Choosing Love: 54 Romances for Our Times Promise Escape and Hope | Romance Preview 2020

In the coming months, readers can anticipate worthy new romances expressing strong themes of justice and activism, with the promise of a happy ending serving as the perfect remedy for uncertainty.

In the coming months, new books across the many romance subgenres will feature stories that not only stir the heartstrings by providing the escape romance readers crave but also show characters taking risks to secure a life and love reflective of their dreams, desires, and everyday experiences. As romance begins to embrace the change that defines our time, readers can anticipate worthy new series expressing strong themes of justice and activism, with the promise of a happy ending serving as the perfect remedy for uncertainty.

Issues of equity have roiled the romance industry in recent years, and the genre continues to make strides toward greater inclusion. Observes Avon’s editorial director Erika Tsang, "Romance is one of the genres that has been pro­actively expanding to include all voices for years. Librarians, the media, and booksellers have been instrumental in bringing diverse authors and stories in front of readers. As that cycle of support continues, we expect to see representation steadily increase."

As part of its ongoing efforts to acquire more books by writers from an array of backgrounds, Toronto-based publisher Harlequin recently launched the Harlequin Diverse Voices Scholarship, an award that grants recipients $2,000 and a one-year writing mentorship. "We’re excited about encouraging talented writers to pursue their writing goals by accessing high-caliber programs where they can hone their craft and share their diverse perspectives," said Harlequin’s executive vice president and publisher Laurie Sacilotto in a press release.

New Beginnings

For readers seeking fresh perspectives, a slate of exciting new voices debut in romance this fall. To begin, Australian playwright and scriptwriter Elizabeth Coleman’s first novel ­Losing the Plot (Allen & Unwin, Nov.) follows a ­thirtysomething single mom who falls for the solicitor she hires to help her sue a woman she’s admired for years for copyright infringement. With The Marriage Code (Montlake: Amazon, Jan. 2021), newcomer Brooke Burroughs brings us rival coworkers who strike a tantalizing bargain: he’ll join her team in Bangalore if she writes an algorithm to find the perfect woman to fulfill his parent’s expectations. Facing a similar work-life dilemma, the career-driven lead of Denise Williams’s How To Fail at Flirting (Berkley, Dec.) tries to balance her love of her work with an enjoyable flirtation. Float Plan (Griffin: St. Martin’s, Mar. 2021), YA author Trish Doller’s adult debut, introduces a couple readers will root for as they navigate the rough waters of love, grief, and grappling with lost futures. Debuter Barb Curtis’s Forever with You (Forever: Grand Central, Nov.; LJ 10/20) sets up the "Sapphire Springs" series, featuring a pair of feuding former high school sweethearts who reluctantly comply with their families’ wishes and work together to open a new restaurant at the local winery.

Launching the new "From Kona with Love" series, coauthors Anna Gomez, who also writes under the pen name Christine Brae, and Hallmark Channel star Kristoffer Polaha release Moments Like This (Rosewind, Feb. 2021), which sees a young woman move to Hawaii after a career disappointment. There she meets a mysterious man over coffee, and in a moment their lives are irrevocably changed. And don’t miss Alyssa Cole’s How To Catch a Queen (Avon, Dec.; LJ 10/20), which kicks off the new "Runaway Royals" series starring a bashful king, kindhearted queen, and a host of secondary characters "who leap off the page and into the reader’s imagination."

In other series starts, Kianna Alexander returns with After Hours Redemption (Harlequin Desire, Oct.), the first in the "404 Sound" series, following a songwriter trying to keep things strictly business with the record label owner who broke her heart. The Bookseller’s Boyfriend (Dreamspinner, Apr. 2021) kicks off Heidi Cullinan’s "Copper Point: Main Street" series, in which a hotshot novelist and a shy bookseller pretending to be his boyfriend to take off some of the heat inadvertently make some heat of their own. Debuting her "Wyndham Beach" series, Mariah Stewart presents An Invincible Summer (Montlake: Amazon, Mar. 2021), which sees a 40th high school reunion reunite a woman with her first love, offering her the chance at a fresh start in her hometown. Also in March, Denise N. Wheatley’s e-original romance She Gets What She Wants (Tule), the first in the "Fearless Fairytale" series, follows a protagonist pursuing her dreams while pondering a big question about the two men in her life.

Rom-Com Remedies

After months and months of pandemic isolation, new titles in the popular areas of contemporary romance and romantic comedy promise to satisfy readers’ need just to get away from it all. Start with Kwana Jackson's acclaimed summer release Real Men Knit (Berkley; LJ 4/20), following the four Strong brothers who run a charming neighborhood yarn store. (Check out our Q&A with Jackson.) From Harlequin imprints Carina and Carina Adores, the latter described by senior editor Kerri Buckley as a line of "trope-forward LGBTQ+ contemporary romances," come Kim Fielding’s tale of opposites-attract, Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love (Carina Adores, Dec.), and Sidney Bell’s This Is Not the End (Carina, Jan. 2021), a polyamorous love story that casts a husband and wife who discover that a best friend may be the key to a happier future.

In Kate Clayborn’s latest, Love at First (Kensington, Feb. 2021), a star-crossed couple, separated by two apartment balconies, are caught in a hilarious feud all their own, while a musical composition brings a pair of lost souls together in Minnie Darke’s newest tale The Lost Love Song (Ballantine, Oct.), about the power of music and love. On the steamier side is Nicole Disney’s The Clinch (Bold Strokes, Jan. 2021), which finds martial arts competitors from very different backgrounds trying to resist a smoldering attraction.

For those longing to travel, there’s Trisha Ashley’s ­English countryside–set The Garden of Forgotten Wishes ­(Bantam, Nov.), tracking a couple who come together to heal hearts while bringing a garden back to life. An American visiting an English village and getting wrapped up in the lives of those she encounters on her journey, including a sexy farmer, is at the center of Samantha Young’s Much Ado About You (Berkley, Feb. 2021).

This spring, Sarah Hogle’s many fans will be laughing through their swoons, as a woman who escapes her unhappy life by inheriting a crumbling estate meets a cranky groundskeeper who just might have a secret heart of gold in the hilarious but tender Twice Shy (Putnam, Apr. 2021). In her print debut, Olivia Dade delights with a fun tale of a devoted fan who goes on a date with a celebrity who is secretly writing his own fanfiction in Spoiler Alert (Avon, Oct.; LJ 10/20). Finally, Farah Heron adds energy to the rom-com scene with neighbors who join forces as a fake couple to compete in and win a cooking contest in Accidentally Engaged (Forever: Grand Central, Mar. 2021).

Several authors will debut rom-coms under new pen names next year. Sophie Sullivan, aka Jody Holford, is set to release Ten Rules for Faking It (Griffin: St. Martin’s, Jan. 2021), in which an anxiety-prone protagonist who rants on the radio about her cheating ex and soon finds herself in a bachelorette-style dating game. Writing as Lily Menon, best-selling YA author ­Sandhya Menon pens Make Up Break Up (Griffin: St. Martin’s, Feb. 2021), starring butting-head developers who create two different dating apps; one focused on saving a relationship, the other determined to end it.

Regency Still Rules

Even with more variety in the time periods and places explored in historical romance, stories set in the Regency era continue to reign. ­Notable new offerings include Grace Burrowes’s The Truth About Dukes (Forever: Grand Central, Nov.; see starred review, p. 60), the fifth in the "Rogues to Riches" series. This is the story of Constance Wentworth and Robert, Duke of Rothmere, who rekindle an old friendship that quickly turns to love, even as outside forces work tirelessly to destroy it. Martha Waters leads off To Love and To Loathe (Atria, Apr. 2021) with a wager of marriage between a widow and a marquess and continues with a proposal to increase the marquess’s skills between the sheets. In the new series, "Awakened by a Kiss," Charis Michaels retells fairy tales from the perspective of a side character, starting with A Duchess a Day (Avon, Nov.), reimagining the Snow White saga.

Regency fans can also look forward to stories featuring spirited heroines righting the wrongs of society across history. For instance, Minerva Spencer’s Notorious (Kensington, Nov.) kicks off the "Rebels of the Ton" series and sees a group of young women intent on making their own way in love and life. In March 2021, starting with Duchess If You Dare (Zebra: Kensington), Anabelle Bryant will launch the new series, "Maidens of Mayhem," starring a fearless crew of women teaming up to fight for justice.

Of Shadow Mountain’s popular "Proper Romance" series, Ilise Levine, director of sales and marketing, says, "Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, we are seeking to build on the feminist perspective foundation…[featuring] not damsels in distress waiting to be saved by a prince, but formidable women of past eras who feel the constraints of their time and are awakening to injustices in the society of that time. Arlem Hawks’s Regency ­debut Georgiana’s Secret (Jan. 2021) starts off the New Year with a heroine disguising herself as a cabin boy to avoid an abusive guardian and the compassionate lieutenant who is winning her heart.

Beyond the Regency

A Lady's Formula for LoveAlthough Regencies still dominate the historical romance landscape, the subgenre has been breaking out into other time periods and settings, and this will continue in the future. Kensington’s communications and marketing manager Jane Nutter notes that "We have seen with contemporary romances an exploration of social issues, and the time has come to examine more social issues through a historical lens—particularly with the treatment of female characters."

For readers who prefer the England setting but like to skip around time periods, Berkley releases two Victorian-set debuts dashed with suspense: Elizabeth Everett’s A Lady’s Formula for Love (Feb. 2021), and ­Joanna Lowell’s The Duke Undone (Apr. 2021). Also set during Victoria’s reign is Librarian Manda Collins’s A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem (Forever: Grand Central, Nov.; LJ 10/20). This first in a new series pairs a flirty columnist with a serious detective to solve a murder in the country. Forever’s editor in chief Amy Pierpont notes that the Victorian era "saw the suffrage movement gaining steam and the world opening up in new and exciting ways for women...the era’s sensibilities, trials, and tribulations resonate with modern readers and bring new readers into the fold."

Georgian England also gets ink this fall with Anna Bradley’s The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray (Lyrical: Kensington, Oct.), the first in the "Swooning Virgins Society" series, about an intrepid heroine pursuing clues to prove her friend’s innocence and a Bow Street rake who joins her cause.

Moving across England to early 20th-­century Ireland, Jennifer Deibel’s historical debut, A Dance in Donegal (­Revell, Feb. 2021), casts an Irish American who returns to the Emerald Isle to fulfill her mother’s last wishes and finds a community and a handsome thatcher to anchor her in place.

Go West for Love

Silent, Strong CowboyFor anyone looking to jump the pond and travel back in time, there’s Janet Dailey’s spin-off of the popular "Calder Saga." Calder Brand (Kensington, Feb. 2021) places the backdrop of the Old West against a love story about second chances and fighting for your dreams. And in Susan ­Andersen’s The Ballad of Hattie Taylor (Berkley, Jan. 2021), readers will experience Oregon at the turn of the century via a couple dealing with the stigma of sexual abuse. According to Cindy Hwang, Berkley’s vice president and director of editorial, "arguably little has changed since the 19th century, the law [around sexual abuse] is still set up to protect men and not women."

Crossing to the East Coast, Anne Shade’s Masquerade casts two women finding love in the nightlife of Prohibition-era Harlem. Ruth Sternglantz, editorial and marketing consultant, Bold Strokes Books, notes that "We’re seeing an uptick in historical romances featuring queer stories set in eras when queer lives were often erased from the mainstream record." Joining these books will be more Western romances, which continue to be a major staple of the genre, increasingly with an element of suspense or mystery added to the mix. Lindsay McKenna’s new "Silver Creek" series sees two releases in the coming months. The first, Silver Creek Fire (Zebra: Kensington, Oct.) revolves around a woman escaping her hometown for a job remodeling a ranch in Wyoming, where the property’s owner must work to keep her and the land safe.

Lora Leigh and Veronica Chadwick’s heart-pumping Strong, Silent Cowboy (St. Martin’s, Mar. 2021) pairs a woman on the run with a CIA agent–turned–cowboy. And for those wanting less CIA and a lot more Hollywood glam, Rebekah Weatherspoon’s "Cowboys of California" series is the perfect choice. Her latest, If the Boot Fits (Dafina: Kensington, Oct.; LJ 9/20), offers a fresh take on the Cinderella story, but instead of a grand ball, it’s a one-night stand after the Oscars, with an award statue standing in for the glass slipper.

Hold on to Your Hearts

A number of forthcoming new series blend the sexy and suspenseful, creating a match made in literary heaven that will have fans clamoring for more. Montlake’s editorial director Anh Schluep notes that "We continue to see an audience for these captivating and escapist reads," and the publishers are listening to this audience. In Susan Stoker’s Trusting Skylar (Montlake: Amazon, Dec.), the first in the "Silverstone" series, a team of former military hired killers spring into action when a kindergarten teacher is found stranded on the side of the road. Learning the true identity of her helpers, the woman begins to receive death threats. Catherine Bybee mixes pulse-pounding action with sensual scenes in Changing the Rules (Montlake: Amazon, Mar. 2021), following a pair of colleagues who try to resist falling for each other while working undercover together. And in Lynn H. Blackburn’s Unknown Threat (Revell, Mar. 2021), an FBI agent and a Secret Service agent team up to uncover why assets are being killed, risking both their hearts and lives.

Inspiring Tradition

All That Really MattersNew infusions of story lines in the inspirational genre will delight fans of sweet and heartwarming reads, with a number of new releases in this growing subgenre coming out in the next few months. From Rachel J. Good, An Unexpected Amish Proposal (Zebra: Kensington, Mar. 2021) continues the long-running "Amish Countryside" series, in which a young woman’s income is saved from disaster when her crush expands his own business to help out the community. In Is It Any Wonder (Tyndale House, Apr. 2021), Courtney Walsh explores a love story put on hold by a tragic accident.

This fall, Harlequin brings suspense to inspirational romance, presenting debut author Shannon Redmon’s Cave of Secrets (Oct.), featuring a woman determined to prove her brother isn’t a murderer by working with the murder victim’s brother. In the latest from RITA-nominated Nicole Deese, a young upstart learns there’s more to life than her social media platform when she begins volunteering at a transitional program for foster kids and is schooled by the program’s director in All That Really Matters (Bethany House, Apr. 2021).

A Sherriff's StarRing in the Holidays with Romance

The holiday season always brings a crush of delightful romances that span the subgenres, and 2020 is no different. To start, Makenna Lee’s A Sheriff’s Star (Harlequin Special Edition, Oct.) opens the "Home to Oak Hollow" series, featuring a police chief helping to return a lost child to a frantic single mom. After an eight-year sabbatical, Robyn Carr is back with Return to Virgin River (Mira: Harlequin, Oct.), the basis for a new Netflix series following a young writer who attempts to escape her grief at Christmas but finds more than she ever dreamed of in the small mountain town. Stacey Agdern’s Miracles and ­Menorahs, the first in the "Friendship and ­Festivals" e-original series from Tule (Oct.), spotlights Hanukkah and a woman ­working with a famous metal sculptor to create a large menorah for the threatened-with-cancellation Hanukkah Festival.

Understandably, many readers might want to skip to celebrating the end of 2020. In which case, recommend Sophie Cousens’s debut, This Time Next Year (Putnam, Dec.). This uplifting story follows a duo, born almost 30 years ago in the same hospital on New Year’s Day, who run into each other on the eve of their birthdays and discover their different trajectories since birth might not make them as dissimilar as they thought.

Romance Outside Reality

Readers with a penchant for love stories that blend magic, fantasy, and humor should look no further than Saranna DeWylde’s Fairy Godmothers, Inc. (Zebra: Kensington, Dec.), with three fairy godmothers who cast a matchmaking spell to ­convince a former couple to promote the town’s wedding industry with a fake marriage. For paranormal fans, Christine Feehan Leopard’s Rage (Berkley, Nov.) continues the long-running "Leopard" series with a story that packs plenty of heat and features a restless hero and a fiery heroine, both leopard shifters on their first life cycle. Facing a merciless threat, they learn the danger is not the enemy but the all-­consuming passion between them. Finally, in ­Rebecca Zanetti’s Guardian’s Grace (Lyrical: Kensington, Oct.), a savage vampire accidentally saves a human woman’s life by branding her as his for eternity. The couple soon discovers that in order to survive, each must give to the other no less than everything.

In conclusion, Dreamspinner’s editor in chief Ginnifer Eastwicks reminds us that "we will see the impact of recent events on new books," but that the genre will always offer a wide range of options for discerning readers. Tyndale House senior acquisitions editor Stephanie Broene may put it best when she says, "Though romance tends toward escapism in general...we will be sure to see more diversity in protagonists and overall casts of characters and more activism in the plotlines in ways that work to better the genre." 

 

 

NEXT CHAPTERS The below titles are mentioned in this article. (*) Indicates a debut.  

AUTHOR TITLE PUBLISHER RELEASE

Agdern, Stacey

Miracles
and Menorahs

Tule  Oct. 

Alexander, Kianna

After Hours Redemption

Harlequin Desire

Oct.

Andersen, Susan

The Ballad of Hattie Taylor

Berkley

Jan. 2021. 

Ashley, Trisha

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes

Bantam

Nov.

Bell, Sidney

This Is Not the End

Carina:Harlequin

Jan. 2021

Blackburn, Lynn H

Unknown Threat

Revell  Mar. 2021 

Bradley, Anna

The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray

Lyrical: Kensington

Oct.

Bryant, Anabelle

Duchess If You Dare

Zebra: Kensington

Mar. 2021

Burroughs, Brooke

The Marriage Code*

Montlake: Amazon Jan. 2021

Burrowes, Grace

The Truth About Dukes

Forever: Grand Central

Nov.

Bybee, Catherine

Changing the Rules

Montlake: Amazon

Mar. 2021

Carr, Robyn

Return to Virgin River

MIRA: Harlequin  Oct.

Clayborn, Kate

Love at First Kensington

Feb. 2021

Cole, Alyssa

How To Catch a Queen Avon

Dec.

Coleman, Elizabeth

Losing the Plot* Allen & Unwin

Nov.

Collins, Manda

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem

Forever: Grand Central

Nov.

Cousens, Sophie

This Time Next Year* Putnam

Dec.

Cullinan, Heidi

The Bookseller’s Boyfriend*

Dreamspinner Jan. 2021

Curtis, Barb

Forever with You* Forever: Grand Central

Nov.

Dade, Olivia

Spoiler Alert Avon

Oct.

Dailey, Janet

Calder Brand Kensington

Feb. 2021

Darke, Minnie

The Lost Love Song Ballantine

Oct.

Deese, Nicole

All That Really Matters Bethany House

Apr. 2021

Deibel, Jennifer

A Dance in Donegal* Revell

Feb. 2021

DeWylde, Saranna

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. Zebra: Kensington

Dec.

Disney, Nicole

The Clinch Bold Bold Strokes

Jan. 2021

Doller, Trish

Float Plan Griffin: St. Martin’s

Mar. 2021

Everett, Elizabeth

A Lady’s Formula Berkley

Feb. 2021

Feehan, Christine

Leopard’s Rage Berkley

Nov.

Fielding, Kim

Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love

Carina Adores: Harlequin

Dec.

Gomez, Anna & Kristoffer Polaha

Moments Like This

Rosewind

Feb. 2021

Good, Rachel J.

An Unexpected Amish Proposal

Zebra: Kensington

Mar. 2021

Hawks, Arlem

Georgiana’s Secret

Shadow Mountain

Jan. 2021

Heron, Farah

Accidentally Engaged

Forever: Grand Central

Mar. 2021

Hogle, Sarah

Twice Shy Putnam

Apr. 2021

Lee, Makenna

A Sheriff’s Star

Harlequin Special Edition

Oct.

Leigh, Lora & Veronica Chadwick

Strong, Silent Cowboy

St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Mar. 2021

Lowell, Joanna

The Duke Undone* Berkley

Apr. 2021

McKenna, Lindsay

Silver Creek Fire Zebra: Kensington

Oct.

Menon, Lily

Make Up Break Up Griffin: St. Martin’s

Feb. 2021

Michaels, Charis

A Duchess a Day Avon

Nov.

Redmon, Shannon

Cave of Secrets* Harlequin

Oct.

Shade, Anne

Masquerade Bold Bold Strokes

Feb. 2021

Spencer, Minerva

Notorious Kensington

Nov.

Stewart, Mariah

An Invincible Summer Montlake: Amazon

Mar. 2021

Stoker, Susan

Trusting Skylar Montlake: Amazon

Dec.

Sullivan, Sophie

Ten Rules for Faking It Griffin: St. Martin’s

Jan. 2021

Walsh, Courtney

Is It Any Wonder Tyndale House

Apr. 2021

Waters, Martha

To Love and To Loathe Atria

Apr. 2021

Weatherspoon, Rebekah

If the Boot Fits

Dafina: Kensington

Oct.

Wheatley, Denise N.

She Gets What She Wants Tule

Mar. 2021

Williams, Denise

How To Fail at Flirting* Berkley

Dec.

Young, Samantha

Much Ado About You Berkley

Feb. 2021

Zanetti, Rebecca

Guardian’s Grace Lyrical: Kensington

Oct.


Kellie Tilton is a Librarian at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash and a longtime LJ reviewer of Romance. When she’s not reading love stories, sf, or YA novels, Tilton is either learning a fascinating new textile craft, planning a future escape to New York to catch a multitude of Broadway shows, or taking pictures of her unbelievably photogenic cat.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Shannon Redmon

Thank you so much for listing my novel, Cave of Secrets, among so many talented authors!

Posted : Oct 10, 2020 12:37


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?