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The Doctor’s Orders (Copper Point Medical #3)

Heidi Cullinan. Dreamspinner, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-64108-140-5

Readers who were captivated by The Doctor’s Secret and The Doctor’s Date will find the concluding Copper Point Medical contemporary a dreadful letdown. This time, it’s pediatrician Jared Kumpel and small-town hospital CEO Nick Beckert who couple up, getting a second chance at love. The men have been estranged for decades after first falling for each other as teenagers. They reconnect when they are trapped in an elevator. However, although Nick kisses Jared passionately, he is afraid that coming out will upset his family, jeopardize his relationship with his church, and affect his job—reasonable concerns, but his fretting over them is drawn out at excessive length. Nick tries to pretend he and Jared are just roommates, but this arrangement is as flimsy as the novel, which spends so much time on Nick’s angst that there’s barely any romance. Nick is so self-involved that the lovestruck Jared eventually has an emotional breakdown, which passes for relationship development. There’s a subplot involving rebuilding the hospital and possible elevator sabotage, but even this intrigue fails to spark much interest. This underwritten contemporary is a very disappointing end to an otherwise terrific series. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Ex-Princess

Fiona West. Tempest and Kite, $12.99 trade paper (348p) ISBN 978-1-73287-740-5

Desert clippers and light rail, magic-powered cellphones, black royalty, and a princess negotiating chronic illness bring both depth and delight to this kind, lighthearted romance. Once upon a time, Princess Abelia Olivia Jayne Venenza Ribaldi Porchenzii renounced matriarchal Brevspor’s throne for an anonymous life working in waste reclamation. Then Abbie learns her engagement contract to Prince Edward of Orangiers is still valid—and to defeat his brother Lincoln’s foreign-backed coup, she must honor it. Resolved to renegotiate her freedom and say goodbye to her ailing father, Abbie sets off through the magic-ridden Unveiled. But duty-driven Edward’s proposal isn’t just a geopolitical stopgap: he loves Abbie, and there might be ways for an ex-princess and a reluctant heir to be happy on both their terms. Final Fantasy fans will relish West’s debut, a vibrant, voraciously readable adventure whose technocratic fantasy world is grounded by a generous understanding of everyday limitations and love. This perfect confection is socially aware, wonderstruck, and unforgettably fun. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Spring Tides

Jill Allyson Keene. The Wild Rose, $4.99 e-book (288p) ISBN 978-1-5092-2620-7

Family and fortune mingle in this middling romantic thriller debut. Before wealthy Reginald Anthony Winslow III died, he asked Finn Callahan, his lawyer, to persuade Winslow’s heir, Bev Winslow, to accept her inheritance. However, Bev would rather run her small boat charter business in Salem, Mass., than accept an offer from her estranged grandfather, who disowned her mother, Reggie. Despite her misgivings, she goes to the will reading, meeting her extended family for the first time. As the will is read, it becomes apparent Bev’s only option is to move to Boston, accept her $400 million inheritance, and take over her grandfather’s holdings company; otherwise the inheritance goes to Reggie, whose kind heart makes her an easy target for scammers and disgruntled relatives. Luckily, Bev has Finn by her side to assist her with running a conglomerate, unearthing family secrets, and flirting with romance. Threats, bombings, and break-ins worry Bev as her friends and family become collateral for a piece of her inheritance. As the dangers come to a head, Bev is determined to find the offender and keep her family safe. While Bev’s shift from boat captain to socialite CEO lacks believability and the mystery has a predictable suspect, the pleasant prose, steady pace, and sweet romance will keep readers entertained. Despite its flaws, this pleasant story will satisfy undemanding readers. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Absinthe Earl (Faery Rehistory #1)

Sharon Lynn Fisher. Blackstone, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-982684-41-9

Fisher opens her Faery Rehistory series, set in an alternate historical Ireland where British imperialism is replaced by the menace of fairy invasion, with this complex, creative adventure. Miss Ada Quicksilver, a student at London’s Lovelace Academy for Promising Young Women, is investigating the disappearance of fairies from Ireland. She’s heard rumors that absinthe may facilitate sightings of the parallel world where they now dwell. Her research brings her into discussion with a handsome, enigmatic Irish nobleman who offers to bring her to a recently opened fairy fort. Edward Donoghue, Earl of Meath, is plagued by visions and sleepwalking that are tamed only by absinthe. As he and Ada pursue their investigations, they learn that Edward is a conduit between mortals and fairies, and that their growing bond holds the power to open the barrier between worlds—leading to a final confrontation between the fairies and their ancient enemies. Although the quick shifts between Ada and Edward’s perspectives are distracting and disruptive, persevering readers will still enjoy Fisher’s inventive premise and the heady romance between two independent and well-matched protagonists. Fans of Gail Carriger and Leanna Renee Hieber will savor this promising series opener. Agent: Robin Rue, Writers House. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Big Chance Cowboy

Teri Anne Stanley. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4926-7433-7

This busy but inspiring contemporary piles drama, family ties, PTSD, and animal rescue on top of romance. Adam Collins rejected his high school girlfriend, Lizzie Vanhook, so he could sever ties with his hometown and enlist in the Army. Twelve years later, he returns to fictitious Big Chance, Tex., looking for peace and quiet so he can recover from his combat trauma. Lizzie needs help training her out-of-control dog, D-Day, and she thinks canine expert Adam is the best person for the job, despite their painful history. When she asks for his help, long-buried feelings resurface. Adam still mourns the loss of Tank, his IED-detecting dog, but he finds it difficult to resist D-Day, who quickly becomes Adam’s assistant. Then members from his former team (all recovering from an explosion he blames himself for) seek solace on Adam’s farm, and his ranch becomes a shelter for wounded animals and veterans. The romance is overshadowed by the rest of the goings-on, but everything else is enjoyable, too. Stanley hits the mark with wonderfully complex, caring characters; catchy dialogue; and lessons in self-esteem, loyalty, and forgiveness. Agent: Nicole Resciniti, Seymour Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Fatal Encounter

Jannine Gallant. Jannine Gallant, $3.99 e-book (260p) ASIN B07QFCCPQL

Romantic suspense writer Gallant launches her Counterstrike series with a less than enthralling mystery set in rural New Hampshire. Jaimee Fleming left a career as a covert agent for a quiet life as a dog walker. When Maureen Croft, the elderly owner of her canine client, is murdered, Jaimee sees the murderer and is winged by his bullet before she escapes. Knowing the killer may come after her, Jaimee decides to find him first. She hides out with the victim’s dog until she encounters bland but handsome novelist Eli Croft, Maureen’s step-grandson, on whom Jaimee had a crush back when they were both students at Dartmouth. As she works with Eli to identify the murderer, Jaimee tries to overcome the trauma of her complicated past to trust the sizzling attraction that develops between them. The reader knows from the beginning who plotted the murder and why, so the only question is how the truth will be revealed. There are a few twists, but the overall lack of suspense creates a lukewarm feeling. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3)

Tessa Dare. Avon, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-267216-2

Dare outdoes herself with the scintillating third Girl Meets Duke Regency romance (after The Governess Game). Lady Penelope Campion would rather be at home with her rescued animals than out in society, but her Aunt Caroline instructs her to give up her pets and be a proper lady—or move in with her brother in Cumberland, a fate Penny dreads. Then Penny meets her neighbor, wealthy commoner Gabriel Duke, while retrieving her escaped parrot. Gabe wants to sell his residence for a profit and believes that having a lady reside next door to him will increase his property value, so he agrees to help find homes for her animals so she can stay in London. As Gabe and Penny spend more time together, she sees the kindness hidden below his drive for success and riches. The attraction between Penny and Gabe is magnetic even as their class difference threatens to destroy their relationship. Authentic characters, witticisms, profound emotion, and echoes of trauma are primary elements in this expertly crafted novel. This riveting romance may be Dare’s best yet. Agent: Steve Axelrod, Axelrod Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Twice in a Blue Moon

Christina Lauren. Gallery, $16 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9742-0

This solid but unexceptional contemporary from Lauren (The Unhoneymooners) tries to do a few too many things at once. When Tate Butler goes on a trip to London shortly after turning 18, she meets Sam Brandis and falls instantly into a whirlwind romance so intense that she finds herself telling him her biggest secret: she’s Hollywood royalty, the “lost” daughter of heartthrob Ian Butler. She vanished from the public view at age eight, and everyone wants to know where she went. Sam almost immediately sells Tate’s secret to the tabloids and launches her into the spotlight again. Ten years after Sam’s betrayal, Tate realizes that her past isn’t as far behind her as she thinks. Stepping into her first leading role on a film set in Northern California, she’s introduced to the screenwriter: Sam. Despite his earlier betrayal, she still feels drawn to him and must decide whether to give him another chance. Sometimes awkward parallels are drawn between the love story of Sam and Tate, who are both white, and the interracial historical romance of the film they’re working on. The pacing is imperfect, but the ending satisfies. Readers inclined toward narratives of forgiveness will appreciate this story of learning to leave the past in the past. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Texas Forever (Tylers of Texas #6)

Janet Dailey. Kensington, $26 (266p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0959-2

This old-school but lively romance from Dailey is a fitting conclusion to her Tylers of Texas series (following Texas Free). Nineteen-year-old Erin Tyler has just lost her mother to cancer and a close friend to a freak accident. She’s also on the verge of becoming engaged to Kyle, the son of a neighboring ranch manager. When she meets dark and brooding Luke Maddox, recently hired at her father’s ailing Rimrock Ranch in Texas, Erin knows that what she feels for Kyle isn’t real love. As she grapples with this, a mysterious assailant threatens her. Drama crops up in unlikely places, including two unexpected murders, and lively secondary characters add charm. Dailey follows the formula of 1980s western romantic thrillers—lots of ma’ams, scoundrels, cowboy hats, and successful red herrings, and very little sex—but infuses the standard-issue characters with enough backstory and dimension to give them real appeal for modern readers. Twists and surprises will keep the pages of this warm-hearted romance turning. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Lady and the Highwayman

Sarah M. Eden. Shadow Mountain, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-62972-605-2

Eden’s sweet, lighthearted historical pits a pair of popular writers against Victorian London’s dark underbelly. Famed penny dreadful author Fletcher Walker rescues abused children on behalf of the secretive, charitable Dread Penny Society, which fights for and educates the city’s unfortunates. He’s also trying to hunt down his enigmatic rival writer, Mr. King. Lowborn Fletcher finds unexpected commonalities with literary writer Elizabeth Black, a girls’ school headmistress. Elizabeth joins Fletcher’s adventures fighting the criminal element but hides her own potentially dangerous secrets from him until she can reveal them on her own terms. Their slowly building, chaste, period-appropriate romance delivers congenial interludes throughout their assorted investigations into such villains as a cruel, sadistic chimney sweep and a shadowy arsonist who threatens Elizabeth’s school. Chapters of their respective serials are interspersed throughout, providing a subtle view into the authors’ emotional lives. Dedicated readers of historical romance will enjoy many nods to the origins and attractions of their genre. Agent: Pam Victorio, D4EO Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/28/2019 | Details & Permalink

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