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One More Promise

Samantha Chase. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-1643-6

Chase’s competent follow-up to One More Kiss revolves around Dylan Anders, a rock star and recovering alcoholic in need of redemption, and Paige Walters, a PR expert whose insecurities are amplified by working with her family. Paige’s father, Robert, runs a successful Los Angeles public relations firm, where her sister, Ariel, is his obvious favorite and reliably steals Paige’s thunder. Worried that Paige might actually achieve something, Ariel convinces Robert to add Dylan to the literacy campaign project Paige is working on. If Paige successfully produces the project, she may finally get some respect at the office, but if the public keeps seeing Dylan as a loser, he could tank all of her hard work. The growth of the couple’s slow and smoldering love story is modern and sweet. Dylan supports Paige, encouraging her to blossom into a sexy, confident woman, while Paige assists Dylan in rebuilding his reputation. The author, however, draws Paige’s family with overly broad strokes—Robert treats Paige like trash and Ariel takes all the credit for her hard work, avoiding blame with remarkable ease. Though effective, the Cinderella premise is long in the tooth and lessens the impact of a well-matched couple’s romance. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Refuge Cove

Janet Dailey. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (291p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4490-1

The thrill outshines the romance in Dailey’s newest Americana novel. After quitting her elementary school teaching job and moving to Alaska, Emily Hunter quickly learns that her intended husband, Boone Swenson, is a scary con man. When pilot and loner John Wolf, a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife and his parental rights to his son, sees a woman in distress, he can’t just leave her—no matter how much he hates getting involved with other people’s problems—so he saves Emily from Boone and takes her to his cabin. She plans to put a stop to Boone’s behavior before he deceives another woman, but John, who turns out to be Boone’s ex-brother-in-law, knows how dangerous Boone really is. He decides to stick around and help Emily until he can convince her to go home. There’s plenty of action and a snippet of suspense, but there’s no flirtation, and John and Emily’s romance is tepid until after they confess their love. This imbalanced story will please thriller fans, but romance lovers will feel cheated. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Cowboy Who Came Calling

Linda Broday. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4926-4647-1

Broday brings characteristic charm and expert storytelling to her second Texas Heroes historical romance. Nineteen-year-old, trouser-wearing Glory Day has taken over providing for her mother and two younger sisters since her father unjustly went to jail. After she accidentally shoots disgraced former Texas Ranger Luke McClain, she takes him in and nurses him back to health. The two share an electric attraction, but Glory’s stubborn self-sufficiency and Luke’s lingering affection for his brother’s bride provide ample, believable justification for their hesitation to get deeply involved. Then Glory’s sight begins to fade after she’s kicked in the head by a mule, she has to cope with her delicate mother’s increasingly unstable grip on reality, and a lecherous banker suddenly calls in a loan on their land. Luke returns intermittently to her family’s farm as he hunts for those who falsely accused him of stage robberies. Broday heightens the tension of these absences and creates some misdirection. In the last third of the book, the tone shifts to a gunslinging romp as Luke infiltrates a band of outlaws, while Glory tries to hide her blindness and spends most days fretting and longing for the love she thinks she cannot have. With solid minor characters, exciting plots, and sharp dialogue, this lovely romance is another home run by Broday. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Shot on Gold

Jaci Burton. Berkley, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-58516-6

In her signature sizzling style, Burton masterfully captures hearts in this perfectly paced Winter Olympics contemporary, the 14th in her Play-by-Play series (after The Final Score). Sheltered, driven figure skater Amber Sloane is back at the Winter Games for her third—and last—shot at Olympic gold. She’s won bronze and silver, but that top honor has eluded her. Will “Mad Dog” Madigan is a charismatic, hard-partying professional hockey player, also focused on winning gold but dedicated to having fun along the way. When Amber’s roommate introduces them, their chemistry is explosive and immediate. Amber’s never dipped her toe into the world of physical pleasure, but with Will, she jumps in immediately and embraces it. However, this intense romance may derail both athletes’ efforts to attain their ultimate goal. Potent sex scenes—including a red-hot interlude on Olympic ice—abound. Burton’s careful crafting of complex characters enhance this irresistible, heartfelt treat. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cam Boy

Quinn Anderson. Riptide, $17.99 trade paper (279p) ISBN 978-1-62649-697-2

Anderson (Action) sets up this Los Angeles contemporary to be steamy from the start. College dropout Josh Clemmons is working in a coffee house for minimum wage when he get the idea to boost his income by becoming a porn star. He thinks being paid to have sex sounds like fun; he soon realizes he’s wrong. Mike Harwood—better known as porn star Sean Hardwood—doesn’t expect to fall for a naive newbie, but fall he does, and hard. Josh is uncomfortable having sex on camera, but Mike helps him keep his mind on having fun. After a health scare, Josh decides to try a new type of sex work: being a cam boy, paid to masturbate over webcam. He and Mike continue to pursue romance off the set. But when it turns out Mike’s been keeping a big secret, Josh finds it very hard to forgive him. Anderson’s offbeat plot and multilayered heroes are a treat. The novel also nonjudgmentally takes on the topic of HIV, not defining it stereotypically as the inevitable result of being a sex worker or a gay man. This quick, enjoyable story will win Anderson new fans. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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After Hours

Lynda Aicher. Carina, $8.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-335-44805-7

Aicher’s outstanding second Boardroom erotic contemporary romance (after Done Deal) is unapologetically sexy: ménage, voyeurism, and exhibitionism are the order of the day. When executive assistant Avery Fast accidentally stumbles upon after-hours sex games in her San Francisco office’s upscale boardroom, she’s shocked, but it doesn’t take long for her to get turned on. The ménage scene would be hot enough on its own, but viewing it and commanding it is Carson Haggert, her company’s extremely attractive CTO. After his parents’ painful divorce, Carson vowed to never fall in love, but he’s happy to enjoy some no-strings kinky sex. As Avery’s inhibitions tumble, so do the sturdy walls around Carson’s heart. But with one major error, Carson may lose Avery forever. Carson stands out among the genre’s many moody money men, and Avery is a compelling mix of naive and hot-blooded. Red-hot love scenes are peppered with positive messages about enjoying sexuality and overcoming societal shame. This is one office readers will want to visit repeatedly. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Raw Power

Jackie Ashenden. Kensington, , $9.95 ISBN 978-1-4967-1632-3

Ashenden’s contemporary series launch introduces yet another paramilitary team that flouts the law for the sake of doing what’s right. Scarred former Marine Jack King will be the latest recruit to join the San Diego–based 11th Hour group, but only if he can prove himself during his first mission, babysitting the socialite daughter of a Massachusetts senator. Callie Hawthorne certainly doesn’t want a 24/7 shadow following her around, particularly since her freedom is already severely curtailed by her controlling father. It doesn’t take long for Jack to realize that Callie’s own family may pose a bigger danger than supposed external threats. Once Callie realizes she has an ally in Jack, she quickly abandons her icy attitude. Ashenden’s efforts to fill in Jack’s tragic backstory make him an attractive alpha hero, but scant time is spent with the rest of the rather generic 11th Hour group, and Callie is pure damsel in distress. Readers are unlikely to be excited about the team’s forthcoming adventures. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Princess in Theory

Alyssa Cole. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-268554-4

A delightful premise enlivens this opener of Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. Naledi Smith, a New Yorker and epidemiology grad student, is busy with her lab work, her numerous jobs, her lazy boss, and her drunken best friend. She has no time to entertain the ramblings of an email stalker who keeps claiming Naledi is the missing betrothed to the prince of a country she’s never heard of. When Prince Thabiso of Thesolo learns the whereabouts of Naledi—thanks to his charming, intelligent assistant, Likotsi, who steals the show more than once—he sets out to bring her back to their homeland, but is surprised to learn that she has no memory of him or her life in Thesolo. He’s spent years dreaming about reuniting with her, so when she mistakes him for a new hire, he slides into the role, seeing it as the perfect cover so he can get to know her. Soon they build a strong emotional bond and intense physical attraction. Naledi has trust issues, so when she finds out the truth of Thabiso’s identity, the betrayal cuts deep. After a strong start, the ending falters, but the chemistry between the lovers makes up for that slight disappointment. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Daughter of Aithne

Karin Rita Gastreich. Orb Weaver, $16 trade paper (386p) ISBN 978-0-9972320-2-8

The first two books of Gastreich’s Silver Web fantasy trilogy followed the magic-wielding Eolyn from a childhood with the old witch Ghemena to her adult life as the leader of the magas (female mages) and the queen of Moisehén. She’s married to her long-time love, King Akmael, and together they raise their children. When the trusted Ghemena inexplicably kidnaps Eolyn’s stepdaughter, Princess Eliasara, dark forces conspiring to destroy Eolyn, Akmael, and the magas seize the opportunity to strike with chaos and death. As the situation grows more dire, Gastreich raises the stakes by restricting Eolyn’s magic and keeping most of her allies all but powerless. Eolyn is a standout character, and her desperate and cunning attempts to save her kingdom and family enhance both her development and the prose. Gastreich retains the best elements of love, war, and plotting from her previous books while deepening Eolyn with grief and war-weariness that add to her determination to make peace. Fans of the trilogy won’t want to miss this hard-hitting finish. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Beneath the Sugar Sky

Seanan McGuire. Tor.com, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9358-6

McGuire’s delicious third book (after 2017’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones) to feature the teens of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children—kids who have found doors to fantastical worlds and are desperate to return to them—opens with a girl falling from the sky into a pond on school grounds, causing quite a stir. Rini Onishi has come from a world called Confection to get back her mother, Sumi. Inconveniently, Sumi is dead, and she’ll need to be rebuilt from the bones up so that Rini’s life won’t be undone. Several of the strange children at the home offer to help Rini, but when they get to Confection, they’re captured by the fearsome Queen of Cakes. What follows is a lush, darkly whimsical adventure full of wonders such as a pink soda sea, candy corn fields, and a castle made of gingerbread, all made grim by the characters’ desperation to get Rini’s mother back before it’s too late. Readers will be thrilled to see old friends and meet new ones in this scrumptious tale that emphasizes acceptance, kindness, and the enduring value of friendship. Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/08/2017 | Details & Permalink

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