Romantic Retellings | Romance

These three romances offer new takes on classic stories, including a steamy modern “Beauty and the Beast” tale, a rom-com reimagining of Rapunzel, and a unique contemporary twist on The Great Gatsby.

Bennett, Mae. Barely Even Friends. Alcove. Jun. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9781639107797. pap. $18.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

DEBUT Bennett offers a steamy, modern “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. Bellamy Price is the daughter of a famous house restoration expert, and the crumbling Killington Estate is her chance to make her own mark in the industry. Grumpy caretaker and heir Oliver Killington has been living at the estate nearly alone since the death of his parents in a car accident a decade ago and does not welcome the hiring of Bellamy by his grandfather. During the six months Bellamy and Oliver spend together for the renovations, they go from enemies to something more, but Bellamy has spent her life making homes for other people and then moving on, while Oliver still blames himself for the past. The novel’s relationships between the main and supporting characters are interesting, but how the other residents of the house came to be there could have been further developed. VERDICT While the story delves into some difficult family relationships, Bennett’s debut is a good fit for those who enjoy sexy contemporary fairy-tale retellings and grumpy/sunshine tropes.—Sydney Ashby

Kenney, Rebecca. Beautiful Villain. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Gilded Monsters, Bk. 1). Jul. 2024. 384p. ISBN 9781728280363. pap. $16.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Back home from college after graduation and recovering from a traumatic breakup, Daisy Finnegan is giving herself time to heal and process the changes in her life. When the boy who broke her heart eight years ago mysteriously reappears in her life, Daisy’s summer plans instantly become more complicated. Jay Gatsby is no longer a boy with a rough upbringing. Now he’s extremely wealthy, charming, and very focused on getting Daisy back in his life. When her cousin and best friend start acting strangely, and Gatsby’s secrets begin coming to light, Daisy must decide if she can trust Jay and his vampiric qualities. His supernatural abilities are the stuff of legend, but Daisy might have some mysterious and persuasive skills of her own. Then outside forces threaten not only Daisy and Jay but her friends and family. Daisy alone must decide how or if to fight to save those she loves. VERDICT Kenney’s (A Hunt So Wild and Cruel) unique contemporary retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is perfect for fans of classics with a twist. New Adult and paranormal romance readers will enjoy the novel’s mystery and steamy, action-packed drama.—Jenna Harmison

Lauren, Christina. Tangled Up in You. Hyperion Avenue. (Meant To Be, Bk. 4). Jun. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781368092838. pap. $15.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Tucked away at an Idaho farm for almost all her life, Ren Gylden only knows about the world through books. Since she’s read so much, her book-smart genius lands her a full scholarship to attend college, a lifelong dream of hers. A freshman at 22, with no formal education and no experience with technology or boys because of her strict parents, Ren fascinates everyone on campus with her wide-eyed and optimistic persona, much to the dismay of professors’ favorite Fitz, who needs to maintain his top-student status. When a class experiment has Ren questioning her homestead upbringing, she badgers Fitz to bring her along on his planned travels, leading to a road trip full of humorous adventures and sparkling attraction. While Fitz is secretive about his convoluted backstory, Ren’s openness is wonderful. Their opposites-attract dynamic is adeptly written, and their growing feelings are apparent in swoon-worthy interactions. VERDICT A romantic joyride with roller-coaster plot reveals. Readers of Lauren’s (The True Love Experiment) books and fans of the beloved Disney original Tangled will adore this rom-com retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale.—Hazel Ureta

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