Romance authors are always looking for the perfect match, not just between their protagonists but also among romance’s many subgenres. This spring sees a continued emphasis on crossing and blending different types of romance.
The romantic suspense novel continues to enjoy popularity, buoyed by the talents of standout authors who know how to balance the very different elements of love and fear. In Lori Foster’s A Perfect Storm (HQN), a survivor of human trafficking and a widowed mercenary overcome their past sorrows to find love as they battle modern-day flesh-peddlers. Mary Burton breathes new life into the serial killer romantic suspense novel with Before She Dies (Kensington/Zebra), including the killer’s narration as a counterpoint to the growing passion between a detective and a woman running from her past. Both Foster and Burton are at the top of their game, showing both readers and other authors how to keep things fresh in an increasingly crowded field.
Another suspense element, espionage, has found a very comfortable home in the historical romance field. In Anna Randol’s debut, A Secret in Her Kiss (Avon), set in 1815 Constantinople, the daughter of a freedom fighter hides crucial information in sketches she sends to England. To her surprise, she falls in love with an English soldier sent to help her complete a final mission. Mary Jo Putney’s No Longer a Gentleman (Kensington/Zebra) flips around the rescue-the-princess formula and sends a female spy to retrieve a fellow agent trapped in France during the Napoleonic Wars. Spying gives these romance heroines a historically accurate way to have active careers and demonstrate their intelligence and grace under pressure, and the drama of war and skullduggery keeps readers turning the pages.
Psychic powers are popping up all over. Mia Marlowe’s Touch of a Rogue (Kensington/Brava) introduces a 19th-century investigator who can see the history of any metal object he touches, pairing him with a widow whose husband was killed while collecting magical objects.
Kristen Callihan debuts powerfully with Firelight (Grand Central/Forever), a deliciously gothic Victorian paranormal that pairs a wealthy but disfigured lord and an impoverished but supernaturally talented woman. Elisabeth Naughton’s Enraptured (Sourcebooks Casablanca) brings Orpheus and Eurydice into the modern day as a half-daemon and a Siren who must decide how best to use their powers.
Suzanne Brockmann, whose military suspense novels are consistently acclaimed, takes a new direction with Born to Darkness (Ballantine), a near-future thriller featuring psychically talented “Greater-Thans” who battle a nefarious cartel that makes drugs from the hormones of preteen girls. Apparently there’s no time or place that can’t be improved with a little bit of oracular mystique.
Readers who prefer purity of subgenre need not despair; romance is bigger than ever, and there’s room for everyone. Samantha Grace’s Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel (Sourcebooks Casablanca) is a classic Regency that mixes humor and passion against the backdrop of high society. Donna Kauffman’s Sweet Stuff (Kensington/Brava), her second Cupcake Club romance, is a lighthearted contemporary with all the tasty fluffiness of buttercream frosting and a surprisingly rich emotional center. After the excitement of early spring blossoms and storms, these feel-good novels will be perfect for late spring’s lazy afternoons, getting romance fans ready for those big beach reads just around the corner.
PW’s Top 10: Romance
A Perfect Storm
Lori Foster. HQN, Apr.
Before She Dies
Mary Burton. Kensington/Zebra, Feb.
A Secret in Her Kiss
Anna Randol. Avon, Feb.
No Longer a Gentleman
Mary Jo Putney. Kensington/Zebra, May.
Touch of a Rogue
Mia Marlowe. Kensington/Brava, Mar.
Kristen Callihan. Grand Central/Forever, Feb.
Elisabeth Naughton. Sourcebooks Casablanca, Apr.
Born to Darkness
Suzanne Brockmann. Ballantine, Mar.
Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel
Samantha Grace. Sourcebooks Casablanca, Feb.
Donna Kauffman. Kensington/Brava, Feb.
Allen & Unwin
(dist. by IPG)
Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler (June, trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-74237-587-8). Faith Roberts, a 34-year-old counselor at a women’s crisis center, has given up on love—until she learns that love hasn’t given up on her.
Oh, Gad!: A Novel by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Apr., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-59309-391-4). A woman facing cross-cultural odds must redefine everything she understands about her family, herself, and the country she’s never really been able to call home.
A Night Like This by Julia Quinn (May, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-207290-0). Quinn’s fans will be delighted to rejoin the hapless musicians of the Smythe-Smith family in their second Regency-era outing.
A Rogue by Any Other Name: The First Rule of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-2068521). MacLean launches a Regency series about noble men driven to desperate measures with this tale of treachery, vengeance, and unexpected romance.
A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-202580-7). Randol’s masterful debut visits 1815 Constantinople, where a soldier finds love with a spirited spy.
The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-204775-5). Wilde starts a new series set in Jubilee, Tex., a town full of horses, cowboys, and more romance than you can shake a stick at.
Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase (June, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-210031-3). Chase follows the superlative Silk Is for Seduction with another tale of aristocrats turned seamstresses who find passion and love as sumptuous as the gowns they create.
A Simple Spring: A Seasons of Lancaster Novel by Rosalind Lauer (Apr., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-345-52673-1). Readers looking for a chaste and cozy fireside read will enjoy the leisurely pace of Lauer’s debut, a quiet and gentle contemporary in which a reporter exploits her friendship with an Amish man to get the scoop on the unsolved murder of his parents.
Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann (Mar., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-345-52127-9). Bestseller Brockmann, known for military suspense, takes readers on a pulse-pounding ride with her first futuristic paranormal romance, in which superpowered “Greater-Thans” take on a cartel that makes drugs from the hormones of preteen girls.
Caught in the Act by Jill Sorenson (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-553-59264-1). Sorenson develops an unusual romance between a border protection officer and a woman who’s blackmailed into smuggling packages for a drug lord.
The Last Boyfriend: Book Two of the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy by Nora Roberts (May, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-425-24603-0). Superstar Roberts continues the contemporary series modeled after her own adventures running a smalltown inn.
Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24659-7). A college student unexpectedly inherits her sister’s magical powers—and custody of her sister’s young children. Fortunately, there’s a handsome djinn willing to help her juggle her new responsibilities.
Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks (Apr., trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-425-24565-1). Banks pens a smoking erotic romance with unabashed s&m elements that will leave readers breathless.
Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh (May, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-425-24756-3). Singh’s latest Psy-Changeling paranormal ramps up the heat against the backdrop of psychic warfare.
Blue Moon Bay by Lisa Wingate (Feb., trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7642-0822-5). An architect is torn between her fiancé, who’s brokered the sale of a farm that will be replaced by an industrial plant, and the smalltown banker who opposes the deal. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Into the Dreaming by Karen Marie Moning (Apr., hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0-345-53522-1). Fans of Moning’s Fever and Highlander series will be thrilled by this hardcover reissue of her early novella, a paranormal time-travel romance set in the Scottish Highlands.
The Proposal by Mary Balogh (May, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-385-34332-9). Opposites attract in the latest from Regency romance doyenne Balogh, in which a young, widowed noblewoman is surprised to fall for a tough former soldier from a merchant family.
Texas Bride: A Bitter Creek Novel by Joan Johnston (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52744-8). Johnson’s satisfying late 19th-century western takes a look at the difficult life of a young woman who becomes a mail-order bride to save her siblings from a terrible orphanage.
Firelight by Kristen Callihan (Feb., mass market, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-455-50859-4). Callihan’s compelling Victorian paranormal debut pairs up a wealthy but disfigured lord and an impoverished but supernaturally talented woman in a marriage of convenience that soon becomes something more.
Born of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon (May, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-446-57331-3). Kenyon’s latest League novel delves deep into deadly family politics that would put the Plantagenets to shame.
A Perfect Storm by Lori Foster (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77656-6). Foster’s fourth Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor romantic suspense novel continues her exposé of human trafficking, as seen through the eyes of a steely survivor and a widowed mercenary.
Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller (May, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77643-6). Bestseller Miller returns to Parable, Mont., to launch a new contemporary western series full of powerful emotion.
Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (Apr., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77658-0). Higgins returns to the small New England town of Gideon’s Cove, the setting of her popular Catch of the Day, for this sweet contemporary romance.
The Darkest Seduction by Gena Showalter (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77657-3). Bestseller Showalter unveils the story of Paris, the darkest and most tormented Lord of the Underworld, in her latest Underworld paranormal.
Diamond Dreams by Zuri Day (Mar., mass market, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86253-5). Day’s latest Atlanta-set African-American contemporary will please fans with the pairing of a blue-eyed frat boy and a doctor tired of Mr. Wrongs.
Sweet Southern Nights by Rochelle Alers (Feb., mass market, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86248-1). The Kentucky clinic where Dr. Levi Eaton is volunteering is worlds away from his wealthy Pennsylvania roots. Still, the South has plenty of attractions—like his colleague’s captivating sister.
Courting Justice by Brenda Jackson (May, mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-53473-9). Jackson continues the Medaris family saga with a jewel-studded romantic drama set in a high-end resort.
The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne by Madeline Hunter (Mar. 6, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15046-9). In this poignant Regency-era story, the death of an auction house owner brings together his daughter and the lord who funded the business in a daring cross-class romance.
Bear Meets Girl by Shelly Laurenston (Apr., trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-7582-6520-3). Outrageous humor, sexy shape-shifters, and an irresistible hero are the highlights of this fast-paced novel.
Matthew by Emma Lang (Feb., trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-7582-6904-1). Lang introduces the eight Graham siblings in this sweet, engaging historical western, which has plenty of fodder for sequels.
Sweet Stuff: A Cupcake Club Romance by Donna Kauffman (Feb., trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-7582-6636-1). Romantic fun, lovable leads, and surprising emotional complexity in both the main relationship and the supporting deep friendships make this quick return to the tiny Georgia island of Sugarberry (after Sugar Rush) a deliciously warm and feel-good read.
Touch of a Rogue by Mia Marlowe (Mar., trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-7582-6354-4). Balancing sleuthing and romance with a dash of the mystical, Marlowe’s smart and amusing sequel to Touch of a Thief features a charming investigator who broadcasts his fondness for married women but keeps his clairvoyance a secret.
Before She Dies by Mary Burton (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1021-0). The terrifying viewpoint of a serial killer adds tension to this well-paced thriller with a gloss of romance.
My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1706-6). Alexander’s Victorian romp delights with a strong heroine, a dashing hero, and unexpected plot twists with a heavy dose of humor.
No Longer a Gentleman by Mary Jo Putney (May, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1723-3). Romance and wartime espionage mix delightfully in the fourth Lost Lords Regency (after Nowhere Near Respectable) from bestseller Putney.
Cougars by Claire Irvin (May, trade paper, $10.95, ISBN 978-0-7515-4533-3). Irvin tells the romantic story of successful entrepreneur and true beauty Caroline Walker as she moves on from her cheating husband and rediscovers her joie de vivre by dating younger men.
Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery (Mar., trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-7783-1338-0). Bestselling contemporary romance author Mallery returns with a poignant new story about finding love and freeing oneself from the past.
Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1310-6). Carr comes back to Virgin River, where the small mountain town once again proves magical for those who have been unlucky in love.
The Unholy by Heather Graham (June, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1349-6). Romantic suspense megastar Graham powers this paranormal tale with scary imagery drawn from 1940s monster movies.
A Wish and a Prayer: A Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins (Mar., trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-06-199080-9). Bestseller Jenkins returns to the town of Henry Adams for this sweet romance with a spiritual side.
The Great Escape: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (June, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-210606-3). Phillips follows Call Me Irresistible with another strong contemporary featuring the children of her earlier protagonists. 250,000-copy announced first printing.
Lover Reborn: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward (Mar., hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-451-23584-8). Ward continues the Black Dagger Brotherhood series with Tohrment’s story as the burned and bitter Brother gets a second chance at love.
The Wedding Beat: A Novel by Devan Sipher (Apr., trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-451-23579-4). Sipher, a writer of the New York Times “Vows” column, writes what he knows in this contemporary tale of being always a wedding columnist and never a bridegroom.
Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick (Apr., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-399-15908-4). Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes as Jayne Castle) puts a paranormal spin on a Victorian romantic mystery.
The Witness by Nora Roberts (Apr., hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-399-15912-1). A woman hidden by a witness protection program falls in love with a smalltown police chief, putting them both in danger. This is the 200th novel for Roberts, the grande dame of women’s fiction.
Let Love Find You by Johanna Lindsey (June, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-3327-6). Talkative Amanda Locke (familiar to Lindsey’s fans from The Devil Who Tamed her and A Rogue of My Own) just can’t make a match. So she hires a matchmaker—and falls head over heels in love with him even as he tries to pair her off with someone else.
Dire Needs: A Novel of the Eternal Wolf Clan by Stephanie Tyler (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23623-4). Romantic suspense author Tyler moves into paranormal territory with a complex romance involving rogues, witches, black magic, and weretrappers.
The Duchess Diaries: The Bridal Pleasures Series by Jillian Hunter (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-41312-3). Hunter’s latest erotic Regency features a very proper headmistress who is horrified when her very improper diary falls into the hands of a duke who proves himself more than happy to make her fantasies real.
Enraptured by Elisabeth Naughton (Apr., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6212-8). Filled with sizzling romance, heartbreaking drama, and a cast of multifaceted characters, this powerful and unusual retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story is Naughton’s best book yet.
Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal by Grace Burrowes (May, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6377-4). The illegitimate daughter of a duke endeavors to protect her family from her mother’s schemes in Burrowes’s outstanding fifth Regency.
Lessons After Dark by Isabel Cooper (Apr., mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6440-5). Cooper follows the knockout No Proper Lady with another supernatural Victorian, this one featuring a paranormally talented healer and a psychic teacher at a school for those with unusual talents.
Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel by Samantha Grace (Feb., mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-5831-2). A jaded lady and an accomplished rake aim for no strings attached... and miss. With heart and humor, Grace delivers a rich and winning debut that mixes meddling mothers, oppressive high society, subtle wit, steamy interludes, and a bit of intrigue.
The Rogue Pirate’s Bride by Shana Galen (Feb., mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6555-6). In this delightful and action-packed historical, a swashbuckling privateer seduces an admiral’s daughter after she tries to kill him in retaliation for his sinking of her fiancé’s ship.
Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton (Feb., trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6249-4). In Benneton’s modernization of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is a doctor and Darcy is an obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac. It would be the perfect match—except that Elizabeth thinks Darcy and Bingley are a couple.
Yours, Mine, and Ours by MaryJanice Davidson (Feb., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-312-53118-8). Bestseller Davidson continues her laugh-out-loud trilogy featuring an unconventional FBI agent who finds love in the most unexpected places.
St. Martin’s Griffin
Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas (Feb., trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-312-60588-9). Kleypas launches the Friday Harbor trilogy with a delightful portrait of a picturesque town where people know everything about everyone and look out for each other.
St. Martin’s Trade Paperbacks
Deadly Sins by Lora Leigh (Feb., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-38909-3). Three men, witnesses to a shocking crime, must face the dangers of the past to unlock the passion in their hearts.
Taming an Impossible Rogue by Suzanne Enoch (Mar., mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-53452-3). Enoch pairs up a disowned lady forced to work at a gambling club with the devilish cousin of her former fiancé.