★ 10 Things That Never Happened
A man trying to do right ends up doing one big wrong in Alexis Hall’s 10 Things That Never Happened. Sam Becker enjoys almost everything about his job managing a bed-and-bath store, except for his awful boss, Jonathan Forest. While confronting said boss, Sam hits his head and—well, the details don’t matter when the result is that he fakes amnesia to avoid being fired and moves in with Jonathan so that he can be looked after. That screwball setup leads to a poignant love story, told through Sam’s amusing first-person voice. The close perspective puts the reader shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam, who is actually holding some important stuff back. Closed-off Jonathan is a typical workaholic, yet the attraction between the two housemates grows and becomes impossible to ignore despite the boss-employee taboo. The Christmas season, Jonathan’s zany family and an important company event complicate matters, but the authentic emotion at the center of this romance will win readers’ hearts and make them care deeply about these characters and their hopeful happy ending.
The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch
Two childhood friends explore their deep connection in The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch by Jacqueline Firkins. Trained artist Imogen has given up her dreams to care for her mother in their small town on the Oregon coast. But when Eliot Swift, the rich-boy crush she never got over, comes back to town, she’s forced to reexamine her choices and the true state of her heart. Eliot must look within too, facing feelings and failings he’s been running from for a decade. Firkins delicately peels back the layers of her main couple to expose their raw emotions. Imogen and Eliot are multifaceted, fascinating personalities, and readers will cross their fingers for a happy ending even though it feels impossible. Love scenes of smoking passion and warm tenderness give this romance an extra sparkle.
The Once and Future Fling
Leigh Heasley’s imaginative and adventurous The Once and Future Fling is set in a world in which time travel exists and dating people from different eras of history is a sought-after experience for the idle rich. Ada Blum, however, is anything but idle: She’s near-desperate to escape the ramifications of her high-profile relationship with state Sen. Samson St. Laurent by finding a match in another time. Regency-era bachelors aren’t catching her interest, so she takes a chance on 1920s New York City—and that’s where things turn thorny. Henry Levison, a violinist and maybe-criminal from the ’20s, catches hold of her heart, but Samson has also reentered the picture. Gangsters and more time-hops keep things entertaining while readers wonder how—and when—this heartfelt story will end.