A delightful romance that both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype, Book Lovers cements Emily Henry's status as one of the best rom-com writers around.
A delightful romance that both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype, Book Lovers cements Emily Henry's status as one of the best rom-com writers around.

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★ Never a Duke

In Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes, a determined lady teams up with an almost-gentleman to search for women who have gone missing in Regency London. Ned Wentworth, who was adopted into a wealthy ducal family as a child, is intrigued to receive a note asking for aid from Lady Rosalind Kinwood, known for her dedication to charitable causes. Instinct urges him to demur, but Rosalind’s beauty and her fear for her missing lady’s maid calls to him. As Ned and Rosalind meet to discuss his investigation, a slow-burn romance full of understated yet heart-aching yearning begins. Burrowes’ writing style evokes classic Regency romance with its witty repartee and loving attention to clothing. Tortured-yet-tender Ned is an unforgettable hero who learns to value himself as much as those around him do. This is the seventh entry in Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series, and fans will revel in glimpses of past couples and feel delighted that the worthy Ned has found love at last.

Mad for a Mate

MaryJanice Davidson pens a furiously paced, full-of-fun shifter romance in Mad for a Mate. Magnus Berne, a brown werebear of Scottish extraction, is surprised when Verity Lane washes up on the beach of his private island. He’s fascinated by her presence, then even more fascinated to learn she’s a squib—a werecreature that cannot shift—and is part of a club that takes dangerous dares to prove their worth to the world. When fellow club members begin dying, Magnus worries about the lovely Verity, and though usually reclusive, he opens himself up to her world and heart. Nimble-minded readers will delight in Davidson’s almost stream-of-consciousness style and occasional authorial interjections. She never spoon-feeds readers the rules of her paranormal world, which keeps the pace brisk and suits Mad for a Mate’s all-around quirkiness.

When She Dreams

Amanda Quick returns to the glamorous 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, California, in When She Dreams. Intrepid Maggie Lodge resolves to discover who is trying to blackmail her employer, a popular advice columnist. As part of her investigation, she travels to a conference in Burning Cove along with her newly hired (and newly minted) PI, Sam Sage. The conference’s subject intersects with one of Maggie’s personal interests: lucid dreaming, a state in which dreams can act as a conduit to psychic abilities. After a conference attendee’s suspicious death and an encounter with a scientist who is obsessed with Maggie’s abilities as a lucid dreamer, the pair realize this might be much more than a case of simple blackmail. Maggie’s can-do attitude finds a perfect complement in ex-cop Sam’s world-weariness. Falling in love is an unexpected delight for both of them, but longtime fans will not be surprised by Quick’s imagination and mastery of storytelling, which never fail to entertain.

Tired of gloomy vampires and brooding werewolves? Two lighthearted, fizzily fun paranormals, plus a truly unforgettable Regency hero, await you in this month’s romance column.

New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry (Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation) returns with Book Lovers, in which an ambitious literary agent’s summer trip takes an unexpected turn when she’s stuck in a small town with her professional nemesis.

Nora Stephens is known for her cutthroat drive and the dogged devotion to her clients and their manuscripts. There’s really only one person who can get through her tough exterior, and that’s her younger sister, Libby. When Libby proposes a sisters’ trip to the small town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, Nora acquiesces. Once there, Nora is surprised to run into book editor Charlie Lastra, a man she’s deeply disliked ever since he ruthlessly turned down one of her books. Apparently, Charlie is a Sunshine Falls native, and he seems different than Nora remembers from their encounters in New York City. He’s not the abrupt editor that spurned her before; he’s actually charming, which Nora finds particularly infuriating.

Henry excels at writing introspective, heroine-focused romance, and she uses the character of Nora to dismantle the stereotypical “career woman” archetype: the cold, ambitious person who sacrifices relationships for the sake of her job and often stands in the way of a more conventionally “feminine” woman’s happiness. But in Book Lovers, Nora doesn’t have to change her driven nature to find a partner who appreciates her. While Charlie is a real softie at heart, he still celebrates Nora’s desire to excel. He understands her professional ambitions, because he harbors similar ones himself.

Emily Henry wants justice for the “Big City Woman.”

And while Sunshine Falls’ small-town charm does eventually win Nora over, the most significant result of her letting her guard down is not so much her relationship with Charlie so much as it’s the reaffirmation of her love for her sister. Nora deeply cares for Libby, and as the trip goes on, Nora begins to sense that something is amiss. Their sisterly affection is a sweet delight to witness, an unconditional and supportive love that Henry celebrates just as much as Nora’s romance with Charlie.

Is it possible for Henry to write a romance that doesn’t glitter with pithy banter or that isn’t filled with characters you want to root for? So far, the answer is no. As the title suggests, readers who love meta “books about books” will delight in the details of Nora’s and Charlie’s occupations and their passion for reading. But Book Lovers is also a wonderful examination of work-life balance, the intricacies of family relationships and the realization that you shouldn’t have to compromise yourself for love.

A delightful romance that both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype, Book Lovers cements Emily Henry's status as one of the best rom-com writers around.

She wears impractically high heels, no matter where she goes. 

She’s always on a treadmill or a stationary bike, barking orders at her long-suffering assistant via her AirPods. 

When she gets off the elevator, she hurls her jacket out and expects someone to materialize and catch it—and place a perfectly heated latte in her hand at the same time.

She’s the archetypical Big City Woman, and I love her. Perhaps more importantly, I’m curious about her. Every time some new iteration of her shows up in a show or movie or book, I find myself wondering where she’s coming from, and when the last page ends or the credits roll, I wonder where she’s headed. 

That’s where Book Lovers—in its earliest draft, titled City Person—came from: my fascination not only with this kind of character and her potential origins but also with the way that stories tend to treat her. Like she’s someone else’s cautionary tale, a villain to be defeated, the foil to the small-town sweetheart the hero actually belongs with. 

“It takes all types, and no one type is any more or less worthy of love.”

In this last scenario, she’s often a symbol of the life the hero needs to leave behind. She’s an addendum to the high-pressure job that keeps him from answering his parents’ phone calls. The one calling to check on how his business trip is going and to hound him for taking so long when the mass firing he was supposed to conduct at the local toy factory should have been an in-and-out job.

She’s representative of the shallow, empty life he needs to break free from to take hold of his happy ending.

Don’t get me wrong: I love these kinds of transformational fish-out-of-water stories. 

I’m also a big believer in not taking one particular character’s journey as an indictment of a different kind of journey. Just because one guy decides to give up his high-powered job in the city to work at his new girlfriend’s small-town bakery doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. It takes all types, and no one type is any more or less worthy of love.

But what does it say if this one character, the high-strung Big City Woman, only ever shows up to act as another woman’s foil, to prove how worthy and good that other woman is by comparison?  

Read our review of ‘Book Lovers’ by Emily Henry.

Or if, when the Big City Woman finally gets her love story, it’s the same kind as the ones she’s been making cameos in for all these years? The kind where she leaves her life in the city, meets a man who’s her polar opposite and finds the true meaning of life on a charming Christmas tree farm. 

What does it say about the way we see women like this if they’re never allowed a love story unless it hinges on them giving up everything we find so compelling about them? 

That’s why I wrote Book Lovers. Not just because I thought it would be a blast to figure out what made this kind of woman tick but because I wanted to give her a different story, one where she wasn’t a foil or a villain or a cautionary tale but just another person, deserving of life-changing love and a happy ending—her version, not somebody else’s.

Photo of Emily Henry by Devyn Glista, St. Blanc Studios.

In her latest romance, Book Lovers, Emily Henry celebrates the much-maligned archetype of the urban career woman.

In Gina Conkle’s sharp, brilliant Georgian romance A Scot Is Not Enough, a Scottish Jacobite forever changes the trajectory of an upright English barrister’s life.

Alexander Sloane is undersecretary to the undersecretary of the Duke of Newcastle. Precision runs in his veins, discovering the truth is his raison d’être and he’s on the cusp of getting a promotion he’s been working toward for years. His attempt to decode a ledger used by the Jacobites, a Scottish group intent on deposing the Protestant kings of England and restoring the Catholic House of Stuart to the throne, leads him to Cecelia MacDonald, a known Jacobite sympathizer. Hoping to uncover the Scottish traitors, Alexander begins to tail Cecelia through London.

After her clan was defeated and their homes were ransacked by the English during the Jacobite uprising of 1745, Cecelia came to London with a league of women on a mission to retrieve their clan’s treasures. As the league’s de facto leader, Cecelia’s job is to recover their chief’s ancient ceremonial dagger, the sgian-dubh.

Cecelia’s carmine lips, free-flowing laughter and penchant for sexual innuendo convince Alexander that she is a demirep, a historical term for a women of questionable reputation. But even as she is mired in intrigue, Cecelia helps feed poor Scottish and Irish immigrants. Alexander attempts to covertly surveil her in order to square the two sides of this free-spirited siren, but unfortunately, subterfuge does not come naturally to him: Cecelia finds him stuck in a barrel behind her house. So begins the seduction.

A Scot Is Not Enough throbs with sexual tension from the very first page. Alexander and Cecelia’s unrelenting fascination with each other, their need to uncover what drives the other person, propels their relationship. While both characters want to trust their hearts, their minds are warning them that there is no logical reason to do so. Conkle expertly employs subtle, minute emotional details that track the evolution of their relationship and individual perspectives.

A Scot Is Not Enough is a spellbinding tale of political adversaries who are beguiled with each other in spite of everything pulling them apart. The mystery of the sgian-dubh adds intrigue, but it is Conkle’s prose and character work that make this romance so compelling.

A Scot Is Not Enough is the story of a spellbinding Georgian romance between political adversaries who are completely beguiled with each other.

Think of the traditional, often toxically masculine, romance hero. Now think about his polar opposite. Gentle rather than domineering, warm rather than arrogant male characters have grown increasingly popular in the genre. While cinnamon roll-sweet guys aren’t everyone’s drug of choice in Romancelandia, sometimes unconditional love and support is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Part of Your World

In a few short years, Abby Jimenez has become one of romance’s most acclaimed and popular authors. Her fairy tale-esque, opposites-attract fourth novel, Part of Your World, will only elevate her standing. 

Alexis Montgomery is a 38-year-old emergency room doctor who comes from a long line of Midwestern medical royalty. When her car lands in a ditch at dusk in the middle of nowhere, a tattooed, hunky mystery man in a pickup truck comes to her aid. Daniel Grant rescues her and then drives away, thinking he’ll never see her again. But thanks to the extremely limited dining options of Wakan, Minnesota, Alexis and Daniel reunite and decide to give in to their attraction and spend the night together. 

Alexis soon finds that there’s more to her hot rescuer than his looks. Gentle and kind, Daniel is something of a small-town renaissance man: He’s the mayor of Wakan, an artist and a bed-and-breakfast proprietor who caters patiently to his rescue dog and nurses his friend’s baby goat in his spare time. There’s also more to Alexis than meets the eye, but since Wakan is a two-hour drive from her work and home in Minneapolis, it’s easy to keep her weekend escapes and real life separate. The adorable town of Wakan and Daniel’s warm, accepting company provide a respite from Alexis’ struggles with a condescending ex-boyfriend who won’t accept that their relationship is over and a father who thinks she’s a slacker for not living up to the family name. 

Jimenez is an excellent storyteller, and her special blend of humor and angst is polished to perfection in Part of Your World. Despite Alexis’ accomplishments, it’s not easy for her to push back on all the expectations placed upon her, especially since her elite family, ex-boyfriend and friends wield them like a cudgel. Those tensions and their age gap of 10 years provide plenty for Daniel and Alexis to overcome. But those stark differences also lend an almost Cinderella-like feel to Part of Your World. The hospital where Alexis works is called Royaume, and she even loses a fancy slipper (high heel) on their first night together. Daniel makes a worthy modern prince in this love story, which will enchant romance veterans and newbies alike.

A Brush With Love

In Mazey Eddings’ debut, A Brush With Love, Dan Craige and Harper Horowitz have the kind of natural spark Harper’s only heard of in the movies, even though their first meeting is an absolute disaster: Harper crashes into Dan at the dental school they both attend and smashes his class project. She offers to help him remake it, and their immediate connection only gets stronger from there. 

But their romance is complicated by two distinct issues: Harper’s chronic anxiety and Dan’s ambivalence about graduate school. Full of passion and aptitude, Harper is at the top of her class and on the cusp of securing a challenging oral surgery residency. But Dan is struggling to get through his first year of dentistry school and is only attending out of familial obligation. 

As their friendship and attraction grows, so does Harper’s anxiety. Maintaining laserlike focus on school is one of Harper’s primary coping mechanisms, along with strict adherence to habits and rituals. Eddings effectively communicates that for Harper, rules are a “life preserver in the choppy storm of anxiety.” A romantic relationship would undermine many of her adaptations and strategies, but holding the line against her attraction to Dan becomes increasingly difficult. For someone so in need of control, love is both exciting and dangerous, and the result is a spiral of anxious thoughts. 

Despite the serious nature of Harper’s situation, Eddings’ characters and their relationship feel well balanced at virtually every stage. Both leads are lovably flawed; both have vulnerabilities and strengths. Anxiety doesn’t negate Harper’s talents or her competence either. When they’re working together early on in the novel, Dan is the one who’s adorably tongue-tied in Harper’s presence. It’s clear that he gets and respects Harper for who she is, even as he realizes the challenge that her anxiety presents, and their sweet connection is bolstered by meaningful conversations. 

Harper’s mental health difficulties escalate to a more harrowing point than many may expect in the context of a romantic comedy. But even though what’s on the page feels heavier than what the illustrated cover indicates, Dan and Harper’s romance is well worth the journey.

In two contemporary romances, sweet and sensitive heroes help heal ailing hearts.

LA may be a city of smoke and mirrors, but this trio of romances is a friendly reminder of how important it is to delve beneath the surface and get to the heart of the matter in, well, matters of the heart.

Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Taj McCoy’s debut romance isn’t interested in superficial Hollywood glitz; rather, it’s an exuberant story about a relatable Everywoman whose shine has lost a bit of its luster. The title may be Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, but it takes Savvy a while to bounce back after her boyfriend, Jason, breaks off their six-year relationship over dinner after announcing he needs an “upgrade.” Her tightknit group of gal pals squad up for Savvy’s sake, encouraging her plan to overhaul her life. On the docket are goals like getting a promotion, writing a cookbook, renovating her grandparents’ house in Los Feliz and losing weight. Absent are the things that really count, like bolstering her self-confidence and learning to love herself as she is. A key moment in her journey comes early on, when she epically misjudges handsome Spencer Morgan. Because of his dusty clothes, she assumes he’s experiencing homelessness and brushes off his flirting, only to learn that he’s actually a contractor. It’s the opposite of a successful meet-cute, but it does result in a profound moment of self-reflection. Savvy feels constantly judged for her weight, and she projected that sense of constant negative scrutiny onto Spencer. Moments like this drive the plot; McCoy is less focused on romance than she is on thoughtfully constructing her heroine’s journey to enlightenment. Luckily, Savvy is a particularly zeitgeisty heroine: a woman on a quest to improve both her physical and mental well-being.

Funny You Should Ask

Young adult author Elissa Sussman may be poised for a breakout hit with her first novel for adults, Funny You Should Ask. This tightly written romance follows a successful writer and a Hollywood A-lister who previously crossed paths during an interview that changed the trajectories of their lives. Chani Horowitz is now a writer of essays, profiles and commentary, but a decade ago she was just kicking off her career. She was thrilled to land a profile piece of the next James Bond, a wholesome Montana boy named Gabe Parker. He was handsome and dazzling, and Chani was totally crushing on him. They clicked immediately and then spent a momentous weekend together in LA, roaming from Gabe’s house in Laurel Canyon to a high-profile movie premiere to a gay club, reveling in the city’s culinary scene and endless supply of things to do and places to see. But afterward, Chani returned to New York City with her boyfriend, Gabe married his new co-star, and neither of them were happy. Funny You Should Ask bounces back and forth between Chani and Gabe in the present and during their lost weekend. There are a ton of details to unpack, with a lot of different characters in a lot of different times and places. But Sussman’s smart writing and firm control over the narrative steadily lead you on to the next page, and the next page, and the page after that. She also uses the dual-timeline structure to great effect in support of the eventual happy ending. 

Business Not As Usual

Dreamy Daniels, the heroine of Sharon C. Cooper’s latest contemporary romance, Business Not As Usual, truly lives up to her name and will charm the pants off readers (and off her love interest, too). Dreamy’s personal mantra is that anything is possible if you believe. She plays the lottery every week with her grandfather, confident with her whole being that she’ll be a big winner one day. A hard worker with a vision for starting a nonprofit for aspiring female entrepreneurs, Dreamy makes do in the meantime by working as a secretary for a tech guru. But then she meets venture capitalist Karter Redford who, despite being the son of acting royalty, turns out to be a kindred spirit who sees the value in a little intellectual elbow grease. He appreciates both her shiny, wild exterior and the resilient, creative thinker beneath it. To Karter, the fact that Dreamy lives in one of LA’s underprivileged neighborhoods doesn’t matter. But his mother thinks that Dreamy isn’t cultured, sophisticated or educated enough to be a good match for her son. Cooper, however, doesn’t fall back on such stereotypical characterizations. Dreamy and Karter are intelligent, mature adults who root for each other, which in turn makes the reader root all the harder for them in this flirty, fun and refreshing romance.

Los Angeles may be a city of smoke and mirrors, but this trio of romances is all about getting real.

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