Summer Reads To Warm the Heart | Romance Reviews

Despite the summer, with all its activities, being possibly busier than the rest of the year, the idea of taking the time to curl up on a porch swing with a glass of ice-cold tea or lemonade and a good book still has appeal, and publishers are making sure there are plenty of options.

The Sizzle and Sweet of Summer Reads Despite the summer, with all its activities, being possibly busier than the rest of the year, the idea of taking the time to curl up on a porch swing with a glass of ice-cold tea or lemonade and a good book still has appeal, and publishers are making sure there are plenty of options. Whether readers prefer romances set in the past or the present; stories that are tenderly innocent or page-singeingly torrid; books realistic to a fault or dusted with magic; or love stories featuring humor, earnestness, or suspense, this season’s bumper crop have it all.

Ashe, Katharine. The Prince. Avon. (Devil’s Duke, Bk. 4). Jun. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062641748. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062641755. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Forensic physician’s daughter Elizabeth Shaw will do anything to study medicine at Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh, even disguise herself as a man. But Libby needs help, so when the popular but reclusive portrait artist Ibrahim Kent (aka Ziyaeddin Mirza, Prince of Tabir) sees through her façade and doesn’t give her away, they strike a dangerous bargain. He will allow her to move into his house—as medical student Joseph Smart—and introduce her to a noted artist/surgeon who can help her in her quest; she will pose for him once each week. The plan works perfectly except for one thing—they fall in love. A brilliant, atypical heroine with goals of her own and a responsible royal who has a kingdom to look after star in an engaging romance that keeps things wonderfully unsettled until the very end. VERDICT Sparkling repartee, definitive commentary on social issues, and a pair of deserving protagonists make this a worthy addition to Ashe’s series and a delectable summertime read. Ashe (The Duke) lives in Durham, NC.

redstarJames, Eloisa. Too Wilde To Wed. Avon. (Wildes of Lindow Castle, Bk. 2). Jun. 2018. 373p. ISBN 9780062692467. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062692405. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Returning from fighting in the Colonies, Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde is shocked to find Diana Belgrave, the woman who jilted him several years ago, at his family estate serving as governess for his half-sister and a boy society thinks is his child. However, deeply affected by war and circumstance, North and Diana are not quite the same people they once were. Passion simmers between them as a hero who doesn’t want to be a duke and a heroine who doesn’t want to be a duchess struggle to mesh their feelings with their situations and finally discover the true meaning of love. VERDICT Exquisite character development, breathtaking sensuality, perfectly placed humor, and vivid descriptions of fashion, food, and assorted political detail and current events result in a rewarding romance that is emotionally complex and provides an exceptional sense of time and place. A heartwarming delight. James (Wilde in Love) lives in New York City. [A Spring Editor’s Pick, LJ 2/1/18, p. 31.]

Lindsey, Johanna. Marry Me by Sundown. Gallery: S. & S. Jul. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501162237. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501162268. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Called home to Philadelphia just before the London Season gets under way, ­Violet Mitchell is stunned to learn that the family she hasn’t seen in five years is in dire financial straits because their father, Charles, has gone off seeking gold in Montana. With disaster looming, ­Violet heads out west to find her father—and discovers Morgan Callahan, instead. Sadly, Charles is dead, and the gruff, reclusive mountain man who was her father’s partner abducts Violet, believing she is working for his enemy and isn’t Charles Mitchell’s daughter at all. Naturally, this all sorts itself out, but as ­Violet spends time at the camp, determined to find Charles’s money, her relationship with Morgan changes. ­VERDICT With humor, a lively pace, appealing characters, a dash of danger, and solid historical detail, Lindsey’s latest provides a compelling picture of the Old West, in the author’s inimitable style. Lindsey (A Man To Call My Own) lives in New Hampshire.

redstarLong, Julie Anne. The First Time at Firelight Falls. Avon. (Hellcat Canyon, Bk. 4). Jun. 2018. 366p. ISBN 9780062672902. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062672919. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

With a ten-year-old daughter and a thriving flower shop, single mom Eden ­Harwood doesn’t need a man in her life—and for years she’s managed to keep the local bachelors at bay. But elementary school principal and ex–Navy SEAL Gabe ­Caldera is not so easily dissuaded, and Eden, as determined as she is to avoid a relationship, can’t deny the pull between them. Propriety wars with passion as they come to terms with their feelings, only to have their budding relationship threatened when Eden’s past—and her daughter’s ­father—come to town. Appealing protagonists are complemented by an exceptional cast of old and new characters (an overly critical helicopter mom and a precocious ten-year-old are especially pleasing), bringing the quirky town to life. ­VERDICT Sweet, sexy, flirty, and upbeat, Long’s latest Hellcat romp is undiluted fun and as refreshing as a California breeze. A great summertime read. Long (Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap) lives in Northern California.

Lorret, Vivienne. How To Forget a Duke. Avon. (Misadventures in Matchmaking, Bk. 1). Jun. 2018. 371p. ISBN 9780062685483. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062685490. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Jacinda Bourne’s investigative methods are anything but conventional, but when it comes to ensuring a happy marriage for her family’s matrimonial agency clients, she’ll stop at nothing—not even haring off to the Duke of Rydstrom’s Sussex estate to discover what he, their most prestigious patron, is hiding. Unfortunately, she wakes up on a rock, drenched in seawater, with no memory. The locals who rescue her assume she’s the Duke’s bride-to-be, setting the stage for a comedy of errors that becomes a romance of dukely proportions. A persistent, un­orthodox heroine and a protective hero find love in a story that benefits from a beautifully realized supporting cast and an assortment of charming apropos quotes and references to Jane Austen’s Emma. ­VERDICT With clever wit, heady sexuality, and lush description, Lorret’s title puts an ­enticing spin on the classic amnesia trope and launches a series (the author’s Avon print debut) in fine style. Lorret (Just Another Viscount in Love) lives in Indiana.

MacLean, Sarah. Wicked and the Wallflower. Avon. (Bareknuckle Bastards, Bk. 1). Jul. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780062692061. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062691972. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

When spinster Lady Felicity Faircloth announces, in a fit of pique, that she is the Duke of Marwick’s intended bride—and he goes along with it—she has no idea that she is playing into the hands of a man who wants nothing more than to ruin the Duke. Marwick is about to renege on a bargain he made with his siblings years ago, and Devil (aka Devon Culm), one of the powerful Bareknuckle Bastards, is out for revenge and intends to use ­Felicity to accomplish it. It’s a perfect plan, but falling for Felicity wasn’t in the cards. Set as Victoria’s reign is just beginning, MacLean’s stunning series opener spins a compelling tale rich with mythological and fairy-tale allusions and history (the ice trade and the “unpickable” Chubb lock are enthralling), taking readers on a tantalizing journey to the dark, criminal world of Covent Garden. VERDICT An intrepid heroine who wants more than society offers makes a deal with the Devil that they just might live to enjoy. This intense, deliciously sensual tale of intrigue and deception begins a promising series. ­MacLean (The Day of the Duchess) lives in New York City.

Mason, Debbie. Sandpiper Shore. Forever: Grand Central. (Harmony Harbor, Bk. 6). Jun. 2018. 343p. ISBN 9781538744222. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538744215. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

From the moment Secret Service Agent Logan Gallagher pulled Jenna Bell out of the path of an oncoming car and then decked her smarmy former fiancé, he’s been her knight in shining armor. Despite the obvious magnetism, Logan isn’t the marrying kind. Then he finds himself engaged to a princess he had been guarding but, owing to a knock on the head, doesn’t remember. To top it all off, Jenna is planning the wedding. A complex, multilayered plot keeps the pages turning, while a meddling, ghostly great-­grandmother adds a whimsical touch. VERDICT Quirky, funny, sweet, and overflowing with a colorful cast, this welcome installment in this popular seaside series is complete in itself, but because of a number of continuing characters and plot threads, readers may wish to begin with the first title, Mistletoe Cottage. Mason (Driftwood Cove) lives in ­Ontario, Canada.

Pineiro, Caridad. What Happens in Summer. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (At the Shore, Bk. 2). Jun. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781492649670. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492649687. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Bitterly torn apart by conflicting life ambitions, focused, goal-oriented ­Connie Reyes and brilliant, restless Jonathan Pierce went their separate ways after one love-drenched summer at the shore. Now seven years later, Connie is an up-and-coming attorney and Jon is a wealthy tech wizard with an entrepreneurial spirit, and they are back in quaint Sea Kiss, NJ, where it all began. Their initial anger soon melts away as their passion blazes as hot as ever, but getting past Connie’s wariness is a challenge—just the kind that Jon is now ready to tackle. A bevy of winning characters contribute to the depth, humor, and continuity of a story that touches on issues of trust, dependability, and expectations. VERDICT Pineiro has penned a tender, sexy, often lighthearted yet realistic version of the classic reunion plot, offering a delightful beach blanket read. Pineiro (One Summer Night) lives in New Jersey.

Ryan, R.C. Cowboy on My Mind. Forever: Grand Central. (Montana Strong, Bk. 1). Jun. 2018. 483p. ISBN 9781538711156. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538711149. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

One of three brothers adopted and raised by Mackenzie Monroe, Ben Monroe was a hot-headed hellion growing up; where he went, trouble followed. Now he sports a deputy sheriff’s badge and for once in his life is on the right side of the law. As well, Rebecca Henderson, the girl Ben has adored since grade school, has come home to stay, intending to carve out her own space and her own life, despite ­parental objections. Then the bullets begin to fly, and as Rebecca and Ben struggle to find answers, they are hard-pressed to resist the feelings that have sparked between them for years and are suddenly ablaze. ­VERDICT A strong, protective hero and an independent heroine fight for their future in this modern rough-and-tumble Western that has the importance of family at its core. (A bonus novella, Sara Richardson’s Rocky Mountain Cowboy, pairs a journalist with a cowboy snowboarder.) Ryan (Reed) is a pseudonym for Ruth Ryan Langan; she lives in the Detroit area.

redstarSingh, Nalini. The Ocean Light. Berkley. (Psi-Changeling Trinity, Bk. 2). Jun. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9781101987827. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101987841. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Amazed to find that he is not dead after being shot in an assassination attempt, Bowen Knight, security chief for the ­Human Alliance, wakes up in a Black Sea installation in the care of the enigmatic and mysterious water changelings. The mesmerizing yet furious Maia, among them, is convinced the Human Alliance is responsible for the disappearance of some of the sea changelings. Bo’s life miraculously has been saved, but it’s only a matter of time before a specialized chip implanted in his head to block Psy telepathic interference fails and destroys his brain along with it; he has only a five percent chance of survival. But Bo is falling for Maia, and with no time to lose, he needs to get to the bottom of the strange occurrences. Singh’s vivid, relatable characters; wickedly complex plot; and unforgettable romance take readers deep into the heart of a mysterious watery world, with an alluring new culture to puzzle over and enjoy. ­VERDICT Another brilliant, thought-provoking fantasy romance from a worldbuilder like no other. Readers could benefit from experiencing the books in order. Singh (Archangel’s Viper) lives in New Zealand.

Thayne, RaeAnne. The Cottages on Silver Beach. HQN: Harlequin. (Haven Point, Bk. 8). Jun. 2018. 374p. ISBN 9781335007018. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488029363. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Ever since her brother Luke’s troubled wife vanished seven years ago, innkeeper and photographer Megan Hamilton has helped him to raise her young niece and nephew and deal with the undercurrent of suspicion that still swirls around Luke. Megan is resentful of anyone who thinks he could be guilty of a crime, and at the top of her list is Denver-based FBI agent and true-crime writer Elliot Bailey, her brother’s one-time best friend. Their paths rarely cross, but when Elliot comes home to heal from a gunshot wound and finish a novel, he rents the cottage next to Megan’s at her inn—and the romantic fire ignites. Still, ­Elliot needs results, too, and taking a look at the old case files uncovers an overlooked lead that just might provide answers. VERDICT An ice-cold case adds a dash of mystery and drives the plot of this family-rich reunion story that looks at some serious emotions and brings our protagonists together to the surprise of no one but themselves. A thoroughly charming seasonal read. Thayne (Sugar Pine Trail) lives in Northern Utah.

Thomas, Tara. Broken Promise. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Sons of Broad, Bk. 3). Jul. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781250137982. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250137999. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Alyssa Adams decided to become a cop when she was 15 and her sister was murdered, and she has never stopped trying to find out who did it or help others in the same situation. So when shipping expert Kipling Benedict, eldest son of Charleston’s powerful old-money Benedicts, learns that his half sister, Jade, has been kidnapped, Alyssa gets involved. The killer is crafty, having waited a long while to bring the Benedicts down—and this time The Gentle­man is determined to succeed. A startling revelation turns Alyssa into a target, and as she and Kipling struggle to stay ahead of the game, they must deal with their mutual fascination as well. VERDICT Grim, occasionally frightening, and fueled by old enmities, this fast-paced romantic suspense brings a ­vicious killer down and ties up a number of loose ends in the process. Twisted Ends, a bonus series novella, is included. Thomas (Deadly Secret) lives in the ­Southeastern United States.

Wilson, Sariah. #Moonstruck. Montlake Romance. (#Lovestruck). Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781503949362. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781503902831. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Thanks to a philandering jazz musician father, Maisy Harrison, lead guitarist and singer for her (and her brothers’) fledgling band Yesterday, has two unbreakable rules: never date a musician, and never have sex with one. Those hold true especially for musicians with reputations, such as totally hot pop star Ryan De Luna—and definitely not when they accept the gig to open for Ryan on his latest tour. But Ryan is out to change his image and having a serious girlfriend is key. He asks Maisy to be his “fake” sweetheart—no sex, of course—and with her family’s finances in the tank, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. If only she’d realized how hard he’d be to resist. VERDICT Making excellent use of sassy banter, hilarious texts, and a breezy style, Wilson’s energetic story brims with sexual tension and takes readers on a musical road trip that will leave them smiling. Perfect as well for YA and new adult collections. Wilson (­#Starstruck) lives in Utah.

Wright, Elle. Touched by You. Dafina: Kensington. (Wellspring, Bk. 1). Jun. 2018. 286p. ISBN 9781496716002. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496716019. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Still grieving after the bitter loss of his wife and baby daughter two years earlier, tech consultant Carter Marshall heads to Wellspring, MI, to oversee his firm’s software installation for Wellspring Water Corporation and get his life back on track. He isn’t contemplating romance when he pulls Brooklyn Wells from the path of a truck. So he’s startled to find himself captivated by the outspoken, fiercely independent woman who turns out to be the daughter of the man with whom he has come to do business. The interest is mutual, but controlling and ruthless Parker Wells Sr. has other plans for his offspring. Brooklyn isn’t about to be bullied, though, and when Carter stands up for her, the battle lines are drawn for a fight that has its roots in past secrets, a fight that Carter and Brooklyn are determined to win. ­VERDICT Overflowing with steamy passion, soul-wrenching guilt, and intense family dynamics, this engrossing series opener leaves an enticing string or two dangling as it brings a hero wary of loving again and a heroine who wants to experience life on her own terms together and nicely sets the stage for the stories to come. Wright (Wherever You Are) lives near Ann Arbor, MI.


Former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams (aka romance writer Selena Montgomery) will run for governor in the fall after picking up three-quarters of the votes in the May 22 Democratic primary. Much more to come.

RT Book Reviews Ceases Publication

Romance fans were surprised and dismayed when RT Book Reviews (originally Romantic Times) announced at the annual RT Booklovers Convention in Reno, NV, this May that it would cease publication immediately. Fortunately, the website will be available for a year, although no new content will be added; then the site will go dark.

Founded in 1981, Romantic Times, commonly known as RT, was one of the earliest and certainly the most comprehensive and influential of the dedicated romance review publications, providing timely evaluations and articles of interest. In later years, it expanded its coverage to include a variety of fiction genres. Although it maintained both a print and online presence for a number of years, in 2016 it discontinued the print magazine and moved to an online-only format. The RT organization also sponsored the annual convention, as well as other popular events, and presented a number of romance-related awards. A strong advocate for the romance genre, it was an exceptional resource and will be missed.

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