Dark and angsty romances certainly have their place, but laughter and love never go out of style. In these two romances, you will find not just humor and heart but also a pair of happily ever afters that remind you life goes on and love always finds a way.
Love’s path is more than a bit unconventional in Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Jackie Logsted’s Joint Custody, a story that feels a little like The Parent Trap and a little like the Disney short “Feast,” with a couple that has separated and a devoted dog that’s bound and determined to bring them back together again.
Three years before the beginning of the story, the couple in question, named only the Man and the Woman, connected when the Man, a reclusive but highly acclaimed author, adopted a dog and immediately met the Woman, a successful book editor. They bonded over their shared appreciation of good books and handsome (not cute) dogs, and love ensued. The dog is named after their mutual favorite book, The Great Gatsby, and Gatz becomes a major part of their courtship as the pair falls in love . . . and then ends up in an awkward shared custody situation when the relationship starts to fall apart.
The story is narrated in its entirety by Gatz, who loves pop culture references and has the same kind of wryly amused exasperation for his hapless humans that you might expect from a smarter-than-the-grownups kid in a rom-com. In fact, the story has a lot of classically screwball comedy Hollywood hijinks.
New York City’s publishing world is a crucial element of the story, providing not just a social circle for the characters but also a rival for the Woman in the form of an author she meets at the London Book Fair, spurring Gatz to new heights of matchmaking—and match sabotaging. You could say that the plot has some tricks up its sleeves, but of course, the protagonist doesn’t wear any. Perhaps: It has some surprises tucked under its tail, or a few unexpected treats in its doggie bags.
However you want to say it, the plot gets to its happy conclusion in a way you won’t expect, but the journey to get there is filled with all the fun and playfulness you could want, and some surprising warmth to close it all out.
“Warmth” certainly comes to mind when considering the main characters of The Worst Duke in the World. Continuing her delightful Penhallow Dynasty series, Lisa Berne introduces a hero and heroine so kind and pleasant and amiable that they seem almost entirely out of place in a 19th-century romance. If you’re looking for high drama, desperate passion, brooding and poetic heroes or delicate, swooning heroines, look elsewhere. There is a devastatingly handsome aristocrat in the story, but when the hero tries to imitate his smoldering eyes, he’s accused of squinting. The heroine does start off tragically impoverished and waifish—but when her circumstances change and food becomes readily available, she’s more than happy to take every opportunity to stuff down multiple sandwiches, several tea cakes, a few apple puff pastries and perhaps more chocolates than are good for her.
This well-fed heroine is Jane Kent, recently discovered to be the illegitimate offspring of the Penhallow clan. And her squinting sweetheart is Anthony Farr, the Duke of Radcliffe, who lives on the neighboring estate and is—according to his sister—the worst duke in the world. This is largely because he cares very little about being grand and snobby and marrying again to father more heirs, and very much about being a good landlord, a good father to his 8-year-old son and a good caretaker to the enormously fat prize pig that he named Duchess and which he hopes will win the weight contest at the local fair.
Not your typical dukely traits, perhaps, but such appealing ones, attached to such a gentle, awkward, good-humored, warmhearted man, that it’s hard to imagine wanting a duke to behave in any other way. And while Jane might make a more classic heroine if she were tormented with despair or haunted by her past, her sunny frankness and keen appetite—for sweets, yes, but also for knowledge and friendship—make her endlessly endearing.
As light as a meringue and as sweet as honey, this romance is deliciously satisfying down to the last drop.