Romance

THE SISTERS OF SEA VIEW by Julie Klassen

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With their father deceased, his estate passed on to a distant male relative, and their mother’s health failing, four gently-bred ladies are suddenly left without a source of sufficient income, their only asset their beloved house on the coast that is suddenly too large for them to maintain. Against her younger sisters’ objections, the eldest, Sarah, moves forward with a plan to rent rooms in their seaside home and take on other small jobs around the town to keep them all from destitution. The new venture stretches the four sisters out of their comfort zones and throws them into the paths of eligible gentlemen–from a Scottish widower to a bedridden war veteran–opening unexpected opportunities for personal growth and maybe even a chance for love.

This family-centric historical romance is sure to delight Klassen’s fan base and pull in new fans from the gentle reads / inspirational romance arena. Klassen devotes as much attention to the sister relationships as she does to the romantic ones and builds her story slowly with great attention to each character’s quiet evolution.

BENEATH HIS SILENCE by Hannah Linder

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Ella arrives at Wyckhorn Manor hoping to succeed in the soul-consuming mission her late father did not live long enough to complete: proving that Lord Sedgewick murdered her sister.

From the moment she meets Lord Henry Sedgewick, it is clear her sister made a mistake in marrying him. He is cold, aloof, and admits he never even loved Lucy. Ella assumes a false name and takes a position as governess to Henry and Lucy’s young son, hoping to get to know her nephew and gather proof of Henry’s iniquity. Yet under his distant exterior, Ella is surprised and somewhat alarmed to find a compassionate, generous, devoted Christian who begins gently prodding her doubting soul back toward the faith. But Henry and Wyckhorn Manor hold dark, guilty secrets, and though neither Henry nor Ella know it, they are both in grave danger of losing their hearts, their lives, and everything they hold dear.

This Gothic, Bronte-esque Christian Regency Romance packs suspense and emotional drama alongside a sweet (clean) courtship and each protagonist’s arc toward self-forgiveness. The Christian elements are prominent—a journey toward conversion—making this title ideal for readers who enjoy both Christian Fiction and Regency Romance rather than either in isolation. If you are a reader of both categories, I can highly recommend this story as immersive, exciting, and emotionally satisfying.

HER LAST BETRAYAL by Pam Lecky

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Sarah Gillespie has survived a year of wartime tragedy. Her sister died in a German air raid which she later learned was facilitated by her own father, an IRA operative who faked his death to continue secretly collaborating with Nazis in return for their aid with the Irish republican cause. As if that suffering and betrayal weren’t enough, her fiance’s ship is attacked by the Nazis, leaving him missing in action.

When MI5 approaches Sarah for her help undermining her father’s spy mission and bringing him to justice, she can’t say no. Unfortunately, they pair her with insufferable American operative Tony Anderson, suspicious of her due to her Irish heritage and dismissive of her espionage skills. An undercover mission takes them to Wales to track down Sarah’s father, but German moles have infiltrated their operation and as Sarah’s sparring with Anderson gives way to attraction, she will need to decide whether the surly American can be trusted–or whether he might be the sinister double agent they’ve been hunting.

Twisty with just a touch of enemies-to-lovers romance, HER LAST BETRAYAL is a quick, fun read for fans of the historical thriller genre. Lecky packs her story with colorful secondary characters and enough red herrings to keep you guessing to the climax. The second in a series, an open ending teases more adventures from Sarah Gillespie in the future.

THE DUKE IN QUESTION by Amalie Howard

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Desperate to use her privilege as a white noblewoman to contribute to the fight for racial justice, Lady Bronwyn Chase accepted the clandestine identity as “the Kestrel,” a spy not exactly in the employment of the Crown. Unfortunately, she has caught the Crown’s notice, and on her first transatlantic mission to help turn the tide of the American Civil War, the Kestrel is pursued by one of their most stoic former agents, Lord Valentine Medford, the Duke of Thornbury and best friend to Bronwyn’s half brother, the mixed-race Duke of Ashvale.

Bronwyn has long been attracted to Lord Valentine. Valentine on the other hand can’t imagine being romantically interested in the superficial personality Bronwyn projects–and he would never guess that she was the elusive Kestrel. Yet, Valentine finds himself drawn inexplicably and inexorably to Bronwyn, and when her assignment goes wrong, he is there to save her life–and arrest her. Bound together by conflicting duties, Bronwyn can no longer escape their smoldering attraction to one another. But will they be able to let one another go to save their reputations–and Bronwyn’s neck?–or will an unavoidable, passionate affair ruin them both?

Immediately following RULES FOR HEIRESSES, this sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance continues Howard’s nuanced exploration of gender, class, and race in the Victorian Era with the same perfect execution of historical romance tropes that will thrill fans of the genre, plus a dash of romantic suspense a la Sherry Thomas’s HIS AT NIGHT and MY BEAUTIFUL ENEMY. Wrestling with their privilege and desire to be allies, the white hero and heroine consistently run up against barriers of systemic racism, while injustice constrains characters of color–even those advantaged by wealth and title. Yet like all satisfying romances, the plot ends with hope and love–plus a thick cloud of steam. Highly recommend to readers of the genre and fans of the Netflix adaptation of BRIDGERTON.

MILLSTONE OF DOUBT (THRONDIKE & SWANN #2) by Erica Vetsch

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After wrapping up a whirlwind case as an agent-in-training for the Crown, Lady Juliette Thorndike has tried her best to forget Bow Street runner Daniel Swann and the improper, impossible feelings she has for him, a man entirely below her station. Although she and her family have often flouted class barriers, she worries that Detective Swann would only be embarrassed by her interest, a girl from such a frivolous world compared to his own.

But Daniel has some improper, impossible feelings of his own, and when a murder at a local mill looks like the work of anarchists, both Scotland Yard and the Crown get pulled into the case–meaning Daniel and Lady Juliette will be working together once more. As Juliette attempts to comfort (and glean information) from the victim’s grieving daughter, Daniel does some digging into the mill’s enemies. But the case is more complicated than it seemed, jeopardizing not only their hearts but their lives.

A (sweet) Regency romance pairs with an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery in a page turner with plenty of clues to piece together. Vetsch eschews the angst and slow-burn commonly infused in historical mystery relationships, relying instead on the murder itself and secrets from her hero’s past to drive suspense while the detective couple advances smoothly toward their happily ever after. Published by a Christian house, the book’s characters practice Christianity, but spiritual elements are smoothly incorporated with a light hand. A fun read for fans of the genre!

LOVE ON THE BRAIN by Ali Hazelwood

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For exactly one weekend, Dr. Bee Königswasser is thrilled to have gotten a temporary reassignment as the NIH neuroscience representative on a collaborative project with NASA. She celebrates with wild abandon, not only because this is the first big break in her career since she turned down a position working with her cheating ex (and the ex-best friend he cheated with) but because it will mean a three month break from her insufferable boss and his sexist bullshit.

But then she finds out who her NASA collaborator is.

Dr. Levi Ward has hated Bee since their PhD program, for reasons she’s never understood. And from the time she arrives at NASA, he seems to be sabotaging her, messing with her equipment and “losing” her emails. He seems determined to drive her away, but with her career on the line, Bee is more determined than ever to keep things professional. But when their relationship takes an unexpected twist, Bee will have to not only protect her career but shield her heart from the heartbreak she knows is inevitable.

Fans of Hazelwood’s debut The Love Hypothesis will find another, very on-brand Rom Com to fall in love with. She uses the same tropes (enemies-to-lovers, workplace romance, perfect hero who’s been secretly in love with the heroine since forever) and tops it off with her signature, laugh-out-loud STEM banter. One of few novelists in the genre writing in first person, Hazelwood effectively cultivates a distinct voice from her first novel, and while keeping us out of her hero’s head prevents us from becoming as intimately connected to his interior thoughts as a third-person, dual POV romance would, the focus on her heroine allows for a prominent subplot tackling sexism in STEM. A queer BIPOC romance subplot fills out the story and calls attention to the implicit racism in higher education admissions. Highly recommended to fans of the genre and tropes.

HOW TO DATE A SUPERHERO (AND NOT DIE TRYING) by Cristina Fernandez

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In a world of superheroes, Astrid Rose has the most boring superpower: an extreme ability to schedule every last second of her time. Technically it’s not a real superpower, like the ones of the figures in capes and spandex who fly around New York either saving or terrorizing the citizens, depending on their moral persuasion, but as a premed Cornell student, it is a very useful ability When she learns that Max, the guy she’s been dating, who she’s known since their freshman year of high school, is the legendary Kid Comet, however, her perfectly planned sophomore year suddenly shatters.

After a nasty run-in with Kid Comet’s nemesis, Astrid gets inducted into a special program for significant others of superheroes, a “prevenge” course designed to prevent the need for the superhero to seek revenge for their loved one’s senseless murder by teaching the significant other survival skills. Astrid doesn’t have time for this program, especially once someone starts sabotaging her lab samples and threatening her internship and her grades. Meanwhile, Max keeps blowing off their dates for admittedly important reasons (like saving lives), and even as she grows to love him more deeply, she grows to wonder whether she’s cut out for this relationship. When a supervillain starts stealing samples from Astrid’s lab, she and Max will both be swept up in a dangerous plot, and Astrid will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice: her time? her love? her career? Or maybe even her life…

Set on a college campus, this book exists in that “New Adult” space that has great appeal for both teen young adults and adult young adults (as well of some of us who are even older than that!). The narrative voice hooked me immediately (third person present tense with a tongue-in-cheek vibe that kept reminding me of Slaughterhouse Five, although the subject matter is very different). In the tradition of most great Sci-Fi, Fernandez uses her hard Sci-Fi world as a lens to explore real world issues, in this case, the uncertainty of love and commitment, the fragility of human existence, and how to stop existing and truly live in a dangerous and frightening world. I am head-over-heels for this book, and if you love both Sci-Fi and Rom Coms, you will be too!

FAKE IT TILL YOU BAKE IT by Jamie Wesley

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After her impulsive decision to reject the leading man’s proposal on a popular reality TV dating show, all Jada Townsend-Matthews wants to do is keep her head down, hide from the Internet haters, and prove to her wealthy grandmother that she is responsible enough to control her trust fund. Unfortunately, the job her grandmother selects for her is at a cupcake shop owned by a man that Jada recently (inadvertently) insulted, and she’s pretty sure he hates her. She’s pretty sure she hates him, too, although she has to admit that his cupcakes (and his appearance) are pretty damn delicious.

Donovan Dell never expected to see the bougie yet undeniably sexy cupcake customer again. But when he learns that she’s the granddaughter of the owner of the professional football team he plays for, he can’t exactly say no to hiring her. The problem isn’t that they don’t get along. The problem is the spark between them that tempts him to turn each of their verbal sparring sessions into something more physical–and much more exciting. When her reality TV fame starts bringing in customers and leads to a publicity stunt kiss, Donovan agrees to start fake-dating. He tells himself it’s just to save his struggling bakery. It’s certainly not to get closer to the alluring, maddening woman. And definitely not in hopes of getting one more taste of her lips…

The frenemies’ fake relationship turns real fast in this adorable, sexy rom com about a perfectly matched pair of stubborn, flawed lovers. The high stakes kick in late in the novel, so this one is for readers who are here for banter, sizzle, and a swoony perfect couple rather than the tension of relationship obstacles. I’d recommend FAKE IT TILL YOU BAKE IT to fans of the fake-date and enemies-to-lovers tropes, but more to readers who just want to hang out with two engaging, fun characters as they get swept up in a steamy love affair. The ending suggests that we have more to look forward to from the equally well-developed secondary characters in future books!

BLAME IT ON THE BRONTES by Annie Sereno

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Athena returns to her hometown confident that she can uncover the identity of the mysterious author of classic literature-themed erotica, C.L. Garland. In fact, she has to. The chair of the English department is set to boot her out of academia if she doesn’t publish a book on this sabbatical, and she promised him something spectacular. Unfortunately, her semester away is off to a rocky start, and it’s all Thorne’s fault. She has no idea why her ex moved to her hometown, why he–a wealthy, elitist lawyer and literature snob–bought the little cafe where she would be working part-time, and why no one saw fit to warn her in advance. After their disastrous and hurtful break up, she was hoping she’d never see him again. Now, they’ll be working in close quarters nearly every day, operating under a tenuous truce that might break down at any moment, especially since he seems to disapprove for her hunt for the author of a “low-brow” erotica series. But while Athena may be an open book (for the most part), Thorne has secrets, including a bombshell about the reasons for the catastrophic end to their relationship. And as the hidden parts of everyone’s lives come to light (except the elusive Garland, of course), Athena begins to suspect that her career may be in less danger than her heart.

This book is a light, quick read with just enough of an undercurrent of secret-driven suspense to keep you turning pages without getting bogged down in drama. The characters’ mutual immaturity and reluctance to trust make them a well-suited (and entertaining) pair, and after reading about the cafe’s signature sandwiches, you will be dying for a trip to the bakery. A charming debut, this will be a perfect title to bring to the beach this summer!

NEVER A DUKE by Grace Burrowes

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Lady Rosalind Kinwood has quite given up on getting married. For several seasons, now, the Mayfair Matchmakers have deemed her quite unsuitable for the most eligible bachelors–both on account of the so-called radical political opinions she sends in to the papers and the lingering memory of her childhood stutter–and she certainly won’t be consenting to marry any of the detestable elderly gentlemen that her father hopes to pawn her off on in order to settle his many debts. She doesn’t mind so much being a wallflower, or at least she wouldn’t if people would actually take her seriously rather than dismissing her as eccentric and opinionated. But when another of her lady’s maids goes missing, Rosalind is determined to find someone who will listen to her.

Former pickpocket-turned-banker Ned Wentworth not only listens to Rosalind; he sees her. Though perhaps he shouldn’t be getting entangled with a noblewoman, even only for the sake of amateur investigations (his association with a ducal family can only lend him so much status). But as he begins his inquiries into the missing maids, Ned stumbles upon a true conspiracy that will take him and Rosalind back into the seedy parts of London Ned had hoped to leave behind with his childhood. And perhaps even more alarming is the attraction that he and Rosalind–as unsuited for each other as they are for anyone else in the Town–cannot seem to fight.

This Regency Romance has a thread of mystery and suspense that complement the easily-won affection between hero and heroine. As both Rosalind and Ned wrestle with their places within their families, the both must learn to stand up for their needs and desires–Ned to the adoptive family where love abounds, as do feelings of indebtedness, and Rosalind to the family of her birth, which claims the bonds of family duty without the love that would make such obligations worthwhile. An uplifting, triumphant conclusion to the romance and the mystery make this book a delightful addition to the Rogues to Riches series.