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Cheater’s Regret

Rachel Van Dyken. Skyscape, , $9.99 ISBN 978-1-4778-1997-5

Van Dyken delights readers with this clever contemporary about a hapless man who’s his own worst enemy—and his girlfriend’s, too. Austin Rogers is ready to, if not forgive, at least forget that her boyfriend, Thatch Holloway, cheated on her; it was just a one-time transgression. But he literally slams the door on making up. It’s almost as if he wanted to get caught, and now wants to provoke Austin until she breaks up with him. Naturally, this doesn’t go as planned. Austin is totally in love with him—and Thatch is in love with her, but for reasons of his own he feels like it’s best to push her away. When she decides to take revenge on Thatch, the ensuing antics and Thatch’s responses add great entertainment value to their steamy relationship. Van Dyken’s smart characters carry her well-wrought plot to a satisfying happy ending. Agent: Erica Spellman-Silverman, Trident Media Group. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dating the Undead

Juliet Lyons. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-4530-6

Charming and racy romance meets rousing mystery in the deft launch of Lyons’s paranormal erotic V-Date.com series, set in present-day London. Silver Harris doesn’t let the men she dates get too close, and they still manage to let her down. When she meets stunning Irish vampire Logan Byrne, she’s swept away despite herself, but she doesn’t get his number. Her stepsister nudges her toward V-Date, the online dating service that connects humans and vampires. Meanwhile, Logan’s boss, believing Scotland Yard is using V-Date to gather intelligence on the recently revealed vampire world, assigns Logan to monitor V-Date matchups, which brings him face to face with Silver again. As they grow close (to their mutual surprise), enigmas from both their pasts surface. The book sometimes treads well-worn paths—the descriptions of Logan’s Romani heritage are full of mystical “gypsy” clichés—and the pace can drag a bit, but Lyons nevertheless keeps readers invested until the end. Relatable characters and a well-crafted setting make this a promising start to an intriguing series. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Forbidden Promises

Katee Robert. Forever, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4555-9703-1

The fourth in Robert’s O’Malleys contemporary series (after An Indecent Proposal) takes readers on a sexy, suspenseful ride with a satisfying payoff. Sloan O’Malley leaves her Boston crime family behind and heads for the West Coast, hoping to build a “normal” life for herself in the small beach town of Callaway Rock, where she rents a house from Sorcha O’Connor. Jude MacNamara is an assassin on Sorcha’s trail, and he’s been casing the residence for months, posing as an ordinary next-door neighbor. When Sloan appears on the scene, Jude falls head over heels for her, but the crime families begin to circle, putting them both in danger. It can be hard to make a ruthless assassin into a sympathetic character, but Robert handles the task with ease. She also deftly shows Sloan’s transformation from a pampered and protected naïf to a strong woman with a backbone of pure steel. A tension-filled plot full of deceit, betrayal, and sizzling love scenes will make it impossible for readers to set the book down. This installment stands alone, but new readers will certainly want to look up the earlier books. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Hot Shot: Last Shot, Book 2

Kelly Jamieson. Loveswept, $4.99 e-book (241p) ISBN 978-0-399-59442-7

Two beautiful, insecure, artistic protagonists resist their obvious attraction to each other in Jamieson’s predictable but enjoyable second Last Shot contemporary (after Body Shot). Intuitive Carrie comes from a family of successful type A personalities, and has always felt misunderstood. Years of being objectified in her modeling career make her suspicious of attention from gorgeous Marco, a former Navy SEAL, who “clearly regard[s] her as an airheaded blond bimbo.” He and Carrie’s best friend’s fiancé jointly own the Conquistador Tequila Bar. When Marco asks for her help planning their friends’ engagement party, she agrees but keeps her distance, reinforcing his impression that he’s “the guy nobody wanted.” The slow build to intimacy gives Marco plenty of opportunities to act the gentleman, and the two come to appreciate each other’s artistic talents (photography and welding) before jumping into bed. The anticipatory tension holds more erotic appeal than their steamy sexual encounters. Some uninspired secondary plotlines (her mother’s unhappiness with retirement, his efforts to improve the bar’s food menu) hamper the momentum, but the lovers are likable and their chemistry is strong enough to keep the pages turning. Agent: Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Say You’re Sorry

Melinda Leigh. Montlake Romance, $12.95 trade paper (335p) ISBN 978-1-5039-4870-9

Bestseller Leigh (Midnight Obsession) begins a series set in Scarlet Falls, N.Y., with this solid contemporary romantic thriller. Recently widowed attorney Morgan Dane hopes a new job as a prosecutor will help her move on with her life. Then Morgan’s babysitter, Tessa, is murdered, and her neighbor Nick, Tessa’s boyfriend, is arrested for the crime amid a media frenzy. Morgan thinks Nick is innocent and agrees to defend him. With the help of former cop Lance Kruger, who’s working as a private investigator while recovering from a bullet wound, Morgan fights local prejudice to find the truth. Complex characters, a web of small-town relationships, and intriguing legal details keep the pages turning and add depth to the growing relationship between Morgan and Lance as well as Morgan’s recovery from her husband’s death. Only occasional prosaic glimpses into the mind of the killer fall flat. Romantic suspense fans will look forward to following several tantalizing subsidiary mysteries in subsequent volumes. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Untamed Vampire

Kate Baxter. St. Martin’s, $7.99 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-12539-2

Baxter’s fourth Last True Vampire paranormal (after The Dark Vampire) delivers plenty of excitement and romance. Chelle Daly is a vampire with no maker. Brought into her powers by a magical artifact, she stands alone, isolated in a strength she can barely comprehend. Gunnar Falk is every inch an alpha werewolf, bound by centuries of experience and tradition to protect his pack. They are brought together by Chelle’s quest to learn the secrets of her origins. Despite the threat their union represents to all levels of the supernatural community, their passion is too strong to be denied. Together they must face betrayal from within the pack as well as a rogue faction bent on revenge. Baxter creates a romance that is by turns funny and terrifying, enhancing her complex world as she brings the story to a well-earned conclusion. The protagonists’ connection relies on the tired trope of a fated love, but their relationship is developed in a slow, natural fashion that lends it both tenderness and steamy satisfaction and will please readers who like protagonists in control of their stories. Agent: Natanya Wheeler, Nancy Yost Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Wedded Bliss

Celeste Bradley. Jove, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-47598-5

In the hilarious and warmhearted fifth Wicked Worthingtons Regency (after I Thee Wed), Bliss Worthington thinks she’s about to execute a romantic, secret midnight wedding in the outskirts of London. But instead of marrying Neville, Duke of Camberton, Bliss finds herself wed to the duke’s illegitimate half brother, ship’s captain Morgan Pryce. Determined to acquire an annulment and marry her true intended, headstrong Bliss secures a promise from her accidental husband that he won’t enforce his husbandly rights. Morgan, who hopes to preserve his close relationship with his half brother and believes the impoverished Bliss is a gold digger predatorily pursuing a title, is determined to outwit her by making her seduce him. Fate has the last laugh as Bliss and Morgan reluctantly find that their temperaments match and there’s an undeniable, unavoidable attraction between them. This installment is packed with hilarious hijinks, excellent twists, and a sparkling tension between Bliss and Morgan. New and returning readers alike will eagerly anticipate the next of the Worthingtons’ matrimonial endeavors. Agent: Irene Goodman, Irene Goodman Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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White Hot

Ilona Andrews. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-228925-4

Andrews sets fully realized characters, killer action scenes, and a hot and sweet romance against a dynastic world of mages. It’s been two months since the explosive concluding events of Burn for Me devastated Nevada Baylor, a Houston PI and psychic truthseeker (able to tell when people are lying). She hasn’t heard from mage Connor Rogan since then, which is just as well, because she’s fighting strong feelings for him that go against every one of her instincts. When Cornelius Harrison, an animal mage, asks for her help after his wife is murdered, she takes the case, but her investigation leads her back into Connor’s orbit and the stakes become even higher. Nevada’s eclectic family is a delight: Mom is a sniper, Grandma specializes in armored vehicles, and her teen sisters and cousins aren’t to be trifled with either. Nevada herself is a deeply compassionate person who discovers that Connor isn’t as cold and calculating as she first thought—especially when it comes to romancing her. Andrews does a fantastic job of catching up new readers while enchanting existing fans. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Suitable Affair

Erica Taylor. Amberjack, $15.99 trade paper (418p) ISBN 978-1-944995-15-7

Taylor’s Regency debut fails to deliver, though Lady Susanna Macalister and Ian Carlisle, Earl of Westcott and an investigator for the Home Office, do make a lovable couple. After an inauspicious Hyde Park meeting during which Ian nearly runs Susanna down with his horse, he decides to warn her away from the gentleman accompanying her, her “almost fiancé,” Viscount Riverton, whom Ian blames for his sister’s murder. Susanna isn’t in love with Riverton, but she’s surprised that her family finds him dull and champions a match with Ian instead. The premise and story line are standard fare, elevated only by well-delineated primary and secondary characters who banter cleverly. Susanna’s closely held secret turns out to be nothing, and certain aspects of the suspense subplot don’t withstand scrutiny. Taylor’s debut is perfectly acceptable without challenging the genre’s limits in any way. (June)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Need You Now

Nicole Helm. Zebra, $5.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4276-1

In this deeply moving contemporary, courage and introspection merge in two characters’ journeys to overcoming the sins of their fathers and the walls around their own hearts. Brandon Evans has unsuccessfully spent years trying to help the citizens of Gracely, Colo., a dying mining town that he feels he ruined by exposing the shady business dealings of his father and their mining company. PR consultant Lilly Preston thinks her most challenging task will be to convince a reluctant town to open up to Brandon’s mountain adventure tour business. She’s distressed to realize she’s attracted to Brandon; the women in her life all met disaster at the hands of rich and powerful men, and she’s terrified of a similar fate. After Brandon and Lilly share an intense night that leads to Lilly becoming pregnant, both must decide how to work through the mistakes of their parents and claim their chance at happiness. The protagonists are refreshingly willing to be up front about their feelings and listen to each other, and readers will want to revisit their story often. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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