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Seduce Me with Sapphires

Jane Feather. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4362-1

Feather’s passionate second London Jewels novel (after Tempt Me with Diamonds) follows the contentious courtship between a noblewoman and a playwright. The Honorable Fenella Grantley studies acting in secret at a tiny drama school in an unfashionable part of Edwardian-era London, knowing her parents would disapprove of such a disreputable interest. Edward Tremayne, the bastard son of an Earl, has been infatuated with Fenella since he saw her during her first London season. When Fenella’s drama class decides to do a reading of Edward’s new play, Sapphire, Edward insists that Fenella play the lead. Fenella objects, finding the role one-dimensional, but Edward wins her over with his wit and good looks, seducing her both into giving the play a chance and sleeping with him. The pair fall into a steamy affair, despite their differing world views and Fenella’s family’s expectations that she marry conservative Lord George Headington. Assisted by her friends Petra and Diana, Fenella fends off George’s advances and finds time to be with Edward. Feather keeps the actual theatrics largely off-stage, but readers will be pleased with the clandestine trysts and dramatic fights of this romance. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Lucky Chance Cowboy

Teri Anne Stanley. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4926-5802-3

Stanley tackles heavy emotions with a light touch in the heartfelt second Big Chance Dog Rescue romance (after Big Chance Cowboy). An injured soldier, Marcus Talbott visits his friend and fellow veteran Adam Collins’s fledgling dog rescue ranch in Big Chance, Tex. He only plans to stay long enough to recuperate before getting back to combat, but his budding connection with Adam’s sister, the recently widowed Emma Collins Stern, throws a wrench in this plan. Emma’s experience with her late husband, a drug-dependent veteran, keeps her from acting on her feelings for Marcus, who she knows takes Percocet. But when Marcus realizes he’s in danger of becoming dependent on his meds, he quits cold turkey and channels his energy into helping Emma raise money for the dog rescue. Working closely together, the two navigate their murky relationship with the help of the large, bighearted cast, including Emma’s scene-stealing Grandpa. The intimate scope and assured plotting of this sweet love story make for a welcome addition to the series. Agent: Nicole Rescinti. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Cold Nose, Warm Heart

Mara Wells. Sourcebooks Casablanca, , $7.99 ISBN 978-1-4926-9858-6

Wells’s cute enemies-to-lovers debut, the first in her Fur Haven Dog Park series, is full of humor and heart. After Riley Carson is laid off from her Miami resort job, she’s hired to manage the Dorothy, a rundown senior housing building that she believes her grandmother owns. She learns she’s mistaken when the real owner, Caleb Donovan, swoops in and attempts to replace the Dorothy with luxury condos in the hopes of redeeming his family name following the arrest of his CEO father. One of the Dorothy’s parking lots serves as a makeshift dog park, and Riley rallies the dog owners and their pets to protest Caleb’s construction. Caleb is charmed by the spunky, beautiful Riley and her poodle, LouLou, and offers to build the town a real dog park as a compromise. He and Riley grow closer, giving in to their mutual attraction, but Caleb feels betrayed when he learns that the protestors have filed a lawsuit against him. Animal lovers will delight in the large cast of canine supporting characters in this well-paced romance. Agent: Nicole Resciniti, the Seymour Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Lethal Game

Christine Feehan. Berkley, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-09976-6

Despite plenty of drama and vibrant secondary characters, Feehan’s 16th GhostWalker novel (after Toxic Game) disappoints with inelegant prose and a wooden central couple. Malichai is a GhostWalker, a soldier physically and psychically enhanced by mad scientist Dr. Whitney, working with a covert military pararescue squad. When a rescue mission goes wrong and almost costs Malichai one of his legs, the women of his chosen family of fellow GhostWalkers force him to rehabilitate on a beach vacation in San Diego. There he finds himself drawn to Amaryllis, an employee at the B&B where he’s staying who has psychic healing powers that lead Malichai to believe she may also be a victim of Dr. Whitney’s experiments. Malichai realizes that Amaryllis is in danger from the deranged doctor and calls in his GhostWalker brothers to help protect her. Glimmers of the sexy, dangerous fun Feehan’s fans will expect are subsumed in clunky exposition, awkward fight scenes, and overly convenient plotting. Series readers will be glad to revisit familiar faces from the vast GhostWalker universe but won’t find much else to hold their attention. Agent: Steve Axelrod, The Axelrod Agency (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Engaged to the Earl

Lisa Berne. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-285235-9

The beguiling fourth installment of Berne’s Penhallow Dynasty series (after The Bride Takes a Groom) is full of witty banter and sweet romance. While staying with the Duchess of Egremont in 1818 London, Gwendolyn Penhallow meets and becomes engaged to Julian, the handsome Earl of Westenbury, believing him to be “the most wonderful man in the world.” Gwendolyn and Julian enjoy balls and outings together as a betrothed couple, but when Julian first kisses her, Gwendolyn is left oddly cold, and hilariously analyzes the mechanics of the moment (“Tongues were rather odd, once you started thinking about them”) rather than giving into it. When Christopher Beck, Gwendolyn’s childhood neighbor, arrives in London, they rekindle their friendship, and Gwendolyn asks Christopher to kiss her as a point of comparison. Despite Christopher’s attraction to Gwendolyn, his sense of honor prevents him from complying. But as Gwendolyn questions her relationship with Julian, she and Christopher grow ever closer. This expertly plotted love story is a must-read for Regency fans. Agent: Cheryl Pientka, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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An Inconvenient Duke

Anna Harrington. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-7282-0008-8

The enchanting first Regency romance in the Lords of the Armory series from Harrington (What a Lord Wants) introduces a pair of magnetic characters on the hunt for justice. Elise Braddock and her best friend, Danielle Williams, work for an organization called Nightingale that helps battered women escape from their abusers. When Elise dies, her brother Marcus Braddock, Duke of Hampton, investigates and learns that Elise was murdered because of her work with Nightingale. Now he seeks to find her killer, avenge her death, and protect Danielle from a similar fate. As mutual attraction simmers between Marcus and Danielle, he urges her to abandon her work with Nightingale to keep herself safe, but she adamantly refuses. Intelligent dialogue makes it easy for readers to understand both sides of the argument. Both Marcus and Danielle are dynamic and forward-thinking protagonists, made all the more lovable by their mutual determination to use their positions in society to help the less fortunate. Harrington combines suspenseful mystery and charming romance in this compulsively readable treat. Agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Jace: Kings of Country

Sasha Summers. SourceBooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-1-4926-8856-3

With this sizzling contemporary romance, Summers (Christmas Flowers) launches a series that will appeal to lovers of country music and cowboys. Identical twins Krystal and Emmy Lou King are parts of a legendary country music family. Where Emmy Lou is gentle and sweet, Krystal revels in her “bad” twin reputation. But Krystal’s rebelliousness hides a vulnerable spirit stemming from a dark family secret. When roughneck aspiring country star Jace Black joins the Kings’ tour as their opening act, sparks fly between him and Krystal. Krystal won’t let herself trust that too-good-to-be-true Jace is really interested, leaving Jace determined to show her that he is different from the men who’ve hurt her in the past. Though the chip on Krystal’s shoulder makes her initially off-putting, her character development is well-paced and believable. Earnest Jace is sure to make readers swoon, and the relationship that develops between him and Kyrstal is sexy and meaningful. The combination of romantic and familial drama in this behind-the-scenes glimpse into the country music world is sure to have readers coming back for more. Agent: Pamela Hopkins, Hopkins Literary Associates. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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To Bed the Bride

Karen Ranney. Avon, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-284108-7

Politics and puppies bring together the convincing couple at the center of the charming conclusion to Ranney’s Victorian-set All for Love trilogy (after To Wed an Heiress). For the past three years, orphaned Scottish heiress Eleanor Craig has lived with her uncle’s widow in London, where she’s expected to hide her interests in current events and horses and behave like a proper lady, especially once she gets engaged to Michael, the Earl of Herridge, and finds herself thrust into society’s spotlight. While visiting her family’s home in Scotland, Eleanor meets Logan McKnight, a member of parliament, as he’s wandering his family’s nearby estate. Logan is instantly attracted to Eleanor’s spark but also senses her loneliness, leading him to give her a puppy named Bruce. Both back in London, Logan is disappointed to learn that Eleanor’s engaged to his political rival. But as Logan and Eleanor continue to meet under the guise of dog training, Eleanor wonders if she’s promised her heart to the wrong man. The slow build of trust between Eleanor and Logan is believable and sweet, and Bruce steals every scene he’s in. Readers will be sad to see this sparkling series end. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Then, Now, Always

Mona Shroff. HQN, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-335-01318-7

Shroff manages to make several of romance’s most enduring tropes feel fresh in her cute contemporary debut. Sam Hutcherson and Maya Rao first fell in love 15 years ago, when Maya worked as a nanny for Sam’s niece and nephew in Maryland, bonding over their shared Indian heritage and affection for the kids. When Maya found out she was pregnant with Sam’s child, she dumped Sam without explanation, breaking his heart. Now the co-owner of a bakery café in Queens, N.Y., Maya has raised her daughter, Samantha, on her own. But when teenage Samantha lands in legal trouble at her snooty Manhattan prep school, Maya has no choice but to reach out to her daughter’s father and her first love for help. Sam is now a successful attorney, and is happily engaged to another woman. But the discovery that he has a daughter, along with the reappearance of Maya in his life, throws his world off-kilter. Their sweet second-chance romance is rendered with nimble prose, quick plotting, and rich cultural details, making it clear that Shroff a writer to watch. Agent: Rachel Brooks, Bookends. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Blood and Blade

Lauren Dane. Carina, $8.99 mass market (330p) ISBN 978-1-335-91996-0

The exhausting sixth paranormal romance in Dane’s Goddess with a Blade series (after Wrath of the Goddess) is chaotic, bloody, and disappointingly one-note. Rowan Summerwaite is many things: superpowered hunter, human wife to British vampire Scion Clive, vessel to the Celtic Goddess Brigid, and mother to a magical dog. Fresh from killing the supposed leader of Blood Front, a vampire supremacy group, Rowan and her small army of humans, witches, and vampires realize that there is a greater evil pulling the hate group’s strings. With traitors in their midst, Rowan and Clive must marshal their forces to take down the unknown enemy, conducting an investigation that takes the couple from Las Vegas to London and back again. Despite a fast-paced plot, Dane’s clunky, dialogue-heavy writing prevents her world from feeling truly immersive, and her archetypal badass heroine remains one-dimensional throughout. Paranormal romance fans will find it easy to skip this one. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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