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The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

Abigail Wilson. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (342p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3295-7

Wilson’s fourth outing in G-rated Regency romantic suspense (following Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey) is dense with gothic incident. As a teenager, quiet and proper Charity Halliwell fell in love with Piers Cavanagh, heir to Loxby Manor. But Charity’s parents swept her away to Ceylon, and Piers fell into disgrace. Five years later, Charity improbably returns to Loxby Manor as a houseguest—just in time to be the last person to see Piers’s sister, Seline, before the girl disappears. Was it death or a worse fate that befell her? Charity braves a sea of disapproval from the Cavanagh family and associates to get to the bottom of the mystery. There is a whiff of the retrograde in Wilson’s lily-white depiction of the era and condemnation of French revolutionary ideas. That said, the pace is brisk and the improbabilities are engaged with gusto. The result is a light, atmospheric outing. Agent: Jennifer Wills, the Seymore Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Georgana’s Secret

Arlem Hawks. Shadow Mountain, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-62972-792-9

A young woman disguised as a cabin boy struggles to keep her identity secret from an earnest lieutenant in this captivating seafaring Regency from Hawks (Commander of His Heart). Georgana Woodall is 15 years old when her father helps her escape her abusive grandmother by disguising her as George and taking her aboard his ship, the HMS Deborah. Three years later, Lt. Dominic Peyton joins the crew and compassionately provides George with guidance and protection from the ship ruffians, who dislike her even in her disguise. Georgana is quite bewitched by the man, and, when Peyton learns her true identity, he returns her feelings but must hide them from the rest of the crew. Hawks crafts a spellbinding tale featuring rich characters and raw emotions set against the atmospheric backdrop of sea life in all its danger and beauty. Georgana is a tough protagonist holding her own in a world dominated by men, while Peyton’s charm and sensitivity marks him as a true gentleman. A hidden identity, flirtation, and treachery make for a rousing tale to captivate lovers of historical romances. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Song for a Cowboy

Sasha Summers. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $8.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-1-4926-8859-4

A new member of the King family of country music superstars steps into the romantic spotlight in Summers’s charming second Kings of Country romance (after Jace). Good-hearted and always eager to please, singer Emmy Lou King agrees to serve on the American Football League’s Drug Free Like Me charity—which brings her back into contact with her former flame, football star Brock Watson. The two have had no contact for the past six years, but Brock still follows the Kings’ music, and Emmy Lou can recite his stats. A photo shoot recreating their high school homecoming dance poses reignites their feelings, but Brock’s brash new teammate, struggling ex-wife, and ailing father present obstacles to their happy ever after. Meanwhile, Emmy Lou contends with family issues of her own, navigating her emotionally subservient relationship with her domineering and manipulative mother. Though the characters’ motivations occasionally seem forced and some of the more dramatic moments feel unearned, Summers’s original lyrics for the King family’s songs shine, and a cute scene in which Emmy Lou and Brock rescue a kitten who’s found its way onto a football field mid-game will melt hearts. Series readers are sure to be satisfied. Agent: Pamela Hopkins, Hopkins Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Make Up Break Up

Lily Menon. Griffin, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-76199-6

YA author Sandhya Menon (When Dimple Met Rishi) makes her adult debut, writing as Lily Menon, with this fun rom-com between rival app developers. Romantic Annika Dev hopes that her app Make Up will offer struggling couples second chances by helping them find ways to communicate. Charismatic Hudson Craft is all about efficiency, and his app Break Up helps end failing relationships without prolonged emotional conversations. Their values and career goals couldn’t be more opposed—but Annika can’t stop thinking about the steamy night they shared in Vegas last summer. With Break Up’s popularity skyrocketing and Annika on the verge of bankruptcy, their rivalry kicks into high gear. Things heat up further when the pair go head-to-head at an investment pitch contest. Despite their constant clashing, Annika is irresistibly drawn to Hudson and she realizes he is much more than his shallow public personality. Though the abrupt ending offers a frustratingly meager glimpse of the lovers portion of their enemies-to-lovers arc, the witty banter and electric sexual tension throughout will keep readers hooked. This winning romance will especially appeal to fans of The Hating Game. Agent: Thao Le, Sandra Dijkstra Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Duke Heist

Erica Ridley. Forever, $8.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1952-7

With this entrancing Regency, Ridley (Forever Your Duke) introduces the Wild Wynchesters series, named for a found family of six orphans—each with a useful if disreputable talent—who were long ago adopted by the late Baron Vanderbean and now live together as adult vigilantes on the fringes of London’s polite society. Chloe Wynchester, an accomplished pickpocket able to blend into any setting, is determined to recover a painting stolen from her family by the late Duke of Faircliffe. When she learns that Lawrence Gosling—the new duke, who hopes to marry into the money needed to restore his family’s honor—plans to give the painting to his intended, Chloe infiltrates the woman’s social circle to steal it back. But things don’t go to plan: the painting is a fake, and Chloe inadvertently abducts Lawrence, thinking his carriage is her getaway vehicle. Lawrence agrees to owe Chloe a favor if she promises not to tarnish his reputation by revealing that they were alone together, and Chloe uses his gratitude to continue hunting for the missing painting—but soon learns that behind Lawrence’s stuffy façade is a man just as intelligent, passionate, and delightfully silly as she is. Their affecting romance is grounded in push and pull, but the real star of the show is the love the Wynchesters have for one another. This lighthearted paean to shunning respectability is a knockout. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Bookseller’s Boyfriend

Heidi Cullinan. Dreamspinner, $9.99 mass market (212p) ISBN 978-1-64405-858-9

Cullinan (The Doctor’s Date) returns to Copper Point, Wis., to inaugurate another enchanting series. Following years of scandal and debauchery, Rasul Youssef, a famous author with a “huge personality and wild reputation,” reluctantly moves to rural Copper Point to teach at Bayview University and complete his long overdue third novel at the urging of his concerned agent. Rasul’s pessimism about his situation dissipates when he meets and flirts with Jacob Moore, the owner of Moore Books. Rasul is charmed by the cardigan-wearing bookseller, whom he privately refers to as “Mr. Rogers,” and Jacob is thrilled to meet his favorite author (Rasul’s books helped him cope with his parent’s death). Jacob agrees to help Rasul rehabilitate his reputation and get his agent off his back by pretending to be his boyfriend—but their fake dating soon turns all too real. Their believable, bookish romance is adorable; the men bond over I Capture the Castle and each sweetly supports the other, especially as Rasul races to meet his deadline. A social media scandal overtakes the later stretches of the plot, posing an unnecessary complication—but by that point readers will already be so invested in the relationship that they won’t mind. This is a gem. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Fairy Godmothers, Inc.

Saranna DeWylde. Zebra, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5314-9

The magical small town of Ever After, Mo., takes center stage in this can’t-be-missed paranormal rom-com from DeWylde (My Immortal Knight). Lucky Fujiki is convinced she’s been misnamed—she’s anything but lucky. As a half-kitsune, or Japanese fox spirit, chaos follows Lucky wherever she goes, infecting the lives of those around her—though thankfully her best friend and her three fairy godmothers seem to be immune. When the godmothers approach Lucky for help replenishing Ever After’s dwindling magic supply, she instantly agrees—then she finds out they want her to fake a wedding to her high-profile ex-boyfriend, billionaire chocolatier Ransom Payne. Magic runs on love, and the godmothers hope to use the well-publicized wedding to turn Ever After into a wedding destination and keep the love pouring in. But there are two problems: Lucky and Ransom’s relationship ended in a shared humiliation that has followed Ransom ever since, and Lucky’s still in love with him. What follows takes the best of the fairy tale world, infuses it with modern sensibility and humor, and places the emphasis firmly on personal growth. Readers will fall head over heels for both the quirky town and the achingly sweet second-chance romance. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Lady’s Formula for Love

Elizabeth Everett. Berkley, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-20062-9

Everett debuts with an enjoyable feminist romance between a widowed viscountess and her bodyguard. In 1842 England, Lady Violet Hughes runs Athena’s Retreat, a secret club of eccentric and groundbreaking female scientists. Meanwhile, Omnium Democratia, an illegal workers’ organization demanding suffrage for all men, grows increasingly radical and violent. When Omnium brings a devastating new chemical weapon to their riots, the Crown tasks Violet with developing an antidote, and her stepson, Grey, hires protection officer Arthur Kneland to keep her safe as she completes the formula. Between contending with sabotage attempts on her work and keeping up the appearance of propriety to protect her beloved club, the last thing Violet needs is to let the “instantaneous, primal attraction” between her and Arthur cloud her judgement. The pair decides their affair must be fleeting and purely physical—but both soon realize that deeper feelings lie beneath their chemistry. Everett’s expert character development results in Violet and Arthur’s believable and scorching connection, though this is sometimes at the cost of the suspense plot, which is underdeveloped in comparison. Nevertheless, the diverse cast and admirable heroine will win over fans of historical romance. Everett’s off to a promising start. Agent: Ann Leslie Tuttle, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Bayou Dreaming

Lexi Blake. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-1-984806-60-4

Romance blooms between a former big-city cop and a small-town bad boy in Blake’s sweet and sexy third Butterfly Bayou romance (after Bayou Baby). Frustrated by career dead ends, Roxie King-Nelson finds her way from Manhattan to the Papillon Parish Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. Early in her tenure there, she has a one-night stand with sexy local Zep Guidry—and she still hasn’t stopped thinking about him a year later. Zep is equally hung up on her and will do whatever it takes to get her attention, even if it means letting her throw him in the drunk tank. Wildlife expert Zep is also the closest thing Papillon has to animal control, so Roxie and he must collaborate to investigate reports of a possible rougarou, or bayou werewolf. As they work together, Roxie gives in to her long-simmering desires. But their fragile new relationship is complicated by the sudden arrival of Roxie’s family and a potential job offer in New York. The vivid bayou setting is as charming as ever and the well-drawn characters will have readers hooked. This cozy romance is sure to please. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Innkeeper’s Daughter

Bianca M. Schwarz. Central Avenue, $16.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-77168-210-7

Schwarz (Wicked House) launches her Gentleman Spy Mysteries series with an immersive and suspenseful Regency romance. Eliza Broad’s criminal stepfather beats her and throws her into the cellar of his inn, threatening to sell her into marriage to an associate named Wilkins. But Eliza escapes and Sir Henry March, an operative of the Crown, chances upon her on the side of the road and brings her to his London home to heal from her injuries. During the course of Eliza’s recovery, Henry takes her shopping in Covent Garden—where Wilkins, who has ties to a large prostitution ring, attempts to kidnap her. Henry saves her yet again and the two grow even closer. While attending a ball together, Eliza overhears one of Wilkins’s associates plotting to kidnap a woman named Stephanie Adams on behalf of an unknown aristocrat. Henry believes that the traitorous Lord Astor, a spy who sold British intelligence to the French, may be behind the scheme, and he and Eliza join forces to rescue Stephanie. Henry and Eliza’s refreshing relationship is built on friendship, respect, and mutual attraction—and their early chemistry gives way to sensual interludes. The magnetic love scenes and enticing mystery will have readers eagerly anticipating the next installment. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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