink. “I wonder if I might find old friends or relations in the émigré community. Have you found your compatriots welcoming even though your relatives have returned to France?”
Her mouth twisted. “The grand émigrés in Soho will have nothing to do with a woman who was a whore in Turkey.”
He winced. “Surely no one said such an appalling thing!”
“The aristocratic ladies did. Their husbands tried to corner me in empty rooms,” she said tartly. “I decided I would be safer among my more humble countrymen here in St. Pancras.”
He bit off a curse. “You deserve so much better than this, Suzanne!”
She sighed. “If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that no one ‘deserves’ anything more than the right to struggle for survival. I’d rather be here altering gowns in a cold room than living in luxury in a Turkish harem and wondering which night might be my last, so I think I am doing well.” She raised her teacup in a mock toast. “Will you drink to my survival, Simon?”
“I can do more than that,” he said, his gaze intense. “Marry me, Suzanne.”
See the incredible cover of Mary Joy Putney’s Once a Spy, and read an exclusive excerpt!
The top-notch Hidden Legacy series continues, but with a new couple at its heart. Andrews is once again using the three-book structure that made Nevada and Rogan’s story so rich, but this time with Nevada’s younger sister Catalina. A Siren who’s been brought up to fear and avoid using her powers, Catalina is now the head of her family and dealing with a magical conspiracy and a very handsome Italian assassin.
How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin’s | August 27
I believe it was on Smart Bitches where I first saw the term crazysauce, and I don’t know how I went through life explaining my reading tastes without it. Crazysauce simply means anything that is so outlandish, so ridiculous that it goes all the way around and ends up being great by sheer nerve. Byrne is one of the finest brewers of crazysauce working in the genre today—her books are high drama and high romance, reaching gothic heights of sensuality and old-fashioned storytelling. Balancing her signature excitement with some very weighty themes, How to Love a Duke in Ten Days looks to be her most ambitious novel yet.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Berkley | September 3
An enemies-to-lovers romance set at a Renaissance Faire—I’ve sold a lot of you just by telling you the premise (it certainly sold me), but in case you’re on the fence, know that DeLuca’s lovely debut is very sweet, very smart and takes place at a charmingly low-key, low-budget local fair.
No Judgments by Meg Cabot
William Morrow | September 24
Yes, the beloved author of The Princess Diaries is writing a romance! (Also, look at that adorable cover—wow.) It’s a small-town romance that’s anything but idyllic. Little Bridge Island is in the path of a massive hurricane, and Bree Beckham is out to save the island’s pets with the help of her boss’ very handsome son.
A new Jasmine Guillory is always exciting, but this latest romance looks particularly delightful! Inspired by Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, Royal Holiday will follow 50-something Vivian Forest as she falls in love while accompanying her stylist-to-the-royals daughter to a British palace for Christmas.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller
St. Martin’s | October 8
This gothic historical has rapturous early reviews on Goodreads and sounds like a total blast. Alva Webster is trying to restore her estate and her reputation, and so she turns to an eccentric genius to help dispell rumors that the building is haunted.
The beloved author duo consistently turns out smart, funny and extremely charming contemporary romances. Their latest seems to be a bit more contemplative than the summer romp that was The Unhoneymooners, and follows an up-and-coming actress as she unexpectedly reconnects with her first love.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Berkley | November 5
A secret romance book club? Sure. A secret romance book club composed of the most powerful men in Nashville? Shut up and take my money.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Avon | November 5
Hibbert’s been a self-published gem for years due to her hilarious, very sexy contemporaries. Get a Life, Chloe Brown is her first novel with a traditional publishing house. It follows a chronically ill computer geek as she sets out to broaden her life experiences and finally move out of her family’s home.
Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher
Berkley | November 12
This millennial take on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days genderswaps the roles—this time, it’s the guy who will be trying to lose the girl, and the girl who needs to keep dating the guy.
Is there anyone better at twisting the tropes of historical romance than Leigh? Her latest takes the rake archetype and the somewhat dusty Pygmalion plot and smashes them together. Lady Grace Wyatt needs a fake fiancé, so she turns to her fellow shy academic Sebastian and attempts to transform him from a modest anthropologist to a dashing and dangerous rake. And of course they fall in love, and it will all be very hot and smart and snarky and I can’t wait.
It’s been a fantastic year already, but there’s still more to come for the good citizens of Romancelandia. Here are the 11 titles that are already making waves.
There are great mysteries released all year (we celebrate a ton of them during Private Eye July), but for some reason, autumn feels like the most appropriate time to crack open a tale of murder and crime. Here are the 10 books to place on hold now, so you can curl up and read them under a blanket later.
Armand Gamache returns—but he’s in disgrace and demoted—in Penny’s 15th Quebec-set mystery. And this time the case is personal, as Gamache searches for a missing woman and forms a bond with her distraught father.
To the Lions by Holly Watt
Dutton | September 3
I was dubious about this premise—how many more takes on “The Most Dangerous Game” do we really need? Watt’s blistering writing silenced those fears almost immediately. Plus, the union of the age-old “rich people are terrible” theme with a fascinating look at high-stakes investigative journalism makes it feel urgently contemporary.
The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
Berkley | September 10
It’s the Brontë sisters . . . solving mysteries? It shouldn’t work, but my goodness, it really does. Ellis captures the personality and voice of each sister, as well as the gloomy beauty of their Yorkshire home, while also infusing her tale with the proto-feminist concerns of the sisters. This mystery is a joy for classic literature geeks.
What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr
Minotaur | September 17
My initial notes on this book were simply: “Well this is completely terrifying.” And lo, it really is. Barr’s thriller follows Rose Dennis, a grandmother who’s been admitted to a nursing home against her will. She doesn’t know why, but she’s pretty sure she’s being drugged in order to make it appear as if she has severe Alzheimer’s.
Locke’s follow-up to the acclaimed Bluebird, Bluebirddigs right back into the complicated life and career of Texas Ranger Darren Matthews. A boy has gone missing, and his white supremacist family is undoubtedly the actual target. Meanwhile, Darren is trying to rebuild his marriage and outfox his manipulative mother, who has the potential to irrevocably ruin his reputation.
The sequel to the acclaimed, haunting The Child Finder finds investigator Naomi Cottle on the hunt for her missing younger sister in Portland, Oregon. But she is unable to resist helping an abused 12-year-old girl named Celia, who may be connected to the disappearances of other young girls.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
Ecco | October 15
Both family saga and gripping suspense novel, Your House Will Pay follows two families—one African American, one Korean American—who are linked by the events of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
A Cruel Deception by Charles Todd
William Morrow | October 22
The 11th Bess Crawford mystery finds the intrepid nurse in Paris, as the Allies prepare to sign the peace treaty that will end World War I. Lieutenant Milton, the man Bess is in Paris to aid, is haunted by something terrible. As Bess attempts to uncover truth, she begins to suspect that someone is trying to destroy Milton before the secret gets out.
Three very different killings in three different locations may all be connected in Inspector Richard Jury’s latest mystery. To solve the crime, he’ll have to team up with a legendary former detective, who is (of course) haunted by a case he couldn’t solve.
How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly | December 3
How’s this for a creepy premise? Dozens of decades-old skeletons are found buried on the grounds of an orphanage. Not complicated enough? A separate set of younger bodies are discovered, this time all young men. Raise the stakes one more time, you say? One of those younger bodies is that of a serial killer, a man who was believed to be alive and safely in jail.
There are great mysteries released all year (we celebrate a ton of them during Private Eye July). But for some reason autumn feels like the most appropriate time to crack open a tale of murder and/or crime. And so, here are the 10 books to place on hold now, so you can curl up and read them under a blanket later.
New readers are flocking to the romance genre in droves (welcome, friends!). As a relative latecomer to the genre myself, having started reading the genre at the decrepit age of 22, I’ve been diving into the backlogs and catching up on the series that Romancelandia recommends again and again.
Even a cursory search of romance recommendations makes it clear that Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflower quartet, published between 2004 and 2006, has attained classic status. It begins in the relatively rare setting of early Victorian England, with gorgeous but tragically poor Annabelle, shy and stuttering Evie, and scandalous American heiresses Lillian and Daisy all seated at the back of the ballroom per usual. When they finally break the ice and actually talk to each other, they end up making a pact to band together and help each other find husbands.
With its emphasis on female friendship, gorgeous settings and vivid detail (the food descriptions alone make these books worth the read), the Wallflowers series is a fantastic intro to the pleasures of historical romance.
Secrets of a Summer Night
The Couple: Dashing, confident industrialist Simon Hunt and lovely, demure Annabelle Peyton.
The Plot: Annabelle needs to capitalize on her good looks and name to save her family from destitution. But her most consistent admirer is Simon, a rich upstart businessman who’s wanted Annabelle for years—but as his mistress, not his wife. Annabelle and her friends team up to find her a man at a house party, where she begins to discover that there’s more to Simon than arrogance and good looks.
The Tropes: Alpha Male, Cross-Class Romance, House Party (where a bunch of aristocrats and other rich people go to a country estate and hang out for weeks at a time, creating a perfect setting for drama and scandal)
The Vibe: If you have never read a romance novel before, Secrets of a Summer Night would cover almost all of the traditional bases. That sounds like a dig, but trust me when I say that Kleypas does it in the best way possible. It’s like the best margherita pizza you’ve ever had—not reinventing the wheel by any means, but a dependable, lovingly crafted comfort all the same. It’s unfailingly witty, consistently charming and finds the emotional heart of Simon and Annabelle, two characters who could have been boring archetypes.
Read it if you like: Jane Austen adaptations, North & South (but you wish there were more ballroom and less factory scenes).
Best snack to pair it with: A big bowl of ice cream.
Supporting character that steals the show: All of the other Wallflowers make a strong showing, but snarky Lillian Bowman gets all the best lines.
It Happened One Autumn
The Couple: Opinionated, take-no-prisoners American heiress Lillian Bowman and the very proper, also very opinionated Marcus Marsden, Lord Westcliff.
The Plot: It’s another house party at Stony Cross Park, and Lillian and Marcus are fighting. Again. But this time, the fight ends in a fantastic and unexpected kiss, leaving both parties very confused (and very horny). They may be attracted to each other, but is it possible for such different people to be happy together?
The Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Alpha/Alpha, Grumpy Hero, That Shocking American Girl!, House Party
The Vibe: A true Alpha male and Alpha woman romance is a joy to behold, and the snappy, sarcastic banter of Marcus and Lillian contains some of Kleypas’ best dialogue ever. This is my pick for the funniest Wallflower, and much of the humor comes from the ways Marcus and Lillian throw each other off their game, alternatively bringing out the best and worst in each other (mainly because they want to bang each other into next Tuesday). It’s hard to take a couple that argues this ferociously and develop them to the point that they feel realistic as a long-term couple, but It Happened One Autumn rings true every step of the way.
Read it if you like: Classic screwball comedies (especially those starring Katharine Hepburn), the scenes from When Harry Met Sallywhen they hate each other, being right when other people are wrong.
Best snack to pair it with: A surprisingly substantial charcuterie board (with pears or some pear brandy . . . you’ll understand once you read it).
Supporting character that steals the show: This one is easy: the clever, amoral Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. A truly delectable, wickedly charming villain.
Devil in Winter
The Couple: Sweetheart wallflower Evangeline “Evie” Jenner and the baddest rake that ever did rake, Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent.
The Plot: Evie needs to marry to escape her horrible, abusive relatives, claim her fortune and be able to see her father before he dies. Sebastian needs a rich wife to fill up the empty family coffers. They run off to Gretna Green to elope, shocking all their friends, but Evie declares that she has no intention of sharing her bed with Sebastian after consummating the marriage. He initially thinks that this will not be a problem for him. He is very wrong.
The Tropes: Reformed Rake, Rake/Wallflower, Marriage of Convenience
The Vibe: An angsty fairy tale, Devil in Winter combines elements of both Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast in a tale of a selfish man who learns to love and a shy wallflower discovering her own inner strength. Though Sebastian's snarky asides provide some humor, this is easily the most serious Wallflower romance. Evie is dealing with not only the lingering effects of her relatives’ abuse, but her father’s imminent death. And Sebastian has an entire life’s worth of bad choices and loneliness to reckon with. If you can get past Sebastian’s earlier actions in the series (link is a spoiler!), the payoff is really spectacular. There’s a reason that this book has been firmly placed in the top tier of romance novels.
Read it if you like: Brooding paranormal romances but you wish the heroines had a bit more personality, Gothic classics like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, watching bad men get their karmic comeuppance.
Best snack to pair it with: A hot toddy and perhaps some chocolate, enjoyed under a cozy blanket.
Supporting character that steals the show: The incredibly handsome and very competent Cam Rohan, who works at Evie’s father’s gambling club and is something of a surrogate brother to her.
Scandal in Spring
The Couple: Dreamy, charming Daisy Bowman and Matthew Swift, her father’s protégé, a man whom Daisy hates.
The Plot: Finally fed up with Daisy’s inability to nail down a boring aristocrat, Papa Bowman declares that if she doesn’t find a husband, he’ll pick one for her. And Daisy is sure he'll choose his boring, sycophantic underling, Matthew Swift. But when Matthew shows up, he’s become so attractive she almost doesn’t recognize him. And as soon as the reader gets a chapter from Matthew perspective, one thing becomes very clear—he is head-over-heels in love with Daisy, has been since he met her and his standoffish behavior is just his increasingly desperate attempt to not go after his boss’ daughter.
The Tropes: Unrequited Love, That Shocking American Girl!, the Glow Up, House Party
The Vibe: As befits a spring-themed book, Scandal is the lightest and fluffiest of the Wallflower series. A lot of that is due to Daisy, who is a total delight. Her good-natured, romantic perspective is a lovely place to spend over half a book, and Matthew rightfully worships the ground she walks on. And if alpha males aren’t your thing, Scandal is the book for you—Matthew is a fascinating hero, with a very appealing combination of ruthless practicality and a nearly uncontrollable love and admiration for Daisy. Things get a bit serious near the end, but for the most part this is a sprightly little romp of a book.
Read it if you like: 1990s rom-coms, Manic Pixie Dream Girls but wished they were more dynamic characters, pining, frothy period pieces.
Best snack to pair it with: A bowl of strawberries, especially if you have champagne handy.
Supporting character that steals the show: Marcus, Lord Westcliff. Yes, I know he was a hero of a previous book, but Marcus’ more mellow, caring side is on full display in Scandal and his concern and love for his sister-in-law is all kinds of adorable.
Again the Magic is a prequel to the series, and tells the love stories of Marcus’ younger sisters, Aline and Livia. And Kleypas released a Christmas novel, A Wallflower Christmas, in 2008 (I am happily saving it for my own seasonal reading this year).
Because romance authors were doing extended universes before the MCU was even a twinkle in Kevin Feige’s eye, three of Kleypas' other historical series have connections to the Wallflowers books. There are a fair amount of references to fan favorite hero Derek Craven and Kleypas’ earlier series, The Gamblers of Craven’s. Enigmatic Devil in Winter scene-stealer Cam Rohan is the hero of the first book of the Hathaways series, Mine Till Midnight. And the Ravenels series, which jumps a generation forward in time to the 1870s, features the children of Evie and Sebastian in two books—Devil in Spring and Devil’s Daughter.
Among his many dastardly acts, Sebastian kidnaps Lillian Bowman at the end of It Happened One Autumn and threatens to force a marriage by raping her. He later asserts that it was an empty threat, but if this is a dealbreaker for you (it ultimately was for me), you may want to skip Devil in Winter.
A newcomer's guide to the Wallflowers, Lisa Kleypas' beloved historical romance series.
Every month, columnist Julie Hale sorts through new paperback releases to find the titles most likely to result in a stellar, wide-ranging book club conversation. These 10 books are the best of the best.
All You Can Ever Knowby Nicole Chung
In her stirring memoir, Chung hopes to find the Korean birth parents who gave her up for adoption. She was raised by a white family in small-town Oregon, and in this beautifully crafted book she recounts her struggle to fit in as an Asian American.
The Golden Stateby Lydia Kisling
Daphne, whose Turkish husband has been denied entry into the United States, is raising her infant daughter, Honey, alone in San Francisco. Cracking under the pressure of single parenthood and looking to escape her stress-filled life, she decamps with Honey for the California desert.
The Great Believersby Rebecca Makkai
This 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a poignant novel of the AIDS epidemic that follows a Chicago-based group of friends who are contending with the rise of the disease in the 1980s. Makkai skillfully connects the plotlines of the past and present, exploring the fears and misconceptions connected to the epidemic and demonstrating their impact on her characters.
The Air You Breatheby Frances de Pontes Peebles
This novel charts the course of the two friends’ lives—years marked by competitiveness and jealousy, romantic affairs and mutual love—as one becomes a famous samba singer and the other works as her songwriter.
Fruit of the Drunken Treeby Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Contreras' impressive first novel takes place in 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, when Pablo Escobar held the country in a grip of terror. The novel is narrated mainly by 7-year-old Chula Santiago, who lives with her family in the comfort of a gated community thanks to the money her father makes as an oil worker.
Motherhoodby Sheila Heti
The story of one woman’s indecision about having children, this novel is a rich meditation on society’s expectations, personal agency and the evolving roles of women.
Kudosby Rachel Cusk
During a literary festival and travels in Europe, British writer Faye encounters people in various stages of disillusionment about their lives and domestic affairs. As ever, she proves a willing listener while acquaintances pour out their stories.
The Friendby Sigrid Nunez
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, The Friend focuses on the powerful connection between a grieving woman and her dog. The unnamed female narrator inherits Apollo, a 180-pound Great Dane, from a late professor friend who committed suicide.
An American Marriageby Tayari Jones
Celestial is an up-and-coming artist and Roy is a business executive, but their lives are shattered when the couple travels to Roy’s hometown in Louisiana, where he’s wrongfully accused of a terrible crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The Powerby Naomi Alderman
In Alderman’s alternate world, women have recently gained the ability to release waves of electricity through their fingertips—and the jolts can kill. Their lethal facility grants them physical supremacy over men, altering the fabric of society.
Every month, columnist Julie Hale sorts through new paperback releases to find the titles most likely to result in a stellar, wide-ranging book club conversation. These 10 books are the best of the best.
The holidays are here early with Vanessa Kelly’s The Highlander’s Christmas Bride, a standout in the annual crop of seasonal romances. But Kelly has another gift for romance readers—the cover reveal for the next installment in her Clan Kendrick series! Read on for an exclusive look at the gorgeous cover art, and a sneak peak at the story from Kelly herself.
I’m thrilled to share the amazing cover for The Highlander’s English Bride, book three in my bestselling Clan Kendrick series of Scottish historical romances. Clan Kendrick is loosely based on the old movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers—set in the Highlands, naturally!
The Highlander’s English Bride is Graeme Kendrick’s story. The hellion of the family, Graeme was the lad who would cut off a girl’s braid, let the sheep loose from the pasture and break into the local church and steal the candlesticks, all on a dare. When he was older, he ran an illegal whisky still on Kendrick lands, much to the displeasure of his big brother, the clan chief.
In short, Graeme was the proverbial bad boy.
But Graeme also has a big heart, a brave soul and a restless spirit. Those qualities eventually meant a career in His Majesty’s spy service—basically a Regency 007. A quiet life in Scotland, with a wife and a passel of bairns, is not for our Graeme.
Enter Lady Sabrina Bell, beloved goddaughter of the King of England and a determined young lady with superior management abilities. Sabrina has been running her tidy, comfortable world and everyone in it for as long as she can remember. Think Jane Austen’s Emma, and you’ve got a bead on Sabrina.
But when Sabrina meets Graeme—after she’s pushed into a lake in Hyde Park, no less—tidy and comfortable go right out the window. These two are the immovable object and the irresistible force colliding on a grand, Highland scale.
The result is adventure, danger and romance, with a tidy spot of history included. In August of 1822, King George IV made a visit to Scotland, the first by an English monarch in a very long time. The visit was extravagantly excessive, often silly (lots and lots of tartan), and a bang-up, popular success. Still, not all the sins of the past were forgiven, and rumblings of discontent over the visit of the Sassenach king percolated throughout Scotland.
In The Highlander’s English Bride, Graeme is tasked with foiling a possible assassination plot—one that will put Sabrina in danger. Being the capable sort, Sabrina is quite sure that Graeme needs her help to solve the mystery.
When these two get together, the Highlands will never be the same!
Vanessa Kelly has an early Christmas gift for romance readers—the cover reveal for the next installment in her Clan Kendrick series! Read on for an exclusive look at the gorgeous cover art.
Charlie Donlea’s brilliant investigator Rory Moore returns in The Suicide House, which will be published in July 2020 by Kensington Books. When two students are horrifically murdered just outside the grounds of their exclusive prep school, Rory sets out to solve the case and tracks her efforts by recording a podcast (which you can listen to here). See the stunning cover below, and read on for an exclusive excerpt.
Westmont Prep Boarding School
Friday, June 21, 2019
A fingernail moon floated in the midnight sky, its tarnished sheen intermittently visibly through the foliage. The moon’s erratic presence penetrated the interlocking tree branches with a pale glaze that painted the forest floor in the lacquered finish of a black-and-white film. Visibility came from the candle they carried, the flame of which died every time they picked up their pace and tried to jog through the woods. They tried to slow themselves, to be careful and deliberate, but walking was not an option. They needed to hurry.
The one with the candle cupped his hand in front of the flame, which allowed them a few minutes of uninterrupted searching and brought them to a row of suspicious-looking trees. As they stood perfectly still and scanned the tree trunks, looking for the key they so desperately needed, the flame of their candle expired again. No wind was present, and they hadn’t so much as taken a step in any direction. The candle’s flame simply died, leaving a plume of smoke that filled their nostrils with the scent of burnt wax. The sudden and unexplained eclipse of the candle meant The Man in the Mirror was close. By rule—rules no one ever broke—they had ten seconds to relight the candle.
They fumbled with the matches—the rules allowed only matches, no lighters. One of them struck a matchstick across the phosphorous strip on the side of the box. Nothing. His hands shook as he swiped again. The match broke in two and fell to the dark forest floor. He reached into the matchbox, spilling several others to the ground in the process.
“Dammit,” he whispered.
“Hurry up,” the other said.
They couldn’t afford to waste matches. They’d need them again if they made it back to the house and into the safe room. But right now they were alone in the dark woods with an unlit candle and in great danger, if they believed the rumors and folklore. The tremor in their hands suggested they did. The one with the matches steadied his hand and made a smooth sweep against the phosphorous, which caused the match to light in a sizzling blaze. The eruption gave off a cloud of sulfur-tinged smoke before calming to a controlled flame. He trembled as he touched the match to the candle’s wick, happy for the light it provided. They calmed their breathing and moved their attention back to the shadowed forest around them. They listened and waited, and when they were sure they had beaten the clock, they slowly made their way forward, carefully shielding the flame as they went—a lighted candle was the only way to keep The Man in the Mirror away.
They made it to the huge sequoia tree and saw a wooden box at its base.
“There!” one of them said, falling to his knees. He opened the lid and found a key inside. His heart pounded with powerful contractions that rushed blood through the bulging vessels in his neck.
The one holding the candle blew it out—the rules stated that guidance candles could stay lit only until a key was found—and they both took off through the woods. In the distance, a train whistle blew into the night, fueling their adrenaline. The race was on. They crashed through the forest, twisting ankles and unsuccessfully shielding their faces from the branches that whipped their cheeks. As they continued through the woods, the rumble of the approaching train shook the ground beneath them as it roared past. The vibration brought more urgency to their steps.
When they reached the edge of the forest, the train was charging along the tracks to their left in a metallic blur that erratically caught the reflection of the moon. They broke free from the dark foliage and took off toward the house, their grunting and panting silenced by the roar of the train. They made it to the back door and pushed inside. They crept through the black hallways until they saw the door to the safe room.
One of them inserted the key into the doorknob and twisted. The lock surrendered and the door swung open. They entered the safe room and closed the door behind them. Inside was pitch black, much worse than what the forest had offered. One of them fell to the floor and, on his hands and knees, felt along the hardwood until his fingers came to the row of candles that sat in front of a tall, standing mirror. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the book of matches. There were three remaining. Striking the matchstick along the edge of the box, the tip ignited. He lit one of the candles and stood to face the mirror, which was covered by a heavy tarp. The rules stated that the mirror could only be uncovered after a team had made it back from the woods.
He took a deep breath and nodded to his partner, who pulled the tarp from the mirror. Their reflections were shadowed by candlelight, but they noticed the horizontal lacerations on their cheeks, and the blood that streamed perpendicular from them. They looked eerie and battle worn, but they’d made it. The rumbling evaporated as the last of the train passed the house and continued off to the east. Silence filled the room.
Looking in the mirror, they each took one last breath hoping they were not too late. Then, together, they whispered:
“The man in the mirror. The man in the mirror. The man in the mirror.”
A moment passed, during which neither blinked or breathed. Then something flashed behind them. A blur in the mirror between their reflections. Then a face came into focus, and a pair of eyes bright with ricochets from the candle’s flame. Before either could turn, or scream, or fight, their candle went out.
Charlie Donlea’s brilliant investigator Rory Moore returns in The Suicide House, which will be published in July 2020 by Kensington Books. When two students are horrifically murdered just outside the grounds of their exclusive prep school, Rory sets out to solve the case and tracks her efforts by recording a podcast (which you can listen to [...]
Whether they’re set in an opulent country estate, a small town or within the arena of international politics, the best romances of 2019 refuse to shy away from the uglier, harder or more complicated parts of life—which only makes their happy endings that much more powerful.
Real talk: My initial notes for this book simply read, “I think Lisa Kleypas is a witch.” There is truly something magical about how every year, Kleypas delivers a rigorously researched, beautifully written, extremely sexy romance. Devil’s Daughter is a light, frothy concoction in which every witticism lands with aplomb—many courtesy of hero West Ravenel, a self-reformed rake who is one of Kleypas’ most endearing creations.
To be clear, Alyssa Cole’s other 2019 release, An Unconditional Freedom, could easily be on this list as well. But I have to go with A Prince on Paper, not just because I love royal escapism and Prince Harry stand-ins, but also because I found Johan and Nya’s relationship almost unbearably lovely. Two people who feel unknowable—Nya because she’s been trained to fade into the background, and Johan because he’s constructed a public persona at the expense of his interior self—finally being seen by one another? Swoon.
Over the course of this series, Anna Zabo has built a very special cast of found-family rock stars and the people who love them. You can feel Zabo’s love for their characters radiating from each carefully chosen word, just as the love the members of Twisted Wishes have for one another spills out into their work. Reverb was a perfect capper to a delightful series.
If I were to do a “funniest romances” list, Tessa Dare’s work would consistently rank at or near the top. All of her novels are astonishingly funny, but her finest work demonstrates how humor can both hide and process pain, and how people who cling to light and joy are often the people who need it the most. All this to say, only Dare could pull off a book that contains a climactic baby goat birth, some truly horrible childhood trauma, many jokes about terrible vegetarian food and a very moving love story.
What do you do after writing an erotic novel so masterful, so impressively fearless that it becomes a genuine internet sensation? (Seriously, read The Red if you haven’t yet.) If you’re Tiffany Reisz, you write a sequel just as smart, just as sexy and even more boundary-pushing. The Rose takes all the baroque, purple-prose-delight of The Red, mixes it with equal parts Greek mythology and dry British wit, and throws in keen observations on sexuality and spirituality for good measure.
Helen Hoang has proved that the fantastic Kiss Quotientwas no fluke with the warm, charming The Bride Test. This funny, emotional tale of recent immigrant Esme and her potential groom, Khai, pays tribute to Hoang’s mother’s life experience, celebrates the resilience and love of single mothers and provides another fascinating, affirming look at life on the autism spectrum.
Linda Holmes, the beloved host of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” and noted romance enthusiast, made her fiction debut with a love story that reads like if Nora Ephron wrote a Hallmark movie. Cutesy small towns are somewhere near the bottom of my list of preferred romance settings (yes, I also hate Hallmark holiday movies, COME AT ME), but Evvie Drake Starts Over won me over in approximately five pages. It’s a marvelous, effortlessly funny romance, and hopefully Holmes will write many, many more.
I think about this book all the time—about how unassuming yet utterly magical it is. A poignant, aching slow-burn romance between two high school history teachers, Olivia Dade’s Teach Me decries the pettiness and bureaucracy of the educational system while still celebrating the dedication and impact of its two leads. And the distinct unglamorousness of Teach Me only makes its romance that much more miraculous—two flawed, fascinating people falling in love, overwhelming workloads and terrible bosses be damned.
Self-published phenom (and total joy on Twitter, just FYI) Talia Hibbert bestowed her talents on a whole new audience with her first traditionally published novel, Get a Life, Chloe Brown. Hibbert’s buoyant wit and knack for detailed characterization shine on every page, to the point that I frequently muttered “dear god” to myself when yet another of her sentences metaphorically smacked me in the face with how good it was. It takes a real talent to craft characters so endearing and complex that you feel like you’re falling in love with each of them as they fall in love with each other.
Casey McQuiston’s debut arrived with a bang this summer after months of hype—its tropetastic plot and Instagram-ready cover having catapulted it to the top of most-anticipated lists. And lo and behold, it was even better, richer and endlessly rereadable than readers could have hoped. As deeply cathartic as it is screamingly funny, as sweepingly romantic as it is incisively political, Red, White & Royal Blue is a book-long example of why romance is an important, vital genre. In creating a fictional world that readers fell in love with, it became a clarion call for a better, more inclusive reality.
Whether they’re set in an opulent country estate, a small town or within the arena of international politics, the best romances of 2019 refuse to shy away from the uglier, harder or more complicated parts of life—which only makes their happy endings that much more powerful.
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