Forget the tired old clichés of ripped bodices and brooding hunks. Today’s authors are bringing a modern sensibility to historical romance, writing strong-willed heroines who buck social conventions and wounded heroes who struggle with the trauma of war. Who could have predicted that the most glamorous genre would undergo a populist revolution?
Zoë Archer wowed readers this summer with Sweet Revenge, the first novel in the Nemesis, Unlimited series, which explores the struggles of Victorian London’s lower classes. In the fall she’ll follow it with Dangerous Seduction, in which one of the injustice-battling action heroes of Nemesis, Unlimited meets his match in a village woman fighting for the rights of copper miners in Cornwall. Jade Lee’s What the Bride Wore starts a series that goes behind the scenes of spectacular weddings; in this launch title, an impoverished nobleman reduced to running a mill falls for a garment purchaser who tries to get him to see the joy in doing work you love.
Coming closer to the modern day, Elizabeth Jeffrey’s For Better, for Worse features a young Englishwoman widowed after a whirlwind romance ends with her husband’s death in WWI. She goes to visit his family for the first time and finds an unexpected new love as the family struggles with the war’s aftermath. And going much further back in time, Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace depicts a romance between a courtesan’s maidservant and a wealthy nobleman in Imperial China. Both authors are known for building plenty of historical verisimilitude into their romances, giving them intellectual as well as emotional depth.
History even creeps into contemporary romances via time travel and other paranormal devices. In Dani Harper’s Storm Warrior, a veterinarian in contemporary Washington State rescues a big black dog who turns out to be an ancient Welsh warrior under a curse. As Rhys tries to figure out the modern world, Morgan has to adjust to the existence of magic. Canine shape-shifters make a more conventional appearance in Twilight Hunter, debut author Kait Ballenger’s werewolf romance series launch, which takes a critical look at genre conventions like biological imperatives to mate and the conflation of sex and violence.
Publishing has been undergoing its own populist revolution. As publishers adapt, some are treating the self-published book market as a proving ground for authors. A perfect example is Jay Crownover’s Marked Men contemporary romance series. Rule, the first installment, pairs up a bad-boy tattoo artist with a longtime friend.
Hot contemporaries like Rule blur the line between romance and erotica. Just on the other side of that line is Against the Ropes, in which a medic starts working at a mixed martial arts club and falls hard for its smolderingly seductive owner. More firmly in the erotic realm is Tobsha Learner’s Tremble: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister, a horror-inflected exploration of the sensual that reads like a collection of unexpectedly explicit fairy tales.
Never fear, fans of sweet romance: fall is also the season for Christmas romances, pine-scented tear-jerking stories that crop up in every romance subgenre. The top stocking-stuffer this fall is romance superstar Debbie Macomber’s stand-alone contemporary, Starry Night: A Christmas Novel, which takes an intrepid reporter into the Alaskan wilderness to interview a reclusive author. Just as every romance protagonist finds a perfect match, there’s a novel out there for every romance reader.
PW’s Top 10 Romance & Erotica
Dangerous Seduction. Zoë Archer. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, Nov.
What the Bride Wore. Jade Lee. Sourcebooks Casablanca, Aug.
For Better, for Worse. Elizabeth Jeffrey. Severn House, Sept.
The Lotus Palace. Jeannie Lin. HQN, Aug.
Storm Warrior. Dani Harper. Amazon/Montlake Romance, Aug.
Twilight Hunter: Execution Underground, Book 1. Kait Ballenger. HQN, Sept.
Rule: A Marked Men Novel. Jay Crownover. Morrow, Oct.
Against the Ropes. Sarah Castille. Sourcebooks Casablanca, Sept.
Tremble: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister. Tobsha Learner. Plume, Aug.
Starry Night: A Christmas Novel. Debbie Macomber. Ballantine, Oct.
Amazon Publishing/Montlake Romance
Storm Warrior by Dani Harper (Aug. 6, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-1477805947). Romantic and paranormal elements combine in this immensely satisfying series launch with just a hint of spice.
No Place for a Dame by Connie Brockway (Nov. 5, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-1477808580). A bargain is struck between a stargazing adventuress and a sophisticated lord.
Homecoming Ranch by Julia London (Aug. 13, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-1611099577). A young woman receives news she has inherited a ranch from a father she never knew, as well as two sisters she never knew she had.
Our First Love by Anthony Lamarr (Dec. 17, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1593095420). Since the accident that dramatically changed their lives, brothers Nigel and Caleb have been inseparable—until one woman captures both of their hearts.
Destiny’s Surrender by Beverly Jenkins (Sept. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0062231109). The story of a man, his mistress, and the baby he knew nothing about.
The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrelyn Sparks (Aug. 27, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0062107732). Nerdy girl meets sexy Scot in this Love at Stake novel. 300,000-copy announced first printing.
The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn (Oct. 29, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0062072924). From bestselling author Quinn comes the third Regency novel featuring the Smythe-Smiths. 450,000-copy announced first printing.
Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber (Oct. 8, hardcover, $18, ISBN 978-0345528896) is a festive and romantic stand-alone Christmas story.
Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe (Oct. 29, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0345533715). A contemporary romance about second chances at life and love.
Dark Lycan by Christine Feehan (Sept. 3, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0425268339). The new Carpathian hardcover is the first in a special three-book arc.
Dark Witch: Book One of the Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy by Nora Roberts (Nov. 5, trade paper, $17, ISBN 978-0425259856) launches a new trilogy about the land we’re drawn to, the family we learn to cherish, and the people we love.
Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears (Oct. 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0764211683). An exciting and poignant debut love story.
Unspoken by Dee Henderson (Oct. 1, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0764211713). Another gripping romantic thriller from bestseller Henderson. 100,000-copy announced first printing.
Busting Loose by Kat Murray (Jan. 1, trade paper, $9.95, ISBN 978-0758281081). Out-of-work actress Bea Muldoon returns to her South Dakota ranching town, strutting around in her stilettos, stirring up trouble—especially with a handsome man.
Cedar Fort/Sweetwater Books
In Love and War: A Collection of Love Stories by Carla Kelly (Nov. 12, mass market, $8.99, ISBN 978-1462112265). Popular romance writer Kelly shares a collection of stories starring dashing war heroes.
Losing to Win by Michele Grant (Oct. 1, trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0758289636). Grant weaves a smart, irresistible story about a curvy woman.
Hotshot by Julie Garwood (Aug. 6, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0525953012). Garwood returns with a novel of family drama, suspense, and, of course, romance.
Under a Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock (Aug. 6, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0446540230). Anna grew up poor and largely abandoned on the streets of 1920s Chicago. Then a talent manager discovers her and brings her into the world of theater. 25,000-copy announced first printing.
Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane (Nov. 26, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0373002085). Rowan Summerwaite is a supercharged Hunter with the power to slay any Vampire who violates the age-old treaty.
Twilight Hunter: Execution Underground, Book 1 by Kait Ballenger (Aug. 27, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0373777389). The Execution Underground is an elite group tasked with protecting humanity from the supernatural.
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin (Aug. 27, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0373777730). It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans.
Search the Dark by Marta Perry (Sept. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0373777860). Meredith King longs for escape. Then a friend enlists her help in clearing the name of an Amish boy.
The Best of All by Vanessa Miller (Aug. 20, mass market, $6.50, ISBN 978-0373863235). Surry McDaniel loves designing beautiful clothes. But when she’s accused of stealing designs, Surry risks losing the life she’s spent years building.
Let Me Hold You by Melanie Schuster (Sept. 17, mass market, $6.50, ISBN 978-0373863273). Alana Sharp Dumond has remodeled her life. All she needs is someone to hold.
Harlequin Kimani Arabesque
A Madaris Bride for Christmas by Brenda Jackson (Oct. 29, mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-0373091430). In her 100th book, bestseller Jackson blends heated sensuality and drama into a dazzling novel featuring the Madaris family.
Sleep with the Lights On by Maggie Shayne (Sept. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0778315544). When a cornea transplant restores Rachel de Luca’s sight, she has terrifying visions of brutal murders linked to the brother of police detective Mason Brown.
Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi (Aug. 27, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0778315377). Prim librarian DJ finds herself secretly wondering what it would be like to reveal the inner vixen she’s been hiding from everyone—including herself.
The Counterfeit Mistress by Madeline Hunter (Sept. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0515151381). In this riveting historical romance, a darkly handsome nobleman is determined to unmask a delicate and mysterious young beauty.
Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh (Oct. 29, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0425251249). In Singh’s sixth Guild Hunter paranormal, Guild hunter Elena Deveraux and the Archangel Raphael must discover the source of the wave of death.
Classified by Fern Michaels (Oct. 1, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0758284938) continues the Godmothers series, as the irrepressible Toots and her dear friends Sophie, Ida, and Mavis face new triumphs and challenges.
You Give Good Love by JJ Murray (Oct. 1, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0758277251) is a smart, sexy novel of interracial romance during the holiday season.
Possession of the Fallen Angels by J.R. Ward (Oct. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0451240194) explores what really happens when good and evil toy with humanity.
Handful of Sky by Tory Cates (Oct. 29, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1476732442). A woman tries to make her way into the rodeo world—and lassos the affections of a handsome cowboy.
Bound by Night by Larissa Ione (Sept. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1476700175). The first installment in a sexy new paranormal romance series by the author of the bestselling Demonica series.
(dist. by IPS)
For Better, for Worse by Elizabeth Jeffrey (Sept. 1, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0727883018). After Stella Nolan’s whirlwind romance ends with her husband’s death in WWI, Stella prepares to meet his family for the first time.
Sea of Love: A Bayberry Island Novel by Susan Donovan (Dec. 3, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0451419286). Donovan welcomes readers to Bayberry Island, where a bronze mermaid statue promises to grant true love to anyone who asks.
Simon & Schuster/Gallery
Hunted by Karen Robards (Dec. 31, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1451678710). In Robards’s latest romantic suspense novel, a reckless former detective knows too much, and a hostage negotiator is forced to join him on the run for his life.
Searching for Someday by Jennifer Probst (Nov. 26, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1476744926). A matchmaker falls for a man who doesn’t believe in love.
It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain (Sept. 1, mass market, $6.99, ISBN 978-1402283994). A secret correspondence leads a wounded ex-soldier to rebuild his life through courtship. But the clever widow helping him has secrets.
What the Bride Wore by Jade Lee (Aug. 1, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1402283758) is set in a daring, high-energy Regency world where deep longings, secret scandals, and the competition for social stature complicate the glittering weddings of the season.
To Have and to Hold by Leigh Greenwood (Nov. 5, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1402284465). Three brothers orphaned at a young age find their way to love and family.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Born in Chains by Caris Roane (Oct. 1, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1250035295) launches a sexy series about hot, hunky vampire warriors.
Dangerous Seduction by Zoë Archer (Nov. 26, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1250015600). This action-packed, steamy Victorian romance pairs up a combat veteran and a woman fighting for miners’ rights.
The Devil Wears Kilts by Suzanne Enoch (Nov. 26, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1250041609). In Enoch’s new Regency series, risk is its own reward.
Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Sept. 3, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1250029881). The 23rd Dark-Hunter novel is the unforgettable story of Styxx, Acheron’s twin brother and one of the most powerful beings on Earth.
An Undying Oath by HK Savage (Sept. 17, trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-0989202739). Justin returns from war, but instead of being hailed as heroes he and his men are being sought as test subjects. Samantha unwittingly holds the key to his freedom, but doesn’t know who to trust.
Prairie Song: Hearts Seeking Home, Book 1 by Mona Hodgson (Aug. 6, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0307731166). An endearing ensemble cast moves from St. Charles, Mo., into the wagon train life.
House on Main Street by Shirlee McCoy (Nov. 1, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1420132359). McCoy debuts on the Zebra list with a contemporary set in the small town of Apple Valley, Wash.
Sinister by Lisa Jackson, Nancy Bush, and Rosalind Noonan (Dec. 1, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1420125788). Three bestselling authors unite their talents in this riveting romantic thriller.
The Awakening: Book One of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld by Shakir Rashaan (Dec. 3, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1593095444) is an erotically charged journey inside Atlanta’s African-American BDSM community.
Burn by Maya Banks (Aug. 6, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0425267080). The third and final book in Banks’s bestselling Breathless trilogy.
The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto (Nov. 12, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1573449656). Dorian’s desires turn extreme, and he leaves behind yet more devastation and death.
Sinners Club by Kate Pearce (Jan. 1, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0758290175). The Sinners Club is a private gentlemen’s club whose members have mysterious pasts and secret fantasies too hot to reveal.
Spellbound by Sylvia Day (Oct. 15, trade paper, $12.99, ISBN 978-0062305497). Sensual fantasies become realities in Day’s new erotic romance. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Foreplay: The Ivy Chronicles by Sophie Jordan (Nov. 5, trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0062279873). A debut New Adult trilogy set in an Ivy League university’s underground kink club. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Rule: A Marked Men Novel by Jay Crownover (Oct. 22, trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0062302403). The runaway e-book bestseller, in print for the first time.
Tremble: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister by Tobsha Learner (Aug. 27, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0142180372). Boundary-pushing erotica, exploring the full spectrum of sensuality.
The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 12 by Maxim Jakubowski (Jan. 7, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-0762449477). An inventive, provocative, and sensual collection.
(dist. by W.W. Norton)
Sugar by Jenna Jameson and Hope Tarr (Oct. 1, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-1626361010). Jameson (How to Make Love Like a Porn Star) teams up with romance author Tarr for this wild erotic novel.
Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille (Sept. 3, trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-1402284854). Wealthy entrepreneur Max Huntington is tough, rough, and the owner of an elite mixed martial arts club. But one woman will bring him to his knees.