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Love the Next Time Around | Romance Reviews, February 15, 2017

Play It Again, Sam Reunion stories, those romances in which couples with past relationships reunite, are now more popular than ever. In fact, according to a survey commissioned by the Romance Writers of America (ow.ly/6B0u308gecj), “reunited lovers” are among the ten most popular tropes of the genre. The situations vary widely, with characters ranging from childhood friends and teenage sweethearts to more mature couples, including those divorced or estranged. Whatever the reasons for the initial separation, they eventually get resolved—though not always easily—when the couples meet again. As a result, these stories often demonstrate strong character growth and introduce individuals that readers will also want to meet again and again.

Together Again

Alers, Rochelle. The Inheritance. Dafina: Kensington. (Innkeepers, Bk. 1). Mar. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496707307. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496707314. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When her high-powered job falls victim to a corporate merger, widowed attorney Hannah DuPont-Lowell leaves Manhattan and heads home to New Orleans to do what she’d always planned: turn her family’s 18-room mansion in the Garden District into an inn. The idea gets a boost when three of her “downsized” New York colleagues come to visit and agree to think about becoming part of her new venture. Her return also coincides with her 40th high school reunion, where she reconnects in a big way with her former lab partner now history professor, St. John (pronounced Sin-jun) McNair. Rich in the history of New Orleans and Creole culture (information on the gens de couleur libres—free people of color—is especially pertinent), this story puts the multi­cultural landscape in perspective and describes a vibrant community. VERDICT Mature, realistic protagonists, a plethora of family and friends, and a well-researched and thoughtful story that skillfully straddles the line between romance and women’s fiction beautifully sets the stage for this fascinating series to come. Alers (Cherry Lane) lives on New York’s Long Island.

Alward, Donna. Somebody Like You. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Darling, VT, Bk. 1). Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250092649. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250092656. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When her marriage crumbles after her husband comes out as gay, accountant Laurel Stone returns to quiet Darling, VT, to pick up the pieces and take her single life in a more satisfying direction. Now as the new owner of Ladybug Garden Center, she’s on target—if only gorgeous police officer Aiden Gallagher, the man she once baptized with a vanilla milkshake in high school, didn’t keep distracting her. A love-wary heroine simmering with unresolved anger and trust issues and the cop who has loved her since childhood rekindle a long-lost spark and learn that sometimes the legend of the town’s famed Kissing Bridge is true. A well-rounded assortment of secondary characters and some mysterious vandalism add to the mix. VERDICT Tender, sensual, and overflowing with New England charm, this appealing story is the perfect launch to Alward’s back-to-back series (Someone To Love [Mar.] and Somebody’s Baby [Apr.]) that community romance fans are certain to adore. Alward (The Cowboy’s Convenient Bride) lives in Nova Scotia.

redstarFeehan, Christine. Bound Together. Jove. (Sea Haven: Sisters of the Heart, Bk. 6). Mar. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780399583933. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399583940. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

boundtogether.jpg12717Five years ago, when undercover assassin Viktor Prakenskii shot Blythe Daniels’s pedophile stepfather at point-blank range, kissed her hard, and disappeared, he hadn’t thought he’d lose all contact with his young wife. But his letter and numerous messages strangely went astray, and when Viktor returns on a final mission, he must deal with a wary spouse, skeptical brothers, and a paranoid and deadly villain he’s vowed to bring down at all costs. Psychic and elemental magic swirls through this carefully plotted story as a deeply damaged hero finds home and belonging in the arms of a heroine who loves him enough to accept him as he is and strong enough to help him heal. ­VERDICT Sensual, violent, intense, and thrilling, this final stunning installment of the “Sea ­Haven: Sisters of the Heart” series is the one fans have been waiting for, and they won’t be disappointed. Feehan (Dark Promises) lives in Lake County, CA.

redstarFlorand, Laura. A Crown of Bitter Orange. Laura Florand. (La Vie en Roses, Bk. 3). Feb. 2017. 312p. ISBN 9781943168132. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781943168125. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When her grandmother leaves the once elite but now shuttered family perfume business to her and her two far-flung sisters, accountant Malorie Monsard goes on sabbatical from her high-powered New York position and returns to Grasse to deal with the properties and consider her options. Selling would be practical, but family tradition and memories soon exert their power, and Malorie has no choice but to reopen La Maison de Monsard. Of course, staying in the area means interacting with ultimate charmer and master perfumer Tristan Rosier, a man who proposed to her when they were five and whom she has been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to resist ever since. Two childhood friends finally put their substantial past differences (as well as their families’ generations-old issues) behind them in a lush, beautifully written story. VERDICT The descriptions are so exquisite that readers will be able to smell the orange blossoms drifting from the trees and will be packing their bags for the South of France. Note: A surprise appearance at the end ensures that the series will continue. Florand (Chase Me) lives in North Carolina.

Jamison, Darly. Strawberry Wine. Zebra Shout: Kensington. Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781420141641. pap. $4.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420141658. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Ten years ago, teenager Addison Monroe and college student Jake Grady shared a memorable summer, one that might have had a future if Addy, afraid of being hurt, hadn’t broken things off before Jake went back to school. Now they’re both back in town for Addy’s grandmother’s funeral, and while their lives have changed drastically, their feelings have not. Addy is forced to take a hard look at her recent engagement and maybe, for once, follow her heart. ­VERDICT As effervescent as young love and as delicious as strawberry wine, this sweetly sensual romance is a captivating read and will appeal to YA fans and new adult devotees. This title is Jamison’s print debut and the novel-length version of the novella that won Kensington’s “The Write Affair” competition. She lives in Toledo.

Shupe, Joanna. Mogul. Zebra: Kensington. (Knickerbocker Club, Bk. 3). Feb. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781420139884. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420139891. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Lillian Davies had never planned to kidnap anyone, let alone her former husband, powerful newspaper publisher Calvin Cabot. But when her brother, Tom, goes missing, Lily knows Calvin is the only one who can help. When he ignores her letters, she has no choice but to pluck him out of an opium den and take him home with her. Tom has run afoul of a relentless, deadly enemy whose web of crime and corruption goes deep. As Calvin and Lily are drawn into the morass, they must put their antagonism aside and work together—and the results are most surprising. Shupe (Baron) winds up her steamy “Knickerbocker Club” ­escapade through the varied social strata of New York’s glittering Gilded Age with a complex, danger-filled story that dips into the murky depths of the Chinese underworld. VERDICT An independent pair kept apart by lies and a dismal lack of communication come to terms with their feelings in this intricately plotted tale that is awash in secrets and peppered with sassy dialog, erotic sex, and a fascinating bit of history. A print version of the series-related e-novella Tycoon is a delightful bonus. Shupe lives in South Orange, NJ.

Beginnings

redstarBalogh, Mary. Someone To Hold. Jove. (Westcott, Bk. 2). Feb. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780451477804. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698411395. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Camilla Westcott is unwilling to let fate chart her course. After her father’s bigamous marriage and the appearance of Anastasia, a long-lost legitimate daughter, strip her of her title and wealth, Camilla secures a teaching position—for reasons she doesn’t quite understand—at the same orphanage where Anastasia grew up. Artist and part-time teacher Joel Cunningham isn’t sure why buttoned-up, humorless Camilla is there, either, and he’s certain she’ll never last. Yet Camilla surprises them both as she comes into her own and changes in unanticipated ways. A dutiful heroine finally comprehends what it means to love and be loved; a compassionate hero suddenly has issues of his own. This insightful romance brilliantly explores the concepts of class, privilege, and entitlement. VERDICT The importance of love and the ability to give and accept it are at the heart of this beautifully crafted, elegant book that plumbs the emotional depths of loss, abandonment, and belonging. A definite keeper from Balogh (Someone To Love), who lives in Canada.

James, Eloisa. Seven Minutes in Heaven. Avon. Feb. 2017. 404p. ISBN 9780062389459. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062389466. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Aristocratic Oxford don Edward Reeve, bastard son of an earl, has just sacked the governess and now needs a new one for his mischievous half-siblings. Naturally, Eugenia Snowe’s agency, noted for its premier employees, is his preferred option, and since his former “unsatisfactory” governess was from Snowe’s, he won’t take no for an answer. But widowed Eugenia is the daughter of a marquis and not to be cowed, even by a man as appealing as Ward, who has no idea of her true social status. However, Ward is involved in a custody battle, so when Eugenia has problems finding a suitable replacement, he’s not above whisking her away to his estate until a new governess arrives—in part for propriety’s sake but also because he’s always wanted to kidnap a woman. Although not directly aligned with earlier novels, this title features character links and a cameo appearance by the Duke of Villiers that are sure to delight James’s fans. VERDICT Graced with stinging banter, delicious sensuality, and lively wit, James’s latest Regency is pure magic. James (My American Duchess) lives in the New York City area.

redstarKleypas, Lisa. Devil in Spring. Avon. (Ravenels, Bk. 3). Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062371874. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062371904. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

devilinspring.jpg12717Lady Pandora Ravenel has plans—business plans—for her future, and they don’t include marriage. But when she agrees to do a risky favor for a friend, she ends up stuck in a summerhouse and rescued by Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, one of the ton’s most eligible bachelors. Now Pandora is faced with scandal or marriage, and her choice is definitely not marriage. It isn’t Gabriel’s first choice, either. Yet with her unconventional ideas and quicksilver mind, Pandora is as irresistible as she is independent, and Gabriel realizes that he would do just about anything to get her to agree to marry him—even remove obey from the vows. Spot-on historical detail, hilarious dialog, and an exquisitely appealing heroine make this book a winner. VERDICT Quirky, witty, and sexy, this compelling romp is absolute bliss. An addictive tale that readers won’t want to put down. Kleypas (Marrying Winterborne) lives in Washington State.

Macomber, Debbie. If Not for You. Ballantine. (New Beginnings, Bk. 3). Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780553391961. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780553391978. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Having left her Chicago hometown for Portland, OR, and now far from her controlling mother’s influence, music teacher Beth Prudhomme is tentatively spreading her wings. She even accepts a blind date with a man who would horrify her mother! But beneath his rough exterior, Sam Carney is a decent, caring guy, and although he’s not into relationships, when a texting teen driver lands Beth in the hospital, it’s Sam who’s there when she needs him. A likable supporting cast (Beth’s flamboyant, artistic Aunt Sunshine is a standout) keep the action moving and the plot intriguing in a well-crafted story that includes several romantic relationships and is rich with unresolved interpersonal issues. VERDICT Wholesome and thoughtful, Macomber’s latest is a heartwarming treat. Macomber (Twelve Days of Christmas) lives in Port ­Orchard, WA.

Probst, Jennifer. Any Time, Any Place. Gallery. (Billionaire Builders, Bk. 2). Feb. 2017. 480p. ISBN 9781501124266. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501124273. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Raven Bella Hawthorne’s artist father died in a car crash while running away with unhappily married Diane Pierce. Since then, Raven has vowed to get even with the woman’s wealthy family, whose vicious attacks ruined her father’s reputation and tore her world apart. Yet Raven’s life wasn’t the only one ruined. Dalton Pierce, the youngest of three brothers and a woodworker, still feels the pain of his mother’s leaving, and it doesn’t help that the death of his cruel, autocratic father has brought him back to Connecticut to run the family construction company with his siblings. One bright spot is Raven, the fascinating owner of the up-and-coming bar My Place, but he has no idea of their long-ago connection and that she’s out for revenge. VERDICT A hero struggling with abandonment issues and a heroine bent on vengeance find healing and love in an angsty story that is sure to keep the pages turning. Probst (Everywhere and Every Way) lives in upstate New York.

Ripper, Kris. As La Vista Turns. Riptide. (Queers of La Vista, Bk. 5). Mar. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781626494428. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626494411. LGBT ROMANCE

Though the guy responsible for a series of local killings has been caught, the community that frequents the neighborhood watering hole Club Fred is still fearful and grieving. What’s needed, of course, is a wake to help the community heal, and that’s just what Zane Jaffe is determined to help pull off—in addition to trying to get pregnant, decide on a sperm donor, and deal with her growing feelings for her BFF Mildred, aka “Dred.” Filled with familiar characters, smart dialog, and realistic situations, this humor-rich story has an authentic ring to it and should appeal to readers across the board. VERDICT The universal bonds of community, family, and love shine bright in this upbeat and insightful romance that is the perfect wrap-up to a popular and engaging series. The romance is complete here, but readers might want to start with the earlier books in the series. Ripper (One Life To Lose) lives in California.

Roberts, Sheila. Starting Over on Blackberry Lane. Mira: Harlequin. (Life in Icicle Falls, Bk. 10). Mar. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780778330035. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460396445. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Bakery owner Cass Wilkes has an empty house and a hole in her roof; Stefanie Stahl has a husband who starts and doesn’t finish projects; and food blogger and photographer Griffin James needs her house spruced up so she can sell it. What they all need is a handyman, so when widower and George Clooney look-alike Grant Masters, owner of Honey Do, puts his services up for auction at the annual Raise the Roof fundraiser, the three friends agree to pool their resources and end up winning the bid—and more. Amid repairs, romance blossoms, with sometimes unexpected but eventually satisfying results. VERDICT With her typical flair, Roberts has penned a down-to-earth, grin-inducing, and sensitive tale that is more women’s fiction than romance, but it will appeal to fans of small-town series. Roberts (Home on Apple Blossom Road) lives in the Pacific Northwest.

redstarRose, Karen. Every Dark Corner. Berkley. (Cincinnati, Bk. 4). Feb. 2017. 640p. ISBN 9780399583063. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399583070. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

everydarkcorner.jpg21417On the mend after taking a bullet to the chest while undercover during a human trafficking takedown, FBI Special Agent Griffin “Decker” Davenport isn’t about to let things rest—and neither is special agent and sharpshooter Kate Coppola. Somewhere out there kids are in danger, preyed upon by a depraved sociopath in charge of a child porn ring, and Kate and Decker are determined to find them and bring the crafty villain down. Multiple viewpoints, including the villain’s and one of the victim’s, add dimension to a timely, multi­layered story that is beautifully conceived and seamlessly linked to the earlier novels, enhanced with exceptional character development, and delivered with razor-sharp precision. VERDICT Gritty, dark, and occasionally uncomfortable, Rose’s latest foray into the abyss of human depravity and deception is another page-turning thriller. Note: This story is complete in itself, but owing to the complex interpersonal relationships among the characters, new readers may want to start the series in order. Rose (Alone in the Dark) lives in Florida.

Title, Sarah. The Undateable. Zebra: Kensington. (Librarians in Love, Bk. 1). Mar. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781420141832. pap. $4.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420141849. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When a video of a student flash mob in the Richmond College campus library goes viral and captures librarian Melissa “Bernie” Bernard looking grim, instantly her face becomes a meme for the Disapproving Librarian, and her world flips upside down. She seriously considers hiding until it all blows over, but since her boss thinks the whole thing is a marketing opportunity, that’s not an option. Then a fashion blog decides she’s a makeover candidate, and reporter Colin Rodriguez wants to make his mark (and secure his job) by turning the “undateable librarian” into one who’s totally desirable—and the stage is set for a lighthearted series launch. Snippets from Colin’s “Take a Letter, Maria” advice column add to the fun. VERDICT Delectably sensual, off-the-charts funny, and remarkably true to the academic library experience, this engaging story is a natural for the library community and every­one else who enjoys romantic comedies. Title (Practice Makes Perfect) lives in West Virginia.

newsworthy

“All Romance eBooks” Shuts Down

Readers and authors were caught off guard by the sudden closure at the end of December of All Romance eBooks, a romance ebook publisher and retailer. Bottom-line issues were given as the reason for this decision and the website has been taken offline. Discussion on the Internet abounds, and a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company and its owner, Lori James (ow.ly/DUdI308gZ1G). For a comment from the Romance Writers of America (RWA), go to ow.ly/EhPd308gZ6E.

RWA Librarians Day 2017 Alert

rwa.png21417RWA’s annual conference has undergone a major reorganization. Instead of being held before the main conference, as in years past, the 2017 Librarians Day event will be held on the last day, Saturday, July 29. The full schedule for Librarians Day has yet to be determined, but best-selling author Brenda Jackson is slated to be the luncheon speaker. Featured for the main conference are keynote luncheon speaker Susan Wiggs, Golden Heart Awards emcee Sherrilyn Kenyon, and RITA Awards emcee Ally Carter. If you are planning to attend the whole event, check the schedule (ow.ly/wFY6308h0vP), as it’s quite different from previous gatherings.

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader’s Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. 2d ed. (Libraries Unlimited, 2012)

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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About Kristin Ramsdell

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader's Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (Libraries Unlimited)

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