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Don’t Breathe a Word

Christie Craig. Forever, $7.99 mass market (576p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1162-0

Craig’s warmhearted second romantic thriller set in Anniston, Tex. (Don’t Close Your Eyes) again features two engrossing investigations: one involving cold case detective Juan Acosta tracking down a long-missing young mother, and the other related to uncovering the truth about Vicki Trevor, Juan’s new neighbor. Juan withdrew from the world after his pregnant wife was murdered while he was working undercover, preferring to track down his leads via computer. But he can’t avoid his new neighbor, Vicki Trevor, or her daughter, Bell, as his tiny dog keeps sneaking into their yard. Almost immediately, Juan senses Vicki isn’t being honest about her history, but Vicki keeps secrets for her safety: she’s hiding from her deceased sister’s murderous ex-husband, who’s a cop. Texas is her second stop after leaving California, and as people she’s close to start turning up dead, she wonders how much further she’ll have to run. Craig’s tender development of Juan and Bell’s relationship is particularly moving. Series fans will enjoy this continuation. Agent: Kim Lionetti, BookEnds. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Not the Girl You Marry

Andie J. Christopher. Berkley, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-984802-68-2

Christopher (One Night in South Beach) paints by numbers with this crass take on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Hannah Mayfield is a superstar sporting events planner who dreams of being vice president of her company. Dating men who were uncomfortable with her biracial heritage and unfiltered opinions has soured her hopes for love, so she immerses herself in work. Then her boss pushes her to demonstrate her range and expand into planning gloriously romantic weddings, which means fixing her reputation as a cynic. Reporter Jack Nolan is the perfect gentleman who has bent over backwards for each of the women he’s loved but can’t get one to stick around. Determined to put himself first for a change, he agrees to do one last fluff piece on surefire ways to get a woman to dump you, after which he’ll get the tough political reporting job he’s always wanted. Hannah figures she can date Jack just long enough for her boss to believe she’s capable of romantic emotions; Jack wants her to dump him so he’ll have article fodder. Nothing goes as planned, but their story holds few surprises other than the abundant sexual references. This rom-com will appeal to readers who want a fairy tale ending and don’t much care how they get there. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Forever and a Duke

Grace Burrowes. Forever, $7.99 mass market (464p) ISBN 978-1-5387-0027-3

Burrowes’s delightfully geeky and warm third Rogues to Riches Regency (after When a Duchess Says I Do) lets its protagonists impress each other not with riches and beauty, but with intelligence and attention. Charming “Rex” Wrexam, Duke of Elsmore and major stakeholder in Dorset and Becker Savings and Trust, needs a way to discreetly examine his family’s disastrous finances before the lawyers of his sisters’ suitors do. He asks his colleague Quinn Wentworth, Duke of Walden, to lend him the services of unnervingly meticulous auditor Eleanora Hatfield. Ellie focuses on the work while keeping her distance from Rex, as she distrusts nobles and is embarrassed about her family’s criminal activities, but long hours over ledgers turn to trysting, and she allows herself to indulge, despite the seeming impossibility of the two developing a long-term relationship. The likable leads regard each other with intellectual and personal respect, and the investigative threads of the story bond them as partners independent of their attraction. Meanwhile, the caricatured, corrupt fat-cat villains will be fun for readers to hate. Burrowes’s fans will find this an excellent continuation of a very strong series. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Ride the High Lonesome

Rosanne Bittner. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-8926-3

In this richly described historical, Bittner (the Outlaw Hearts series) unites a former Union soldier and a widow in the wilds of 19th-century Wyoming Territory. Kate Winters is traveling alone after surviving an attack on the wagon train she was in. She sees a man being hanged from a tree, and after his would-be killers leave him to die, Kate cuts him down. The man, Luke Bolden, tells Kate that his attackers stole his cattle after wrongly accusing him of being a thief. Determined to recover his cattle and protect the woman who saved his life, Luke takes Kate with him as he travels toward the town of Lander, where he believes he will find the thieves. After recovering the cattle, Luke and Kate encounter deadly outlaws and enjoy passionate moments, but Luke emotionally distances himself from Kate, as being jilted by his fiancée has left him wary of women. Touching, passionate romance between two wounded souls amid the beautiful landscapes of the West make this a page-turner sure to please fans of western historicals. Agent: Maura Kye-Casella, Don Congdon Assoc. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Business of Lovers

Eric Jerome Dickey. Dutton, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4520-2

Dickey (Before We Were Wicked) continues his study of the lives of African-American Angelenos, this time in a cluttered but heartfelt erotic drama. At the center is Brick, who works as a driver for a friend who recently started doing sex work. Through her, he meets two other sex workers, and the four form a quick, close bond. Meanwhile, Brick’s older brother, Dwayne, a former child actor struggling to find adult success, is trying desperately to reconnect with his teenage son. As they strive for what they need, the brothers explore, sometimes ponderously, the definitions and boundaries of family, love, and sex. So much time is spent establishing characters’ viewpoints—fascinating though they are—that plot takes a back seat, leaving the ending feeling rushed and unearned. However, the setting is artfully crafted, the characters’ struggles are real and moving, and the sex those characters have is flaming hot. Readers looking for pathos with eroticism, depth, and a mostly black cast will appreciate this one. Agent: Sara Camilli, Sara Camilli Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Dragon of New Orleans

Genevieve Jack. Carpe Luna, $12.99 trade paper (354p) ISBN 978-1-940675-48-0

In the heady first Treasure of Paragon novel from Jack (the Knight Games series), an evil voodoo priestess curses Gabriel, an immortal dragon, and the only one who can save him is Raven, a human woman. When Gabriel appears in Raven’s hospital room, she mistakes him for the avatar of death. Then he cures her cancer and bonds her to him for life. Shocked to find out he’s a dragon, she reluctantly starts researching how to break the curse. She’s initially afraid of his possessiveness, but quickly falls for him. As she learns about magic powers and paranormal entities, she realizes she absorbs any magic she touches. They begin to hope she’ll find a way around the curse by developing this gift, which she didn’t know she had—and Gabriel suspects she’s his fated mate as well. Although the possessive dragon nature will be too much for some, fans of paranormal romance will get swept up in this quick, steamy romance and the intriguing mystery wrapped in magic. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/30/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Something Wild

Anna Martin. Dreamspinner, $14.99 trade paper (214p) ISBN 978-1-64405-273-0

Jurassic Park gets a romantic makeover in this cute tale of science, kisses, and very big teeth. Dr. Logan Beck is the head ranger on a Pacific archipelago where dinosaurs that survived the Permian-Triassic Extinction have thrived for millions of years. Dr. Kit Sterling is a scientist studying the dinosaurs’ habits; according to Logan, he’s also a “certified hottie.” Kit and Logan’s collaboration has always been turbulent due to their opposing personalities. When Logan takes Kit to observe a species of dinosaur more closely, they discover an injured dissimosaur and bring her back to Logan’s apartment, against island rules. As Logan rehabilitates the dinosaur, his relationship with Kit becomes less professional and more intimate. Soon the two are teaming up to find poachers who are selling illegal dinosaur leather. When Logan’s dissimosaur is kidnapped, the pieces of their search come together. Martin holds the reader’s attention while Kit and Logan’s relationship deepens, but the dry dinosaur facts sometimes distract from the romance, and the ending resolves everything much too quickly. Those flaws aside, this is an endearing, scaly twist on the workplace romance. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/23/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Giving Heart

Toni Blake. HQN, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-335-50505-7

A handsome land developer butts heads with the woman safeguarding her family’s trees, Lila Sloan, in this sweet, if overlong, Christmas romance, the second Summer Island contemporary (after The One Who Stays). Lila Sloan, reeling from a recent sexual assault, agrees to watch her sister’s inn on Summer Island, Mich., over the holiday season to assuage her guilt over being absent in the past. Beck Grainger comes to the island to escape the memory of his judgmental father, and hoping to build on the gorgeous land. But when Lila throws herself in front of his bulldozer to protect the trees that were part of her childhood, development halts and sparks fly. Despite their fundamental disagreement, their chemistry is undeniable. Thrown together by the smallness of the island, Lila and Beck grow closer, helping each other to work through past traumas. The back-and-forth between these two stubborn characters is excessively drawn out, but their happy ending is well earned, and the pervasive Christmas atmosphere is sure to put readers in the holiday spirit. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/23/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Christmas Cabin for Two

KD Fisher. Dreamspinner, $9.99 mass market (200p) ISBN 978-1-64108-182-5

In Fisher’s charming Christmas romance, two men start a holiday fling that becomes a passionate love affair. When Mikah, a Boston high school teacher who’s recently lost his job and been dumped by his boyfriend, visits his father’s house in Jackson, Wyo., he’s expecting the normal Christmas with his family, including cutting down a tree with his sister. At the tree farm just across the Idaho border, he is immediately knocked off his feet by a dog and falls into muddy slush. The farm’s owner, Matt, invites him in for a change of clothes, and the two are instantly attracted to each other, leading to a hot romance. Knowing Mikah will only be there two more weeks before he goes back east, both men try to ignore the deep feelings that are growing, but when the time comes to say good-bye, it’s unbearable. Mikah is left to choose between a prestigious New York prep school job and the rough-hewn Idaho farmer he’s fallen in love with. The book is light on plot, but the heat and passion make up for it, anchored by the love Matt and Mikah have for their families and their work. This is a scrumptious Christmas treat. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/23/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe

Jessica Clare. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-1-984804-00-6

Navy vet Jason Clements, the hero in Clare’s heartwarming, delightful third Wyoming Cowboy contemporary (after The Cowboy and His Baby), is wracked by PTSD, mourns the death of his service dog, and has trouble keeping a job. He gets a new kind of therapy when he meets the chipper, bighearted Sage Cooper, lifelong resident of Painted Barrel, Wyo. Sage, who’s 29 and has never had a boyfriend, spent years pining for a man who never paid any attention to her unless he wanted something from her. When she learns that Jason needs a crash course in ranching in order to keep his job, she offers to show him the ropes, and his company curbs her feelings of loneliness. Sage asks Jason to help her save face at her former crush’s wedding rehearsal dinner, but what starts out as a pretend date turns into much more, though Jason worries that Sage deserves better. The residents of Painted Barrel are just as lovely as ever. Clare packs on the holiday cheer with ugly Christmas sweaters and vivid, festive descriptions of holiday joy. Minimal drama and a well-developed plot make this novel pure pleasure. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/23/2019 | Details & Permalink

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