★ A Curse of Queens
The world continues to roil with the whims of the gods in A Curse of Queens, the action-packed fourth installment in Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles. When her pregnant sister is cursed, gifted healer Jocasta concocts a plan to lift the magic. A team is assembled to embark on the dangerous quest, and Jocasta is both thrilled and dismayed to learn that Flynn of Sinta will be part of the expedition. Jocasta has loved him since childhood, and unbeknownst to her, his heart belongs to her as well. But after losing his entire family, Flynn believes he protects them both from inevitable pain by not declaring himself. Bouchet excels at developing grounded characters with relatable frustrations and desires, even amid the adventure and magic of fantasy romance. Flynn’s longing for Jocasta is tender and touching, and Jocasta’s determination to succeed is understandable and admirable. Bouchet strikes a perfect balance between evocative Greek mythology-inspired world building and grand romance in this fabulous adventure.
The Belle of Belgrave Square
Romance blooms within a marriage of convenience in The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews. Socially awkward heiress Julia Wychwood dreads balls and parties. When her manipulative parents make it clear that they intend to marry her to a widower she feels nothing for, Julia impulsively turns to the only man she does feel something for: the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt. He’s known for being the Hero of Crimea . . . but also for his illegitimate children and the dark rumors surrounding his family estate. Julia elopes with him anyway, and they try to build a life together in the quiet Yorkshire countryside, but Jasper’s murky past stands between them. His secrets ignite Julia’s curiosity, and the man ignites her in other ways, too. Will Jasper reveal enough of himself to win her love? A bookish heroine readers will identify with, subtle love scenes and some impish children make this romance a true delight.
Bad Girl Reputation
Author Elle Kennedy explores what happens when a party girl and her bad boy first love grow up in Bad Girl Reputation. After her mother dies, Genevieve West temporarily returns home to the small coastal town of Avalon Bay, which she’d fled a year before to escape her self-destructive lifestyle. Having remade herself in the time since then, Gen doesn’t dare fall back into bad habits—especially her ex, Evan Hartley. She knows they’re bad for each other, but she can’t seem to stop having hot and heavy hookups with him while she’s in town. As she becomes further enmeshed with family and friends, Gen wonders if she can stay in Avalon Bay and stay true to her new, better self. These imperfect, honest characters are trying to figure out life, and their vibrant personalities burst onto the page. Thanks to Kennedy’s easy, breezy dialogue, readers will feel like they’re elbow-to-elbow with Gen and Evan at the bar and the poker table in this vibrant, feel-good and fresh romance.