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There’s nothing quite like a cowboy—all strength and competence, dedication and honor wrapped up a long, lean package and topped with a Stetson. These two new stories feature cowboy heroes who check every box, then throw in something a little extra.

Lori Wilde’s How the Cowboy Was Won returns to her well-loved town of Cupid, Texas, where Ranger Lockhart, a cowboy of good fortune, is very obviously in need of a wife. At least, this much is obvious to his lifelong best friend, the delightful and spirited Ember Alzate, who takes pride in her reputation as a local matchmaker. When Ranger comes home to chase a job opportunity, Ember’s resolved to do whatever it takes to make sure he stays in Cupid for good. If that means finding him the perfect wife, then Ember’s up to the task. Little does she know that Ranger has already decided exactly who he wants by his side, and he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his stubborn best friend that she’s the only woman who belongs in his arms.

If you think this premise sounds Austen-esque, you’re right—it’s a Western homage to Jane Austen’s Emma. Wilde turns that mannered Regency romance into a story bursting with energy and vitality that loses none of the charm of the original. Ember and Ranger are bolder, sexier and worldlier than Emma and Mr. Knightly, with Ember especially having experienced more love, loss and failure than Austen’s sheltered heroine, which adds to the richness of the story. Ember and Ranger are flawed, awkward and thoroughly engaging characters on a hilarious journey to their happily ever after. How the Cowboy Was Won is as light and effervescent as a glass of champagne, sweet and sparkling with humor and warmth.

By contrast, Hero’s Return by B.J. Daniels is a tumbler of scotch—layered, smoky and complex. Tucker Cahill fled his Montana home 19 years ago with no explanation to his friends and family. After hearing the news that an unidentified woman’s body has been found, Tucker decides to finally return to the town and face his past. The secret of Tucker's connection to the crime scene is a twisted web that only gets more tangled as the story progresses. He teams up with Kate Rothschild, a well-bred beauty who fought against her family’s expectations to come to the same small town and get closure on her own personal tragedy.

Despite the darkness of the premise, Tucker is every bit the hero that the title promises—principled and honorable, with a determination to find answers that’s balanced by empathy and compassion. The bullheaded Kate, who takes no prisoners in her fierce drive to get to the truth, brings out his protective side. Their deepening connection and slow slide into love play out beautifully against the twisted backdrop of an investigation that reveals new, deadly angles at every turn. Hero’s Return is a page-turner that will have you fighting the urge to flip ahead and see how it all ends. And while the conclusion is very satisfying, it also carries hints that will leave you waiting eagerly for Daniels’ upcoming return to the Cahill Ranch for this family’s next adventure.

There’s nothing quite like a cowboy—all strength and competence, dedication and honor—wrapped up a long, lean package and topped with a Stetson. These two new stories feature cowboy heroes who check every box, then throw in something a little extra.

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At this point, holiday-themed romance is a yearly institution. And like most holiday traditions, it can all get a bit overwhelming. But never fear! Whether you’re in the mood for small-town sweetness or an old-fashioned Christmas ball, these five romances are the season’s best.

Another member of the Westcott family finds true love in Mary Balogh’s Someone to Trust. The setting is snow-covered and the company jolly, but two people at the holiday family gathering are feeling gloomy. Widow Elizabeth Overfield, at 35, wonders if now might be the time to find another husband and try for children. Eligible bachelor Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, is 26 and contemplates doing his duty in the New Year and beginning the business of finding a wife. The pair enjoys each other’s company and feels an undeniable attraction, but the age difference makes them incompatible—or does it? Colin and Elizabeth bring out the best in each other, but on the way to a happy-ever-after they must confront ugly gossip, societal expectations and manipulative relatives. The quiet, authentic intensity of the characters’ emotions is a hallmark of Balogh’s work, and it is a pleasure to experience each heart-wringing moment in this romance made for warming a winter night.

MISSION OF LOVE
In Lori Wilde’s The Christmas Key, a soldier with PTSD reluctantly experiences the annual celebrations in the small town of Twilight, Texas. Consumed with guilt for his part in a fellow soldier’s death, Mark Shepherd is on a mission to return an heirloom key to the young man’s family. Upon meeting the Luthers, he’s astonished to find that Naomi Luther is straight out of his dreams—as in, he’s literally dreamed about her. Naomi doesn’t let on at first, but she’s dreamed about Mark, too. Are they soul mates? There are obstacles aplenty to real romance—from Naomi’s out-of-town sweetheart to Mark’s need to address his childhood and wartime experiences. The events surrounding Christmas ensure the two have plenty of time together, and as their feelings grow, so do the issues lying between them. Questions of destiny and faith are explored, and readers will cheer when the couple finds their way to forgiveness and love. The Christmas Key is a romance brimming with holiday spirit.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
It’s Yuletide in London in Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman. Lady Regina Haversham is looking forward to the holiday season because she’s decided to gift herself a man. A particular man: the dashing and roguish Daffin Oakleaf, a member of the Bow Street Runners, London’s first police force. He and Regina indulged in a flirtation in the not-too-distant past, but Daffin doesn’t accept her indecent proposal. Embarrassed by his rejection, Regina thinks she wouldn’t mind never seeing him again, but after she experiences some frightening attempts on her life, the lawman is forced to stay near the tempting Regina to solve the puzzle of why someone wants to harm her. Scorching romance and enjoyable mystery twine together in this charming story of a hero and heroine battling strict class expectations. Regina is no wilting flower, and her determination to direct her own life makes her an admirable partner for the oh-so-honorable Daffin (who wields his handcuffs in some very decadent ways). Bowman’s latest is a sparkling holiday tale.

HOLIDAY HIGH JINKS
Holiday, Texas, goes all-out for Christmas in Cowboy Christmas Jubilee by Dylann Crush. Jinx Jacobs doesn’t expect much out of life and hasn’t experienced a great deal of love. The holidays have never meant a thing to her, but that’s about to change when her broken motorcycle strands her in the small rural town, where she meets the Walker family and enters into the gleeful antics of this Christmas-crazy part of the country. Sheriff’s deputy and single dad Cash Walker doesn’t trust the tough loner at first, with her blue hair and tattoos, but soon he sees beneath the surface to find the warm woman with a big heart. Readers will enjoy the description of a holidays-gone-wild town that sponsors everything from a Turkey Trotter race to an Elf Auction to a Kissmas Cam. There are two unusual pets and a plot with some zany moments, but the characters are good, caring people who deserve to find everything their hearts desire under the tree.

TOP PICK IN ROMANCE
Susan Fox sends an arrow to the heart with Sail Away with Me. Family obligations bring successful musician Julian Blake back to Destiny Island in the Pacific Northwest. He ran from the island as a teen, under the shadow of a terrible secret. But now he must manage his complicated emotions concerning the island in order to return and help his injured dad. Iris Yakimura, the introverted local bookseller, acts as a balm to Julian’s soul. They build a friendship, albeit one that has a limited shelf life, since he’ll be returning to his career and she believes she’s island-bound forever. But they both find hidden strengths—Julian exposes the man who sexually abused him, and Iris faces up to her near-crippling shyness. This is no saccharine Christmas tale, though there’s sweetness to be found in the courageous actions of the characters. The discussion of the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II adds another dimension to this wonderful story of finding love in the midst of hardship and pain. Prepare for tears and smiles, and have tissues at the ready.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Susan Fox about Sail Away with Me.

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

At this point, holiday-themed romance is a yearly institution. And like most holiday traditions, it can all get a bit overwhelming. But never fear! Whether you’re in the mood for small-town sweetness or an old-fashioned Christmas ball, these five romances are the season’s best.

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Turns out, you can buy love. Two new romances blend old-fashioned sweetness with rip-roaring adventure, breathing new life into one of the oldest tropes of the Western romance: the mail-order bride.

Sarah M. Eden mines the mail-order bride plot for gentle comedy and goodhearted character growth in her kisses-only inspirational romance, Healing Hearts. Gideon MacNamara is the beloved doctor of the small Wyoming town of Savage Wells. Unlucky in love and desperately in need of professional assistance, he requests an arranged bride with medical experience, hoping to kill two birds with one logical, unromantic stone. When Miriam Bricks arrives, believing she’s been hired for a position as a nurse and only a nurse, she’s quite confused as to why all the townspeople are so happy to see her. And why they’re all dressed for a wedding. After the confusion is cleared up, Gideon pushes past his embarrassment and offers Miriam a job in his office. The pair are refreshingly mature as they work through their awkward situation, and Gideon’s defense of Miriam to his disappointed patients is particularly charming.

If you’re looking for a bit more, shall we say, illicit take on the trope, Linda Broday’s The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride should be right up your alley. Clay Colby is certain his intended will take one look at the burned-out remains of his home and hightail it back to wherever she came from. But Tally Shannon has demons of her own and nowhere else to go. Both have a price on their heads, and they vow not to turn each other in while they attempt to make their marriage work. Broday’s earthy, no-nonsense characters fit the rugged setting perfectly, and it’s a pleasure to watch these two lonely, cynical souls forge a powerful, passionate partnership.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Two new romances blend old-fashioned sweetness with rip-roaring adventure, breathing new life into one of the oldest tropes of the Western romance: the mail-order bride.

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Friends always make better lovers. It’s probably a scientific fact, somewhere. But in the world of romance, it’s a truth that can be proven time and again. Lovers come in all shapes and sizes, for any length of time, but if you want a lasting relationship with staying power, friendship is the key. (And apparently, being named “Hunter” also helps.)

Connie Mann kicks off her new Florida Wildlife Warriors series with Beyond Risk, a satisfying mystery with a robust cast of characters, a small-town feel and the wild, adventurous forest around the Ocklawaha River. But what really sets it apart is the tight camaraderie of the Tanner family, and the friendship between Charlee Tanner and Hunter Boudreau that develops with natural grace into a satisfying romance.

The story opens on the one-year anniversary of a tragic paddling trip Charlee led, in which someone drowned. Her big family of law enforcement and Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) officers are on hand to usher her off on a new paddling adventure, but it’s Hunter’s presence that she’s most drawn to, as “he’d also stood between her and the world, giving her a safe space to heal.” If only the big, bad, former Marine and FWC hottie could keep that barrier between her and the world, he might be able to save her from a stalker before her life flips upside down again. Mann proves that she knows her subject matter by interjecting as many dangers from the natural world—snakes, alligators and the river itself—as from violent offenders, but she also fills the story with so many characters that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. Look beyond the multitude of clients, family and community members and focus on the easy way Charlee and Hunter migrate from friends to lovers. There’s nothing risky about that.

Lora Leigh and Veronica Chadwick dish up another friends-to-lovers romantic suspense in One Tough Cowboy, a love story between a sexy cowboy and the girl that got away.

In this instance, the sexy cowboy, Hunter Steele, is also a sexy small-town sheriff and the girl that got away is Samantha Ryder, who moved to Detroit with her family at eleven and is now a police officer. After three deaths in Deerhaven, California, Hunter and Samantha reunite. One of the dead is his uncle, another is her aunt, but all three victims have died from suspicious, supposedly accidental pain medication overdoses. The similarities are just too coincidental for them to be random, and with the mayor’s wife being the third victim, it all adds up to some serious small-town corruption. Chadwick is a new to this reviewer, but Leigh’s trademark drama and sexy romance is easily identifiable and as heart racing as ever. The pair’s Moving Violations series is off to a red hot start.

So if you don’t want to just “love the one you’re with,” look a little deeper into those you consider your closest friends. Could be true love’s been with you all along. And if you find someone named Hunter, grab him!

Friends always make better lovers. It’s probably a scientific fact, somewhere. But in the world of romance, it’s a truth that can be proven time and again. Lovers come in all shapes and sizes, for any length of time, but if you want a lasting relationship with staying power, friendship is the key. (And apparently, being named “Hunter” also helps.)

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Every girl dreams of being Cinderella, swept away from drudgery into a life of luxury and comfort. How delightful it is to see stories that take the opposite tack, yanking heroines from their safe, secure bubbles and throwing them out into the real world to see if they’re able to survive—and maybe even thrive. There’s a strange sort of freedom in leaving behind everything you’ve known and finding a fresh start, and that’s exactly what makes these heroines and their delightful stories so compelling.

A LONDON SANCTUARY
Delilah, the utterly charming heroine of Julie Anne Long’s Lady Derring Takes a Lover, lost everything with the death of her husband—her belongings (repossessed by the creditors of her spendthrift husband); her home (entailed to a distant relative); her staff (poached by other society matrons); and her last shred of interest in behaving like a proper lady. Instead of seeking to marry again, or throwing herself on the mercy of relatives, Delilah takes the one piece of property her husband actually owned outright and, with the help of her late husband’s mistress who becomes her new best friend, she turns it into a boardinghouse: The Grand Palace on the Thames. Yes, it’s in the middle of a wretched neighborhood. Yes, they have no idea how to run a business. Yes, they get strange looks when they insist on running the place along very particular terms (including a strict curfew and a swear jar in the sitting room), but it’s still everything Delilah ever wanted. It’s hers. It’s a place where she feels safe. And it offers her a life where she’ll never have to depend on a man again.

But then Captain Tristan Hardy arrives.

After clawing his way out of the London slums and into a position of honor and esteem in His Majesty’s Navy, Tristan has learned to put nothing and no one ahead of duty. When his investigation into a smuggling ring leads him to the boardinghouse, he intends to keep his eyes open and his emotions detached. But who could be detached in the face of The Grand Palace’s cozy furnishings, quirky guests and beautiful hostesses? The interludes of sensuality and passion between Delilah and Tristan are rich and vivid, but no less engaging is the sheer pleasure they take in learning about each other—and surprising each other. Long’s wit is sharp, clever and hilariously effective, but it’s the warmth and gentleness of Lady Derring that make every page of the story a lovely place to visit—precisely the sort of safe haven Delilah would have wanted.

HOME ON THE RANGE
By contrast, Amy Sandas’s heroine in The Cowboy’s Honor, Boston heiress Courtney Adams, leaves her safe, secure life behind in a full-blown run when she heads out west. When she accidentally receives a letter proving that her fiancé has been unfaithful, Courtney realizes that her meticulously arranged marriage is a mistake. She makes a wild bid for freedom by trading her bridal jewelry for a ticket and fleeing—still in her wedding gown—to the Montana Territory. She couldn’t have known that her sudden arrival and excessively bridal attire would send the wrong message to gruff rancher Dean Lawton, whose brother has been threatening to acquire him a mail-order bride.

Misunderstandings accidentally lead to matrimony and the situation only worsens when the local judge refuses to grant an annulment until they’ve given the marriage one month’s “fair trial.” One minute seems to be longer than they can spend together before barbs start flying, but the heat they generate turns just as quickly to desire. They rub each other the wrong way . . . and the right way . . . and pretty much every imaginable way as they stumble together in spite of themselves. Gradually, Dean comes to appreciate Courtney’s relentless optimism, her refusal to back down from a challenge and her delight in learning or discovering something new. And Courtney comes to value Dean’s dedication, integrity and strength. It’s lovely to see them grow together as they move forward into the people they were always meant to be—and discover that their mistaken marriage was a perfect match after all.

Every girl dreams of being Cinderella, swept away from drudgery into a life of luxury and comfort. But how very interesting it is to see stories that take the opposite tack, yanking heroines from their safe, secure bubbles and throwing them out into the real world to see if they’re able to survive—and maybe even thrive. There’s a strange sort of freedom in leaving behind everything you’ve known and finding a fresh start, and that’s exactly what makes these heroines and their delightful stories so compelling.

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Top Pick
When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil’s Daughter, she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even though he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past. Phoebe sees the good man that West has become, and the only bad left in him is precisely the kind that a woman like herself finds oh-so-tempting. The romance is delicious as West’s best intentions to stay clear of Phoebe battle her resolve to get what she wants, and that push-pull drives the narrative. The reformed bad boy is a staple of the genre, and West is just the sort that readers adore. His regrets and overwhelming feelings for the heroine make him an unforgettable hero. Add in cameos from Kleypas’ beloved Wallflowers (Phoebe is the daughter of Devil in Winter’s Evie and Sebastian), and Devil’s Daughter is a must read.

 

Former lovers get a second chance in Stefanie London’s Bad Influence. On the eve of a big move for her boyfriend’s job, Annie Maxwell decided to stay in New York City to support her mother during a medical crisis. The man in her life, Joseph Preston, left her behind, inspiring her to anonymously create a now-infamous app, Bad Bachelors, where women rate and review men of the city. Joseph returns just as a hacker threatens to reveal Annie’s identity, and she finds herself confiding in him, giving them a chance to face past mistakes and find closure. But will love rebloom instead? Annie and Joseph are flawed, authentic characters who must tread a fine line between loyalty to family and to each other. This is love with the blinders off, and it is all the more sophisticated and refreshing for that.

 

Readers who like their romance spiced with mystery can’t go wrong with Stroke of Luck by B.J. Daniels. Will Sterling has opened his ranch to a special group early in the season, and when his cook can’t make it, he turns to his childhood friend Poppy Carmichael, who’s now a caterer. Will hasn’t seen Poppy in 20 years, and he’s grateful when she commits to four days at the isolated location. Poppy is delighted at the opportunity—she’s harbored fantasies about making the man fall for her like she fell for him as a young girl—but she’s not prepared for the very adult feelings she has for the sexy cowboy. To make matters worse, tension among the guests leads to murder. A blizzard delays the arrival of law enforcement, and it’s up to Will and Poppy to discern friend from foe, as well as to decide how to manage the undeniable attraction between them. This kickoff to Daniels’ new Sterling’s Montana series provides engrossing entertainment.

When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil’s Daughter, she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even though he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past.
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Judging by the number of cowboy covers lining the bookshelves at my local library, there is no shortage of interest in that tried and true Wild West archetype. Whether you’re looking for a sweet homesteader yarn set at the turn of the twentieth century, a contemporary coming-of-age tale or a suspenseful nail-biter, there’s something for every romance reader.

Jo Goodman’s A Touch of Forever is a sweet marriage of convenience story set in 1902. Third in her Cowboys of Colorado series, this novel can still easily be read as a stand-alone. Goodman is an expert at developing compelling, interesting and likeable characters, and this entry is totally absorbing. Railway surveyor Roen Shepard is new to town working on a project for the Northern Railway. When he meets single mother Lily Salt, he is immediately taken with her quiet grace and dignity, and her sense of humor and hard work. When he poses the marriage of convenience idea to her in attempt to fend off his ex-mistress, who’s come to town with unwanted news (and advances), Lily agrees for practicality’s sake. What ensues is the slow-burn development of a friendship that gracefully develops into a romance. A Touch of Forever is gorgeously done and almost compulsively readable.

Carolyn Brown’s Cowboy Rebel follows the journey of Tag Baker and his evolution from adventurous daredevil to responsible ranch owner. Like the other protagonists in Brown’s Longhorn Canyon series, Tag is richly developed and part of a sprawling, inclusive family. His wild, risk-taking ways defined him ever since the death of his best friend. Nikki Grady is an admirable woman who’s worked hard in life to get where she is. Her nursing career is hard-won, and one she’s unwilling to risk via a romance with a reckless cowboy. But the more she gets to know Tag, the more she opens herself up to the possibility. That is, if she can ditch her drag of a mother, Wilma, whose conversations and scenes with Nikki were hard to get through at times. Fortunately, Tag and Nikki are compelling enough to re-garner the readers’ attention and remind you why this rebel gets the girl.

Luck of the Draw is a second-chance love story with B.J. Daniels’ trademark undercurrent of danger. When Garrett Sterling comes across a man dragging a struggling woman across a ravine, he intervenes. But once he gets a good look at her, he realizes it’s Joslyn Charles, the woman he thought was the love of his life. Joslyn disappeared almost two years ago with no word, and now claims to not recognize him. Her head injury is very real, which makes the possibility of amnesia plausible—it just makes filling in the blanks all the more frustrating for Garrett, particularly since they’re in the crosshairs of a killer. Daniels is a perennial favorite on the romantic suspense front, and I might go as far as to label her the cowboy whisperer. 

Judging by the number of cowboy covers lining the bookshelves at my local library, there is no shortage of interest in that tried and true Wild West archetype. Whether you’re looking for a sweet homesteader yarn set at the turn of the twentieth century, a contemporary coming-of-age tale or a suspenseful nail-biter, there’s something for every romance reader.

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Ride into the sunset of a happily ever after with this trio of new romances, featuring couples who've fought hard for their futures.

★ A Cowboy to Remember

NYC glamour meets Southern California dude ranch in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s A Cowboy to Remember. Suffering from amnesia after an accident, chef Evie Buchanan flies west to recover with the dazzling, successful Pleasant family, with whom she lived as a child. The three handsome brothers are eager for her to recover, and she has eyes for one, Zach, in particular. She suspects that she and Zach could’ve had something before she left for culinary school, but Zach is slow to own up to their past—or his mistakes. Readers will root for Evie to reclaim her life, but it feels wrong to leave behind a blossoming romance. However, Evie has fought hard for her achievements, and walking away from them isn’t a win either. This is a pleasurable ride to happily ever after.

Engaged to the Earl

Lisa Berne offers a charming Regency romp with Engaged to the Earl. Beautiful and determined Gwendolyn Penhallow believes she’s the luckiest girl in the world when she finds herself engaged to the Earl of Westenbury, the most handsome man she’s ever laid eyes on. She is even more delighted when an old friend and former neighbor, Christopher Beck, arrives in London. He’s soon brought into their social circle, and she finds herself as drawn to him as she was in her childhood. Since she’s promised to another, she can be content with a platonic closeness with Christopher—or can she? Humor abounds in Berne’s witty, tongue-in-cheek romance. And her choice to tell the story through multiple viewpoints puts the reader in the center of the action, adding to the fast-paced fun. 

Forbidden Promises

Synithia Williams’ Forbidden Promises lives up to its title. India Robidoux’s visit to her family home was supposed to be a temporary stop in her career as a touring violinist. But her brother is in the middle of a political campaign, and soon she’s sucked into the family drama. That means facing her sister’s ex, Travis Strickland, an attorney from a humble part of town who is working on the campaign. Emotions, relationships and business are tangled in this soap opera-esque tale, and readers will find themselves unable to look away from Williams’ well-drawn and larger-than-life characters. It’s impossible not to enjoy this entertaining glimpse into a world of wealth, political ambition and familial loyalties.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Rebekah Weatherspoon about A Cowboy to Remember.

Ride into the sunset of a happily ever after with this trio of new romances, featuring couples who've fought hard for their futures. ★ A Cowboy to Remember NYC glamour meets Southern California dude ranch in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s A Cowboy to Remember. Suffering from amnesia after an accident, chef Evie Buchanan flies west to recover with the […]
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Travel to the Georgian era, outer space and the Old West in May's best new romances.

★ The Rakess

Seraphina Arden, a notorious women’s rights advocate, retreats to Cornwall to write about the past that “ruined” her in Scarlett Peckham’s passionate Georgian romance, The Rakess. Widower Adam Anderson is an architect with ambitions, and consorting with a scandalous woman might hinder his goal of securing a good life for his young children. So Seraphina and Adam embark on a secret affair to assuage their mutual hunger. Their appetites are lustily described, but it’s how their hearts are affected that will keep the reader turning the pages. Peppered with Seraphina’s well-reasoned arguments on gender relations, Peckham’s print debut is unique, dramatic and vastly entertaining.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: How womens rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft inspired Scarlett Peckham's alpha heroine.


Starbreaker

Strap in for a rollicking ride with Starbreaker by Amanda Bouchet. Tess Bailey and Shade Ganavan continue their quest to thwart the evil Galactic Overseer. The pair encounters challenging and surprising obstacles as old friends and old enemies pop up to create problems or become unlikely allies. And while Tess and Shade share a bed, issues still cast doubt on their romantic future. Tess learns of secrets from her past, and Shade must accept that he can never return to his previous life. This is a high-octane adventure with life-and-death stakes. Sci-fi romance must satisfy on many levels, and Bouchet proves she’s up to the task. Her characters are witty and wise, and her world building is first-rate.

Stages of the Heart

Jo Goodman’s Stages of the Heart is rich in detail and plot. Laurel Morrison—independent, tough and determined—manages a station that provides meals and accommodations along the stagecoach route. When a mine’s payroll goes missing from her station, she needs to solve the mystery to ensure her success. Enter quintessential Western hero McCall Landry, a laconic man with steely nerves and a shadowed past. McCall is looking for work and takes on the task of determining who stole the strongbox from the stagecoach. The couple is intrigued and attracted, but Laurel doesn’t expect forever—maybe McCall’s just passing through. The author of some 50 books, Goodman has a true storyteller’s voice that will have you feeling the dust on your boots and the wind in your hair. 


Christie Ridgway is a lifelong romance reader and a published romance novelist of over 60 books.

Travel to the Georgian era, outer space and the Old West in May's best new romances. ★ The Rakess Seraphina Arden, a notorious women’s rights advocate, retreats to Cornwall to write about the past that “ruined” her in Scarlett Peckham’s passionate Georgian romance, The Rakess. Widower Adam Anderson is an architect with ambitions, and consorting with […]
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We all need a little kindness. We need patience and understanding—for ourselves and for each other. We need reminders of the good things in the world. We need beautiful sights. We need heartwarming stories. We need laughter and joy and a sense that things really can get better.

We need some hot cowboys cuddling puppies.

Thankfully, Jennie Marts and Lucy Gilmore are here to provide them.


In A Cowboy State of Mind, you get a whole menagerie of cute animals as Bryn Callahan starts an animal rescue—accidently. It begins when the spunky waitress decides to rescue a horse being taken to slaughter. From there, she ends up with another horse, a dog with a litter of five puppies, a miniature pony, a pair of lovebirds and even a massive pig that thinks it’s a house pet. But of course, the stray she collects who needs the most healing is cowboy Zane Taylor. Scarred, inside and out, by a bitter childhood and devastating losses, Zane is fully convinced that he’s beyond saving. It takes all of Bryn’s grit, dedication and determined sunniness to convince him that he has the right to be rescued from his fears and doubts, and that he deserves to claim the joy Bryn brings him.

I’m a city girl through and through, so it says something that Jennie Marts makes me wish I lived in the small town she has created. Creedence, Colorado, radiates a warmth that could soothe the weariest heart. I love the thought of a diner where the waitress helps you with your crossword puzzle, or a feed store where you walk in to find a neighbor has put some money on your tab, just to lend a hand. And while everyone in town knows your problems almost before you do, they act on that knowledge by pitching in to help—with a trailer full of supplies, or a bowl of ice cream on the house or a stern talking-to aimed at your deceitful ex—just when you need it the most. The story has its share of heartache, but there’s sweetness to it, too, including a happily ever after that’s mixed up and backwards and perfectly wonderful all at once.

There’s far less chaos out on Dearborn Ranch in Puppy Kisses—and that’s a problem. Handsome Adam Dearborn runs his life and his ranch on precise, orderly lines, partially to accommodate the blindness he’s had since childhood, but mostly because he feels he’s safer coloring inside the lines, never risking his heart and never leaving his comfort zone. But then dog trainer Dawn Vasquez comes speeding into his life with a stolen (or rescued—let’s go with rescued) golden retriever puppy and throws his tidy world into turmoil. Dawn is everything Adam is not: vivacious, impulsive, passionate and heartbreakingly aware that the world tends to view her as “too much.” Adam, by contrast, is convinced he is not enough.

The chemistry crackles as these opposites very much attract—but sex, alas, doesn’t manage to solve their problems (no matter how fun it is to read!). What they need is a little emotional honesty, and who better to teach them that than a dog? Or even a pair of dogs, when Dawn tries to convince Adam to accept another candidate and give the golden retriever to her. Dawn visits the ranch to train Adam and his guide dog, but it feels more like the dogs are training Adam and Dawn in how to love without hesitation, trust without fear and accept (others and yourself) without reservation.

So in short, come to these books for sparkling writing, fun characters and rich emotional journeys, but also . . . well . . . hot cowboys and cuddly puppies. Because you need to remember that these things exist in the world. Be kind to yourself and pick up these books.

We all need a little kindness. We need patience and understanding—for ourselves and for each other. We need reminders of the good things in the world. We need beautiful sights. We need heartwarming stories. We need laughter and joy and a sense that things really can get better. We need some hot cowboys cuddling puppies. […]
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Impish fun, heart-tripping danger and a cowboy to remember can be found in the pages of August's best new romances.

 Would I Lie to the Duke

An ambitious woman with a family business to save falls for an aristocrat in the Regency historical romance Would I Lie to the Duke by Eva Leigh. Hoping to secure an investor, Jessica McGale, posing as “Lady Whitfield,” finagles her way into an elite group that includes Noel, the Duke of Rotherby. They’re immediately attracted, and Jess impresses him with her intelligence, common sense and ability to treat him as a man rather than a title. Their romance is charming, their conversations witty and sly, and their love scenes are positively scorching. But all good masquerades must come to an end, and Noel feels betrayed by Jess’ deceit, despite its good cause. There are well-rounded characters, drama and some impish fun—one man pitches what sounds very much like an impractical version of Twitter—but the satisfying sense of female empowerment makes this a standout.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Eva Leigh shares which 1980s movies inspired Would I Lie to the Duke.


Say No More

A horrific past shadows the heroine of Karen Rose’s Say No More. Sexual abuse survivor Mercy Callahan returns to Northern California to reunite with her brother and uncover details of the dangerous cult that raised them. Police detective Rafe Sokolov can’t help but admire Mercy’s grit as they team up to stop recent killings that may be connected to the cult. Mercy is no isolated damsel in distress, and Rafe is no driven lone wolf. Loyal family and friends step in to help the protagonists, and it’s a richer story for their presence. There’s lethal, heart-tripping danger, but the tender love story and powerful friendships provide a positive emotional core to this exciting thriller.

Wild Cowboy Country

Park ranger Lacey Montgomery suffers a concussion while protecting a wolf den from harassment by teenagers at the beginning of Erin Marsh’s Wild Cowboy Country. But she and the cubs are saved by one of the teens and his uncle, rancher Clay Stevens. Mutual respect and then romantic feelings follow as Clay and Lacey trade views on wolves and ranch management. Another star of the story is the local zoo, as sections are told from the points of view of various four-legged inhabitants. What are the thoughts of a capybara, honey badger and camel? Find out here! Whimsy, a bit of suspense and a whole lot of heart make this a super summer read.

Impish fun, heart-tripping danger and a cowboy to remember can be found in the pages of August's best new romances. ★ Would I Lie to the Duke An ambitious woman with a family business to save falls for an aristocrat in the Regency historical romance Would I Lie to the Duke by Eva Leigh. Hoping to secure […]

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