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All Contemporary Romance Coverage

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The prodigiously gifted Alexis Hall spins pathos, sex and humor into frothy yet sensitive paeans to love. His ambitious new novel, Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble, demonstrates the magnitude of his talents. 

The second Winner Bakes All romance after 2021’s Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Paris is a bittersweet play on the opposites-attract trope. The titular character, a baker with devastating anxiety and self-doubt in spite of his beauty, talent and privilege, falls for Tariq Hassan, a charismatic young Muslim with ambition and confidence to spare. Paris and Tariq meet as competitors on “Bake Expectations,” a famous television cooking competition show. (If you’re thinking “The Great British Baking Show,” you’re on the right track.) 

Paris’ roommate, Morag, ropes him into joining the show, hoping that becoming a contestant would break Paris out of an unhealthy pattern of isolation and doubt. Though some good does come of the experience, it turns out you can’t shock the mental illness out of someone. The reality of what Paris is going through—the result of nature (brain chemistry) complicated by nurture (or lack thereof, i.e., years of parental abandonment)—is too messy and complex. 

Hall portrays Paris’ omnipresent anxiety disorder and how it affects his relationships with intensity and an impressive attention to cognitive and emotional detail. This may make some readers uncomfortable, as peeking inside Paris’ thoughts can be pretty harrowing. But many people who have experienced this type of mental health challenge, as well as some who haven’t, will find his story deeply relatable.

Paris may crumble under the pressure of appearing on “Bake Expectations,” but he also finds a real romantic connection with a man who’s delightfully different from himself. Tariq revels in his queerness, style and religion, and he inhabits the spotlight with a confidence that sometimes borders on cockiness. Paris and Tariq’s differences add an interesting texture to their interactions, and it is meaningful to see someone go through what Paris does and be loved throughout. Hall refreshingly balances sensitivity and matter-of-factness about Paris’ challenges and how they impact his relationship with Tariq, while also exploring where Tariq needs to grow. 

Hall’s sprightly irony and clever humor significantly lighten the angst. At one moment, Tariq gets impatient with Paris, as people are wont to do with him as he works his way up to an apology. “Look . . . we’ve been here before,” Tariq says. “I know how long your apologies take. I’ve got a religious obligation. I’ll come find you later.”

A dish that’s both sweet and savory, Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble is poignant and witty in equal proportion.

A dish that’s both sweet and savory, Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble is poignant and witty in equal proportion.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

The delightful Book Lovers both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype.

Book Lovers

A Curse of Queens by Amanda Bouchet

In her fourth Kingmaker Chronicles book, Bouchet continues to strike a perfect balance between world building and romance.

A Curse of Queens jacket

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

This enemies-­to-lovers romance set on a British university campus hums with Bolu Babalola’s energetic, intelligent voice.

Honey and Spice jacket

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

This fabulous friends-to-lovers rom-com feels authentic every step of the way.

Hook, Line, and Sinker jacket

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall 

The king of the rom-com conquers the Regency with an angsty historical romance.

A Lady for a Duke

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

The only bad thing about Kelly’s wonderful foodie romance is that after you’ve gulped it down, you’ll want more.

Love & Other Disasters jacket

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Jimenez’s special blend of humor and angst is polished to perfection in the fairy tale-esque Part of Your World.

Part of Your World jacket

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Subversive yet satisfying, Sebastian’s latest breaks new ground for historical romance.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes jacket

The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne

Berne’s Groundhog Day-inspired love story is a clever addition to the canon of “rake redemption” romances.

The Redemption of Philip Thane jacket

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Emezi’s first romance novel is a hot and sultry exploration of love and grief.

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Discover more of BookPage’s Best Books of 2022.

2022 was a year of spectacular debuts, groundbreaking historical romances and, of course, HEAs aplenty.
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Never Rescue a Rogue

Virginia Heath’s Never Rescue a Rogue is a sophisticated Regency gem. In this second entry in the Merriwell Sisters series, world-weary nobleman Giles Sinclair battles ennui by trading barbs with journalist Diana Merriwell, his best friend’s sister. Though their charming family and friends think they would make a perfect pair, they both disagree and are firmly entrenched in their singleness. But when Giles becomes a duke, a discomfiting lack of information on his real parentage could spell disaster. There’s no one better at uncovering the full truth than Diana, so Giles enlists her help—and subsequently loses his heart. Giles introduces the jaded Diana to passion and she steadily overcomes her fear of losing her independence, all while their slow-burn attraction blooms into steamy love scenes. The dialogue is delightful and the wordplay a pleasure to read, and the well-developed and heart-tugging backstories of both leads give this romance an authentic heft.

Better than Fiction

A woman reexamines her ideas about love in Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin. Drew Young’s self-deprecating, humorous, first-person narration lets readers know unequivocally how she feels about her late grandmother (admiration and loyalty, which explains Drew’s determination to keep open the bookstore her grandmother left her) and about love (doesn’t trust it an inch, thanks to her deadbeat dad who left Drew and her mom for another family). When successful and sexy romance author Jasper Williams arrives for a special event at the bookstore, Drew is sure he’s too good to be true. But he’s also too attractive to resist. As they become better acquainted, Martin revels in the requisite rom-com scenes, including the delicious fan favorite that is “There’s just one bed.” Romance readers will feel vindicated by Drew’s growing appreciation of feel-good fiction, and will root for her and Jasper to get a happy ending equal to those in his novels.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck

Some Dukes Have All the Luck, the first entry in Christina Britton’s Synneful Spinsters series, stars a most unlikely pair. Ash Hawkins, Duke of Buckley, travels to the Isle of Synne to reclaim his wayward young wards after they flee London. Once there, he encounters naturalist Bronwyn Pickering, who has always been more interested in beetles than becoming a bride. The striking and sexy Ash ignites something in Bronwyn, and when he offers a marriage of convenience—promising she can continue her scientific studies, something her domineering parents have tried to prevent her from doing—she seizes her chance at greater independence. Of course, the marriage is soon complicated by feelings, Ash’s recalcitrant wards and a roaring sexual attraction. Bronwyn is easy to admire, especially as she overcomes her social awkwardness to care for the three girls entrusted to her. Ash is a classic “I’m not good enough for anyone” hero; it’s always gratifying when they’re proved wrong. With its bookish heroine, brooding hero and smoking love scenes, Some Dukes Have All the Luck is sigh-worthy fare.

Bookish meets brooding and optimist meets cynic in these opposites-attract love stories.
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Kennedy Ryan’s emotional new romance honors the work that a successful relationship requires with the story of Yasmen and Josiah, a divorced couple who fight their way back to each other after the loss of their child drives them apart.

This book explores weighty themes of mental health, second chances and redemption. Was there anything challenging about tackling material like this within the romance genre? What were the benefits?
I think over the years, my brand has become “explores weighty themes,” LOL. I lean into real and raw and believe that, sometimes, love shines brightest when it’s tested. In real life, we don’t fall in love in a bubble-wrapped dream. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good swoon and pure escape like the next girl. I do, but we also fall in love while losing jobs, facing health crises or even working through depression and grief. Love takes place in the context of real life.

Writing Yasmen, a character who is recovering from depression, was very challenging. Creating on-page resonance for those who’ve battled depression meant going to tough, dark places, but also reflecting the joy of healing. I consulted with several therapists and even employed a few as accuracy readers to ensure that this story felt real and true.

One of the benefits has been hearing from early readers that several of them are actually seeking therapy they’ve been delaying for, in some cases, years. Impact is a primary metric for success to me, so that feels like such a huge win and like the time and care it took to create this story was definitely worth it.

“I wanted to write a love story that on the surface, at first glance, feels a bit hopeless.”

How did it feel to work on a story about redemption and second chances during what has been such a difficult handful of years, both on a grand scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic and for you personally?
It was incredibly challenging. Before I Let Go was the third book I wrote during the pandemic. I had my annual checkup right before COVID hit, and my doctor expressed concern that I had several early indicators for depression. I’m a special needs mom and a writer who has deadlines through 2025, so I’m used to a low hum of stress running through my life and didn’t think much of it.

Pandemic conditions, though, exacerbated those early symptoms and made my home, like so many others, part prison, part pressure cooker. I remember finishing the second book I wrote during the pandemic, Reel, and just feeling “I can’t do that again. It will be a long time before I can write again.” And it was a long time before I was capable of writing again. You hear all the time about listening to your body because it will shut down if you don’t take care of it, but I never understood how debilitating depression and neglecting your mental health could be until I couldn’t get out of bed. Until I couldn’t make it through a day, sometimes through an hour, without crying. Until I was having panic attacks regularly. There was no room for creativity because I honestly was just trying to survive.

It took finding the right therapist (tried three!) and the right medication for me to start feeling better. Once I could even approach this story, I realized I had all this personal experience to draw from. There was this intersection of my life and Yasmen’s that—though I would have skipped that whole season of my life if I could have—I hope infused the story with a certain empathy, compassion and authenticity because so much of it came from my lived experience.

Before I Let Go jacket

How do you approach sensitive topics like the ones included in Before I Let Go, both in thinking about your readers’ experiences but also in how you take care of yourself as a writer?
I’m a lot better at taking care of the reader than I am at taking care of myself. My background is in journalism, so when people ask if I’m a plotter or pantser, I say neither. I kind of go out and find the story, usually through extensive interviews and research. I’m somewhat Hippocratic in my approach to sensitive topics: First, do no harm. That means accuracy readers, whom I compensate, and beta readers whom I trust to be ruthlessly honest with me. I’m pretty exacting and exhaustive when it comes to my sources and research when writing. I try to take just as much care with the experience the reader will have reading the story as I took while writing it.

My books can be tough, and I’ve gotten a lot better about content warnings than I used to be. When I first started self-publishing years ago, no one was really doing content warnings, but it has slowly risen to the forefront and I now understand why they are essential for readers.

As far as taking care of myself . . . I’m learning to do that better. My creative process is incredibly immersive, and when you deal with tough subjects the way I do, it can take its toll. I think my creative process is almost the equivalent of method acting. I often act out dialogue, which means I’m yelling at myself alone in my office when my characters are fighting. I find myself crying after interviews with subjects who’ve lived some of the tough experiences I write about. I’ve had bald spots by the time I finished books because of how invested I become and how anxious some of it makes me.

Many of my friends dive right into the next book once they finish one. I can’t do that. I try to build in a good amount of time between projects to recover. I used to feel guilty about that, but Becca Syme, an amazing writing coach, refers to the style I use to write and recover as the phoenix: these very concentrated bouts of intense energy and output, followed by extended periods of rest and recovery where you just don’t do it. I’ve stopped comparing my content, my process and what it takes for me to do it effectively to anyone else. Not comparing yourself to other people is one of the best ways to take care of yourself, in my experience. Iyanla Vanzant calls comparison an act of violence against the self. That’s a guiding thought for me, and it frees me up to do whatever works for me, not anyone else.

“This isn’t just a second-chance romance, it is a rebuilding . . .”

Yasmen and Josiah’s relationship buckles under grief, but the nature of their dual romantic and business partnership doesn’t allow them space to work through their shared trauma. What drew you to this topic as an author? What is it about “public grief” that can make it especially difficult to navigate? 
I wanted to write a love story that on the surface, at first glance, feels a bit hopeless. They’ve already divorced. They’re both in the process of moving on. They’ve settled into new rhythms for running their business and raising their children together. Yet, there is a lot left unsaid and unresolved between them. Their love is still so palpable, and other people see it. The first time, neither of them created space to work through their hurt and loss together. There were missed opportunities and mishandled issues that destroyed their relationship. This isn’t just a second-chance romance, it is a rebuilding; sorting through rubble to figure out what’s salvageable but also finding new materials, sturdier stuff discovered through therapy and transparency and renewed commitment. 

As far as public grief, at one point in the book when Yasmen is breaking down a bit in a drugstore, she refers to it as a “violent vulnerability.” I think that’s accurate for some of us when our control slips. It’s happened to me before; holding on by a thread that snaps at the worst possible time. And you feel assaulted by all these emotions against which there is suddenly no defense. I’ve had some people be very kind when that has happened. I think because we walk around with our public masks and our armor, no one wants those to fall away in front of others. So when you encounter someone falling apart, you recognize just how many layers of control those tears had to break through to surface for everyone to see. And hopefully, we empathize when it happens.

What were some of the impacts of mental health on a marriage that you wanted to depict through Yasmen and Josiah’s relationship? What was important to you to convey as you wrote?
I always resist the idea that love conquers all, that it fixes everything. That may sound funny coming from a romance writer, but the romance I write leans into the realities of life and really makes no attempt to escape them. This story, as much as anything I’ve ever written, embraces that. These two people, who loved each other so very much, had a lot to work through on their own. I’m not saying they or anyone else has to divorce to do that, but for this story and the decisions this couple made, time apart reformed them into people who could be happy and healthy together.

With Yasmen’s journey, I wanted to convey the importance of putting yourself first. Women—moms and wives especially—often put everyone before themselves. I wanted this to be about a woman who esteems her personal, emotional and mental well-being above all else. For her, choosing herself becomes a matter of survival. As she and her partner mature, heal and discover what they need as individuals, they come back together. I’m glad in my story, the love was still there waiting for them. 

Read our review of ‘Before I Let Go’ by Kennedy Ryan.

What was the original germ of this story for you, and did any parts of the finished product surprise you?
It depends on what provokes me to tell the story. The story often starts with indignation, feminine rage—ya know, the usual. 🙂 I was watching a pipeline protest while writing the All the King’s Men series, which is about two best friends, one Yavapai-Apache and one Black, who start a political consulting firm to elect leaders who will support their beliefs. And they fall in love with the most amazing guys along the way, who respect and cherish them for who they are.

Most of my books are story first: I start thinking about who is the most natural fit for a scenario, or maybe contrarily, who would be the worst fit for this scenario to make it even more interesting, and the character begins to form. The original germ of Before I Let Go was just a happily ever after gone wrong. We rarely see what happens after The End. This was an HEA that didn’t hold up, and I wanted to restore it against all odds.

What surprised me about the story was how very complex Josiah’s journey was. He’s a Black man who desperately needs a safe space to unpack grief and trauma from his past but has been culturally conditioned to not admit it. I wanted to address how stigmatized mental illness/difficulties are for everyone, but especially in the Black community and especially for Black men. I didn’t even realize how much depth was in his character at first. There is quite a bit of on-page therapy in this romance, and it felt like the therapist was uncovering things I didn’t know about Josiah before we got into each session. Almost like there were things the character was hiding from me until we were in a safe space. 

You started out as a traditionally published author, then self-published your last several titles and are now back in traditional publishing. What has that journey been like? What led you to start self-publishing your work, and why did you decide the time was right to return to traditional publishing?
I’m a control freak. I enjoy the process of creating not just the story but the whole experience: the cover, the marketing, the audiobook. I enjoy influencing it all. I started traditionally publishing years ago because I honestly didn’t know another way. Self-publishing was just taking off. Not that many were doing it at the time. I wrote a story and pitched my first finished novel to an agent and an editor at a writer’s conference “for practice.” Go figure, they both signed me. It happened really fast for me, and I don’t regret my path. I learned a lot about myself from those early releases.

I soon realized I wanted to stretch my wings, test my creativity, my judgment and my business instincts in a way that self-publishing afforded me. I’ve built my career primarily through self-publishing but want to expand it through diverse distribution. I released Queen Move, which became an instant USA Today bestseller and has been optioned for television, though a small press, and now I’m partnering with a large publisher to send Before I Let Go out into the world. I’m a hybrid author who is always looking for new pockets of readers. Some of those places I can reach on my own, and some I’ll reach partnering with someone else. I’ve embraced that as part of my business strategy. It’s all my brand. It’s all my name and my integrity as a storyteller. I want readers to know that no matter where they find my work, it will be consistently mine.

We are writing in a time when you never know what will happen for a story. If it resonates with the right people at the right time and in the right way, it may not matter who is distributing it; it can go further than you ever imagined. So I focus on writing great stories I’m proud of and seeing who finds them.

What’s your favorite trope to read? To write?
I love a good widow book. That sounds morbid, but I do love reading widows. And if the husband’s best friend was secretly pining for her all this time, even better. That sounds bad, huh?

To write . . . second chance, for sure. I think most of my books are second chance. I like love stories that stretch over time; to see how these people change and grow through the years. How they are “ready” for each other in a way that maybe they weren’t the first time around.

What are you reading and loving right now?
I recently read Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola, and all I want is to be a Black Brit on a college campus now. It was brilliant and modern and heartfelt and slow-burny. 10 out of 10 recommend. Already thirsty for the sequel. I also loved The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian and A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall. Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith is fantastic, but brace your heart for a bit of a nonconventional HEA. It puts you in the mind of Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You (which is essential reading to me), but it’s more of a love story, not a typical HEA romance.

Photo of Kennedy Ryan by Perrywinkle Photography.

The author shows the work required for a happily ever after in Before I Let Go, an emotional second-chance romance.
Review by

Author Olivia Dade returns with the highly anticipated third installment in her Spoiler Alert series, Ship Wrecked, an opposites-attract romance that begins with a one-night stand.

Sociable, lively Swedish actor Maria Ivarsson and reserved Wisconsinite Peter Reedton share a steamy night together, after which Maria sneaks out while Peter is asleep. Neither thought they’d ever see each other again, but they’re abruptly reunited when they both land a role on “Gods of the Gates,” an epic fantasy TV show. Their chemistry in the bedroom definitely translates on screen, but old baggage also bubbles up during their scenes together. Maria’s actions tapped into Peter’s long-held insecurities, and even though she regrets leaving the way she did, he would rather just move on. Peter’s not about to ruin both of their acting careers by airing out their dirty laundry on set, so they work together as amicably as possible—for six whole years. But as the show approaches its final episode, their pent-up feelings begin to resurface. Can Peter and Maria walk away a second time? 

Ship Wrecked is quite the slow-burn romance, given that its central couple keep each other at a professional arm’s length for over half a decade. Maria wants to make things up to Peter but worries that doing so will reveal the depths of her attraction to him, which never fades. As they settle into a cordial working relationship that slowly evolves into a friendship, they realize how well they complement each other. The affable and brash Maria gets Peter out of his shell, and Peter, who is an absolute sweetheart and a true cinnamon roll, provides a calm shelter where Maria can rest. It’s particularly lovely to see Dade’s passion for promoting body diversity in romance extend to a male character, an area in which the genre still has a lot of room for improvement.  

This rom-com definitely emphasizes the “com,” with Dade’s trademark blend of nerdy love, sexy banter and comedic shenanigans, but there’s still space for more serious notes, such as Peter’s and Maria’s individual struggles with the mental and emotional toll of being in the spotlight. Ship Wrecked is a charming, tender exploration of acceptance, celebrity and getting a second chance to make a lasting and loving impression.

In Olivia Dade’s charming, sexy Ship Wrecked, a one-night stand leads to a six-year slow-burn romance.
Review by

Love is hard. And when trauma is added to the mix, the partner you adore can struggle to be the partner you need.

Kennedy Ryan’s latest contemporary romance, Before I Let Go, is dedicated to the “strong girls . . . hustlers . . . [and] superwomen,” all of which could be used to describe heroine Yasmen Wade. Yasmen built a charmed and idyllic life with Josiah, her college sweetheart-turned-husband. Partners in life and in business, the two ran a successful restaurant together. But their happiness came to a screeching halt when their third child was stillborn, which was only the start of a series of heartbreaks. In the emotional aftermath, Yasmen’s grief became paralyzing. She sought mental health counseling, but Josiah was unwilling to seek therapy with her. Yasmen had to battle the darkness alone, which created a rift between her and her husband. Rather than taking refuge in each other, as “Team Wade” had done for nearly two decades, they divorced. However, their hearts never truly let go.

For Kennedy Ryan, love isn’t easy—that’s what makes it so precious.

This is a story of resilience, redemption and second chances; it’s heavy but hopeful. With meticulously detailed prose, Ryan creates characters who are deeply relatable, so compelling and lushly drawn that they feel like old friends. Yasmen and Josiah’s story serves as a reminder that the best things in life are worth fighting for, and that a successful relationship requires more than simply loving each other. Before I Let Go is an ode to supporting the emotional needs of your partner and learning to be gentle with yourself.

Kennedy Ryan’s Before I Let Go is a heavy but hopeful second-chance romance that follows a divorced couple who find their way back to each other.
Review by

Who doesn’t love a good renovation story? Whether it’s the experts of “Queer Eye” making lifestyle improvements, Marie Kondo organizing clutter, the beloved hosts of “What Not to Wear” upgrading a wardrobe (still waiting on that reboot, TLC) or the “Property Brothers” giving a home a much-needed tuneup, we all like to watch professionals take a mess and rework, renew and restore it into something beautiful. There’s a hopefulness to renovations, too, in the idea that everything has hidden potential just waiting to be brought to light. And the main couple of Ashley Herring Blake’s Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail? Well, let’s just say they could use some touch-ups. 

Carpenter Jordan Everwood has been spiraling since the abrupt, heartbreaking end of her marriage. On top of that, the place she loves most—her beloved grandmother’s historic Everwood Inn—is on the verge of closing. Their only hope is a renovation covered by “Innside America,” a popular TV show. But filming the show means working with glamorous, ice-cold designer Astrid Parker, with whom Jordan has a disastrous meet-ugly. Astrid is beautiful, composed, organized, efficient—and also desperately unhappy, locked in a life that doesn’t bring her any joy. And now, to save her stalled career, she’ll have to work with the exasperating, sarcastic, gorgeous, immensely talented Jordan, who thwarts and upstages her at every turn.

Far from being a match made in heaven, Astrid and Jordan seem more like a lit match and a fuse. It takes time for them to let down their walls, reveal their vulnerabilities and allow themselves to be seen and valued for who they really are. While Astrid is the eponymous character, Jordan’s journey actually proves the most moving. Practically from page one, it’s clear that Astrid’s relationship with her mother is toxic and that she’ll only find happiness when she learns to stand on her own. Her discovery of what truly brings her joy is sweet and satisfying (satisfying in every way—this is a romance novel, after all), but the plot threads feel fairly familiar. On the other hand, the lessons Jordan has to learn are not as immediately clear. I felt like I discovered along with her what she needed to hear someone say to her, what she needed to uncover about herself and, ultimately, what she deserved from life.

Why do we like renovation stories so much? Maybe because all of us are works in progress, too. There’s always the hope that, like Astrid and Jordan, we might end up renovated and restored into exactly who we’re meant to be—with exactly the partner we’re meant to have.

Ashley Herring Blake’s follow-up to Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is a hot and hopeful renovation romance.

Colleen Hoover writes romances that are emotional roller coasters and thrillers that keep readers up into the wee hours of the night, and they’ve made her one of BookTok’s biggest success stories. Her novels (Verity, It Ends with Us and many more) are among the app’s most recommended reads, racing up the bestseller list years after their initial releases. It Starts With Us, the eagerly awaited sequel to It Ends With Us, arrives October 18, and to mark its release, we asked Hoover a few questions about her bookstore bucket list and most cherished library memories.

What are your bookstore rituals? For example, where do you go first in a store? Where do you go last before checking out?
I always check out the new releases first to see what I might not have. Then I check sections that might contain my own books so I can secretly sign them. I browse for a while and then love looking at all the nonbook-related stuff near checkout. I’m a sucker for journals and pens. 

Tell us about your favorite library from when you were a child.
My school library was my favorite. We were only allowed to go as a class once a week, but I’d have my books read hours after visiting. I’m pretty sure I read every book in that library multiple times. 

While writing your books, has there ever been a librarian or bookseller who was especially helpful?
When I first started writing, I’d write in the coffee shop of our local Hastings. The staff there were always so encouraging when I would come in to work. Unfortunately they closed a few years ago, but I did a lot of my early writing in that store and remember it so fondly. 

Do you have a favorite library from literature?
The Midnight Library! 😉

Do you have a “bucket list” of bookstores and libraries you’d love to visit but haven’t yet?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit or sign at my dream stores on tour. The Strand in NYC was a big bucket list place to sign, so when it finally happened, it felt very surreal. 

How is your own personal library organized?
It used to be organized alphabetically, but now it’s by color. 

What’s the last thing you bought at your local bookstore?
I actually founded our local bookstore, The Bookworm Box, which is a charity bookstore where all the books are donated and signed by the author, and all the proceeds go to charity (usually a different one every month). The last thing I bought was a set of my books for a girl who came by after hours when I happened to be there. 

Bookstore cats or bookstore dogs?
Cats!

What is your ideal bookstore-browsing snack?
You don’t eat food while touching new books! That’s a no-no.

Picture of Colleen Hoover © Chad Griffith.

The reigning queen of BookTok reflects on her life among the stacks.
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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.

True love is hard won but all the more precious in this month's best love stories.
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Think life is full of bureaucracy? Try death! According to Therese Beharrie’s A Ghost in Shining Armor, there’s a whole system at work once someone dies to help their soul move on to whatever comes next. For some, this means lingering as ghosts, visible only to rare humans like Gemma Daniels who help them resolve unfinished business. For others, death comes with an opportunity to take on an assignment . . . and maybe change their fate. This is what happens to Levi Walker: If he succeeds as a guardian angel, he”ll come back to life. And the person he’s been assigned to help just happens to be Gemma. 

Gemma’s not freaked out at being approached by a ghost, given all the spirits she’s helped since she saw her first ghost at age 18. But unfortunately, her and Levi’s first meeting goes a little off the rails. If Gemma doesn’t acknowledge ghosts, they stay insubstantial and invisible to everyone but her. But if she acknowledges the spirit—touches them, talks to them or points them out to someone else, they become corporeal and visible to everyone. And because she accidentally acknowledges Levi, not realizing he’s a ghost, he now appears alive, leading to great confusion from her friends and family about the new man in her life. That scrutiny is the last thing she wants as she grapples with new information about her past: She has a twin sister (the heroine of Beharrie’s previous romance, And They Lived Happily Ever After). Levi was sent to help Gemma process the discovery that her twin was left in foster care while Gemma was adopted. 

If this premise sounds a little zany, that’s because it is. There are plenty of hijinks, starting with Gemma and Levi’s impulsive meet cute kiss and continuing through fake dates, awkward cohabitation moments and all the banter and snark you’d expect from a rom-com. But Beharrie includes deeper character insights that balance the fluff. A Ghost in Shining Armor is as richly imagined as it is deeply moving, while being quite a lot of fun, as well. The tone can be a bit uneven in spots as Beharrie balances the humor and the pathos, but her characters are endearing enough to carry readers through.

A Ghost in Shining Armor is as richly imagined as it is deeply moving—and quite a lot of fun, as well.
Behind the Book by

The titular character of Mazey Eddings’ Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake is dealing with some very rom-com-appropriate problems—namely, that her two-night stand with a hot Australian guy resulted in an unexpected pregnancy, and she’s now trying to platonically cohabitate with him. But alongside all the tropey hijinks, Lizzie also gains a better understanding of and more acceptance for her attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As Eddings explains in this essay, that combination of rom-com fizz and a neurodiverse perspective is central to what she hopes her books can achieve.


Getting my ADHD diagnosis was like receiving a key to a door I’d been trying my whole life to unlock. On the other side was an expansive horizon of endless possibilities. I finally had words and a framework and tools to understand how my brain operates: why my thoughts do loop-the-loops when I’m supposed to be focusing, why my mind deep dives into special interests or makes me avoid certain tasks. It felt so indescribably good to finally understand that I wasn’t lazy or undisciplined or reckless, as neurotypical society so often branded me, but was instead wired in a way that is worth celebrating. 

And after seeing myself in this new diagnosis, I was hungry to see myself reflected in fiction too. 

Unfortunately, people with neurodivergencies are often represented in stories that focus on their trauma or hardships. We rarely see these characters experiencing unfettered joy or having desires, sex, love; so many amazing human experiences aren’t explored through the unique lens of neurodivergence. ADHD, in particular, is a condition often represented from a male-centric, adolescent point of view. Even in nonfiction, ADHD is often written about by neurotypical people with an undertone of what ADHD-ers can do to conform and make life “easier” for the neurotypicals in their life, as though the ADHD neurotype is something to be ashamed of or is a burden to others. 

It’s not. 

It’s wonderful and challenging and unique and nuanced, and something we need to talk more about in a positive light to destigmatize it. 

Read our review of ‘Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake’ by Mazey Eddings.

Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake, my sophomore novel set in the same world as my debut, A Brush With Love, features a woman in her late 20s dealing with ADHD and the general chaos of adulthood. Lizzy is messy. Impulsive. Clever. Wonderful. I love her deeply. But she’s been raised (as many neurodiverse people are) with the narrative that her disability is a burden to others and something that must be leashed instead of reveled in. She navigates workplaces and relationships and the world at large while being constantly reminded that these systems and places weren’t designed to accommodate the way her brain works.

This isn’t a novel about how Lizzie “overcomes” her disability. It’s a story about how Lizzie accepts her disability, unlearns the internalized ableism attached to it and honors her diagnosis and her beautiful brain, finding comfort in her wonderful bits and her frustrating ones. It’s a story of breaking away from people and systems that tell us we need to reconfigure ourselves to fit. It’s a love letter to neurodiverse people and the found families that not only accommodate us but celebrate us, giving us the support to unabashedly thrive because we all deserve to exist in spaces that are excited to welcome us.  

Writing about neurodiverse characters means the story won’t be relatable to every reader. The pacing of neurodiverse love stories won’t always match what we see with neurotypical relationships, and we need to get comfortable with that fact! People who are neurodiverse often experience trust, connection and intimacy at different speeds than neurotypicals, and it’s important to honor that. It’s time to lean into special interests and disorganized thoughts. It’s time to talk about living with sensory issues and varied processing, to put on the page what makes the world more accessible so everyone can thrive.

Every brain is beautiful. Every brain is worthy of profound love and supportive friendships and, above all, the happiest of endings.

Photo of Mazey Eddings by Ben Eisdorfer.

The author of Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake shares why neurodiverse romances are so important.

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