There’s something weirdly engaging about a character who’s down on their luck. Fortunately (or not), their loss is our gain.
There’s something weirdly engaging about a character who’s down on their luck. Fortunately (or not), their loss is our gain.
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How to End a Love Story, screenwriter Yulin Kuang’s debut novel, is a contemporary romance that succeeds on every level, from her characters’ compelling emotional journey to the unique plotline to Kuang’s fresh authorial voice.

Helen Zhang is the successful author of a young adult series that’s been optioned for television. Her work targets readers the same age she was when her sister, Michelle, died by suicide. Helen’s life, as one would expect, is split between the before and the after.

Grant Shepard’s life broke along the exact same fault line. A handsome, affable homecoming king and football star who went to the same school as the Zhang sisters, he was out driving late the night Michelle ran in front of his car. In the 13 years since the incident, Grant’s become a successful, sought-after screenwriter in Los Angeles. Imagine his surprise when he’s asked to lead the writer’s room on Helen’s new show. And then imagine her surprise when he says yes.

Yulin Kuang is so much more than Emily Henry’s screenwriter.

A romance between two people on opposite ends of the same tragic event, How to End a Love Story is a mature, compelling and relatable story of healing that resists simplifying its characters at every turn. Helen’s Chinese American heritage is richly depicted, and it shapes the relationships she has with her family (her mother, in particular), but it is not her sole defining trait. And while Grant may struggle with panic attacks and feeling worthy of love, he also works to convince Helen that it’s OK to move on with her life. Their relationship develops at an organic, realistic pace: Helen must first come to terms with the fact that she’s working with Grant at all before she can come to grips with liking him and, eventually, loving him.

Kuang’s own experiences as a screenwriter shine through on every page. Her depictions of writer’s rooms and meetings with executives are lush, smart and visual, with each sentence packed full of insightful nuances and quiet moments of reflection. These are characters who have battled their demons and come out the other side, stronger than before. Were this a movie, it would be Oscar-worthy.

How to End a Love Story is a mature, compelling and relatable romance that resists simplifying its characters at every turn.
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When beginning this review, I promised myself that I wouldn’t go overboard with baseball puns to describe just how wonderful KT Hoffman’s sports romance, The Prospects, is. Like “Hoffman hits it out of the park with his debut” or “Gene and Luis are the grand slam of relationships.” I tried my hardest, but damn if baseball doesn’t lend itself to describing the absolute home run that is this book.

As the first openly trans professional baseball player, Gene Ionescu is no stranger to hope and hard work. He thrives on it; and baseball loves an underdog. The minor league Beaverton Beavers are like a second family to him, and he feels safe and supported among his teammates. Until Luis Estrada, his former teammate and current rival, gets traded to the Beavers and suddenly all that Gene has built for himself feels threatened. At first, Gene and Luis can’t work together on or off the field. But a begrudging friendship blooms during long hours on the bus and intimate after-hours practices. As Gene and Luis find their stride, they gain the attention of the heavy hitters in the Major Leagues and see each other with fresh eyes. Had Gene never really noticed how sexy and kind Luis was? And does Luis really need to head to his own place when Gene’s apartment (and maybe Gene himself) feels like home? Soon their tenuous friendship gives way to tender new love. But with the Majors calling, the two must decide what they truly want, both from each other and their baseball careers.

The legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” So what happens when a book mixes romance and America’s favorite pastime? You get the perfection that is The Prospects. I will be the first to admit that everything I learned about sports, I learned from sports romance novels. But as an expert on the genre, I can tell the difference between a writer who is just using a baseball diamond as a backdrop and a writer who loves the game so fiercely it almost outshines their love for the main characters. Hoffman is one of the latter. Every corner of this book shines, from the tender love of Gene and Luis to the charming found family that surrounds them and the game that brings them all together. The Prospects is about dreaming big, finding love and blowing the roof off simply by existing. It’s a debut so good it’s in a league of its own. (I’ll see myself out.)

KT Hoffman’s The Prospects is a perfect baseball romance that overflows with love for the sport and its main characters.
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Everyone wants a shortcut to love, especially if a happily ever after is guaranteed. So it’s not surprising that Justin Dahl gets a big response when he explains his gift (or curse) on Reddit: Whoever he dates goes on to meet her perfect match right after things end with him. To his shock, Justin soon hears from Emma, a woman with the same problem. What starts as a half-joking suggestion soon starts to form into a real plan—what if they date each other? Wouldn’t that mean instead of being merely the gateway to love, they could finally have it for themselves . . . right after they break up?

It’s a fun premise, but if you think the plot stays frothy and candy-colored, then you don’t know author Abby Jimenez. Yes, Justin and Emma connect via meet cute (meet unusual, to be more precise) at the beginning of Just for the Summer, but Jimenez quickly develops the characters beyond rom-com archetypes as they deal with challenges that aren’t in the least bit quirky, overblown or played for laughs. Justin and Emma have amazing chemistry and terrific banter, but they also have genuine problems, including family catastrophes, emotional trauma, heavy responsibilities and—in Emma’s case—a mother best compared to a malfunctioning time bomb, set to blow everything up with no clear countdown. Just for the Summer has plenty of humor (a scene with baby raccoons being a personal favorite), but the emotions are real. The turmoil is real. The problems the characters face don’t come with easy answers or magic cures.

The story showcases an absolutely gorgeous outpouring of love in tandem with Emma and Justin’s delightful and warm central romance. Jimenez portrays a range of complex, interesting familial relationships, as well as some amazing friendships—particularly Emma’s with her bestie, Maddy. In Just for the Summer, even when love is difficult and devastating and very possibly cursed, it’s always worth it.

In Abby Jimenez’s Just for the Summer, two people cursed a la “Good Luck Chuck” try to break their unlucky streaks by dating each other—only to fall in love.
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This Could Be Us

In Kennedy Ryan’s satisfying This Could Be Us, a woman rebuilds her life and finds an unexpected love. Soledad Barnes prides herself on her homemaking and family-tending prowess. But then her husband’s betrayal and their ensuing divorce puts it all at risk. Armed with determination and love for her daughters, as well as a posse of fabulous sisters and girlfriends, Soledad figures out a way to use her domestic goddess skills to keep a roof over her family’s head. When the incredibly sexy Judah enters her life, he feels so right—but Soledad doesn’t know whether she can trust her heart again. Ryan’s vibrant characters and delightful descriptions of food and friendship perfectly complement Sol’s story. Readers will want to eat at her table and be one of her best pals, cheering her on to a very deserved happy ending. This tender, sensual and sigh-worthy tale also includes nuanced glimpses of Judah’s joys and concerns as the father of twin boys with autism.

Happily Never After

Two cynics change their minds regarding matters of the heart in Happily Never After by Lynn Painter. Desperate to stop her wedding to a cheating groom, Chicagoan Sophie Steinbeck turns to Max Parks. An architect by day, Max has fallen into a side gig of showing up to nuptials and pretending to be a lovelorn objector. Sophie and Max hit it off right away, and soon they’re teaming up to help others at (off?) the altar. Though they stubbornly resist the idea of a relationship with each other, their chemistry is off the charts and the fun they have together—whether they’re objecting or just hanging out—will leave the reader wondering why Sophie and Max try so hard not to fall. With smoking love scenes and memorable secondary characters, Happily Never After is a delight.

Trouble

An unlikely heroine passes herself off as a governess in Trouble, Lex Croucher’s Regency rom-com. Her kindhearted sister is unable to take on the job and her family is desperate for funds, so Emily Laurence travels to the home of the Edwards family, hoping to disguise her identity, lack of interest in children and generally surly attitude toward mostly everything. Croucher borrows some genre conventions—a remote house, a brooding widower hero, children needing care—and adds the unscrupulous Emily, whose prickly exterior hides a fierce loyalty to those she loves. Which, surprisingly to the imposter governess, turns out to increasingly include her eccentric fellow staffers, the Edwards children and Ben, Captain Edwards himself. But secrets abound, and Emily’s own make her certain no happiness awaits her. Readers will revel in watching Emily learn to trust in this fun, funny and fast-paced story.

There’s nothing more heartwarming than watching deeply cynical or understandably wary characters find love in spite of themselves.
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The Phoenix Bride, Natasha Siegel’s stunning sophomore novel, is a breathtakingly beautiful novel about forbidden love in 17th-century London.

The year is 1666, one year after the bubonic plague wreaked havoc on London. Young widow Cecilia Thorowgood lost her husband, who was a childhood friend and a love match, to the disease. Without financial means of her own, Cecilia finds herself trapped in her sister’s home, deep in the throes of a paralyzing depression and hounded by a slew of doctors who try to cure it with scalpels and leeches. When Cecilia shows no signs of improvement, her sister decides to take the risk of hiring a foreign doctor. David Mendes is not only Portuguese, but also Jewish. He and his father recently immigrated to England, where they can publicly practice their faith. Their new home is a marked improvement from Portugal, but antisemitism still runs rampant. However, David and Cecilia form a friendship despite the social barriers between them, born out of their grief over the loss of loved ones. Cecilia deeply mourns her husband, and David has yet to move on from the death of Manuel, a friend whom he loved secretly for years. As the two begin to heal, they realize the love they have for each other is beyond anything they could have imagined. But is it enough to help them overcome seemingly insurmountable societal odds?

This book will break you open with its beautiful writing, and readers will find themselves wringing their hands, wondering how on earth David and Cecilia could ever be together. Siegel does not soften history to make it easier for her characters to find love, a popular tactic in other queer historical romances. Instead, she finds subtle ways for her characters to bend the rules while not outright disregarding them, allowing them to find their own happily ever after even though traditional markers like marriage remain out of reach. David and Cecilia’s victory feels realistic and hard won, pushing readers to reconsider what an HEA looks like. And while Seigel handles many heavy subjects in The Phoenix Bride such as grief, trauma, antisemitism and biphobia, the romance doesn’t feel weighed down by these issues. Cecilia is a darkly funny heroine and while David is a more serious foil for her, they have a charming ease with each other that creates lighter moments to balance the weightier aspects of the story.

The Phoenix Bride is a gorgeous romance about healing from trauma, making peace with grief and finding love where it doesn’t seem possible. This glorious follow-up to her debut, Solomon’s Crown, firmly establishes Seigel as a writer to watch.

Natasha Siegel’s beautifully written The Phoenix Bride pushes readers to reconsider what happily ever after looks like.
STARRED REVIEW

Our top 10 books for March 2024

The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
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Book jacket image for 49 Days by Agnes Lee

49 Days is an unusual, profoundly moving graphic novel whose elegance belies its complexity and whose emotional impact only grows upon rereading.

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Book jacket image for All That Grows by Jack Wong

In All That Grows, Jack Wong evokes the soft haze of childhood summers where a small stand of trees might be seen as a huge

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Book jacket image for Black Wolf by Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Antonia Scott series is hands-down the best suspense trilogy to come along since Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

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A lushly crafted tale of a Maine fishing village cursed by a mermaid, The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is a debut to submerge yourself in.

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Book jacket image for Mrs. Gulliver by Valerie Martin

In Mrs. Gulliver, Valerie Martin offers us an idyll, perhaps even a comedy. All’s well that ends well. We hope.

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Book jacket image for The Phoenix Bride by Natasha Siegel

Natasha Siegel’s beautifully written The Phoenix Bride pushes readers to reconsider what happily ever after looks like.

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Book jacket image for Thunder Song by Sasha LaPointe

Thunder Song is an essay collection full of sensitive meditations and powerful observations from Coast Salish author Sasha LaPointe.

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Book jacket image for The Unclaimed by Pamela Prickett

Gripping and groundbreaking, The Unclaimed investigates the Americans who are abandoned in death and what they tell us about how we treat the living.

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Book jacket image for The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez

Cristina Henriquez’s polyvocal novel is a moving and powerful epic about the human cost of building the Panama Canal. It’s easy to imagine, in these

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Novelist, essayist, humorist and critic Sloane Crosley shows a remarkable willingness to face the dark questions that follow a suicide.

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Recent Reviews

The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
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Confession time: Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel. There’s just something about it that speaks to me. It’s the idea of growing into the person you’re supposed to be, into the love you’re finally ready to have. The fact that love doesn’t come easily or quickly makes it all the sweeter when it finally falls into place.

That sweetness is front and center in Melodie Edwards’ modernization of Persuasion, Once Persuaded, Twice Shy. Our present-day Anne Elliot is the executive director of a theater festival, which allows her, as in the original, to quietly keep the world running from behind the scenes. But her tidy, well-controlled life is thrown into a tailspin when her ex, Ben Wentworth, reappears in her life, eager to show her how completely and entirely he’s moved on. The quaint Canadian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake supplies the two of them with an ample supporting cast of lovable, quirky, exasperating and endearing characters, but it’s the enduring connection between Anne and Ben that’s the real draw. As they find their way back to each other, they also find their way back to the truest versions of themselves, letting go of old hurts and old burdens and old grudges along the way.

Of course, there are elements that get left behind when a story is transposed to a new time or place. (The author wisely addresses this in a letter to readers that gives context to some of her choices.) Will fans of the original miss the things that got lost in translation? They might. I missed the Harvilles, Captain Benwick and the whole boisterous Musgrove clan—even Mary, hypochondriacal misanthrope that she is. But Edwards’ update has plenty of compensations: There’s warmth, humor, Taylor Swift lyrics for every conceivable scenario and a love story that blooms as beautifully today as it did 200 years ago. The plot takes unexpected twists and turns, tied together with beloved tropes. And the grand finale is a happily ever after that certainly persuaded me, and that I believe will persuade you, too.

Once Persuaded, Twice Shy, Melodie Edwards’ modernization of Persuasion, is a sweet and often surprising take on Jane Austen’s classic novel.
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Ever since the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of her aunt and childhood guardian, Hester, Ellie has been determined to be as unremarkable as possible. Interesting people, she thinks, go missing. She’s content with her life working as a librarian and taking care of her aging aunt—with the occasional trip to Pittsburgh for dates with women she rarely sees twice. But when an impeccably dressed, impossibly handsome woman appears in the library sipping a cup of tea, Ellie’s world is set off its carefully controlled tracks. After a near-death experience involving an unfortunately placed cow, Ellie learns that she has magical powers and is teleported to the city-state of Crenshaw, where the strong are required to stay and learn to control their abilities, and the weak are often stripped of their magic and cast out. Despite the draw of Prospero, the mysterious witch in the library, Ellie wants nothing more than to go back to her ordinary life. There’s just one problem: She’s also the solution to a prophecy concerning the salvation—or destruction—of Crenshaw itself. 

Melissa Marr’s Remedial Magic is a satisfying addition to the magic school subgenre. Crenshaw is a witchy community college-cum-commune that exists somewhere outside of normal existence. It’s equal parts melting pot and pressure cooker, where people with disparate goals and fears collide with sometimes electric effects. Marr highlights the friction by hopping among the perspectives of Ellie and a variety of other Crenshaw inhabitants, like Maggie, a lawyer and mother desperate to get back to her son, and Dan, for whom magic provides an escape from cancer. While Marr’s shifting points of view does mean that Remedial Magic unfolds slowly, the variety keeps the novel from feeling like it has leaned too far into the “chosen one” trope. From the twists and turns of its sapphic romance to Crenshaw’s internal politicking, Remedial Magic is an excellent series starter that combines the aesthetics of a classic fish-out-of-water story with the sensibilities of a book for and about adults.

Melissa Marr’s Remedial Magic is a satisfying addition to the magic school subgenre—written for and about adults.
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Canadian Boyfriend

Jenny Holiday’s Canadian Boyfriend, in which a dance teacher tends to her own emotional wounds while helping a young widower manage his new reality, is a true romance gem. When one of Aurora “Rory” Evans’ students, Olivia, returns to class after losing her mother, Rory is especially attentive to her and Mike Martin, Olivia’s pro hockey-playing dad. Rory and Mike connect immediately, and after Rory moves in to work as a nanny, they become intimate friends . . . and then lovers. Standing in the way of something more permanent is his grief, her people-pleasing ways—and the fact that when Rory was in high school, she told everyone that Mike was her boyfriend, seeing as he conveniently lived in Canada. Still, the bond between them won’t disappear, no matter what they tell themselves. Told in alternating first-person perspectives that are full of both revealing introspection and engaging banter, the heart-wrenching journey of Rory and Mike is tender, painful, joyful and, most of all, honest. This is everything a romance novel should be: a story of two people who learn from each other and are better together than apart.

Bride

A Were and a Vampyre wed to broker an alliance between their two species in Bride, an impressive change of pace for rom-com queen Ali Hazelwood. Reminding herself that their union will only last a year, Misery Lark steels herself to live with Alpha werewolf Lowe Moreland and his people—who view her with open hostility and dislike. But Lowe himself is harder to read. While he’s at first studiously detached, he begins to connect with Misery over his irrepressible little sister and then aids in Misery’s search for her missing best friend. Danger and power struggles continually surround the pair, but Lowe and Misery offer each other a respite from all that . . . and then more. Told primarily in Misery’s snarky and amusing first-person voice, there is plenty of action, stirring love scenes and intriguing world building that will leave readers wanting more. Snippets from Lowe’s point of view offer insight into the tender interior beneath his tough exterior. Paranormal romance fans will swoon over this one.

Wild Life

Two lonely people find their way to each other and new lives in Wild Life by Opal Wei. Both Zoey Fong and Davy Hsieh have big plans, and neither of them expects or welcomes an attraction that goes from a smolder to full-on flames in a heartbeat. But after former boy band star Davy accidentally absconds with a crucial slide from scientist Zoey’s workplace, she follows him to his private island. Things only get more madcap from there in this hilarious spin on Bringing Up Baby. Wei writes well-drawn, one-of-a-kind characters that will elicit readers’ sympathy and laughter as they spur each other to grow and change. Put together the aforementioned sexual chemistry, a big cat (heard but not seen) and geese (both seen and heard, eliciting an appropriate amount of terror, if one knows geese) and the result is a vibrant, fast-paced and highly entertaining romance.

Fangirl Down

Tessa Bailey sets fire to the pages in Fangirl Down. When bad-boy golfer Wells Whitaker quits the sport in frustration, he stands up Josephine Doyle, his biggest fan, who recently won a lunch with him. Wells’ conscience nags him about the missed meal and he seeks Josephine out, only to find her golf shop in shambles from a hurricane. Wells hits upon an idea to help that will also get him back on his game: She’ll be his new caddy, and they’ll split the prize money. It’s delicious to watch the grouchy golfer find he has a heart after all as he falls for the sunny Josephine. Bailey is known for her witty repartee and Wells and Josephine don’t miss a beat, in addition to having some off-the-charts love scenes. Josephine’s endeavors to manage her diabetes without insurance add some gravitas to this delightful, laugh-out-loud love story.

Sex, Lies and Sensibility

Nikki Payne offers an engrossing tale that is part family drama, part romance and all deep emotion in Sex, Lies and Sensibility. After their father dies, sisters Nora and Yanne Dash are left with nothing but a dilapidated inn on an island in Maine. To complicate matters, they must rehab the place into a successful business in a year or lose everything. Their first glimpse of the environs doesn’t improve their moods, especially given that they’re the only two Black people around. And while Abenaki eco-tour guide Ennis “Bear” Freeman may be gorgeous, Nora doesn’t need a man. She has good reason not to trust them and she also notices that Bear is reticent to talk about his past. But as their businesses begin to work together, the attraction can’t be denied. Nora and Bear’s past mistakes keep them wary, even as familial and outside forces work against their possible happiness together. Payne will grab readers by the heartstrings even as they fall in love with noble, ambitious Nora and Bear and the eclectic cast of this compassionate novel.

Ali Hazelwood goes paranormal, plus wonderful new takes on Sense and Sensibility and Bringing Up Baby.
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In Olivia Dade’s witty and warm new romance, At First Spite, the incredibly named town of Harlot’s Bay in coastal Maryland is the perfect place to start over. That’s good because jilted, 37-year-old Athena Greydon has two graduate degrees, no job and nowhere else to go.

Even before her broken engagement to man-child Dr. Johnny Vine, Athena felt irretrievably lost. Now she’s single, broke and living in the 10-foot-wide spite house she purchased for her would-be hubby, right next door to the brother who convinced him that their marriage would be a disaster. Dr. Matthew Vine seems as orderly, stern and starchy as Athena is chaotic. He doubts Athena’s motivations for moving into the spite house, assuming that she must be harboring hopes of reconciliation with Johnny. And Athena, having overheard Matthew’s unflattering comments about her, harbors resentment. They have plenty of reasons to be wary of each other, but Matthew becomes the perfect friend to help Athena climb out of her hole, and the ensuing magnetic connection is a surprise to them both.

It’s a fine setup, but the beauty lies in the execution. As with her Spoiler Alert series, Dade blends angst and humor into a delicious cocktail of romantic and personal possibility. She develops Athena and Matthew’s love story along two compelling tracks. The first is a tropey, funny enemies-to-lovers story, full of banter, barbs and verbal sparring. The second thread follows Matthew’s opening up and Athena’s hard journey to better mental health and acceptance of her depression. Matthew takes care of Athena when she can’t care for herself, resulting in some of the most lovely and realistic scenes involving mental distress in the genre. The pair’s strengths and vulnerabilities beautifully compliment each other, and the only real gap in credulity is how the lovable and brilliant Athena lacks almost any support network from her old life in Virginia.

That said, the depth of community that surrounds the couple is wonderful, as is Harlot Bay’s backstory. According to lore, the town, originally called Ladywright, was founded in the late 17th-century by two women, and became a haven for others. A British governor renamed the town Harlot’s Bay in condemnation of its founders and citizenry, but “the joke was on him because apparently everyone living there liked the change.” Dade sketches the quirky locale and perfectly imperfect people who live there with the loving care of an author who once worked at Colonial Williamsburg.

A slow-burn love story with rich characters, good humor and emotional intelligence, At First Spite is an excellent choice for romance readers craving depth and realism.

A slow-burn love story with rich characters, good humor and emotional intelligence, Olivia Dade’s At First Spite is an excellent choice for romance readers craving depth and realism.
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Anita Kelly dedicates their latest rom-com, How You Get the Girl, to “every queer and trans person in Tennessee. Your joy will outlive the cruelty of your government.” A teen librarian by day, Kelly knows intimately how remarkable educators can make all the difference in the world.

Julie Parker is enjoying her first season as the head coach for East Nashville High’s women’s basketball team. By day she works as a fundraiser, but after school, for a few fun months every year, she’s the coach every student dreams of having—because Coach Julie understands teenagers. She’s engaged, approachable and supportive of her team, both on the court and off. It’s beautifully evident from the very first pages, as Julie adapts to and charms a difficult new student, Vanessa Lerner.

Vanessa’s aunt and new foster mother, Elle Cochrane, is an ex-WNBA star who hasn’t played basketball in eight years and is trying to find equilibrium in her and Vanessa’s new normal. Elle doesn’t get regularly recognized by the public any more, so she finds Julie’s instant fangirling as adorable and refreshing as she does Julie herself. When Julie asks her to be the team’s new assistant coach, Elle can’t help but say yes.

How You Get the Girl is fun, flirty and full of heart, a story of two people falling for each other despite the chaos around them. Julie wrestles with defining her love for a woman, since she’s always considered her sexuality label-less. Elle struggles with the overwhelming responsibility of suddenly becoming a parent, to a teenager no less. While these challenges and more affect Julie and Elle’s burgeoning relationship, their bond motivates and unites them. Love is big and scary and exciting, and Kelly proves that the biggest win is being brave enough to open your heart to another person.

Anita Kelly’s How You Get the Girl is fun, flirty and full of heart, a story of two people falling for each other despite the chaos around them.
STARRED REVIEW

Top 10 books for February 2024

Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!
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The author of the marvelous Winterlight trilogy makes her grand return to historical fantasy with this haunting tale set during World War I. Former nurse

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Book jacket image for A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams

Tia Williams broke out in a big way in 2021 with her emotional second-chance romance, Seven Days in June, and her follow-up novel sounds like

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Book jacket image for The Last Stand by Antwan Eady

Antwan Eady, author of the lovely Nigel and the Moon, unites with Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey! The acclaimed sibling duo wrote and illustrated This Old

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Book jacket image for Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

It’s a special gift when a favorite poet writes a novel. Martyr! is Kaveh Akbar’s fiction debut, after poetry collections Calling a Wolf a Wolf

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In 1911, 12 Black men were delivered to the forest in rural Maryland and began building their new residence, the State Hospital for the Negro

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Award-winning author Amber McBride teams up with acclaimed poets Taylor Byas and Erica Martin to curate an electric, extraordinary lineup of contemporary and classic Black

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Book jacket image for City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter

Temim Fruchter’s remarkable debut novel is a book full of belly laughs, intergenerational wonder, queer beauty, Jewish history and storytelling that reshapes worlds.

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Book jacket image for Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford

Visit an alternate America where European colonization never took place in this intricately plotted police procedural from Francis Spufford.

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Book jacket image for The Gardener of Lashkar Gah by Larisa Brown

Larisa Brown’s The Gardener of Lashkar Gah tells the harrowing story of the Afghan aid workers that NATO left to their fates when the Taliban

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Book jacket image for The Cancer Factory by Jim Morris

Jim Morris’ urgent, heartbreaking The Cancer Factory traces how a known toxic chemical destroyed the health, happiness and lives of Goodyear factory workers.

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Recent Features

Recent Reviews

Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!
Review by

The New York Times bestselling author of Seven Days of June, Tia Williams returns with A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, a modern fairy tale that follows a woman as she finally takes the leap to pursue her dreams and finds magic and wonder along the way.

The titular character hails from Atlanta, where she’s the odd daughter out among her socialite sisters. Ricki has no desire to partake in the family dynasty, a highly successful chain of funeral homes. Instead, she hopes to do some sort of work nurturing plants and flowers. In need of a change and longing to escape the shadow of her family’s accomplishments and well-known name, she moves to the famed neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. There, Ricki opens up a small floral boutique, aptly named Wilde Things, and rents a downstairs apartment in a brownstone owned by spirited nonagenarian Ms. Della. It doesn’t take long before Ricki begins to build a heartwarming and truly tender found family around herself, making friends with former child star Tuesday and taking in the advice of Ms. Della.

Tia Williams has the range: Why the author was drawn to a more magical tone for her latest romance.

And then she meets a mysterious, music-loving man named Ezra. They instantly form a connection, reveling in their shared appreciation of art and design. Ezra is sensitive and private, and he recognizes a fellow old soul in Ricki. But no romance is without obstacles, and there are such substantial hurdles to a satisfying happily ever after that readers may wonder whether Ricki and Ezra can clear them. The answer is unequivocally yes. Williams wouldn’t introduce a perfectly suited pair like this without giving them the fairy-tale ending they deserve. Ricky is particularly winning: earnest and genuine, opening her heart to others even though she’s never felt fully accepted by her family. Readers will fall in love with her as she easily agrees to Ms. Della’s offer to move in, sincerely chats with Tuesday and gently accepts Ezra’s complicated circumstances.

There’s a glamorous quality to Ricki Wilde that suits the headiness of its love story. Williams often switches between present-day and 1920s Harlem, giving readers a lively picture into the aesthetic glories of the Harlem Renaissance and its lasting contributions to media and culture. No matter the era, romance hangs in the air, much like Ricki’s beloved night-blooming jasmine. Williams’ previous novels have been expertly written, full of longing emotion, but there’s a surprising new ingredient this time: a sense of enchantment around every corner. Tissues are recommended, even if simply for the beauty of Williams’ writing. Once you’ve finished A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, you’ll undoubtedly be jealous of those who get to experience it for the first time.

Once you’ve finished A Love Song for Ricki Wilde, you’ll undoubtedly be jealous of those who get to experience it for the first time.

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