Tantalizing Reads from Ashford, Davidson, London, Lorret, Rodale, & Others | Romance

Whether readers are pining for more Lords of London, a steamy romance with a honey badger shapeshifter, or a charming contemporary, these top picks for March promise to hit the sweet spot

Albert, Annabeth. Conventionally Yours. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (True Colors, Bk. 1). Jun. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781728200293. pap. $14.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This sweet new adult romance, the first in Albert’s (Off Base) "True Colors" series, brings together two gamers in their early twenties skilled at Odyssey but floundering in life. Forced to drop out of college when his parents withdraw financial support, Conrad is living paycheck to paycheck when his understanding landlady tells him she’s putting her house on the market. Socially awkward Alden is living in the shadow of an older sister who excelled academically and mothers determined their neurodiverse son will get into medical school on the second attempt—even if his heart isn’t in it. When their internet-popular Odyssey group is offered tickets to a con, with a chance at breaking into the pro gaming circuit, Alden and Conrad decide a tournament win is the solution to their problems—if only they can survive the cross-country road trip in one another’s company. As the miles pass by, they discover their mutual enmity giving way to compassion, curiosity, and something more. Though the book feels slightly overstuffed with plot elements, scenery, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-em secondary characters, against that kaleidoscopic backdrop Conrad and Alden come to the fore.
VERDICT In the end, this captivating, nerdy romance delivers a satisfying happily ever after.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc., Boston

Ashford, Jane. A Duke Too Far. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Way to a Lord’s Heart, Bk. 4). May 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781492663447. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Peter Rathbone, Duke of Compton, may be titled, but his estate is falling to pieces around him. Grieving the recent death of his sister, Delia, Peter is shocked when a carriage full of her school friends arrive at his far-removed property. Among them is Ada Grandison, who is haunted by the memory of a perplexing message Delia left about a family treasure. Ada is convinced that if she and her friends can decipher the code in Delia’s note, she’ll overcome the strange feelings. Replenishing the family coffers would certainly allow Peter to fix his untidy affairs and become worthy of the alluring Ada, but putting hope in a legend that may or may not be true won’t be easy for the practical duke. Ada, her friends, and even the Earl of Macklin will have to work hard to convince Peter to learn to trust more and to see that the riches worth seeking are something far greater than gold. VERDICT Ashford ­continues this sweet Regency series (after How To Cross a Marquess) with a irresistible love story featuring a fearless heroine and a reluctant hero who find the answers they’re searching for in each other, aided by an entertaining ensemble of secondary characters. Series fans will gravitate toward this title, but new readers should start with the first book, Brave New Earl. —Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Bouchet, Amanda. Starbreaker. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Nightchaser, Bk. 2). Apr. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781492667162. pap. $7.99. SF ROMANCE
Capt. Tess Bailey and her crew of ­Nightchasers delivered the supersoldier serum made from her blood to the leadership of the rebellion. Now they’ve been handed an impossible mission: rescue a scientist from the most impregnable prison in the known universe. Tess forgave Shade for betraying her to the Dark Watch the first time, but she still has doubts about his loyalty, and he knows it. As they continue to work for the rebellion, the Overseer announces a plan to crush the rebellion once and for all, and they only have six months to stop him. Unfortunately, for Tess, the hits keep coming as her world turns upside down and Shade is her only stability.
VERDICT Bouchet amps up the action and shock factor in this sequel to Nightchaser, while further rounding out the characters, relationships, and plans for this universe. Libraries owning the first book definitely need this one, and others may want to go ahead and get both.—Melanie C. Duncan, Washington Memorial Lib., Macon, GA

Caldwell, Christi. In Bed with the Earl. Montlake Romance: Amazon. (Lost Lords of London, Bk. 1). Mar. 2020. 001p. ISBN 9781542042574. pap. $12.95. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
In the face of extreme sexism, Verity Lovelace has worked her way up in The Londoner’s newsroom to the role of reporter. The new boss is threatening staff cuts, and unless she can deliver the true story of the Lost Earl, she’s out of a job and a way to support herself and her sister. Malcolm North has no memory of his upbringing as the son of an earl. Kidnapped as a child, he’s found security as a tosher, combing through London’s sewers looking for items of value. Uncovering Max’s true identity, Verity prints his story, exposing him to an aristocratic life he’s never desired to be a part of, not to mention the hordes of hungry fortune hunters. Set largely outside the glittering ballrooms of high society among the city’s destitute and working class, this first installment in the new "Lost Lords of London" series from Caldwell ("Wicked Wallflowers" series) delivers a slow-burn romance that sees Verity and Malcolm embarking on a fake marriage of convenience, going to great lengths to protect the people around them.
VERDICT Readers will be drawn to ­Verity’s independence and Malcolm’s compelling backstory, forgiving a few oddly timed intimate moments, as the pair moves between London’s seedy underbelly and high society to carve out a place of their own.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Cty. Pub. Libs., VA

Davidson, MaryJanice. Bears Behaving Badly. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (BeWere My Heart, Bk. 1). Mar. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9781492697015. pap. $7.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
The interspecies foster care system is as tough as you can imagine, but werebear Annette Garsea is willing to fight for all the werekids that end up in her care. When David Auberon, private investigator, Annette’s crush, and a fellow werebear, brings in a werewolf kid he prevented from killing someone, Annette knows she must get to the bottom of why. Caro, the werewolf, isn’t talking, so Annette and David team up to unravel the mystery before more werekids are hurt. Someone doesn’t want the duo to find out what’s really going on, however, and Annette and David soon are caught in the crossfire. Trying to manage two teenaged werekids, a mystery that seems to get more disturbing the more they discover, and a crush blossoming into something more might be too much for even the most formidable of the weres.
VERDICT Davidson (Undead and Unwed) is known for combining paranormal romance with a healthy serving of humor, and she brings a heaping dose of both to enhance this newest series.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Heath, Lorraine. The Earl Takes a Fancy. Avon. (Sins for all Seasons, Bk. 5). Apr. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780062951908. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
As the youngest of the Trewlove siblings, Fancy Trewlove knows her family’s hopes rest on her marrying nobility and raising her family’s status. Even so, she prefers tending her bookstore and teaching local adults how to read. She doesn’t count on falling for her new neighbor, the mysterious and handsome Matthew Sommersby. Fancy little suspects that he’s actually the Earl of Rosemont, in hiding after his late wife pens a letter to the editor extolling his many virtues, which sets debutantes’ hearts a fluttering—despite it all being a lie. Fancy thinks the earl is exactly the sort of aristocrat she should marry, but she’s falling hard and fast for the more "common" Matthew, especially when he agrees to help teach her adult reading class. Having been duped into marriage for his title once, Matthew is loathe to do so again, and keeps his identity well hidden from Fancy, whom he quite adores.
VERDICT After a somewhat shaky beginning, Heath (The Duchess in His Bed) manages to flesh out her characters enough to add another enjoyable, emotional chapter to the Trewlove saga. —Kathryn Howe, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Howard, Linda & Linda Jones. After Sundown. Morrow. Mar. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9780062842633. $27.99. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
The world as they know it is ending. A series of solar flares will knock out power grids across the Earth for months, possibly years. After several tours in the military, Ben Jernigan knows to be prepared for anything. His remote mountain home is well supplied and ready to run on solar power. Advance warning from a fellow veteran means he can stock up on gas and get any last-minute items well before the news breaks. What he’s not planned for is his unwanted connection to Sela Gordon, the owner of the local general store. When leadership is thrust upon a reluctant Sela, she reaches out to the man she knows can best help them all survive the multitude of threats they will face.
­VERDICT This new collaboration between Howard and Jones (after Running Wild) weaves a moving love story into a community’s journey through hardship and sacrifice. The worldbuilding in this romantic thriller clearly shows how a cataclysmic event brings these self-imposed loners, and their community, together. —Courtney Pentland, Omaha, NE

Laurenston, Shelly. Badger to the Bone. Kensington. (Honey Badger Chronicles, Bk. 3). Mar. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781496714404. pap. $15.95. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Zé Vargas was undercover with a group of kidnappers; the last thing he expected was for their target to come to them. But that was before he met Max MacKilligan. Now he’s caught up in a world he never knew existed. Max insists that she’s actually a shapeshifter—a honey badger shapeshifter—and that he can shift into some kind of jungle cat. She’s definitely crazy. Except that she’s right. Now Zé is trying to figure out who—and what—he really is, all while helping protect Max from the people who are trying to kill her. It would be nice if there weren’t so many of them. Lucky for him, and Max, honey badgers are hard to kill. VERDICT Although the writing is uneven and new series readers may find it hard to keep track of all the characters, the dialog is funny and the story is enjoyable once readers let themselves go along for the ride. This book will appeal to fans of Laurenston’s (Hot and Badgered) earlier work. Purchase where the author or other shifter romances are popular. —Sarah Loch, Springdale P.L., AR

London, Julia. The Billionaire in Boots. Berkley. (Princes of Texas, Bk. 3). Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780451492395. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Continuing her "Princes of Texas" series (after The Devil in the Saddle), London focuses on the eldest Prince son, Nick, as he struggles to reconcile his late father’s wish that he run the family cattle business and his own desires to be a pilot. Meanwhile, Charlotte Bailey, the company’s office manager, is torn between having a baby via artificial insemination and her deep wish for a loving husband and family. Witty dialog and palpable sexual tension transform the book from a "coworkers who accidentally slept together and want to again" plot into a slow-burn romance with nods to family expectations and the pursuit of long-held dreams. The small-town setting and characters immediately feel familiar and accessible. While the set-up for the next book will be obvious to readers, they’ll have fun trying to guess its protagonist.
VERDICT This fast-paced, charming novel is perfect for fans of the earlier books in the series and contemporary romance in general.—Rachel Alexander, Peabody Inst. Lib., MA

redstarLorret, Vivienne. Lord Holt Takes a Bride. Avon. (Mating Habits of Scoundrels, Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9780062976598. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Proving that one can never take a romance title too literally, the eponymous hero, Lord Holt, does indeed take a bride—straight from the church where she is set to marry another man. Technically, Winnifred Humphries has already made up her mind not to marry the odious Mr. Woodbine, but she wasn’t expecting the dashing Asher, Lord Holt, to be the man in her getaway carriage. Asher plans to ransom the headstrong heiress to get back the money her friends stole during his recent (accidental) kidnapping, when they tried to interview him for their guidebook, The Mating Habits of Scoundrels. Things go sideways for Winn and Asher when they’re shot at by thugs, and they’re soon on the run in the country, dodging thieves, thunderstorms, and suspicious farmers with pitchforks. Along the way, Winn starts to feel desirable for the first time, overcoming a lifetime of criticism about her weight, and Asher slowly realizes that some things are more valuable than money. VERDICT A rollicking Regency road trip with plenty of heat. Fans of Lorret (The Rogue To Ruin) will devour; new readers will want more.—Kathryn Howe, Saint John Free P.L., NB

McFarlane, Mhairi. If I Never Met You. Morrow. Mar. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780062958501. pap. $15.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Laurie Watkinson’s boyfriend of nearly two decades has suddenly left her, his new girlfriend is pregnant, and, to top it all off, Laurie gets stuck in the office elevator with Jamie Carter, work-place cad. But while stuck, and at drinks after, the two hatch a plan to pretend to date; Laurie can make her ex jealous and Jamie can prove to the firm he’s able to commit. Almost immediately, the keep-it-simple plan for their fake relationship gets more complicated than expected, and Laurie is surprised by how much she’s enjoying spending time with Jamie. Things can’t keep going smoothly, however, and when jealousy and bad reputations rear their ugly heads, Laurie must decide if she can trust her and Jamie’s feelings.
VERDICT Readers will certainly fall for Laurie and Jamie’s shenanigans in McFarlane’s (You Had Me at Hello) latest. While the recognizable beats of the familiar plot are all there, Laurie’s arc stands out.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Martin, Kat & others. Pivot. Zebra: Kensington. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781420151145. pap. $7.99. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Each novella in this collection shares a common thread: a woman is on the run and in danger, assisted by a hero with a background in law enforcement. Martin’s (Against the Heart) Meri Jones is on the move with her young daughter. When she needs money, ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help with his dad’s house, but she has a dangerous secret. After Alexandra Ivy’s (Echoes of the Past) Melanie Cassidy foils a kidnapping, she’s shocked to be reconnected with Det. Gray Hawkins. They reexamine their relationship as they investigate corrupt cops. And Rebecca Zanetti’s (Shaken) Michelle Peach is reunited with her ex, Evan Boldon, a marine-turned-sheriff, after two men break into her apartment. The novellas are loosely connected, set during roughly the same time period and sharing some characters and plot threads. Each story can be read in a single sitting and contains a complete arc for its characters that is both believable and engaging, despite the shorter format.
VERDICT This anthology is perfect for readers of romantic suspense who are looking for more from the included authors or for introductions to writers who are sure to become future favorites.—Rebecca Moe, Alden Ewell Free Lib., NY

Morganthaler, Sarah. The Tourist Attraction. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Moose Springs, Alaska. Bk. 1). May 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781728210483. $14.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
DEBUT Zoey Caldwell has longed dreamed of an Alaskan vacation, and after years of saving she’s finally going. Inspired by her friend Lana’s year adventures to Moose Springs, Zoey arrives excited and ready for her Alaskan adventure. On her first day in Moose Springs she meets grumpy Graham Barnett who, much to his chagrin, runs an extremely popular diner. Graham is immediately charmed by Zoey, and the two are often thrown together over Zoe’s two weeks in town, either by circumstance, or at Graham’s insistence. Exploring Moose Springs and the surrounding area with Zoey gives Graham fresh perspective, and he realizes maybe tourists aren’t so bad after all. Zoey falls hard for not only Moose Springs, but its grumpy diner owner as well. ­
VERDICT Morganthaler’s debut is an utterly delightful romance with humor, small-town high jinks, and protagonists who share great chemistry.—Claire Brown, Red Deer P.L., Alberta, Canada

Quinn, Ella. The Most Eligible Lord in London. Kensington. (Lords of London, Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781420149678. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Adeline Wivenly plans to avoid rakes at all costs during her debut Season in London, particularly the flirtatious Fredrick, Lord Littleton. Frits earned himself an ignoble reputation having realized too late the woman he’d pursued was a terrible match. Now he’s taking his time to be sure a lady’s interests align with his own. Yet when he first sees Adeline, his instincts to rush forward once again take over, despite her frosty rebuke. Competing for her affections with the enigmatic Earl of Anglesey, Frits begins to second guess himself, and persuading Adeline that Frits is worth taking a chance will be a challenge for even the formidable Maximus the Great Dane.
VERDICT With a love triangle, a protective Great Dane, and meddling mothers, this new Regency series launch brings on the drama but is filled with tenderness. Readers who recognize characters from Quinn’s earlier "Marriage Game" series (Enticing Miss Eugenie Villaret) will be especially rewarded. —Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

redstar Rodale, Maya. An Heiress To Remember. Avon. (Gilded Age Girls Club, Bk. 3). Apr. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780062838841. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Sixteen years ago, heiress Beatrice Goodwin chose a duke over Wes Dalton, the young clerk at her family’s small store. Though madly in love with Wes, Beatrice couldn’t picture a future with her penniless beau. Now she’s back in New York, aged 36, divorced, and thoroughly independent. Wes, meanwhile, has become the disgustingly rich owner of the city’s largest department store, and plans to buy and ruin Goodwin’s. Beatrice will not let her company go without a fight, and soon the former lovers are duking it out in business even as they’re sneaking sexy trysts after hours. Both are headstrong and visionary, but only Beatrice truly understands the needs of long-suffering women, and creates a shopping experience that enthralls the ladies of New York as much as it dismays the jealous (and admiring) Wes. In time, Wes acknowledges he has much to learn, starting with accepting Beatrice’s need for self-determination.
VERDICT Rival store owners, second-chance romance, and a focus on feminism are wrapped up in a thoroughly fun package that’s part Mr. Selfridge mixed with a dash of Gilded Age You’ve Got Mail, producing a winning addition (after Duchess by Design ) to Rodale’s popular series.—Kathryn Howe, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Spear, Terry. Night of the Billionaire Wolf. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Billionaire Wolf, Bk. 3). May 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781492697787. $7.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Successful cosmetic businesswoman Lexi Summerfield needs a break from dealing with paparazzi and fortune-hunting werewolves. Unfortunately, her trip to the Redwood National Forest doesn’t bring her much-needed peace. Enemies are closing in as she searches for a hidden message that could mean life or death. It’s not until she runs into vacationing werewolf bodyguard Ryder Gallagher that her secrets begin to come out. But can a billionaire she-wolf trust the safety Ryder seems to promise? Ryder is instantly attracted to Lexi, but as they team up to find the message, Lexi’s safety comes first. He vows to protect Lexi and prove that he’s not another fortune hunter. And hopefully, they’ll find much more than danger in the woods. Like a chance at love. ­
VERDICT Spear (A Billionaire Wolf for Christmas) delivers a layered suspense story, but too many plot threads detract from a romance that is slow to build and sometimes shaky. Paranormal suspense readers seeking a prevalent romance may wish to look elsewhere.—Michaelene Malan, P.L. of Enid & Garfield Cty., OK

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