It’s a new year, and we’re excited to share three terrific contemporary romances for those looking for something a little different. If you’re ready to branch out from the sweet small-town tales so common to the genre, look no further.
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
First up is Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz. The master of romantic suspense has set her latest novel in moody, rainy Seattle, a setting that perfectly suits her central mystery. Art gallery owner Virginia Troy and private investigator Cabot Sutter shared a horrific experience as children. Their mothers were members of a cult whose charismatic, sociopathic leader burned the compound down and disappeared. Both of their mothers died that night, and Virginia and Cabot barely escaped with their lives. Both were left with memories that scarred them.
When Virginia’s client and fellow survivor commits suicide, she turns to Cabot’s detective agency for help. She’s not convinced her artist’s death was truly a suicide. Cabot joins her to seek the truth, but they’ve barely begun the investigation when a woman is murdered in Virginia’s art gallery, someone breaks into her condo, and shots are fired at Cabot. As the level of danger ratchets higher, Virginia and Cabot search for answers while dealing with a growing attraction that draws them ever closer. Just as both begin to hope for a future together, the monster from their childhood threatens them once again. Is it possible the cult leader is alive and well—and has returned to finish what he started all those years ago? And if he’s back, will Virginia and Cabot survive?
Krentz dives into sociopathic psychology and complex characterization to great effect in this twisty story, whose plot clips along at a terrific pace. Readers will look forward to the third novel in this ongoing series of books connected through the Cutler, Sutter & Salinas detective agency and the destroyed cult.
RED CARPET ROMANCE
Stacey Kade delivers Starlight Nights, a riveting novel set in the world of Hollywood. Twenty-two-year-old Calista Beckett is desperately trying to move on from her early fame, her manager mother’s obsessive control and her career-destroying personal mistakes. When Eric Stone, the man she’s loved since she was 16, shows up on campus, she just wants him to go away. But Eric knows her too well. He knows that she belongs in the movie industry, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her to sign on for a web series he’s filming. Under pressure from her mother, Calista agrees. The acting gig is only for two weeks over the Thanksgiving holiday. What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.
Thrust back into the world she once fled, Calista struggles to deal with her controlling mother’s demands for money, her unresolved feelings for Eric and her desperate need to gain independence. Given how much baggage both she and Eric are carrying after suffering through horrible parents and the pressures of fame, is there any hope this second chance will end well? Or are they doomed to drift apart, separated from the one person who truly understands and loves them?
This emotionally compelling story is simply wonderful Watching Calista and Eric fight to gain independence from manipulative parents and to find the courage to fully commit to loving each other makes for a marvelous read. Readers should prepare to be fully absorbed in the novel’s world—and to stay up all night reading.
Rachel Gibson returns to the world of sports with The Art of Running in Heels. Lexie Kowalsky is the daughter of a legendary hockey great who now coaches the Chinooks, Seattle’s professional hockey team. When Lexie wins a “Bachelor”-esque reality show, she realizes at the last minute that she can’t go through with the televised wedding. Still dressed in her poufy wedding dress, frothy veil and sparkly stiletto heels, she climbs aboard a friend’s charter plane leaving Seattle for Sandspit, Canada.
Already on the plane when the pilot stuffs Lexie and her dress inside, the Chinooks’ newest star player, Sean Knox, recognizes the gorgeous blonde instantly. He also knows he needs to keep his hands far away from the coach’s daughter. Lexie doesn’t recognize Sean—not on the plane when she asks him to help her unbutton her dress and he rips it off, not when she meets and befriends his hypochondriac mother, not even when they give in to mutual lust at her motel room. In fact, it isn’t until after they part ways the next morning that Lexie discovers Sean’s identity.
Furious, she demands he aid her in rescuing her reputation and business, which tanked after her runaway-bride act. Sean agrees to go along with her plan, partly because he doesn’t want trouble with her father and partly because he wants to spend time with her. The plan requires them to pretend to be in love to spite the media, and before long, the acting begins to feel all too real. When Lexie realizes she’s in love with the handsome, gruff hockey player, will Sean realize that he loves her, too? Or will he walk away from the best thing that’s ever happened to him?
This book is a delight, with laugh-out-loud moments and a hot romance between quirky, smart Lexie and hunky, equally intelligent Sean. Readers will cheer for this couple and thoroughly enjoy watching them battle their way to a happy ending.
Lois Dyer writes from her home in Port Orchard, Washington.