Criminals stalk the pages of the three romance novels we’re featuring this month—and the hearts of the heroes and heroines who find themselves inconveniently, uncontrollably attracted to the lawbreakers they've set out to bring down. Forbidden love is a hallmark of romance for a reason, and you don't get much more forbidden than a crusader falling for a crook. . . .
THE QUEEN OF CON ARTISTS
Eva Leigh launches a new Regency-set series with From Duke Till Dawn, first in The London Underground novels. Beautiful, intelligent Cassandra Blake barely survived life on London’s streets before becoming a successful swindler, posing as a vulnerable, distressed young widow and fleecing men of their funds. When she met the Duke of Greyland, however, she lost her heart before taking his money and disappearing. Two years later, they meet again in London when he walks into the gambling hell where she is acting as hostess.
Greyland is an honorable member of the aristocracy, trained from birth to fulfill his many duties. The only person he felt truly saw him as a man and not a Duke was Cassandra Blake, the beautiful woman he loved for only one night before she disappeared. He’s never forgotten her and when he finds her at the gaming house, he’s alight with hope. Soon, however, he discovers her deception and the fury of betrayal and anger swamp his tender feelings.
Cassandra bitterly regrets the loss of Greyland’s regard and knows she has only herself to blame. When her mentor absconds with the gambling club’s funds and leaves her to face their debtors alone, Cassandra is threatened with disaster. The moneylenders are criminals who will not hesitate to kill her if she cannot repay them. She has no friends, nowhere to turn and realizes only one person has the power and influence to help her. Greyland has reason to hate her but Cassandra has no choice. She offers him a bargain—if he will help her find her mentor and reclaim the stolen funds, she will be able to repay the original five hundred pounds she took from him two years earlier. It isn’t enough for the damage she did to him—and to her own bruised heart—but it’s her only card left to play. If Greyland refuses, the moneylenders will surely destroy her.
Much to her relief, Greyland agrees, but on his terms. They will search together, and she must not leave his sight until they are finished. Cassandra agrees, for truly, she has little choice. They set off to find her mentor, both knowing they play a dangerous game. Neither, however, expected to learn so much about their old flame—or the lengths they will go to protect each other. Love wasn’t part of the bargain but Greyland and Cassandra know there can be no happy ever after for them. For how can a Duke and a con artist find a way to a shared future?
This eminently likeable hero and heroine are complicated and intriguing, as is the fascinating view into the underbelly of Regency England. This novel is short on balls and soirees and wonderfully long on the criminal side of 1817 London, with a chasing-the-bad-guy appeal that’s fresh without being too dark. Readers will eagerly anticipate the next book in the series.
Midwest author Anne Calhoun delivers Turn Me Loose, the third in her Alpha Ops series. As a college freshman, Riva Henneman was busted by a young undercover cop, Ian Hawthorn. To stay out of jail, she agreed to become his confidential informant. The initial surge of attraction they both felt was submerged by their official connection and after the resulting trial, they went their separate ways. Neither ever forgot the other.
Seven years later, Police Lieutenant Ian happens to walk into Riva’s restaurant and is stunned to recognize her. Riva is equally shocked to see Ian. She’s turned her life around and helps endangered youth learn cooking skills in her upscale organic restaurant. Shaken by his appearance but determined to remain calm, Riva serves Ian and when he leaves, asks him not to return.
Unfortunately for Riva’s plan to put Ian out of her thoughts and life once again, a young man in her training program is picked up and questioned about his brother’s involvement in drug running. To save her trainee, Riva agrees to gather incriminating information about the man at the head of the organization—her father. Ian is blindsided by her offer but refuses to let her set out alone. Together, they drive across the state to her parents’ home, where Riva is ostensibly helping her mother organize an upcoming society luncheon. They quickly learn the situation at home is even worse than Riva expected, for her sociopathic father is using drugs to control and abuse her mother. Riva and Ian will have to work together to safely negotiate the tangled, dangerous world of her family's business. When faced with death, can they save themselves and Riva’s mother, or will they lose to the ultimate evil?
Turn Me Loose is a nail-biting novel with lots of chilling moments and well-crafted suspense. The romance between the hero and heroine smolders with unrequited love and lust, while the emotional engagement is equally riveting.
TO CATCH A THIEF
USA Today bestselling author Vanessa Fewings launches a new series with The Chase, first in The Icon Trilogy. Forensic art specialist Zara Leighton is a new hire at one of London’s most prestigious investigative art firms. To her surprise and delight, she’s assigned to a team working on tracking down the elusive and notorious art thief, Icon. The puzzling case is engrossing and the unique aspects of the case fascinate Zara. Surprisingly, her boss also calls her in to work with Tobias Wilder, an American billionaire, who needs her unique ability to visually identify counterfeit paintings.
Zara is immediately attracted to Tobias, and he to her. Together, they gain entry to an exclusive gathering at a palace to view a questionable painting. Her adventure with Tobias draws Zara into an ongoing connection that is quickly complicated by her own past and the artwork she grew up with. As her work with the team attempting to unravel the Icon mystery becomes entangled with her hours spent with Tobias, Zara is increasingly conflicted. Is it her imagination that the mysterious Icon and Tobias appear to have many of the same character traits? Is the man she’s falling in love with capable of art thefts which confound the best investigators? Where does Tobias go when he’s not with her? And if Tobias truly is Icon, how will she bear the fallout when he’s caught?
The details of the fascinating world of high profile art make an intriguing background for the mystery. The first half of the novel is more remiscent of Fifty Shades of Grey than traditional romance but the connection between hero and heroine soon turns tender. Read this one with a fan and a glass of ice water at hand!
Lois Dyer writes from her home in Port Orchard, Washington.