★ Ruby Fever
In Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, the world is dominated by magical families known as Houses. Catalina Baylor is the Deputy Warden of Texas and a Prime, an extremely powerful magic user. She’s moving her House and her fiancé, assassin Alessandro Sagredo, into a new compound when an important politician is killed and a powerful family friend is severely injured. An assassin kingpin is responsible for both events, and now he has his sights set on Alessandro. Can they stop him before he succeeds? Ruby Fever starts with a bang and races on from there. This installment has everything Andrews’ readers love: a large cast of magical characters, fast-paced plot and dialogue, and imaginative scenes of electrifying combat described in technicolor detail. Told in Catalina’s engaging first-person voice as she capably handles all that’s thrown at her, this superlative romance doesn’t have a single dull moment. Sit back and happily immerse yourself in Andrews’ unparalleled paranormal world.
Do You Take This Man
The central couple of Denise Williams’ Do You Take This Man doesn’t really have a meet cute. In fact, it’s more of a meet mad. RJ Brooks is a high-powered, ambitious divorce attorney with a surprising side gig: She officiates marriage ceremonies. Which is why she keeps meeting and mutually antagonizing event planner Lear Campbell again, and again, and again. The enemies-to-lovers trope is a romance fan favorite for a reason, and when RJ and Lear finally succumb to their attraction, their love scenes sizzle. There’s enough authentic angst between the two, both of whom have been hurt badly in the past, to keep the reader doubting and wishing for their happily ever after in equal measure.
Aphrodite and the Duke
First loves try to get it right the second time around in J.J. McAvoy’s “Bridgerton”-esque Regency romance, Aphrodite and the Duke. Aphrodite Du Bell can’t help but feel her acclaimed beauty might be something of a curse. The only man she ever cared for, Evander Eagleman, the Duke of Everely, married someone else. In the four years since, she’s retreated from society. But when it’s her sister’s turn to hunt for a husband, Aphrodite gets dragged back to the London season. There, she’s reunited with Evander, who’s newly widowed and immediately begins to pursue Aphrodite. She thinks she’d be mad to trust him again with her heart, until he reveals what prompted his first marriage and they begin to work through their differences. However, new dangers await the couple. The characters’ somewhat formal voices lend a verisimilitude that balances the enjoyable escape of McAvoy’s Regency world of balls, gowns and romance.