Two Regency romances and a Western friends-to-lovers tale will charm with their good-natured characters.
★ West End Earl
A Regency-era aristocrat finds love right under his nose in West End Earl by Bethany Bennett. Calvin, Earl of Carlyle, enjoys his life and his friends, one of whom is Adam Hardwick, a young man whom he took under his wing. After a childhood of scandals, handsome and clever Cal works to keep his days drama-free. Then he discovers that “Adam” is actually Ophelia, who created the disguise to save herself from a dangerous uncle. This revelation turns Cal’s world on its axis, and as he takes a second and then third look at his friend, his feelings become the opposite of platonic. Ophelia desires him, too, but can they keep their new relationship secret? Between Cal’s wayward younger sister and his father’s attempts to marry him off, all looks lost for true love. Ophelia is just as clever as Cal (as a particularly delightful stratagem near the end of the book more than proves), but can they overcome all the obstacles standing in the way of happily ever after? Damsels donning trousers to hide their identities is a beloved romance novel trope—These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer springs to mind—and it provides delicious, sexy fun in West End Earl.
Hope on the Range
Hope on the Range by Cindi Madsen takes readers west to find love. Cowboy heroes and a friends-to-lovers plot tick a pair of popular romance boxes, and Madsen’s take on them doesn’t disappoint as next-ranch neighbors Tanya Greer and Brady Dawson finally discover that just being buddies isn’t enough. Tanya has been aware of her feelings for a while, and when she at last decides to speak up, their mutual passion is unleashed. But they’re not in clover quite yet, as Tanya dreams of a career that might take her away from home . . . and away from Brady. Beyond the central love story, there’s also romance between the teens at Brady’s horse therapy ranch, rodeo events to win and heart-tugging horses in need of rescue. Madsen writes with an assured, warm voice that matches this life-affirming love story. Optimism abounds in this sunny romance that will surely leave Western romance fans smiling.
A Duke in Time
A veteran duke is determined to help his fellow soldiers as they return home in A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor. But first, Christian, Duke of Randford, must deal with the mess his deceased half-brother, Meri, left behind: three wives, each unaware that her husband had married other women. Their scandalous predicament can’t be ignored, and neither can Christian’s immediate attraction to Katherine “Kat” Vareck, Meri’s first wife. While Christian would prefer to focus on helping his regiment, he’s distracted by Kat, a self-made businesswoman who sells fine linens to the aristocracy. But after he realizes Kat’s expertise might help his charity efforts, they spend more time together and begin to fall in love. There’s more at stake than hearts, however: Kat, Christian and Meri’s other two “widows” have their reputations and livelihoods to worry about, as well as past sorrows to come to terms with. This excellent Regency romance, the first in the Widow Rules series, stands out thanks to its detailed love scenes and swoon-inducing dialogue.