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The Sight of You

Holly Miller. Putnam, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-08558-5

Miller debuts with a stunning and gracefully written tearjerker about destiny, dreams, and selfless love. Joel Morgan has always had ultraspecific, prophetic dreams about future moments in the lives of people he loves. Though these visions are as likely to be good or neutral as they are to be bad, the bad visions have been negative enough to make him wary of making new connections and inviting more tragedy into his dreams. But the natural rapport Joel has with Callie Cooper, his favorite barista turned upstairs neighbor, slides naturally into a romantic relationship as they spend more time together. Soon, they fall in love, but Joel’s worst fear comes true when he dreams of Callie’s death. The two must navigate life with this knowledge, weighing the desire to do everything possible to prevent the tragedy with the desire to live each moment they have left to its fullest. Miller paints big emotions with nuance and subtlety, exploring complex family dynamics, grief, and anxiety with expert skill that lends realism to her tale, despite its supernatural conceit. This beautifully rendered work is both heartbreaking and life-affirming. Readers should be prepared to cry. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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First Kiss with a Cowboy

Sara Richardson. Forever, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1715-8

Richardson (A Cowboy for Christmas) introduces readers to bucolic Silverado Lake, Colo., in this splendid, sexy series launch. Cal-Poly adjunct professor Jane Harding’s first romance novel was a bestseller, but writer’s block hampers progress on her second. With a deadline six weeks away, Jane heads home to Silverado Lake—where no one knows she’s a writer—for her best friend’s wedding. She soon runs into rodeo rider Toby Garrett, her teenage crush and the inspiration for the hero of her book, and is happy for the chance to conduct some hands-on research. Reconnecting with Toby frees Jane’s muse, allowing her to make rapid progress on her manuscript. But after being hurt by Toby as a teenager, she’s afraid to get too close and face a second round of heartbreak. In animated prose, Richardson showcases her gift for crafting realistic heroines and complex, swoon-worthy heroes. The pace is fast, the setting’s charming, and the love scenes are delicious. Fans of cowboy romance are sure to be captivated. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Half Truths

Claire Contreras. Claire Contreras, $3.99 e-book (368p) ISBN 978-0-9983455-6-7

Scandal, secrets, and the bad behaviors of the rich form the backbone of bestseller Contreras’s juicy if overdramatic romance. College senior Amelia Bastón, a student journalist newly transferred to her affluent father’s alma mater, Ellis University (a fictionalized Cornell), investigates the disappearance of fellow student Lana Ly, which she believes may be related to the mysterious accident that left her brother in a coma. Amelia acquiesces to the romantic attention of her brother’s best friend, hockey player Logan Fitzgerald, despite implications that he was somehow involved in Lana’s vanishing. As Amelia’s investigation, and her relationship with Logan, draw her ever closer to the campus’s sinister secret societies, Contreras’s characterizations of the privileged college students fall into shallow caricature. Though the setting is deliciously glamorous and tense hazing scenes evoke a palpable sense of anxiety, the mystery is haphazard and Amelia’s internal life never quite coalesces on the page. Contreras (The Consequence of Falling) lets readers see pieces of the mystery long before Amelia realizes them herself, undermining her supposed deductive skills. This soapy suspense novel is longer on style than substance. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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500 Miles from You

Jenny Colgan. Morrow, $16.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-291124-7

Strangers trade lives in this endearing romance from Colgan (The Bookshop on the Shore), which will remind rom-com aficionados of the film The Holiday. London nurse Lissa Westcott witnesses a teenage boy getting run over by a car and is part of the failed effort to save his life. After the tragedy, she suffers from PTSD, leading her superiors to arrange for her to swap jobs with a nurse in the quiet town of Kirrinfief, Scotland, as a break from stressful London life. Meanwhile, nurse Cormac MacPherson travels from Kirrinfief to cover Lissa’s patients in London. As both adjust to the charms and quirks of life in a small town and big city, they exchange notes on patients via email. Soon their correspondence becomes more personal than professional as they forge a powerful bond. Their long-distance relationship is sweet but slow as the medical drama and contrasting settings take center stage, but their eventual face-to-face meeting is worth the wait. This cute, cozy story will draw readers in. Agent: Deborah Schneider, ICM. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Marriage Game

Sara Desai. Berkley, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-10056-1

Desai’s delightful debut is a playful take on enemies-to-lovers and arranged marriage tropes starring two headstrong Desi-American protagonists. Layla Patel returns home to San Francisco from New York City after losing her job, her boyfriend, and her self-respect. Her father, determined to fix her life, offers her the office space above his restaurant (which he neglects to tell Sam Mehta, the current tenant), and makes her a profile on an Indian dating site (which he neglects to tell Layla). Sam refuses to vacate the office space, but Layla sets up shop there anyway. The pair instantly clash, but when suitors from the dating website show up at the office hoping to woo Layla, Sam feels oddly protective. They strike a bet: if Layla finds a husband among the blind dates her father set up, she has to surrender the office to Sam, if she doesn’t, then Sam must leave the office. As part of their deal, Sam will chaperone her dates to protect her from the judgement of her hypertraditional suitors. It’s a blast to witness Sam and Layla exchange flirtatious barbs as their snarky chemistry blossoms into something real over the course of Layla’s hilariously disastrous dates. Rom-com fans should take note of this fresh, fun offering. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Summer Deal

Jill Shalvis. Morrow, $16.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-289791-6

A pair of guarded half-sisters learn to open up in this sweet, summery romance from Shalvis (Almost Just Friends). After 29-year-old Brynn Turner’s boyfriend breaks her heart and robs her blind to boot, she returns home to her loving but smothering moms in Wildstone, Calif., to recover. When a panic attack sends Brynn to the ER, she runs into Eli Thomas, her summer camp crush and first kiss, who’s accompanying his best friend and housemate (and Brynn’s teenage nemesis), Kinsey Davis, for a kidney transplant that falls through. As it happens, Kinsey recently discovered she and Brynn are half-sisters while searching for possible kidney donors, but she refuses to tell Brynn. Hoping to bring the sisters together, Eli offers Brynn a room in their beach house and soon falls for her. Meanwhile, single dad Deck Scott, Kinsey’s dialysis nurse and casual hookup, works to convince Kinsey that she’s more than just “a walking expiration date.” Readers will find it easy to root for Shalvis’s stubborn, vulnerable heroines to recognize both the decency and compassion of the sexy men who love them and their own worthiness to be loved. This heartfelt tale is thoroughly satisfying. Agent: Robin Rue, Writers House. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Summer on Honeysuckle Ridge

Debbie Mason. Forever, $6.99 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1694-6

Despite a charmingly quirky heroine, the love story of Mason’s first Highland Falls romance (after the Harmony Harbor series) is obscured by a rushed, confusing tangle of competing subplots. Los Angeles YouTube star Abby Everhart is left penniless by a nasty divorce, so she’s both surprised and grateful when she inherits a farmhouse in Highland Falls, N.C., from a great aunt she never met. She and her Yorkshire terrier meet army veteran Hunter Mackenzie upon arrival and learn that he cared for Amy’s aunt in her dying days and inherited half the farm. Hunter agrees to help Abby fix up the house to put it on the market if it means the chatty, klutzy city girl will move out, allowing him to return to his brooding, solitary lifestyle. Over the course of a summer, Abby befriends a vast cast of townspeople, starts a tour company that throws Outlander-inspired events, and coaxes Hunter out of his shell and into her arms. The large cast offers plenty of potential for future installments, but it becomes difficult to track who’s who and distracts from the mismatched central couple. Readers will be disappointed. Agent: Pamela Harty, The Knight Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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To Catch an Earl

Kate Bateman. St. Martin’s, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-30611-1

In Bateman’s sparkling second Bow Street Bachelors Regency (after This Earl of Mine) an elusive thief falls for the investigator seeking her arrest. Emmy Danvers comes from a long line of French jewel thieves but has been content to live a crime-free life in the four years since her father, the notorious Nightjar, died. Then her family starts receiving letters threatening to expose and harm them if they do not surrender all the jewels Emmy’s father stole and steal three more high-profile pieces. Emmy reluctantly takes up her father’s mantel as the Nightjar, hatching a plan to recover the crown jewels of France from the British Museum. Alex Harland, Earl of Melton, works as an agent of inquiry after returning from battle in the continent and is determined to capture the Nightjar. But when his investigation leads him to Emmy, she steals his heart, forcing Alex to decide if he is willing to implicate the woman he loves. Bateman loads her fast-paced heist with fun secret identity hijinks, clever characters, and sizzling romance. Series fans and new readers alike will be thrilled. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Magic Touch

Luna Joya. City Owl, $15.99 trade paper (365p) ISBN 978-1-94909-087-1

A witch and an FBI agent find love while solving a years-old murder in the wickedly delightful second paranormal romance in Joya’s Legacy series (after Tides of Time). District Attorney Delia Donovan is determined to keep her and her sisters’ identities as witches secret. But when Delia’s sister Mina partners with an FBI task force of paranormal misfits looking into a cold case, Delia reluctantly agrees to join as well in order to protect her sister. Agent Mark Cavan, who is tasked with keeping Delia safe as she uses her magical gifts to investigate, is new to the paranormal world and initially clashes with Delia. Then a powerful warlock gets wind of Delia’s abilities and demands she join his coven or suffer death, and Mark works to protect her. Joya draws out the will-they, won’t-they between her starkly different protagonists as they go from enemies to reluctant partners to lovers. The anticipation is delicious and the eventual romance is well worth the wait. This sexy love story will entice longtime paranormal fans and draw in new readers. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The New Normal

Tracy Brogan. Montlake Romance, $12.95 trade paper (308p) ISBN 978-1-5039-0523-8

Neighbors find love the second time around in this spirited contemporary from Brogan (My Kind of Forever). Ever since Carli Lancaster’s divorce was finalized eight months ago, she’s been doing her best to make ends meet while raising her two teenage daughters. Adding Gus, an oversized and under-trained puppy, to the family only adds to her stress—especially when he pilfers her new neighbor’s T-bone steak right off his grill. Ben Chase is mid-divorce and just wants to be left alone, but he’s drawn to Carli’s personality and good looks. An easygoing friendship soon develops between them, but becomes harder to maintain as their feelings for each other grow. Brogan’s voice is distinct and irresistible, offering both laugh-out-loud scenarios and moments of poignancy as Carli and Ben wade through the murky waters of divorce and single parenthood. Supportive neighbors enhance the hilarity and add a sense of community sure to tug at the heartstrings. This sweet romance is a joy. Agent: Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Assoc. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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