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Cat Sebastian’s We Could Be So Good is a sweet workplace romance that follows two men who work at a newspaper in late 1950s New York City. It reads like a love letter to the queer pulp novels of the era, but with an infusion of hope not often seen in literature about the time period. 

Nick Russo is a gruff, working-class journalist from Brooklyn who has worked his way up the ladder to become a lead journalist for The Chronicle. Charmingly naive Andy Fleming is the begrudging heir to his family media empire and Nick’s future boss. Nick is prepared to hate Andy, who he sees as a pretty boy who has had everything handed to him, but that’s easier said than done. During their first encounter, Nick finds Andy literally stuck—his tie jammed in a filing cabinet. Andy’s lovable mess charms the grumpy journalist, and soon Nick is helping Andy with small, everyday tasks like keeping track of keys as well as bigger issues like navigating the politics of the paper. Nick, who has long known he is gay, is content to merely pine for his hapless friend. But then Andy begins to question his own feelings for Nick and whether they could be more than platonic.

We Could Be So Good takes place in the oft-romanticized late 1950s, which are a particularly fascinating and high-stakes backdrop for a queer historical romance. It would be easy to fill both men with shame and self-loathing, given the threats to their safety. And yet this book is filled with so much hope. The queer scene was beginning to blossom in this era, with pulp novels acting like a road map for the LGBTQ+ community. Nick and Andy read these books, and Sebastian incorporates plot devices and tropes from them into her work. However, instead of the shame and violence that often accompanied contemporary 1950s narratives, Sebastian gives Nick and Andy a safe space to explore their sexuality. They even experience some (albeit minor) degree of acceptance from their families. These refreshing choices prevent the story from being bogged down by the toxicity of the time period, allowing the reader to experience queer optimism if not outright joy.

With We Could Be So Good, Sebastian adds a tender, heartening stunner of a love story to her already-impressive body of work.

Cat Sebastian’s midcentury romance is a tender, heartening stunner of a love story.
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The True Love Experiment

Romance blooms on reality TV in Christina Lauren’s The True Love Experiment. Celebrated romance author Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is struggling with writer’s block, worrying about whether she’ll ever find love and going through a sexual drought. When she receives an offer to star on the titular dating show, she agrees, hoping to use the program as a way to present her work in a positive light. Producer Connor Prince usually makes short nature docuseries but bows to pressure from his boss to make something more profitable. Cue Fizzy and Connor trying to ignore their immediate attraction; he’s cast eight other guys for her to date, after all. Fizzy is funny, fast-talking and brash, while Connor is a half-Brit single dad whose staid side is overcome by Fizzy’s insistence that they prioritize joy. A delicious, drawn-out happy ending caps this delightful, heartwarming and sex-positive story.

The Duchess Takes a Husband

A bargain for bedsport lessons takes center stage in Harper St. George’s The Duchess Takes a Husband, in which a Gilded Age widow seizes control of her life. Camille, an American heiress who married into the British aristocracy, suffered during her marriage to her abusive husband and was never fully accepted in London society. But now that her husband has died, she’s free to pursue her attraction to Jacob Thorne, co-owner of the infamous Montague Club. He needs a fake fiancée for business reasons, and Camille will play the part if he helps her figure out whether she can enjoy sex. Soon, Jacob discovers he wants to please Camille in all things, encouraging her to assert herself in the bedroom and to explore her burgeoning interest in the women’s suffrage movement. This swoonworthy romance is filled with yearning, tender sensuality and heated love scenes that set fire to the page. The glimpses of the suffrage movement are fascinating, and Camille’s growth is especially gratifying.

The Viscount Who Vexed Me

Julia London tugs at the heart with her new Victorian romance, The Viscount Who Vexed Me. Harriet “Hattie” Woodchurch may have friends among the ton, but she doesn’t have a fortune of her own. She takes a position as secretary to the new Viscount Abbott, Mateo Vincente, who is also the duke of the fictional country of Santiava. Hattie knows he’s above her, but she can’t stifle her attraction to the reserved, quiet gentleman. For his part, Mateo finds himself most comfortable with his down-to-earth scribe, even as pressure grows for him to choose an aristocratic wife. Hattie’s resolve to earn her independence and Mateo’s unconventional interests (he bakes!) make the pair easy to root for as their mutual longing grows. A colorful cast of characters, including frenemies, wicked little brothers and a determined matchmaker, adds to the pleasures of this entertaining tale.

Christina Lauren returns! Plus, catch two heartwarming historical romances that will utterly charm you in this month’s romance column.
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A Lady’s Guide to Scandal

A young widow gets a second chance at happiness in A Lady’s Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin. After a miserable 10-year marriage, Eliza, Lady Somerset, is finally free—and rich, if she can keep the Somerset name scandal-free. That seems easy enough for the timid and soft-spoken Eliza, but when latent desires arise, she travels to Bath to take up a paintbrush and take in some of what society has to offer . . . including the attentions of the wicked Lord Melville. The plot thickens with the return of Eliza’s first love, who has never forgotten her. With two such attractive yet different men vying for her heart, can Eliza break old habits, be her own person and reach for what she truly wants? This kisses-only tale is a delight, and readers will be guessing just who Eliza finds her happy ever after with until the very end.

A Rulebook for Restless Rogues

Two old friends become more in Jess Everlee’s Victorian romance A Rulebook for Restless Rogues. David Forester and Noah Clarke have been friends ever since David appointed himself Noah’s protector in boarding school. David now runs The Curious Fox, a queer club in London, and he still looks after Noah, a talented tailor who spends some nights as his alter ego, Miss Penelope Primrose. David cares for all the patrons of his club and tries to keep them safe in a time when they could be jailed or worse. When The Curious Fox’s owner threatens to shut it down, David’s life is thrown off balance just as he realizes his feelings for Noah might go beyond friendship. Readers will sympathize with the difficulties David and Noah face dealing with the law, their families and the risk of changing their long-standing relationship in this sweet and satisfying romance.

Play to Win

Play to Win by Jodie Slaughter offers up a delicious premise: Stuck-in-a-rut nail tech Miriam Butler wins millions in the lottery—but for legal reasons, she has to alert her estranged husband, construction worker Leo Vaughn. Miriam offers Leo a generous lump sum to sign divorce papers. But this new opportunity gives Leo a chance to rethink his life, and he realizes his love for Miriam never died. Can they make a second chance work? Of course it’s delightful to imagine an end to financial problems, but Slaughter shows that Miriam and Leo still have to overcome the identity issues and expectations that once broke them apart. Told in their no-holds-barred voices, this romance is sexually frank, starkly intimate and often sizzling.

Sophie Irwin’s Regency-set novel boasts an impressively unpredictable love triangle, plus standouts from Jess Everlee and Jodie Slaughter in this month’s romance column.
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In A Rogue at Stonecliffe, Candace Camp takes readers on a wild adventure full of romance and suspense in Regency England. 

More than a decade ago, the love of Annabeth Winfield’s life left without a word. Forced to wonder if she made it all up in her head, Annabeth begrudgingly attempted to get on with her life. She clearly didn’t mean as much to Sloane Rutherford as he meant to her. With time, Annabeth finds herself engaged to the perfectly fine, albeit a little boring, Nathan. So naturally, that’s when Sloane returns, warning Annabeth that she is in trouble.

Sloane has actually spent the last decade as a spy and is attempting to leave that life behind him when a ruthless, anonymous blackmailer threatens Annabeth. He is desperate to keep her safe, but the plucky Annabeth is not about to let Sloane lock her in a parlor. As the stakes increase and the two find themselves constantly together while trying to stop the blackmailer, old feelings rise to the surface and they wonder if there isn’t a bit of unfinished business between them.

A cornerstone of the historical romance subgenre with a mile-long backlist, Camp knows a thing or two about creating compelling characters. While the blackmailing plotline is often confusing, the love story is on point. The chemistry between Sloane and Annabeth absolutely crackles, and it’s perfectly believable that, despite being separated for a decade, these two would still be head over heels for each other. Folks who love a Regency romance rife with palpable sexual tension and intrigue will have a wonderful time reading A Rogue at Stonecliffe.

Those in search of a Regency romance rife with palpable sexual tension and intrigue will have a wonderful time reading A Rogue at Stonecliffe.
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Kristin Vayden returns to her Cambridge Brotherhood series with In the Eyes of the Earl, which pairs a scholarly heroine with an aristocrat who moonlights as a spy. 

Collin Morgan, Earl of Penderdale, has been suspended from his sensitive position at the War Office because someone has assumed his identity and is using it to commit crimes. However, Collin subscribes to the notion that if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. He embarks on his own investigation, following the trail to Cambridge and reuniting with an old friend who is now a professor. What he doesn’t expect is to immediately clash with his friend’s tenacious daughter. 

Like many women who dreamed of academic pursuits during the Regency, Elizabeth Essex is limited by her gender. Her father’s status means she’s tolerated in academic spaces, but her studies are rarely taken seriously. Elizabeth secretly teaches a small, close-knit group of women, and Collin’s presence jeopardizes what she’s worked so hard to protect. She offers to help Collin, despite their clashing personalities, as it will allow her to keep tabs on him and prevent him from uncovering her scandalous activities.

Collin and Elizabeth are a well-matched couple who clearly appreciate each other’s independence, wit and intelligence, and Collin’s spycraft experience pairs perfectly with Elizabeth’s love of analysis and research. As they banter their way through the investigation, they share thrilling deductions as a form of foreplay, lending a sprightly quality to the romance that balances the serious nature of Collin’s predicament. 

In the Eyes of the Earl is an exemplary entry point to the Cambridge Brotherhood series and may be the best installment thus far. Vayden sets a rollicking pace as she combines an engaging romance with a perplexing whodunit, resulting in a love story that’s fresh, fun and full of secrets.

Kristin Vayden’s fresh, fun In the Eyes of the Earl combines an engaging Regency romance with a perplexing whodunit.
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Julie Anne Long’s How to Tame a Wild Rogue is a joyful, sexy and stylishly written Regency romance that reunites readers with the quirky found family of the Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house.

The sixth installment of Long’s Palace of Rogues series introduces its main couple, infamous  privateer Lorcan St. Leger and Lady Daphne Worth, in what is possibly the single greatest meet-cute this reviewer has ever read. After her father gambled away the family wealth and her fiancé left her for a governess, Daphne was forced to find work as a lady’s companion. But when her employer’s husband makes a pass at her, Daphne ties together her bedsheets and hoists herself out the window to escape him—only to find that the barrel she was relying on to help her reach the ground has been moved. Lorcan, curious as to why a beautiful woman is dangling out a window, decides to offer a hand. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, the pair take shelter at the Grand Palace on the Thames. In order to share the only remaining suite at the boarding house, the two must pretend to be husband and wife, but real feelings soon begin to take hold. As the tension between her and Lorcan escalates, Daphne must decide if she is willing to take a risk for love.

This excellent book will be best understood by those who are already familiar with the wonderful inhabitants of the Grand Palace on the Thames; newcomers will most likely want to start at the beginning of the series. The Grand Palace itself is a key part of what makes How to Tame a Wild Rogue so enjoyable, as Long is able to revisit a place that has already been the setting of so many love stories. She tells the story not only from Lorcan’s and Daphne’s perspectives, but also from the points of view of Angelique and Delilah, the owners of the Grand Palace who have starred in previous books in the series. Fans of these characters and their dashing husbands will be delighted by the insight Long provides into their lives post-happily ever after. They and their regular residents all feel like family, providing equal parts comedic relief and suspense. However, the strength of the supporting cast doesn’t draw attention from the compelling two main characters. Lorcan and Daphne are both desperate to be chosen and loved, and they respond with such tenderness to the possibility of healing from their pasts and building a new life with each other.

Long proves once again that she’s one of the queens of Regency romance in the wonderful How to Tame a Wild Rogue.

Julie Anne Long returns to the Grand Palace on the Thames with the utterly romantic How to Tame a Wild Rogue.
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Cruel Seduction

Think you know your Greek myths? Think again, and keep thinking, because Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series is a twisted web that keeps getting twistier. Cruel Seduction, the fifth entry in the series, starts with a wedding, a shaky alliance . . . and a rabid populace that has just learned that they could potentially become powerful beyond measure if they’re willing to get their hands a little bloody.

The gods are here, but not quite in the way you might expect them: The modern city of Olympus is ruled by the Thirteen, who are headed by Zeus, but that’s not actually his name; it’s his title. All of the Thirteen are titles, and some of them were won fairly recently. The new Aphrodite, Eris Kasios, has only been in the position for about a year, but she’s been heavily involved in politics all her life as the daughter of the former Zeus and the sister of the current one. And the new Hephaestus, Theseus Vitalis, is an even more recent arrival who won the title by taking advantage of an obscure rule and killing his predecessor. The rest of the Thirteen have agreed not to end his life in retaliation, but only if he marries Aphrodite so they can gain some control over him.

Longtime fans of the series will appreciate the way Robert keeps raising the stakes. Tensions are cresting, and multiple assassination attempts, complex plots to undermine the city’s stability and hints of a dangerous new adversary lurking in the shadows create a palpable sense of impending doom. Mixed in with all of that is a heady, barbed romance full of lush encounters and sharp edges. Hephaestus and Aphrodite try to use sex to one-up and control each other, and things get heated in a hurry, especially when extra players join the game. Aphrodite seduces Hephaestus’ foster sister, Pandora, a calculated move that leads to a startlingly genuine connection. Meanwhile, Hephaestus is stunned to find himself bonding with—and falling for—Aphrodite’s ex, Adonis. The four characters come together in sensual detail in many permutations, and Robert contrasts the growing tenderness between them with the building chaos outside the bedroom.

If you like easy, escapist romances, this series may not be for you. In just about every way, Dark Olympus is a lot: a lot of varied, explicit sex, often with light BDSM elements; a lot of tense, violent conflict; and a whole lot of story to keep up with. Readers who haven’t read the first four books in the series will come in feeling like they’ve transferred schools as a high school senior, with three previous years of relationship sagas, messy in-group fighting, complex hookups and breakups, and gnarled family trees to sort through. But for those looking to experience something heated and dangerous, Cruel Seduction will be just right.

Marry Me by Midnight

The Cinderella story has been tackled from dozens of different angles. The Brothers Grimm took a crack at it, Rossini based an opera on it, the first film version dates back to 1899 and various remakes include multiple Disney versions, Jerry Lewis’ Cinderfella and plenty more besides. It’s a testament to the enduring strength of the story that there always seems to be another way to put a fresh spin on it. The latest is Felicia Grossman’s Marry Me by Midnight, a Jewish, genderswapped Cinderella set in 1832 London.

Grossman’s “prince” is Isabelle Lira, a Jewish heiress with marriage on her mind. Her father has recently died, and she aspires to honor his legacy by taking his position in his surety company. The problem is that the Berabs, her father’s partners, are threatening to upend the business if she does not agree to marry one of them. To get a better position at the bargaining table, she needs a husband who’s a force to be reckoned with. So Isabelle goes all out to find him, holding a series of three festivals and inviting all the eligible Jewish men in the community. To stack the deck in her favor, she decides to dig up some dirt on her potential suitors and hires Aaron Ellenberg to assist. This Cinderfella’s plight isn’t due to an evil stepmother, but rather a lack of family and resources. A poor orphan, Aaron works as a custodian at the synagogue, leading a quiet life until Isabelle sweeps in and changes everything.

It’s remarkable how genderswapping a story can totally shift the balance of power. Isabelle is as elite as any fairy-tale prince, and yet simply because she’s a woman, her husband hunt takes on a new and far more urgent tone. Likewise, Aaron, as a man, has much more agency than your typical Cinderella. He’s able to live independently, chart his own course, even contemplate the idea of starting over in America. But he faces a different kind of judgment, too, with his low social status treated as a personal failure rather than a result of his circumstances. Meanwhile, Grossman’s choice to set Aaron and Isabelle’s romance at a particularly delicate time for the Jewish community in the U.K.—when legislation was being debated that would eventually guarantee Jewish men the same rights as all English men—adds a special poignancy. For all the wealth and privilege that most of these characters possess, there’s still a sense of otherness, of striving for acceptance that might be coming . . . or might be delayed yet again. In this troubled atmosphere, Aaron and Isabelle’s decision to choose love, courage and kindness over everything else resonates that much louder and feels that much sweeter.

The messy relationships of Greek mythology get messier and the fairy-tale love story of Cinderella gets genderswapped in these two books.
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The Blonde Identity

Ally Carter will keep readers laughing with The Blonde Identity. A woman awakens in Paris, unable to remember her name or why she’s there. Soon she encounters a mysterious hot guy who claims she’s an operative named “Alex” being pursued by international spies. When bullets start flying, it seems he’s right, and as they make a run for it, they learn a thing or two about each other. Her name is actually Zoe, she must be Alex’s identical twin and the hot guy, Jake Sawyer, is a spy in his own right. The pace never lets up and neither does the fun in this sexy fluff of a story. To truly enjoy it, readers will need to suspend disbelief and a few of the laws of physics, but who cares when the characters are so charming, the antics so entertaining and the plot so cinematic? Known for her young adult titles, Carter seamlessly makes her adult debut with this highly enjoyable romantic suspense novel. Don’t miss it!

Give the Devil His Duke

Wrongs are righted, arrogance is humbled and good deeds are rewarded in Anna Bradley’s Give the Devil His Duke. Penniless Lady Francesca “Franny” Stanhope has worked up the courage to confront her greedy uncle in hopes of securing financial help for her ailing mother. But at her uncle’s home, Franny encounters Giles Drew, the Duke of Basingstoke and her cousin’s new fiancé. Franny distrusts Giles—his father caused her own family’s ruin—but he’s undeniably handsome and more than a little suave. As they encounter each other at society events, Giles can’t help his preoccupation with his bride-to-be’s relative, which does not go unnoticed by the ton’s gossips. Then scandal forces Giles to go all out to save his reputation and hers—by marrying Franny. Balls, gowns and friends destined for their own installments in this new series contribute to the charming ambiance of this sweet and sexy Regency romance. 

Someone Just Like You

Childhood frenemies unite for their parents’ joint anniversary party in Meredith Schorr’s Someone Just Like You, set amid New York City’s vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Molly Blum grew up hating and pranking Jude Stark, who gave as good as he got. But surely they can team up to organize a celebration without reverting to old ways. Except . . . no. Jude is more irritating than ever. Family and friends point out that every woman he dates looks just like Molly, and she’s been dating a series of guys who look just like Jude. Can they settle past grievances and figure out why the sparks between them now seem sexy rather than angry? The first-person narration hums with Molly’s energy and honesty in this pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com.

Plus, a charming Regency love story and a pitch-perfect enemies-to-lovers rom-com in this month’s romance column.
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Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas is 90% love story and 10% mild-to-severe supernatural interruptions of said love story.

Magdalena “Nena” Narváez and Néstor Duarte are star-crossed sweethearts. Nena is the daughter of a powerful ranchero, Don Feliciano, while Néstor is the poor son of a vaquero, destined to forever work for people like Nena’s family. The story opens with a tragedy when Nena is attacked and nearly killed by a mysterious creature and Néstor, believing her to have actually died, flees the rancho. But the pair is reunited in 1846, when Nena is a healer, Néstor is a soldier and the United States is about to begin its invasion of Mexico.

Nena and Néstor wrestle with their need for each other, the societal strictures keeping them apart and their years of separation, resentment and grief—all while dealing with ongoing attacks from either vampires or United States soldiers. Nena and Néstor suffer from a classic case of poor communication; they step on each others’ feet with bitter retorts and clumsy attempts at small talk. Cañas writes from each character’s perspective, illustrating Nena and Néstor’s warped views of each other in brooding vignettes. As the war rolls on, Cañas inserts quiet moments where Nena and Néstor explore their disaffection with each other, draw out their pain and knead their emotional scars into renewed bonds. It’s a painful process, but thanks to Cañas’ skill, there are moments of joy and tear-inducing sweetness.

While the romance is an unquestionable centerpiece, Cañas does a fantastic job bringing the setting to life. She sketches out the life of a vaquero in small details, such as how Néstor loosens saddle cinches at the end of the day and checks boots for scorpions, and takes time to note the styling of characters’ clothes and hair, immersing the story in the beauty of mid-19th century Mexico.

Now a reader might, at this point, be wondering about the elephant in the room, the one with fangs and a taste for blood. And the reviewer will answer: Vampires are definitely in the book. They are moderately frightening. They are primarily a plot device to move the story forward. Readers looking for a scary horror novel will not find it in Vampires of El Norte, but they will find a dramatic and well-rendered setting, a drizzle of animalistic vampires and an engaging story about two young lovers who want nothing more than the freedom and strength to be together in a world determined to rip them apart (sometimes literally).

Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas is a well-rendered and moving love story—punctuated with occasional attacks by the titular creatures.
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A Beautiful Disguise

Roseanna M. White begins her Imposters series, set in Edwardian London, with the soul-stirring historical romance A Beautiful Disguise, which features a gentle, engrossing love, an eccentric cast and many surprises.

Known for her exaggerated gowns, Lady Marigold Fairfax manages to convince her peers that she is just another member of the elite. But behind her facade is a brave woman who is desperate to save her family’s impecunious estate, so she and her brother, Yates, are working as anonymous private investigators known as the Imposters. Years ago, the Fairfax mansion was host to a traveling circus, and retired circus lions and monkeys still roam the grounds. The circus performers also now live with the Fairfax siblings and are considered part of the family. Lady Marigold and Yates incorporate circus skills gained from this found family into their investigative work.

Sir Merritt Livingstone, an officer working in the War Office Intelligence Division, seeks the services of the Imposters when he suspects possible espionage that could jeopardize a soon-to-be established intelligence branch and, consequently, weaken England’s position against Germany. Along with this central political mystery, A Beautiful Disguise includes many suspenseful scenes and unexpected twists as the Imposters gather information for their various clients.

Lady Marigold struggles to balance her true persona with the false image she projects to protect their secret operations. Although she wishes to show her real identity to Sir Merritt, she is aware of the risks involved in such a disclosure. With Yates’ encouragement, she learns to let down her guard and allow her real self to shine, and soon a romance develops between her and Sir Merritt. A dramatic, rewarding finale concludes this fascinating novel.

He Should Have Told the Bees

In the triumphant contemporary Christian novel He Should Have Told the Bees, Amanda Cox explores the importance of facing childhood trauma and finding family in unexpected places.

Beckett Walsh’s idyllic life is rocked by her father’s sudden death. In addition to dealing with this powerful grief, Beck discovers that her farm, including her treasured apiary, has a new co-owner—Callie Peterson, who learns she was named co-trustee of a farm by a man she never knew. Callie is determined to build her own life while supporting her mother through her substance abuse issues. Although unsure how to proceed, she believes money from selling the farm could help her avoid plunging into debt while paying for her mother’s rehabilitation process. Cox handles difficult topics—including childhood trauma from parental neglect and substance abuse—in a gentle yet realistic way. The characters’ struggles are considered in depth: For years, Callie has grappled with her mother’s broken promises and the effects of growing up in an unstable environment, and Beck has her own painful childhood memories of waiting for her mother to return. Secondary characters have moving stories too, and readers learn more about Beck’s father’s past.

For every difficult emotion in He Should Have Told the Bees, there are just as many uplifting moments. Beck builds a friendship with Fern, a young neighbor who shares Beck’s fascination with bees. Two subtle romantic relationships also infuse the story with compassion and warmth. The facts given about beekeeping are fascinating, and family secrets add a few twists.

Cox’s hopeful, heartwarming novel touches on complicated relationships, the value of friendship and the impact of trauma with great heart and kindness.

The Wings of Poppy Pendleton

Melanie Dobson’s captivating dual-timeline novel The Wings of Poppy Pendleton chronicles the disappearance of a young girl from a castle in New York’s Thousand Islands and, years later, the investigation into her disappearance.

In 1992, Chloe Ridell is determined to safeguard the privacy of her island and protect it from public scrutiny. Eighty-five years earlier, Poppy Pendleton disappeared from a castle that still stands, albeit in ruins, on the same night that her father, Leslie, mysteriously died. Both incidents remain unsolved. When a girl named Emma with connections to the Pendleton family shows up at Chloe’s doorstep, Chloe decides to look into the castle’s past. With help from a reporter named Logan, Chloe works to unravel a baffling mystery that could save Emma’s life. Chloe’s bond with Logan also helps her to navigate difficult childhood memories and financial issues that could lead to the closure of her candy shop. Meanwhile, Logan grapples with his own past experiences, some of which have been devastating, but he stays committed to doing what is right.

The 1907 island setting comes to life through evocative descriptions of Poppy’s world and that of her parents, Leslie and Amelia, who aspire to be recognized as members of New York’s gilded society. On the night of Leslie’s death and Poppy’s disappearance, the elegantly decorated castle bustles with activity as guests await President Theodore Roosevelt’s arrival. This central mystery is layered and exciting, tracing the story as far back as Amelia’s childhood in England. After Poppy disappears, Amelia tries to build a life for herself, but her past continues to haunt her.

Dobson’s characters find redemption, discover their own strength and experience the power of family relationships to pull us down—or lift us up.

You can go home again with these heartwarming novels, in which the complexities and joys of familial relationships take center stage.
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Love Me Do

Lindsey Kelk’s sparkling Love Me Do is a fish-out-of-water rom-com with a Cyrano twist. Phoebe Chapman arrives in Los Angeles from England seeking a much-needed vacation and a distraction from her ex’s impending nuptials. Her sister was going to host her, but an unexpected business trip leaves Phoebe navigating the Hollywood Hills on her own. She’s fascinated by the neighborhood, by her sister’s sprightly personal trainer, Bel, and particularly by hunky carpenter Ren Garcia in the house next door. But since she’ll only be in town a short time, Phoebe tries to help Bel win the romantic Ren’s heart, using her writing skills to pen a killer love letter. Can this tangled web be straightened out? Kelk offers a golden-hued, fairy-tale vision of LA, complete with a wild celebrity party and a mischievous octogenarian actor. Told from Phoebe’s self-deprecating and charming first-person perspective, Love Me Do is pure fun.

My Rogue to Ruin

The wild Wynchester family is back in Erica Ridley’s My Rogue to Ruin. An artist and forger, Marjorie Wynchester has always been overshadowed by her more flamboyant siblings. While she carries the same fire in her heart to right wrongs, she’s never felt capable of taking the lead on one of their crime-solving endeavors—until now. That fire leads her straight into the den of a notorious blackmailer and into the arms of Lord Adrian Webb, who has had a scandalous reputation ever since being banished from society by his father. But Marjorie sees the goodness in Adrian and as they team up to stop the blackmailer and save Adrian’s sister from ruin, they both begin to see themselves differently and appreciate family in a truer way. Cleverly plotted and filled with nonstop action and the delightful and talented Wynchester clan (including their fabulous woodland pets), this Regency romance will have readers speeding through the pages and smiling all the while.

My Roommate Is a Vampire

The title of Jenna Levine’s debut says it all: My Roommate Is a Vampire. This breezy contemporary romance introduces the reader to Chicagoan Cassie Greenberg, a struggling 32-year-old artist who’s just desperate enough to respond to a too-good-to-be-true Craigslist ad for a roommate. The ad was posted by the awkward and strangely formal Frederick J. Fitzwilliam, who claims to sleep during the day and work at night. Though Cassie’s a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, it takes time for her to suss out that Frederick’s a vamp, but by then, she’s already lusting after her charming, handsome and cool-to-the-touch roommate. Though hundreds of years old, Frederick appreciates Cassie’s looks, her art and just her. With steamy scenes and a bit of danger, this is an amusing, lighter look at love with the undead.

Jenna Levine’s debut romance delights our columnist! Plus a sparkling rom-com and the latest Wynchester love story.
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How does any good romance protagonist woo their intended? Do they leave secret gifts for their love to find? Do they mend a tear in their shirt as an act of service? Whatever it is, it usually isn’t to compare their future lover’s brown eyes to beef stew. And yet, the gruff but kindly Rufus d’Aumesty does exactly that to Luke Doomsday as they begin to circle each other in KJ Charles’ gorgeous and delightful A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel.

It’s been 13 years since the events of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, the first book in Charles’ Doomsday Books duology. Rufus d’Aumesty has found himself unexpectedly named the Earl of Oxney, and has since been saddled with belligerent relatives who refuse to leave his home and are intent on proving his illegitimacy. One such attempt brings Luke, who played a key supporting role in the first novel, to the earl’s door with stories of a secret marriage and his own claim to the title. Luke is a frighteningly competent smuggler-turned-secretary, and Rufus, a career military man, desperately needs help sorting out the affairs of his newfound earldom. Before they know it, their tentative alliance against Rufus’ grasping family blossoms into the tenderest of love affairs. But each man has his secrets, and those secrets threaten to eat away at the very foundation of their relationship. Rufus and Luke must soon ask themselves what exactly they are willing to sacrifice for love.

There is a moment in this book, not quite midway through, when Luke is caught sneaking around the manor by Rufus. Emboldened from weeks of building tension, Luke glares at Rufus and charges him to either “sack me, fuck me, or leave me be.” Phew. Let me tell you, I mopped my brow and then hollered with glee. Charles’ ability to steam up the pages while also producing pure, fangirl-esque joy is a defining trait of her work. There isn’t a ton of waiting to get to the juicy bits in a Charles book, but somehow, she still makes you feel like you’ve spent hours begging for her characters to just kiss already. At times, it can feel like romance readers must choose between spice and plot, but we don’t have to make that choice here: It’s all there, perfectly laid out by an expert writer who unerringly produces novels that are masterfully crafted, deliciously adventurous and so, so horny. A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel is a nonstop, swoony adventure from start to finish.

KJ Charles concludes her Doomsday Books duology with the masterfully crafted, deliciously adventurous and so, so horny Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel.

Our top 10 books of October 2023

October’s Top 10 list includes Alix E. Harrow’s best book yet, plus the long-awaited second novel from Ayana Mathis, a pitch-perfect romance from KJ Charles and a breathtaking debut memoir.
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October's Top 10 list includes Alix E. Harrow's best book yet, plus the long-awaited second novel from Ayana Mathis, a pitch-perfect romance from KJ Charles and a breathtaking debut memoir.

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