★ Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Something very special happens within the pages of Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston’s dazzling debut. What begins as an irreverent chronicle of the first female president’s reelection year through the eyes of Alex Claremont-Diaz, the FSOTUS (first son of the United States) becomes an account of the love story of said FSOTUS and England’s Henry, Prince of Wales. This modern fairy tale unfolds in a gossipy, insider tone until emotion takes over and McQuiston gives us an aching glimpse of what it is to want someone you believe you cannot have. Yes, Red, White & Royal Blue is funny and fun, and the family and political dynamics feel spot-on, but it’s the frank and unforgettable romance between these two young men that will compel readers to start it all over again when faced with the last page. It’s that hard to say goodbye to this couple.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Helen Hoang introduces a unique and delightful couple in The Bride Test. In Vietnam, struggling single mom Esme Tran meets a woman who presents an intriguing proposal: spend a summer in California to see if she’ll suit the stranger’s handsome, successful son. It’s a risk, but Esme is willing to take a chance at a new life. Her intended, Khai Diep, is a mystery to her, and the autistic Khai finds his potential bride just as difficult to understand. As the two come to know each other, feelings between them grow—the very feelings Khai is convinced his autism precludes. This emotional courtship-of-convenience story has a fantastic sense of humor and a stellar cast of sidekicks, but it’s the exploration of the inner life of quiet, contained Khai and the insecurities and determination of Esme that set it apart. Two words sum up this romance: just lovely.
Every Last Breath by Juno Rushdan
The suspense is high-octane and the sexual chemistry explosive in Every Last Breath by Juno Rushdan. Covert government operative Maddox Kinkade takes on her latest mission with her usual zeal, but the civilian she’s tasked to recruit turns out to be her first love, Cole Matthews, whom she thought for years was dead. The two must set aside their former relationship and all the recriminations that go with it as they partner to stop a lethal world threat. The detailed plans and gritty action are authentic and exciting, and scenes from the point of view of a villain bent on vengeance add more chill to Rushdan’s already thrilling plot. Readers will feel immersed in the action as this fast-paced story rockets to a satisfying conclusion that still leaves questions for future entries in the series. Buckle up for this romantic thrill ride!