The books we love coming out this week include new titles by Paul Doiron, Camille Roy, and David Buckmaster.
At the start of Edgar finalist Doiron’s nail-biting 12th mystery featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch (after 2020’s One Last Lie), Bowditch runs his Jeep off the road into the icy Androscoggin River after his tires are shredded by metal spikes intentionally left in the road. The game warden escapes from his submerged vehicle, but he risks hypothermia. Flash back to earlier that morning. Mariëtte Chamberlain asks Bowditch, who has a reputation for solving cold cases, to reinvestigate her father-in-law’s death. Four years earlier, professor Eben Chamberlain, formerly of the British foreign service, was duck hunting on the Androscoggin when he apparently fell out of his boat and drowned. Since Chamberlain, according to Mariëtte, never would have taken off his life vest, she suspects foul play. Bowditch agrees to do a little digging and is soon headed for trouble. Doiron builds tension by alternating between his lead’s battle to survive and the inquiry into Chamberlain’s death, which he effectively doles out in small segments. This entry stands as the best yet in a superior series.
MacGregor (Wild, Wild Rake) packs this saucy Regency-era romp, the first in the Widow Rules series, with scandalous secrets and sordid affairs that threaten the welfare of a successful businesswoman. Boutique owner Katherine “Kat” Greer married her husband, Meriwether Varek, never suspecting that she was but one of Meriwether’s three wives. His polygamy only comes to light after his death, when the three widows meet at the reading of his will. Christian Varek, the Duke of Randford, has never been close to his family, but he feels it’s his duty to help the women who have been duped by his younger half brother. He teams up with Kat, the savviest of the trio, to protect their reputations, and is soon seduced by Kat’s intelligence and humor, while she is drawn to his playful side. Meanwhile, Meriwether’s widows find comfort in each other and band together to form a family of their own. But when Kat’s toughest business competitor uncovers a secret from her past, he blackmails her into choosing between her business—upon which her employees’ livelihoods depend—and her relationship with Christian. Throughout all the drama, the slow-burning love between Christian and Kat is the eye of the storm, and their convincing connection will melt readers’ hearts. With powerful themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and second chances, this impassioned series launch promises more good things to come.
Layne (Marriage on Madison Avenue) crafts a gleefully shameless homage to Little Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail that sparkles like champagne fizz. Onetime aspiring artist Gracie Cooper reluctantly took over her family’s Manhattan champagne shop, Bubbles & More, after her father’s death. The “more” includes an art corner where she pedals her whimsical prints of colorful cocktails and New York City scenes—which bring in the only revenue keeping the struggling business afloat. Gracie’s flirtatious, text-based relationship with “Sir,” an anonymous and unavailable guy she met on a dating app under her own moniker, “Lady,” keeps her spirits up—so she’s conflicted by the instant zing of attraction she feels upon meeting Sebastian Andrews, and even more so once she learns that he’s a developer looking to buy out her lease. Rom-com fans will see the resolution of this love triangle coming from a mile away, but it’s so fun that they won’t mind. Layne grounds her Manhattan fairy tale by surrounding Gracie with supportive friends and family who advise her to step out of her comfort zone and take a chance on love. This is a delight.
Two people find the cure for loneliness in each other in Balogh's enchanting eighth Westcott Regency romance (after Someone to Romance). Harry Westcott was once the Earl of Riverdale, but he lost his title when his mother discovered that her husband had committed bigamy in marrying her, making Harry illegitimate. He fled England to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, only returning to his childhood home of Hinsford Manor after being injured in battle. When Lydia Tavernor's husband died, she decided never to remarry, valuing her independence. But independence proves lonely, and she hopes to take Harry, her neighbor, as a lover—she's drawn to "the suggestion of darkness that he [keeps] well hidden." After she awkwardly propositions Harry, the pair spend one glorious night together—but Lydia stops it there, hoping to avoid village gossip. Harry agrees as, after their tryst, he knows he wants more from her than she's willing to give. But when gossip erupts despite their best efforts, Harry proposes, hoping to quell the rumors and perhaps win Lydia's heart. The seamless plotting and enticing characters make this a romance to be savored. Balogh is in fine form, and this may be her best Regency to date.
Phillips’s captivating ninth Chicago Stars romance (after First Star I See Tonight) explores the surprising compatibility between an athlete and an opera singer in the midst of a twisty mystery. Olivia Shore, a famed soprano, and Thad Owens, the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, are paired together on a monthlong promotional tour for a luxury watch brand. Olivia initially sees Thad as a “brainless, overpaid jock” while Thad views Olivia as a stuck-up diva—but the ambitious, career-driven pair soon discover they’re more alike than they thought. When Thad learns Olivia has been receiving threatening messages, he makes it his mission to help her. Impossibly, the threats seem to come from Olivia’s ex-fiancé, who recently died by suicide, and Olivia’s fear and guilt has caused her to lose her voice. As she and Thad fight, flirt, and investigate, their attraction becomes undeniable, but both worry about what a future together would mean for their careers. The thrilling suspense plot and intoxicating chemistry will hook new readers and returning fans alike. This is a page-turner.
A woman assumes her twin brother’s identity in Bennett’s charming second Misfits of Mayfair Regency romance (Any Rogue Will Do). Lord Cal Carlyle is so desperate to protect his beloved 18-year-old sister, Emma, from being married off to a scoundrel during her first season that he offers to pay Adam Hardwick, his friend and faithful land steward, to marry her himself. But Cal soon discovers that scrawny, effeminate Adam is really beautiful Ophelia, “Phee” to her friends. Phee is living as her brother, who died 10 years earlier, until she can claim his inheritance from her villainous uncle, who will stop at nothing to keep the money himself. Cal falls for the fiercely self-sufficient Phee—but he finds his own freedom jeopardized when his father offers Cal’s hand in marriage to satisfy a wager. Bennett’s spirited plot adds Shakespearean twists to the typical Regency fare, complete with humor, sensual love scenes, and pithy observations on gender roles and the social mores of the 1820s. Packed with disguises, debts, and debutantes, this delightful Regency does not disappoint.
This inventive and substantial collection from poet and performance artist Roy (Sherwood Forest) demonstrates the author’s sharp wit and laser-eyed analysis of gender and class issues, punctuated by perspective on the realities of being a lesbian in the U.S. In “Isher House” the narrator explores a run-down historic house with her then-girlfriend and learns that neighborhood myths, like relationships, are sometimes built on fantasy. In “Lynette #1,” a crush becomes the gateway to a party world of exhilarating temptations and nested stories. Roy manipulates literary forms to suit her material, as in “Baby or Whose Body Is Missing,” originally written for a gallery performance and composed of a fractured outline describing an infant’s breast feeding along with snippets of narrative (“I was a bar dyke before all this gender-theory crap came along. I kissed and fucked like every other girl in my invisible world”). Throughout, she writes about articulating the truth of experience: “Writing a story is a little like dragging a tree out of a dark wood and then wrapping it with strings of starry lights.” Her best work mixes fact and fiction, as Roy constructs metafictional puzzles while ruminating on the past: “My histories have no accuracy to them, but they are crammed with facts.” Fans of experimental fiction should take note.
Buckmaster, global compensation director at Nike, argues in his winning debut that America’s pay system is deeply broken. There’s no evil plan at work behind how pay is determined, Buckmaster writes, just business leaders who haven’t prioritized fair pay. Buckmaster discusses the deleterious effect of a low minimum wage (workers having to choose between paying for an education or their electric bill, for example) and writes that pretending that the free market will adjust appropriately on its own is a naive pipe dream. He also explores what the future could look like: greater pay transparency could help close the wage gap, and trade-offs (flex schedules, stock awards) that are a real benefit could be offered (instead of wispy appeals to personal meaning or a sense of pride in one’s work). Companies, he notes, must recognize the “outsize role they play in creating fair pay outcomes,” and he helpfully includes questions leaders should ask themselves (“How do we value jobs?” and “What do we mean by equal work?”). Buckmaster packs his work with insight, and delivers his message in a charming, funny tone: pay-design teams, for instance, are “the world’s least-interesting Illuminati.” This layperson’s guide will be a boon to anyone looking to understand the forces behind how that number got on their W-2.
Bestseller Feehan (Lightning Game) expertly reels in readers for a rip-roaring thrill ride in this spectacular standalone. Badass heroine Stella Harrison, the daughter of a serial killer, possesses an intuitive gift for sensing other serial killers through her dreams—and it appears that one’s about to strike in Sunrise Lake, the tiny hamlet in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains where Stella owns a resort. For two years, strong, silent type Sam Rossi has been Stella’s handyman and the closest thing she has to a confidant, but she’s reluctant to tell him of her premonitions—until he becomes a target. Now Stella and Sam race to outsmart the killer—and as the body count rises, their relationship heats up. The pair slowly share the secret details of their lives with each other, including that Sam is a former fixer for the U.S. government with a notorious father of his own. Feehan ramps up the tension early and keeps it climbing until the very end, masterfully throwing out red herrings that will keep readers guessing. The riveting plot strikes a fine balance between romance and danger. Add in irresistible characters, and readers won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough.