Romance writers are stretching their wings in spring, from debut authors launching careers to established writers taking new directions.
Among many intriguing debuts, Molly Jebber’s Change of Heart stands out for its unusual premise: the setting is 1899 Ohio, and the heroine is an Amish midwife in love with an Englischer doctor. There are also class concerns, as the doctor’s mother wants him to marry for status rather than love. And The Perfect Letter stands out for its author, Chris Harrison, best known for hosting the TV show The Bachelor. That gig gave him a close look at all the ways people behave foolishly around love and marriage—presumably some excellent romance novel fodder.
Several big-name writers are shaking things up: Eric Jerome Dickey, famed for sprawling novels, whose One Night relates a 12-hour affair in tight closeup; Zuri Day, who snubs the billionaire trend to give a blue-collar hero his chance at romance in Driving Heat; and Mary Wine, shifting from Regency and contemporary settings to medieval England with A Sword for His Lady. Cynthia Eden is best known for paranormal romance, but her forthcoming standalone Broken, which combines an amnesia plot with the threat of a serial killer, is pure romantic suspense. Contravening all the expectations of inspirational romance, Emilie Richards daringly pairs up a minister and her mentor, a Catholic priest, in The Color of Light. In a genre that can feel very constrained by custom, it’s great to see authors and publishers willing to take some chances.
The season’s standout historical romances take a thoughtful look at the perils of expectations. In Jane Ashford’s Married to a Perfect Stranger, newlyweds in Regency England are separated, build individual lives, and then must learn how to live as partners. Josi S. Kilpack’s A Heart Revealed topples a celebrated debutante from her pedestal, shifting her husband-hunting focus from wealth and fortune to kindness and love. On the other side of the Atlantic, Lyn Cote’s Blessing takes on weighty social issues, pairing a Quaker abolitionist in Ohio with a wealthy Yankee on the eve of the Civil War. Readers may also find their expectations being shaken up—and that can only be a good thing.
PW’s Top 10: Romance & Erotica
Blessing. Lyn Cote. Tyndale, July 1
Broken. Cynthia Eden. Avon, Mar. 31
Change of Heart. Molly Jebber. Kensington/Zebra, June 30
The Color of Light. Emilie Richards. Mira, July 28
Driving Heat. Zuri Day. Kensington/Dafina, Mar. 31
A Heart Revealed. Josi S. Kilpack. Shadow Mountain, Apr. 7
Married to a Perfect Stranger. Jane Ashford. Sourcebooks Casablanca, Mar. 3
One Night. Eric Jerome Dickey. Dutton, Apr. 21
The Perfect Letter. Chris Harrison. Morrow/Dey Street, May 19
A Sword for His Lady. Mary Wine. Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 7
Romance & Erotica Listings
Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle (Mar. 31, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-4767-9640-6). After a vivid one-night stand, Josh Miles heads to New Zealand with only a backpack, some cash, and Gemma Henare’s name. But when he finally tracks her down, he finds his adventure is only just beginning.
Back in the Game: A Stardust, Texas, Novel by Lori Wilde (Feb. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-231126-9). Wilde sets a new series in Stardust, Tex. After a cocky, self-indulgent baseball pitcher balks on delivering his contractual autobiography, he’s assigned a prim, virginal ghostwriter determined to make him live up to his promises. 300,000-copy announced first printing.
Broken by Cynthia Eden (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-234956-9). A woman with amnesia seeks help from an elite missing persons unit when she discovers she may be the single surviving victim of a serial killer. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Diary of an Accidental Wallflower: The Seduction Diaries, Book 1 by Jennifer McQuiston (Feb. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233501-2). Miss Clare Westmore is sidelined by a twisted ankle on the eve of the season’s most touted event. Handsome young Dr. Daniel Merial is tempted to deliver more than a diagnosis to London’s most unlikely wallflower. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Cursed by Fire: The Immortal Brothers by Jacquelyn Frank (Feb. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-53493-4). In Frank’s new paranormal romance series, a man who seeks immortality is cursed with eternal torment, until the goddess of conflict sends him on a mission and he meets the woman of his dreams.
When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill (Feb. 24, paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-553-39451-1). Cahill’s debut novel is a charming friends-with-benefits story with a twist. Two college friends fall in and out of love with the wrong people while trying figure out who they are and what they really want. 15,000-copy announced first printing.
Playing Dirty: Monkey Business Trio, Book 1 by C.L. Parker (May 12, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-101-88294-8). Parker’s erotic romance explores the rivalry between two sports agents in the boardroom, the bedroom, the supply closet, the elevator, and anywhere else they’re given the opportunity.
Silver Bastard by Joanna Wylde (Apr. 7, paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-425-28062-1). For 14 months, Puck Redhouse sat in a cell and kept his mouth shut. Then he was free and it was time for his reward—full membership in his motorcycle club, and a party. That’s when he saw Becca Jones. Before the night ended he’d violated his parole and stolen her away from everything she knew.
Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Mar. 17, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-62778-125-1). In the latest collection from award-winning editor Bussel, sex toys bring couples, singles, and strangers to new heights of pleasure.
Flings: Sexy One-Night-Only Encounters, edited by Violet Blue (July 14, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-62778-128-2) collects the most delightful, the dirtiest, and the wildest one-night-stand fantasies. Always surprising, often romantic, these stories of flings will inspire readers to spin their own tales of love, lust, and fantasy.
One Night by Eric Jerome Dickey (Apr. 21, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-525-95485-9) shows a couple in closeup for 12 hours of passion and drama, with intense eroticism heightened by lyrical prose.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (Apr. 7, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4555-5710-3). The first adult novel from the Fug Girls is a dishy royal romance inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis (June 30, mass market, $6, ISBN 978-1-4555-8673-8). The first book in the new Cedar Ridge series, set in a small Colorado town, reunites a firefighter with his long-lost lover. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Dragon Fall by Katie MacAlister (July 28, mass market, $8, ISBN 978-1-4555-5921-3). MacAlister joins the Forever list with a paranormal romance that spins off her popular Light Dragons series. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
The Moment of Letting Go by J.A. Redmerski (Apr. 14, paper, $14, ISBN 978-1-4555-3153-0). Sienna Murphy never does anything without a plan. And so far her plans have been working—until work takes her to the sun-drenched shores of Oahu and places her in the path of sexy surfer Luke Everett. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Opening Up by Lauren Dane (June 16, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-4555-8621-9). Bestseller Dane launches the Ink & Chrome contemporary erotic romance series, in which two top-notch motorcycle customizers get very hands-on with each other. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
The Closer You Come by Gena Showalter (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77962-8). Bestseller Showalter opens the Original Heartbreakers contemporary series with this match between an ex-con and a down-on-her-luck waitress.
First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan (Feb. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-78504-9). In the brand new Puffin Island series, set in a small town in Maine, a newcomer attracts the attention of the local yacht club owner, who wonders why she is so anxious and overprotective of her young niece.
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (June 30, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-373-78497-4). Sisterhood in all its drama, hilarity, and tears is at the heart of this romantic contemporary standalone.
Bachelorette for Sale by Gail Chianese (June 23, e-book, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-60183-404-1). This sparkling debut dives right in to everything funny, flirty, and fiery about modern dating with the tale of a sexy singles auction that comes with the prize of a lifetime.
If We Lived Here by Lindsey Palmer (Mar. 31, paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-7582-9435-7) both celebrates and skewers modern relationships and their milestones in this examination of what it takes to commit to love, to a home, and to the life that’s right for you.
Myth and Magic by Mae Clair (June 9, e-book, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-61650-721-3). Caith Breckwood left his teen sweetheart, Veronica Kent, after a traumatic event left him afraid to pursue a future together. Twelve years later, Caith, now a PI, is hired to investigate bizarre incidents at the secluded retreat Veronica manages. Both are forced to face their nightmares—and the love they’ve never forgotten.
The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston (Mar. 31, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-61773-505-9). With her trademark outrageous humor, Laurenston introduces a paranormal romance series featuring a band of tough-as-nails female fighters and the men who aren’t afraid to stand up to them.
Driving Heat by Zuri Day (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-61773-425-0) opens a five-book contemporary romance series about blue-collar brothers who meet their romantic matches. Eldest brother Byron is a bus driver and single dad with no time to date; Cynthia Hall has been successful in her career and unlucky in love. When their worlds collide, sparks fly.
Change of Heart by Molly Jebber (June 30, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3761-3). In 1899, Amish midwife Becca Yost is jilted by her fiancé. She seeks refuge in the town of Massillon, Ohio, and meets Dr. Matt Carrington, who shares her passion for healing. Can their love transcend the barriers of class and culture?
Nobody’s Angel by Sarah Hegger (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3739-2). Hegger debuts with a contemporary romance about a woman who returns home after a long absence and wonders whether two wrongs really can make a right.
You Can’t Escape by Nancy Bush (June 30, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3464-3). When investigative reporter Jay Danziger is nearly killed in a bomb blast, journalist Jordanna Winters senses a career-making story. Together they can find out who’s responsible. But as their investigation uncovers a string of unsolved murders, each body branded in the same way, Jordanna realizes that Dance isn’t the only one in danger.
Beautiful Surrender by Sherelle Green (Apr. 21, mass market, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86403-4). Mya Winters has overcome a tough childhood in foster care to create a wonderful life. Organizing the first annual Elite Events Charity Date Auction is a way to give back to her community. There’s one hitch—her sexy cohost, private investigator Malik Madden.
An Island Affair by Monica Richardson (Mar. 17, mass market, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86397-6). Jasmine Talbot is determined to transform her family’s magnificent Caribbean property into a one-of-a-kind B-and-B. But she needs the help of Jackson Conner, a proud, hunky contractor with a murky past.
The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan (May 19, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-316-32035-1). After the death of Audrey’s husband, Leo, she gradually falls for his best friend, Garrett. Years before, Garrett promised he’d marry Audrey if anything happened to Leo. When she finds out, how can she believe Garrett’s love for her is real? 30,000-copy announced first printing.
The Color of Light by Emilie Richards (July 28, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-7783-1824-8). Minister Analiese Wagner feels a deeply forbidden affection for Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor. Divided between love and vows they’ve taken, both must balance the desire to serve their communities with their hope for a life together.
Wild Hearts by Sharon Sala (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1816-3). Dallas Phillips refuses to believe her father committed suicide, even though things were tough on his farm and he was deeply in debt. She turns to Trey Jakes, local police chief—and her former lover. As they begin to investigate, another mystery comes to light.
Leaving Amarillo: Neon Dreams, Book 1 by Caisey Quinn (Mar. 17, paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-06-236681-8). Fiddler Dixie Lark grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother, Dallas. She and Dallas chase fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But all she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer. 30,000-copy announced first printing.
Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland (May 12, paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237984-9). High-powered attorney Evie Rosen ditches her smartphone and discovers that life is more than a series of updates. 30,000-copy announced first printing.
Perfect Touch by Elizabeth Lowell (July 28, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-232834-2). In this thrilling tale, a soldier turned rancher and a beautiful designer race to stop a vicious killer while succumbing to intense passion. 100,000-copy announced first printing.
The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison (May 19, hardcover, $23.99, ISBN 978-0-06-230522-0). This passion-fueled novel by The Bachelor host Harrison explores the perils and rewards of risking everything for love. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward (July 28, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-451-47526-8). Bestseller Ward (the Black Dagger Brotherhood) delivers the first novel in an upstairs/downstairs romance series set amid the shifting dynamics of a Southern family defined by wealth and privilege—and compromised by secrets, deceit, and scandal.
Vicious Cycle by Katie Ashley (June 2, paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-451-47491-9). Deacon Malloy’s life is dedicated to the Hell’s Raiders motorcycle club. But his devil-may-care approach to life is thrown for a loop when the five-year-old daughter he never knew existed lands on the club steps, and he falls hard for the child’s caring schoolteacher.
The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries (July 21, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-8606-3). In this Regency series launch, American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather search London for the perfect model, and he finds her in Lady Yvette Barlow. Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject in exchange for his help tracking a missing woman and solving a family mystery.
Flirting with Fire by Kate Meader (Mar. 24, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-8590-5). Savvy PR guru Kinsey Taylor was dumped by her fiancé for being too career focused and insufficiently feminine. Luke Almeida, a quick-tempered firefighter, gets on her bad side, and the two butt heads in a blazing struggle to be the one who makes the rules.
The Lady Vanishes by Nicole Camden (Feb. 9, e-book, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-9596-6). Billionaire tech genius and inventor Milton Shaw studied Houdini and has perfected the art of sleight of hand. Stern doctor Regina Gallows hates trickery and needs to feel in control. Yet when she meets Milton, she finds her body warring with her idealism.
The Liar by Nora Roberts (Apr. 14, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-399-17086-7). The husband who took Shelby Foxworth from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. When Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. She and her daughter seek comfort in her hometown, where they meet Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But even when Shelby’s surrounded by loved ones, danger threatens.
Misfits by Garrett Leigh (Mar. 16, e-book, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-62649-246-2). Tom and Cass are business and life partners, but their work often keeps them apart. Then Tom meets Jake, and both men fall for him. When the darkness of Cass’s past returns, Jake must work to help the men he’s grown to love stay together.
Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft (Feb. 9, e-book, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-62649-198-4). When policeman Michael May’s abusive father dies, he returns to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. Fintan Hulme retired from his work as a high-class London fence and opened a bookshop. The ex-cop and the ex-crook couldn’t be a more unlikely match, but they can’t stay apart.
A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack (Apr. 7, paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-60907-990-1). Amber Marie Sterlington, the rage of the season in Regency-era London, wants a husband with a title and a fortune. Why would she look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord? But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
Closer Than You Think by Karen Rose (Feb. 3, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-46673-0). In this romantic thriller series launch, psychologist Faith Corcoran dodges a stalker and flees to her grandmother’s house, which is full of dark memories. FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak, investigating the disappearance of two college students, meets Faith and falls hard for her. Soon they’re sharing both passion and danger.
Blush by Cherry Adair (Apr. 7, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-4516-8434-6) is a sizzling erotic romance about a sexy billionaire who’s on the run—and the hit-man-turned-handyman who’s supposed to kill her.
Overruled by Emma Chase (Apr. 28, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-5011-0203-5). Defense attorney Stanton Shaw keeps his head cool, his questions sharp, and his arguments irrefutable. Sofia Santos is a city-raised, no-nonsense litigator and Stanton’s friend and lover. She agrees to help him win back the woman he loves, only to fall for him herself.
A Pound of Flesh by Sophie Jackson (June 9, paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-4767-9559-1). Kat Lane teaches inmates at a New York prison. One of her students is Wesley Carter, who’s handsome, mysterious, smart, and dangerous. Kat gradually realizes there’s much more to her angry student than she thought, leaving them to face a new, perilous obstacle: their undeniable mutual attraction.
50 Ways to Ruin a Rake by Jade Lee (May 5, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0499-0). If Trevor Anedsley wants any part of his grandfather’s fortune, he’ll have to get married. Wealthy Mellie Smithson has everything she needs, except for the husband she desires. A sham engagement will let Trevor get some money and Mellie roam London in search of her perfect match. Their plan unfolds perfectly until Trevor finds himself feeling jealous and possessive of his “fiancée.”
Filthy Rich by Dawn Ryder (Feb. 3, paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-8715-2). When Celeste Connor catches the eye of fiercely dominant Nartan Lupan at her best friend’s wedding, she finds herself drawn into a glittering world of wealth and power that has her body aching and her mind reeling.
Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford (Mar. 3, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0190-6). Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley marry to please their families. John immediately leaves on a two-year diplomatic mission. When he comes back, they realize everything they thought they knew about each other was wrong—and they must somehow figure out how to keep their marriage alive.
A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine (July 7, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0247-7). Richard the Lionheart orders Ramon de Segrave to seduce Isabel of Camoys, owner of a valuable estate on England’s volatile Welsh border. But Isabel won’t yield, and her bold defiance intrigues him. Isabel has a shrewd mind and knows that she needs Ramon’s protection, even if it means risking her heart.
Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss (May 1, paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-1382-4). Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and skilled lover, has come to King Henry VIII’s court to claim his bride. Eloise Tyrell, lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows, and she’s seen what happens when powerful men tire of their wives. Dare she surrender both her body and her love?
The Devil Wears Spurs by Soraya Lane (June 30, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06008-2). Playboy cowboy Ryder likes to party hard and often makes bad decisions, including gambling away his third of the family ranch. Chloe bailed her dad out of a bad debt, losing all her savings in the process. When she finds Ryder in trouble, she offers to win his ranch back, if he pays her college fees and promises to walk away from gambling, for good.
A Good Rake Is Hard to Find by Manda Collins (Mar. 31, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06106-5). When Leonora Craven hears her brother James has been killed during a race with the ill-reputed Lords of Anarchy, she goes looking for answers. Instead she finds Lord Frederick Lisle, James’s oldest friend, and the man who broke her heart.
In the Air Tonight by Lori Handeland (June 2, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-02012-3). Rachel Larsen has never fit into her small Wisconsin town: adopted, an only child, and dark-haired. But what really makes her different are the ghosts she sees. When a sexy detective from New Orleans comes to town to investigate a series of murders, he awakensRaye’s powers and passion.
The Last True Vampire by Kate Baxter (June 2, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-05376-3). Michael Aristov is the last true king of the vampires. Pained by his failure to protect his race, he seeks solace in the dark nightclubs of L.A., only to fall for a human woman who might just be the mate he needs.
Blessing by Lyn Cote (July 1, paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4143-7561-8). Raised Quaker, wed into high society, and widowed young, Blessing vows to fight for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Never before has a woman spoken to wealthy Yankee Gerard Ramsay as an equal, or challenged him to consider others’ lives. In a city ablaze with racial tensions, can people worlds apart find common ground?
Double Cross by DiAnn Mills (Apr. 1, paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4143-8994-3). An unlikely trio of FBI agent Laurel Everson, police officer Daniel Hilton, and felon Morton Wilmington must team up to investigate a scam, but it puts them in the crosshairs of a killer. Laurel and Daniel want to believe that Morton has reformed, but they fear he could double-cross them at any moment.