★ The Boyfriend Candidate
Fans of the fake-dating trope will love The Boyfriend Candidate, Ashley Winstead’s charming rom-com. When her cheating boyfriend dumps her, librarian Alexis Stone dons a red dress and heads to a swank bar to find a one-night stand. All goes well, until a fire alarm leads to her being caught on camera with the man she’s about to bed: Logan Arthur, a politician who’s running to be the governor of Texas. Logan and his team persuade Alexis to pretend she’s his longtime, previously secret girlfriend until the election. Luckily, Logan is extremely attractive and his progressive policies match her own. Cue shy Alexis finding her voice and the brash Logan continually getting distracted by the enchanting librarian. Told in Alexis’ fresh first-person voice, this heartwarming romance has both poignant introspection and a hero who sacrifices his dignity when faced with kittens and gerbils.
The Secret Service of Tea and Treason
The Secret Service of Tea and Treason, India Holton’s delightful third installment in her Dangerous Damsels series, takes place in a fantasy version of Victorian England populated by pirates, witches and spies. Alice Dearlove is a top operative with a dangerous new assignment: Find a secret weapon and stop the assassination of Queen Victoria. But to do this, she must pretend to be the wife of her professional rival, Daniel Bixby. The highly entertaining adventure that follows includes flying houses, cutthroat pirates, scary witches, farcical fun, whimsical wordplay and a castle with secret passages and professional ghosts. Daniel and Alice race around England to try and solve the case, all while putting out (literal) fires, falling in love and engaging in tender scenes of sensual awakening.
Sugar, Spice, and Can’t Play Nice
Family pressures and personal ambition clash in Sugar, Spice, and Can’t Play Nice by Annika Sharma. Fashion designer Payal Mehra has a spectacular no-strings-attached night with Ayaan Malhotra, the son of family friends and someone who is as commitment-averse as she. Unfortunately, the morning after is such a disaster that both assume they’ll never see each other again. Then their families put forth a business proposition to the couple—one that will be sealed with an arranged marriage. While both initially loathe the idea, Ayaan and Payal realize how beneficial their union could be. She’ll get funding for her clothing line and save her family’s business, while he’ll get 50% of his family’s company. They decide to go ahead with the engagement, believing they can break things off before they get dire. Readers will root for Payal and Ayaan, both of whom are buffeted by family expectations and disappointment yet persevere. Their slow journey to confidence in themselves and contentment in each other is layered with lush descriptions of South Asian fashion and food.