When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil’s Daughter, she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even though he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past. Phoebe sees the good man that West has become, and the only bad left in him is precisely the kind that a woman like herself finds oh-so-tempting. The romance is delicious as West’s best intentions to stay clear of Phoebe battle her resolve to get what she wants, and that push-pull drives the narrative. The reformed bad boy is a staple of the genre, and West is just the sort that readers adore. His regrets and overwhelming feelings for the heroine make him an unforgettable hero. Add in cameos from Kleypas’ beloved Wallflowers (Phoebe is the daughter of Devil in Winter’s Evie and Sebastian), and Devil’s Daughter is a must read.
Former lovers get a second chance in Stefanie London’s Bad Influence. On the eve of a big move for her boyfriend’s job, Annie Maxwell decided to stay in New York City to support her mother during a medical crisis. The man in her life, Joseph Preston, left her behind, inspiring her to anonymously create a now-infamous app, Bad Bachelors, where women rate and review men of the city. Joseph returns just as a hacker threatens to reveal Annie’s identity, and she finds herself confiding in him, giving them a chance to face past mistakes and find closure. But will love rebloom instead? Annie and Joseph are flawed, authentic characters who must tread a fine line between loyalty to family and to each other. This is love with the blinders off, and it is all the more sophisticated and refreshing for that.
Readers who like their romance spiced with mystery can’t go wrong with Stroke of Luck by B.J. Daniels. Will Sterling has opened his ranch to a special group early in the season, and when his cook can’t make it, he turns to his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael, who’s now a caterer. Will hasn’t seen Poppy in 20 years, and he’s grateful when she commits to four days at the isolated location. Poppy is delighted at the opportunity—she’s harbored fantasies about making the man fall for her like she fell for him as a young girl—but she’s not prepared for the very adult feelings she has for the sexy cowboy. To make matters worse, tension among the guests leads to murder. A blizzard delays the arrival of law enforcement, and it’s up to Will and Poppy to discern friend from foe, as well as to decide how to manage the undeniable attraction between them. This kickoff to Daniels’ new Sterling’s Montana series provides engrossing entertainment.