Love Worth the Risk | Romance Reviews

A Dash of Danger For most readers, there’s nothing like a jolt of jeopardy to spice up a romance and keep the pages turning. It doesn’t have to be a great deal—although it can be—and it doesn’t require special ops agents swarming the story—although it can have that, too.

A Dash of Danger For most readers, there’s nothing like a jolt of jeopardy to spice up a romance and keep the pages turning. It doesn’t have to be a great deal—although it can be—and it doesn’t require special ops agents swarming the story—although it can have that, too. What it does require is just enough of a threat to the characters to make readers fear for them and worry about the outcome. Although physical peril is often the most compelling (and the most common), the portent of scandal is a risk, as well, especially in historical titles. The books below include “dangerous romances” of all kinds.

Passion & Peril

redstarCole, Alyssa. A Princess in Theory. Avon. (Reluctant Royals, Bk. 1). Mar. 2018. 360p. ISBN 9780062685544. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062685551. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

There is no way that savvy public health grad student Naledi Smith is going to fall for an email stating that she is the long-lost fiancée of a prince from some remote African nation. But it’s not a scam, and Thabiso, the crown prince of Thesolo, is in dire need of his mate. So when he comes to New York to confront Ledi, and she mistakes him for an ordinary guy (aka Jamal), he seizes the opportunity to get to know her on nonroyal terms—a decision that has a surfeit of unexpected and not always welcome results. Well-drawn, likable protagonists clash beautifully in a story enhanced by old antagonisms, a mysterious epidemic, a jealous villain, and descriptions of a fictitious country so vivid that readers will be tempted to book reservations. ­VERDICT Upbeat, sexy, and totally engrossing, this fast-paced modern romp puts an intriguing spin on the classic long-lost-heiress plot and launches the series in style. Cole (A Hope Divided) divides her time between the Caribbean and New York City. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17.]

Graham, Heather. A Dangerous Game. Mira: Harlequin. (New York Confidential, Bk. 3). Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780778331209. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488028021. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Kieran Finnegan, a therapist in a criminal psychologist’s office, is thrown for a loop when a distraught woman calls her by name, thrusts a baby into her arms, and then is stabbed to death on the streets minutes later. Kieran knows she should stay out of it and let it be handled by the law, which includes her FBI Special Agent boyfriend Craig Frasier, but she can’t help but be curious. So when she follows a lead to get more information and learns the stakes are huge, suddenly ­Kieran’s involved whether she or Craig likes it or not. A compassionate, observant heroine who’s something of a trouble magnet and a crack agent who has her back join forces to bring down a diabolical organization that preys on immigrants and still find time for love. VERDICT Taut, complex, and leavened with humor, this riveting thriller has links to Graham’s “Finnegan Connection” series. A shade more suspense than romance, it will appeal to fans of both genres. ­Graham (Out of the Darkness) lives in Southern Florida. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/17.]

Heath, Lorraine. Beyond Scandal and Desire. Avon. (Sins for all Seasons, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 369p. ISBN 9780062676009. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062676016. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

For years, Mick Trewlove’s anger at his illegitimate birth and abandonment by his noble father has festered. Now a wealthy entrepreneur, Nick hopes that he might at last be acknowledged. But when the Duke of Hedley ignores his requests, Mick decides to exact his revenge by bringing down his legitimate half-brother, the duke’s heir, and ruining his intended bride, Lady Aslyn Hastings. It’s a perfect setup—until Mick’s feelings for Aslyn get out of hand and a stunning plot twist turns everything upside down. VERDICT Carefully researched details, a fascinating look into the baby-farming scandals of the ­period, and a wealth of intriguing bastards make this steamy, cleverly plotted Victorian a perfect start to a rollicking series. Heath (An Affair with a Notorious Heiress) lives in Plano, TX.

redstarHoward, Linda. The Woman Left Behind. Morrow. Mar. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062419019. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062419033. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Communications tech expert Jina Modell absolutely loves her cool “dark ops” job taking down terrorists from the safety of her Washington, DC, office, and the last place she expects to end up is in the field. But Jina’s boss is experimenting with embedding drone operators into the action teams, and when her skills (assessed covertly via video games in the break room!) land her at the top of the list, Jina finds herself tossed into an accelerated program of physical training and assigned to a bunch of crack agents who aren’t happy about having to deal with a geek—no less a woman. Quickly tagged with the annoying moniker “Babe,” Jina is resolved to succeed, only she doesn’t count on the attraction that flares between her and the no-nonsense team leader Levi “Ace” Butcher. A bloody mission, a vengeful traitor, and stunning, vivid descriptions (a desperate slog through the desert and Jina’s parachute jumps are memorable) add grim realism to this absorbing romance. VERDICT A sassy heroine with grit and determination to match and a tough, battle-hardened hero struggle against impossible odds in a heart-pounding adventure that doesn’t let up until the very end. Howard (Troublemaker) lives in Alabama. [See ­Prepub Alert, 10/15/17.]

redstarKleypas, Lisa. Hello Stranger. Avon. (Ravenels, Bk. 4). Mar. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062371911. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062371898. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Strong-minded, intrepid to a fault, and the only female medical doctor in England, Garrett Gibson is devoted to her clinic, her duties at the workhouse infirmary, and caring for the people who need her. Even walking the precarious streets of Clerkenwell doesn’t faze her—until she is accosted by a trio of drunken soldiers. Luckily, Ethan Ransom, a former police officer, now a government operative, and Garrett’s self-appointed guardian, steps in to help. Naturally, Garrett is annoyed, but when Ethan offers to give her a few self-defense lessons, she grudgingly agrees, setting the stage for a romance that soon becomes more than a fling and dangerous in ways she’d never imagined. A fearless heroine and an Irish hero confront traitors, assassins, and a diabolical government plot—as well as each other—in a multilayered story that skillfully interweaves gripping suspense with bitter resentments and tangled family dynamics. VERDICT Witty, often hilarious, and delightfully passionate, this compelling, thrill-laced Victorian romance is another superb ­series entry. Kleypas (Devil in Spring) lives in Washington State.

redstarRose, Karen. Edge of Darkness. Jove. (Cincinnati, Bk. 4). Feb. 2018. 640p. ISBN 9780399583087. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399583094. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

When child psychologist Meredith Fallon narrowly misses being killed in an assassination attempt, her suspicions zero in on the high-profile father of one of her patients. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, and when the bodies start piling up and the Cincinnati crew ramp it up, it seems that someone desperately wants Meredith dead. Meanwhile, Det. Adam Kimble will stop at nothing to keep her safe—and have her back in his arms. A hero who’s been to the bottom and is struggling to keep his demons at bay and a compassionate heroine reclaim the love they almost lost and help take down a few bad guys along the way. The familiar setting and recurring characters quickly ground readers in this violent, realistic story that becomes more complex by the minute and keeps the action swift and intense with scenes told from multiple viewpoints, including the crafty villain’s. VERDICT Never one to shy away from gut-wrenching topics, Rose delves into the gruesome horrors of crimes against children, including teen prostitution, the monsters who perpetuate and profit from it, and the devastating effects on those who bring them to justice. Another bone-chiller that will keep the night-lights burning. Rose (Monster in the Closet) lives in Florida.

Ryan, Jennifer. Montana Heat: True to You. Avon. (Montana Heat, Bk. 2). Mar. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062645289. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062645272. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Distancing herself as best she can from her drug kingpin father, Crossroads Coffee Shop owner Cara Potter wants nothing more than to make a good life for herself and help those she can— ex-cons, in particular. But Cara is nobody’s fool, and when undercover DEA Agent Dawson King (aka “Flash”), fresh out of prison on parole, asks for a job, her questioning nature goes into overdrive. While she agrees to hire him, she’s determined to remain on guard. Flash is on a mission to bring down Cara’s father, and he can’t afford to let anything get in the way, especially the attraction that’s been simmering between them. VERDICT Honesty and trust issues loom large in this emotionally taut story that features an assortment of nuanced characters and also delivers a heartwarming romance. Ryan (Montana Heat: Escape to You) lives in the San Francisco Bay area. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17.]

Sala, Sharon. The Color of Love. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Blessings, Georgia, Bk. 5). Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781492646051. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492646068. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Lawyer P. Nutt “Peanut” Butterman has secretly adored Ruby Dye for years, but when she’s kidnapped by her ex-husband and barely escapes, he decides it’s high time to let her know how he feels. Thrilled that Ruby returns his affection, Peanut sees a brilliant future ahead. But when a killer shows up, things take a terrible turn, throwing Peanut’s and Ruby’s lives into near heartbreaking chaos. A profusion of memorable characters, complete with their own story lines, make Blessings spring to life, while a newcomer guarantees more stories to come. VERDICT Abuse, vengeance, and violence are tempered by kindness and caring in a gentle, satisfying story that is rich with down-home Southern charm. This will appeal to community series fans who like their stories sweet and tender but with a slightly precarious edge. Sala (A Piece of My Heart) lives in Norman, OK.

Shalvis, Jill. About That Kiss. Avon. (Heartbreaker Bay, Bk. 5). Feb. 2018. 350p. ISBN 9780062741776. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062741813. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Woodworker artisan Kylie Masters has no intention of letting a tipsy, supercharged kiss she shared with über-hot Joe Malone be anything more than the stupid mistake it was. Then a childhood treasure created by her late craftsman grandfather disappears, only to show up in photos left by a blackmailer. Suddenly Kylie’s resolution to stay out of Joe’s way goes up in smoke as she is forced to work with the one person who can get to the bottom of things—Joe, the top “finder and fixer” for Hunt Investigations, a crack investigative and security firm. Verbal sparks fly, and the sexual tension spikes as Kylie and Joe go in search of the culprit. Familiar, eccentric characters add sass and lighthearted fun, and the Pacific Pier Building’s wishing well does its romantic bit in a story enhanced by a gentle dash of suspense. VERDICT A former bad boy hero with special ops skills and a relationship-wary heroine find truth, forgiveness, and passion in a funny romance that nicely continues this popular San Francisco–set series. Shalvis (Chasing Christmas Eve) lives in the Sierras near Lake Tahoe.

Vale, Maria. The Last Wolf. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Legend of All Wolves, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 284p. ISBN 9781492661870. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492661887. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

DEBUT Quicksilver Nilsdottir, small and unmated, has no hope of being anything other than a lowly nidling in her Pack until badly wounded Tiberius Leveraux, a despised Shifter, enters their territory seeking asylum in the name of his late Pack-born mother. Knowing he’ll die if she doesn’t help, Silver agrees to become his schildere (“shielder”), risking her place in the Pack on the hope that Ti will heal and they’ll win the fight that lies ahead. But Ti has a hidden agenda, and if he doesn’t set things to rights, the entire Pack may fall victim to the machinations of a corrupt, greedy villain. Penetrating, often hilarious depictions of an outsider learning what it means to be Pack and the playful antics of the wolf pups seamlessly balance the novel’s bloodier, more violent elements. Written primarily in first person/present tense, this cleverly conceived and thoughtful story is spot-on for the paranormal YA/new adult market. ­VERDICT The unique, believable worldbuilding, flashes of humor, and Old Norse references make this exceptional ­debut of a promising series a solid choice for all paranormal readers and collections. Vale lives in New York.

Romance as usual

redstarBurrowes, Grace. A Rogue of Her Own. Forever: Grand Central. (Windham Brides, Bk. 4). Mar. 2018. 379p. ISBN 9781538728918. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538728925. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Keenly intelligent Charlotte Windham has managed to avoid the schemes of her matchmaking relatives and numerous unsuitable proposals for years. But when wealthy businessman Lucas Sherbourne catches her reluctant attention, it’s all she can do to refuse him—until an ill-timed farewell kiss takes the decision out of their hands and sends them off to Lucas’s home and latest business venture in Wales—married and wary but resolved to make the relationship work. A fierce, high-born heroine with a secret agenda and an astute commoner hero struggling to make sense of his place in two social worlds discover devotion and true understanding in a cleverly plotted story that rights an old wrong, brings a villain to justice, and ties up loose series threads in a brilliantly executed plot twist that will have fans saying, “Yes!” VERDICT With flawless prose, delicious wit, and an unerring ability to bring complex characters to life, Burrowes revisits the engaging Windhams and delivers another winner; pure reading gold. Burrowes (No Other Duke Will Do) lives in rural Maryland. [See “Spring Editors’ Picks,” LJ 2/1/18, p. 31.]

redstarGuhrke, Laura Lee. The Trouble with True Love. Avon. (Dear Lady Truelove, Bk. 2). Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062469878. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062469885. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

With her sister extending her honeymoon and her brother staying in America to deal with his newly unearthed silver mine, shy, conventional Clara Deverill finds herself temporarily in charge of her family’s newspaper and forced to fill in for her sister as the Weekly Gazette’s advice columnist, the anonymous Lady Truelove. The only problem is that Clara knows nothing about the subject—until she overhears a handsome rake giving appalling romantic advice to a friend and she decides to use the column to warn the anonymous lady against it. Her plan succeeds only too well. When an angry Viscount Galbraith storms into her office, she makes him an offer that he eventually accepts—but with a few conditions. An idealistic, marriage-minded heroine and a cynical, marriage-averse hero struggle in vain against an attraction neither had seen coming and both know will never work—or will it? VERDICT Engaging prose, witty barbs, and sigh-worthy sensuality make this humorous Victorian charmer an excellent addition to Guhrke’s series and a most diverting read. Guhrke (The Truth About Love and Dukes) lives in the Northwest.

Malpas, Jodi Ellen. With This Man. Forever: Grand Central. (This Man, Bk. 4). Mar. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781538745199. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538745182. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Blissfully married, with 12-year-old twins, Ava and Jesse Ward seem to have it all—and then Ava ends up with a head injury that steals her memories of the last 16 years—husband, children, and all—throwing her family into chaos. Jesse is devastated, but he’s not about to lose what they’ve had, so he sets a strategy in motion to make sure that Ava finds her past and that they fall in love all over again. VERDICT Told primarily from the hero’s point of view, this earthy, supersteamy, emotionally intense, and definitely British story is the latest in Malpas’s beloved “This Man” series, which is scheduled to begin filming for TV later this year. ­Malpas (The Forbidden) lives in Northampton, England.

March, Emily. The First Kiss of Spring. St. Martin’s. (Eternity Springs, Bk. 5). Mar. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781250131706. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250131713. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

There’s nothing like almost losing a sibling to put things into perspective, so when Caitlin Timberlake leaves her well-paying design job in New York to return home to Eternity Springs to be closer to her family and put down her own roots, she knows it’s the right thing to do. She also knows that turning a gorgeous old Queen Anne into a day-care center is the perfect idea, especially since it’s right next door to gorgeous engine mechanic Josh Tarkington’s shop. The attraction between them is immediate, but Josh has a deeply hidden past that he needs to come to terms with before he can become the man Caitlin deserves. Shame, addiction, and forgiveness are only a few of the issues that will resonate with readers in this touching, uplifting romance. VERDICT With sensitivity, hope, and heart, March delivers another magical romance that nicely continues the series. March (A Stardance Summer) also writes as Geralyn Dawson; she lives in Texas.

Sonneborn, Julia. By the Book. Gallery: S. & S. Feb. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501175183. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501175190. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

DEBUT With trying to land a book contract, get tenure, help deal with her ­dementia-challenged father, and teach a full load of classes at Southern California’s Fairfax College, English professor Anne Corey has more than enough to worry about without an old love showing up. But when the new college president turns out to be her ex-fiancé, Adam Martinez—and he doesn’t even seem at first to recognize her—she feels the chill and is afraid it’s going to be a long, long year. Then Booker Prize winner Rick Chasen joins the faculty as writer in residence, and suddenly life on campus gets a lot more interesting. A professor herself, Sonneborn nails the modern academic vibe as a diverse cast of faculty, students, and administrators bring the school scene to life in all its colorful, complex glory. The first-person narration, educational setting, and interspersed emails make this a natural fit for the new adult set, but it will appeal as well to readers who appreciate their romances upbeat and dusted with humor. VERDICT Entertaining, romantic, and smart, this ­debut is a clever reinvention of Jane ­Austen’s Persuasion and a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Sonneborn lives in the Los ­Angeles area.

RWA Annual and Librarians’ Day Preview

The full schedule isn’t available yet, but we do know the dates and some of the main speakers for this year’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual conference. Held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, July 18–21, the gathering will feature keynoter Shelly Laurenston, Golden Heart Awards emcee Pintip Dunn, and RITA Awards emcee Erica Ridley. Librarians’ Day will be on Saturday, July 21, with luncheon speaker Sonali Dev. Always a fabulous occasion of targeted programs for professionals, the latter is well worth attending if you are in the area. Stay tuned for more details.

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader’s Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. 2d ed. (Libraries Unlimited, 2012)

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