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All Romantic Suspense Coverage

★ Archangel's Light

Nalini Singh pens an enthralling read in Archangel's Light. Young warrior angels Illium and Aodhan are committed to putting the world to rights after a devastating supernatural war. Their archangel, Raphael, directs Aodhan to help rebuild the territory of China, which separates him from Illium, his oldest and dearest friend. But when Illium is sent to support the venture as well, the friends have an opportunity to confront new evil as well as old hurts. There's a chilling mystery at the center of the story—a hamlet of 50 people seems to have vanished into thin air—but it's the depiction of the relationship between Aodhan and Illium that drives the narrative. Singh depicts the angels' history from infancy to their burgeoning adulthood. As she explores the strain that mars their connection, it's impossible not to root for the pair to find their way back to each other's hearts and souls—and into a new intimacy. This 14th romance in Singh's Guild Hunter series is engrossing, entertaining and filled with tender emotion.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée

An earl's attempts to appease his mother end up unleashing mayhem in Virginia Heath's Never Fall for Your Fiancée. Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, will have an especially unwelcome guest for Christmas this year: his mother. For two years, he's written to her about his pretend fiancée, and now she expects to meet this paragon. In a panic, Hugh propositions Minerva Merriwell, a woman he meets on the street. He offers to pay her to play the part of the lady he supposedly intends to marry, and desperate financial straits propel Minerva to agree. It's all madcap fun from there with drunken actresses, sniping best friends and Minerva's attempts to live up to Hugh's florid descriptions of her accomplishments. Amid the chaos, Hugh and Minerva find time to get to know each other and fall in love, even though both believe forever is not in the cards. Heath's fast-paced scenes and likable characters will leave fans of Regency romps smiling.

Pretty Little Lion

A racially, supernaturally and sexually diverse cast of characters springs from the pages of Pretty Little Lion, Suleikha Snyder's follow-up to her bold, take-no-prisoners series starter Big Bad Wolf. Elijah Richter, co-founder of the Third Shift black ops group, is a lion shifter on a mission. He's tasked with seducing Meghna Saxena-Saunders and discovering what her criminal boyfriend is planning. But Elijah soon learns that Meghna is more than a pretty face. She's an apsara, a supernaturally gifted assassin and spy who uses her powers of seduction and persuasion to take down evil men. The plot moves at the speed of light, and the four point-of-view characters are as interesting as they are lethal. Snyder's assured, contemporary voice doesn't shy away from the political parallels between our reality and her dystopian America, making the otherwise fantastical, cinematic story feel very topical indeed. Readers will root for the good guys, even the ones who have only recently joined their ranks, in this steamy, thrilling paranormal romance with a heart of gold. 

Think all paranormal love stories are the same? Two of the books in this month’s romance column will change your mind.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you. A subgenre of romance that invests just as much time in high-octane action or clever whodunits as it does in its central love story, romantic suspense often comes in series that follow the adventures of a team, or track characters through their many difficult cases.

And if you’d like your mysteries or thrillers to be improved by kissing and magic, then jump to the second half of our list for an introduction to the thrills of paranormal romance.

Romantic Suspense

If you wished classic action movies focused on romance and foiling bad guys in equal measure, these are the series for you.

 

Black Knights Inc.
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Premise: The Black Knights are a black ops group on a mission from the government, and their cover is a motorcycle shop. These books are the literary equivalent of a delightfully ridiculous, globetrotting spy thriller.
Number of books: 12.
Where to start: Hell on Wheels, where Black Knights member Nate “Ghost” Weller risks blowing his cover when the love of his life, Ali Morgan, comes into town and needs his help.

 


Fatal
Author: Marie Force
Premise: Did you watch “Scandal” and wish that Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant would stop going back and forth and just get their lives together? This is the series for you. Sam Holland is a brilliant police detective, and Nick Cappuano is the fling from her past. Sam solves D.C. murders, which gets progressively more complicated as Nick climbs the political ladder.
Number of books: 16 (there's also a second series starring the same characters, First Family)
Where to start: Fatal Affair—the first book of the series starts when Sam is called in to investigate the murder of Senator John O’Connor, Nick’s boss.


The O’Malleys
Author: Katee Robert
Premise: Do you want the thrills of romantic suspense without any pesky black-and-white morality? Then, my slightly scary friend, the Mafia romance is for you. This Boston-set series is outrageously sexy and features men and women of organized crime. Because feminism is for everyone.
Number of books: Six.
Where to start: The Marriage Contract, which starts when mob scion Teague O’Malley is ordered to marry Callista Sheridan in order to increase the family’s influence.


 

 

Paranormal Romance

If you’ve never read a paranormal romance, you probably think most of the genre is like Twilight for adults. But actually, the vast majority of paranormals follow the same action-packed beats of traditional romantic suspense, just with added magical intrigue.

 

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Premise: One of the founding series of urban fantasy as well as one of the longest-running paranormal series, Hamilton’s increasingly complex tales center on a vampire hunter/detective and her romantic entanglements. You’ll want to start at the very beginning with these.
Number of books: 25, with the 26th coming out this August.
Where to start: Guilty Pleasures, which sees Anita take on her very first case and get entangled with a very sexy vampire master.


Argeneau
Author: Lynsay Sands
Premise: A modern family of vampires battle evil and find love in this series of loosely connected romances. If you’re looking for a series that’s a little more light-hearted than some of the angstier offerings, the Argeneau books are for you.
Number of books: 27, with number 28 coming out later this year.
Where to start: A Quick Bite, whose vampire heroine faints at the sight of blood (told you these were funny) and gave the series its name.

 


Kate Daniels
Author: Ilona Andrews
Premise: After an apocalyptic event, magic comes in disruptive waves. One moment, technology works, the next it fails, and magic has to take its place. Kate Daniels is a mercenary in chaotic Atlanta, where magical creatures run amok.
Number of books: 10, with the final book coming out next month.
Where to start: Magic Bites, in which Kate gets caught between necromancers and shapechangers, both of which blame each other for a series of murders.

 


Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Premise: Even if you don’t read romance, you’ve probably heard of Singh’s long-running series. The name comes from two races at odds, but frequently falling in Romeo and Juliet-esque love. The Psy rule the world with their frightening psychic powers, and disdain all emotion. Their rivals are the changelings, shape shifters who live in close family units.
Number of books: 17 so far.
Where to start: Slave to Sensation—a love story between Psy Sascha, who has to hide her emotions from the rest of her race, and panther shifter Lucas that blooms while their respective peoples are on the verge of war.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you.

Jayne Ann Krentz is back with the second installment of her Fogg Lake trilogy, All the Colors of the Night. This smart, witty, fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable romantic suspense novel has all of Krentz’s signature touches: gender equality, cooperative teamwork and an unexpected twist.

The small town of Fogg Lake, Washington, is secretly home to a cadre of interesting people who have paranormal abilities. North Chastain is a paranormal investigator who’s at risk of going “psi-blind,” which means that he would not only lose his job but also have to forge a new path in the normal world. But that won’t stop him from recovering a mysterious artifact that he believes sent his father, who was also on the relic’s trail, into a coma. To find the artifact, he partners up with Sierra Raines, who works as a middleman for buyers and sellers in the paranormal antiquities trade.

Sierra is no timid, naive woman. She understands the risks that come with going after a particularly sought-after object like the one North seeks, but she's brave and sticks with him when the danger begins to escalate. Sierra saves the day—several times—and North is mature enough to be grateful and intelligent enough to recognize her skills. Sierra’s strength does not diminish North’s; rather, it enhances it. Their partnership is refreshingly and unquestionably one of equals.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, The Vanishing, don’t let that put you off. This easy-to-follow romantic suspense novel has a breathtaking pace, well-developed characters and great chemistry between its main couple.

Jayne Ann Krentz is back with the second installment of her Fogg Lake trilogy, All the Colors of the Night.

Katherine “Kit” Wescott is a rebel with a trust fund, a white-hat hacker and a pacifist who knows only one response to authority: defiance. Castle Kinkade is a wounded warrior who’s dedicated his life to his country, and currently serves as a field operative for a secretive government organization. In Until the End, the third book in former military intelligence officer Juno Rushdan’s Final Hour series, the two reluctantly join forces when the group Kit founded gets unwittingly implicated in a plot to release a biological weapon of mass destruction on American soil. As they work to stop the attack and clear her name, an undeniable attraction springs up between these two very different protagonists.

It’s a delicious setup for a union of opposites: on any other day in the D.C. jungle, Kit and Castle would be competitors, not collaborators. She’s chaos, and he’s order; they’re more natural enemies than lovers. Castle sees himself as the good guy, but to Kit, he looks suspiciously like the predators she’s been trying to avoid. And yet, despite competing agendas and differing worldviews, Kit and Castle find much to like in each other. Castle admires Kit’s intelligence and fierceness as much as her face and figure. Kit appreciates Castle’s integrity (and his “brawny” good looks), but more importantly she trusts him, instinctively and implicitly, with her life, even though she’s not used to trusting anyone.

As the two work to stop the plot, their attraction grows, thriving on a combustible combination familiar to readers of romantic suspense: adrenaline, a common threat and close forced proximity. Both their conflict and their connection are convincing. Yet Kit and Castle are hardly the book’s only attraction. Until the End boasts a diverse cast of secondary characters, none of whom are superfluous. Though the story is told in third person, Rushdan provides access to the inner lives and perspectives of a wide range of actors in this drama—Kit’s irreverent and frequently funny voice makes for a nice change of pace given the book’s intensity. When she first meets Castle, Kitt likens him to both Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “a satanic cult leader” in her head.

On top of that, the action scenes are incredibly vivid, even cinematic. I felt my heart race at several moments while reading, and at one point my smart watch had to remind me to breathe. Rushdan may be taking liberties with reality—the agency Castle works for is a shadowy, unofficial one, much like the fictional B-613 of “Scandal”—but these embellishments don’t undermine the overall relevance of the plot.

Until the End is not a perfect book—it’s set in the world of politics, yet scrupulously apolitical, and the action and complicated twists threaten to overwhelm the romance at times. Still, the characters and momentum easily propel the reader through. The combination of arresting action, realistic high-stakes conflict, romance and light humor makes Until the End an intensely absorbing romantic thriller.

Katherine “Kit” Wescott is a rebel with a trust fund, a white-hat hacker and a pacifist who knows only one response to authority: defiance. Castle Kinkade is a wounded warrior who’s dedicated his life to his country, and currently serves as a field operative for a secretive government organization. In Until the End, the third book […]

HelenKay Dimon takes readers back to the intriguing world of remote Whitaker Island, Washington in The Secret She Keeps. The same nosy group of colorful islanders also returns, evidence of the fact that even in a small community, away from the rush of a big city, there’s no such thing as down (or quiet) time. But it’s the killer lurking in the bushes, so to speak, that serves as a swift reminder that no matter how far you run, the past always catches up.

Nearly two years after the death of his sister Alexis, Connor Rye finally relocates to Whitaker Island from Washington, D.C., to be closer to his brother and remaining family. Although the beautiful island seems serene on the surface, he’s no stranger to its shadows. Not only was Alexis murdered; someone breaks into his cabin and attacks him on his first night, giving fair warning that he needs to leave. Maddie Rhine has her own secrets—chief among them the fact that she’s on the run and living under a false identity. With the attack on Connor, it’s obvious Whitaker Island once again faces a dangerous interloper, and since Maddie’s a suspicious element, she may be in danger too.

Dimon is a master at world building, and often writes heroic characters who find greatness within, rather than individuals who are weighed down with chests and walls full of medals. Everyday heroics are just as important as strong men and women who can leap single bounds—everyday heroics keep the world going. And something is definitely amiss on Whitaker Island. That much was clear from the first book in the series, Her Other Secret, and readers get an immersion course in murder and mayhem with this second installment.

In the end, The Secret She Keeps is a complex story of love and grief, forgiveness and fresh starts. It’s a perfect story with which to wrap up the decade and forge a new path in the New Year. HelenKay Dimon is definitely on my keeper shelf.

HelenKay Dimon takes readers back to the intriguing world of remote Whitaker Island, Washington in The Secret She Keeps.

Simon Cowell used to tell singers he loved on “American Idol” that they could “sing the phone book” to him and he’d be happy. I feel the same way about Rebecca Zanetti—she could regale me with a trip to the grocery store and I’m sure it would be spectacular.

Zanetti's books span the gamut of subgenres in romance, vacillating primarily between paranormal and (my favorite) romantic suspense. With Fallen, she brings us back to the Deep Ops world for another installment of awesomeness. By now, two and a half books into the series, we’ve seen Raider Tanaka a couple of times. He’s a good guy, really, but he’s got a dark, sexy, implacable core that calls out to his teammate Brigid Banaghan. They’re both part of the secret deep operations unit HDD, and while they’re total opposites in most things, neither are there because the division was their ultimate goal. Raider slept with the wife of his former supervisor and Brigid’s a world-class hacker avoiding jail time. Now they’re working together, posing as a real-life betrothed couple to get an “in“ with the Irish mob that Brigid's father used to run with.

All the hallmarks of a Zanetti book (which cause a Pavlovian response in me any time I see her books on the shelves) are present: richly developed characters, robust plots, exciting suspense and hot, sexy times. She is, quite simply, one of my favorite authors and the world is all the better for having her in it.

Simon Cowell used to tell singers he loved on “American Idol” that they could “sing the phone book” to him and he’d be happy. I feel the same way about Rebecca Zanetti—she could regale me with a trip to the grocery store and I’m sure it would be spectacular.

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