What’s Old Is New Again, plus RWA Update | Romance Reviews

Intriguing Historical Expansion; or, The Historical Creep Not that historical romance is creepy, unless, of course, you’re talking about a particularly sinister gothic. Yet the subgenre is expanding its reach, creeping into decades previously considered off-limits or at least marginal (e.g., not old enough or romantic enough) or viewing traditional time frames from a variety of perspectives. For example, the first half of the 20th century is now considered fair game by most authors (see Amanda Quick’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much), and the Civil War has a very different look when seen through the eyes of a freedwoman-turned-spy (Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union). Despite these changes in direction, current favorite eras remain the British Regency and the Victorian periods, with many authors incorporating modern-day values and concerns into their stories. The relevance and popularity of those older settings are likely to continue even as the entire subgenre grows.

BACK IN THE DAY

Bennett, Anna. I Dared the Duke. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Wayward Wallflowers, Bk. 2). Apr. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781250100924. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250100931. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Alexander Savage, the notoriously difficult Duke of Blackshire, wants to send his grandmother out of London and off to his country estate. Elizabeth Lacey is her new companion and believes the older woman is being treated poorly. When Alex asks for Beth’s assistance, she proposes a bargain: she’ll urge the duchess to relocate if he grants his grandmother three wishes—wishes that involve his time and attention. Alex agrees, but after a series of unfortunate incidents, it’s becoming clear that his life is in danger, and until he can find out who wants him dead, he needs everyone he cares about to be as far away from him as possible, including the fearless, determined Miss Lacey. VERDICT Sharply drawn characters, clever dialog, simmering sensuality, and a dash of mystery make this well-crafted Regency thoroughly delightful. Bennett (My Brown-Eyed Earl) lives in Maryland.

redstarCole, Alyssa. An Extraordinary Union. Kensington. (Loyal League, Bk. 1). Apr. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496707444. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496707451. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

extraordinary.jpg42517With her eidetic memory and quick wit, Elle Burns, a Northern freedwoman and part of the Loyal League, is the perfect spy for the Union Army. Now a mute “slave” in the home of an influential Southern senator, Elle is shocked when her latest contact turns out to be the handsome Confederate soldier pretending to pay court to the senator’s spoiled daughter. But Malcolm McCall is no Johnny Reb; he’s a Scot by birth and a Pinkerton detective on a mission for the Union. When he and Elle learn of plans to break the Union blockade, they join forces in a perilous race against time to see the plot foiled. Based in part on historical characters and events, this carefully composed tale envisages aspects of the Civil War often overlooked. ­VERDICT Courageous, passionate protagonists fight for justice, freedom, and the right to love in an exceptional story that both educates and entertains and beautifully launches a unique series. Cole (Mixed Signals) lives in the Caribbean.

redstarGracie, Anne. Marry in Haste. Jove. (Marriage of Convenience, Bk. 1). May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780425283813. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698411630. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

As the second son of an earl, Maj. Calbourne Rutherford never imagined he’d ascend to the title. When his older brother dies with no heir, Cal, now Lord Ashendon, inherits an estate in disarray and the guardianship of three happily undisciplined young women. He needs help, and his sisters’ former teacher, tall, cool-voiced Emmaline Westwood, is perfect for the job. Unfortunately, Emm can’t afford to take a temporary position, and Cal is desperate to get back to tracking down a sharp-shooting assassin. As Emm refuses, Cal does the only thing he can—he proposes marriage. ­VERDICT With deep character insight, subtle humor matched with rapier wit, and brilliant repartee, Gracie puts a refreshing spin on a classic romance trope and delivers another knockout Regency that will keep fans enthralled. Gracie (The Summer Bride) lives in Melbourne, Australia.

redstarGuhrke, Laura Lee. The Truth About Love and Dukes. Avon. (Dear Lady Truelove, Bk. 1). Apr. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062469854. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062469861. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

truthaboutlove.jpg42517Henry Cavanaugh, Duke of Torquil, is furious when he discovers that his widowed mother plans to take the advice of scandal sheet columnist “Lady Truelove” to follow her heart and marry a ne’er-do-well Italian artist. He confronts Irene Deverill, the Society Snippets’ outspoken publisher, and gets something of a tongue-lashing for his trouble. Taking matters into his own hands, Henry makes a deal with Irene’s father to buy the paper in return for introducing Irene and her younger sister into society and paving the way for a reconciliation with the girls’ estranged, titled grandparents. Now the boss, Henry proffers a choice: while living in Henry’s family’s mansion, Irene must persuade his mother not to marry the artist or he will shut the paper down. Verbal and emotional sparks fly as Henry and Irene try to resist their inexplicable attraction—with very poor results. A fiercely independent heroine determined to control her own life and a hero whose rigid upbringing wars with his innately sensitive side are caught off-guard by their feelings and forced to rethink their ideas about love, marriage, and women’s rights. VERDICT This engaging Victorian romance is sure to enchant. Guhrke (No Mistress of Mine) lives in the ­Pacific Northwest.

redstarQuick, Amanda. The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Berkley. May 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780399174476. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698193628. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

The bloody word run, written on the wallpaper, was all it took for Anna Harris to flee the scene of her boss’s brutal murder. Even though she’s reinvented herself as aspiring reporter Irene Glasson and is living on the other side of the country in tiny Burning Cove, CA, she senses she’s in harm’s way and all because of a cryptic notebook in her care. She hopes not to call attention to herself, but then the actress she was in town to interview ends up at the bottom of the pool at the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel. Now Irene and compelling magician–turned–hotel owner Oliver Ward are swept up in a game of mystery and suspense that becomes more complex by the page. Suspicion battles with attraction as our protagonists work to overcome their trust issues and put the puzzle pieces together. VERDICT This swiftly moving romance brims with surprising plot twists, delicious sensuality, and a delightfully classy 1930s California setting. An adventurous romp that will have readers hungry for more. Quick (’Til Death Do Us Part) lives in Seattle.

Ranney, Karen. The English Duke. Avon. (Dukes, Bk. 2). Apr. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062466891. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062466921. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Martha York is incensed when science-oriented Jordan Hamilton, the Duke of Roth, refuses to come for the papers her late inventor father wanted him to have. With her beautiful, self-centered younger sister and canny grandmother in tow, Martha sets out for the duke’s estate to deliver the research herself. A quick trip is planned until Gran becomes indisposed. Jordan and Martha end up collaborating and bonding, but a conniving miss manipulates the truth, with a near disastrous outcome. VERDICT Exceptional characters, a self-serving villainess, and fascinating detail about under­water vessels combine in this rewarding, sweetly sensual Victorian romance; the perfect addition to Ranney’s latest series. Ranney (The Scottish Duke) lives in San Antonio.

the here and now

Carr, Robyn. Any Day Now. Mira: Harlequin. (Sullivan’s Crossing, Bk. 2). Apr. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780778319917. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460396612. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Nine months sober and looking for a fresh start, Sierra Jones leaves Iowa and heads for the Rocky Mountains to reconnect with her brother, Cal, and consider her options. It doesn’t take her long to fall in love with the community and a mistreated golden retriever, but with her past history of picking the wrong men, that’s all she plans to fall in love with. Hunky firefighter Conrad “Connie” Boyle decides he’s the “right” one for her, but Sierra is hiding a frightening secret that could turn deadly if she doesn’t admit she needs help. Abuse, mental illness, addiction, and a host of other issues add a realistic touch to this immersive, upbeat romance. VERDICT Captivating protagonists, colorful supporting characters, and a multithreaded story line make this a welcome addition to what is promising to be a fully involving series, with appeal for both women’s fiction and romance fans. Carr (The Life She Wants) lives in Henderson, NV.

Denault, Victoria. Score. Forever: Grand Central. (San Francisco Thunder, Bk. 1). May 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781455597666. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455597673. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

The last time real estate agent Zoey Quinlin saw her summer crush Jude Braddock was when they were teenagers in Maine—their relationship ended with one unfortunate date. It’s now 11 years later, and hockey super­star and team Romeo Jude is no longer the awkward adolescent he once was. When he and Zoey unexpectedly reconnect, the chemistry begins to bubble up, and Jude makes plans to finish what he started years ago. Unfortunately for him, Zoey is in the middle of a messy, vindictive divorce, and until she’s free, she has no intention of having a fling. She could use a friend, though, but being “just friends” with Jude is not going to be easy. The first-person, present-tense narrative and alternating hero/heroine POVs keep readers in the moment, while a surfeit of sparkling secondary characters points to some great stories to come. ­VERDICT Sexy, sassy, and a perfect new adult read for fans who love hockey and romance, not necessarily in that order. An excellent new sports series launch. Denault (On the Line) lives in Los Angeles.

redstarDiamond, Tess. Dangerous Games. Avon. Apr. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062655806. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062655813. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Struggling with the aftereffects of a kidnapping gone bad, former crack FBI negotiator Maggie Kincaid leaves the bureau and is not about to go back. Then a senator’s insulin-dependent teenage daughter is snatched, and Maggie’s shrewd former boss and mentor talks her into returning—temporarily, of course. Yet Maggie is determined to save the girl and without interference from arrogant Army Ranger Jake O’Connor. Jake is a covert missions expert on special assignment as the senator’s security adviser, and his ideas are already conflicting with hers. Heat builds and awareness smolders from the start, but they soon learn that they need to keep their growing passions at bay in order to unmask a villain and save a girl whose time is running out. VERDICT Insightful character development, a smart and complicated plot, and sizzling sexual tension make this stunning debut a heart-stopping, stay-up-all-night read. ­Diamond lives in Colorado Springs.

James, Julie. The Thing About Love. Berkley. Apr. 2017. 365p. ISBN 9780425273777. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780425273784. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Six years ago, supersmart attorney Jessica Harlow and brash, self-assured U.S. Army Ranger John Shepherd met during FBI training at Quantico; clashed all the way to graduation; and hoped never to see each other again. And they don’t—until they end up in the same office and are sent off on an undercover assignment to Florida to expose the corrupt Jacksonville mayor. Despite their best professional intentions, the sniping starts, and the fireworks begin—and then an unplanned kiss lights a fire of a different kind, one they will be hard-pressed to tamp down. Rapid-fire banter, humor, and an action-filled plot move the story along at a steady pace, and the “he said/she said” chapters add background about their enmity. VERDICT A pair of independent, relentlessly competitive operatives finally sort things out in this sexy romance that fans of upbeat, cosmopolitan suspense are sure to enjoy. James (Suddenly One Summer) lives in Chicago.

Miller, Linda Lael. Forever a Hero. HQN: Harlequin. (Carsons of Mustang Creek, Bk. 3). Apr. 2017. 395p. ISBN 9780373789702. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460394144. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Being rescued twice by the same man—once from a rapist, once from a car teetering on a Wyoming cliff edge—makes that man a certified hero in Kelly Wright’s book. But being dragged from a car on a stormy night is not how Kelly wanted to see winemaker Mace Carson for the first time in ten years, especially now that she’s come all the way from Los Angeles to coax him into making a deal with the wine distribution company for which she works. Mace wants no part of it, but he’s more than willing to let Kelly try. Lively banter and characters both new and familiar keep the story moving and the romance humming along nicely. VERDICT Laughter-laced yet brushed with danger, this family-filled heartwarmer is rich with the flavor of the modern-day West and is the perfect ending to Miller’s latest trilogy. Miller (Always a Cowboy) lives in the ­Spokane area.

redstarMoore, Laura. Making Waves. Ballantine. (Beach Lane, Bk. 1). May 2017. 400p. ISBN . pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780425284834. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Dakota Hale, expert surfer, bastard daughter of one of the makingwaves.jpg42517Hamptons’ oldest families, and owner of an up-and-coming concierge business, is dead set on making her business a success. When financial guru Max Carr buys her family’s ancestral home and then hires her to provide concierge service, all bets are off as she wars with her family, her career goals, and her unwanted attraction to the sexy Max. Scintillating description, conflicted characters, brilliant if crazy family dynamics, and a superb sense of place will leave fans anticipating the next book in the series. VERDICT Spicy, tender, and vivid with posh Hamptons ambience, this compelling story hooks readers from the start and never lets go; thoroughly charming. Moore (Once Touched) lives in Rhode ­Island.

Novak, Brenda. Finding Our Forever. Harlequin Special Edition. (Silver Springs, Bk. 1). Apr. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780373623389. pap. $5.75; ebk. ISBN 9781488014116. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Cora Kelly adores her adoptive parents, but for the past six years she has been secretly searching for her birth mother and now has finally located her—Aiyana Turner, the owner of the New Horizons Boys Ranch, a private boarding school for troubled teens. Keeping the relationship a secret, Cora accepts a job as the school’s new art teacher, but when she falls for Elijah Turner, the ranch manager and eldest of Aiyana’s eight adopted sons, she realizes she’s going to have to tell him—and Aiyana—the truth. Child abuse and long-kept secrets are at the core of this intense, heartfelt story that makes real the fictional Silver Springs. ­VERDICT This brief romance nicely kicks off Novak’s “Silver Springs” series. (No One but You and Until You Loved Me will be published by Mira: Harlequin in June and August, respectively.) Novak (The Secrets She Kept) lives in the Sacramento, CA, area.

redstarPope, Jamie. Hope Blooms. Dafina: Kensington. Apr. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496708687. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496708694. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Kindergarten teacher Cassandra Miller’s life was shattered when an abusive father’s bullet killed her husband and her unborn child. Now almost a year later, she is wasting away, still grieving, not caring whether she lives or dies. At her wit’s end, Cass’s mother calls on the one person who might help—former marine Wylie James Everett, once Cass’s dearest friend and lover as well as foster brother to her husband—and the man who walked out on them both ten years ago. One look at Cass, and Wylie James knows he has to do something, so he takes her home with him to Martha’s Vineyard, determined to help her learn to live again. A cast of entertaining characters you hope to meet again add gentle humor, warmth, and authenticity. VERDICT This tender, exquisitely written romance runs the emotional gamut and touches the heart; a poignant, uplifting story. Pope (Mine at Midnight) lives in New York.

Sands, Lynsay. Immortal Unchained. Avon. (Argeneau, Bk. 25). Apr. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780062468840. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062468857. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Nothing, not even her job as a cop, could have prepared Sarita Reyes for the gruesome scene in the deranged Dr. Dressler’s island laboratory or his off-the-wall talk of nanobots, vampires, and life-mates. When Sarita awakens after being drugged, she realizes that she and gorgeous vampire Domitian Argenis are not only prisoners—and the subjects of the mad scientist’s latest experiment—but, indeed, those life-mates. They know they must get off the island if they’re going to save themselves and the others Dressler holds captive. VERDICT Heart-pounding sex, stirring banter, high-risk adventure, and intelligent characters make this 25th series installment another winner; sure to please both dedicated fans and new readers. Sands (Falling for the ­Highlander) lives in London, Ont.

Summers, Michele. Sweet Southern Trouble. Sourcebooks Casablanca. May 2017. 416p. ISBN 9781402293641. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402293658. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Charged with the responsibility of inducing NFL coach Nick Frasier, the uncle of one of her kindergartners, to help out with the school’s fundraiser, teaching assistant (and high school tennis coach) Marabelle Fairchild is shocked when her facetious idea of holding a bachelor auction is embraced. Now she has to prevail upon Nick to talk his friends and teammates into participating. Nick resists, but Marabelle intrigues him, and when they end up in a fake engagement, thanks to an impulsive remark, their relationship takes a predictable but not always comfortable turn. Likable protagonists keep the plot on track, while a diverse cast of supporting characters add complications of their own. VERDICT Laugh-out-loud humor and stellar sensuality add up to a lively Southern treasure. Summers (Sweet Southern Bad Boy) lives in North ­Carolina.

Second Time Around

Delinsky, Barbara. The Outsider. Severn House. May 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780727886903. $28.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When her sailboat capsizes during a storm, a reclusive, island-bred healer is rescued by a stranger who turns out to be far more than the ordinary research scientist he claims to be, in this early classic romance. First published in 1992 as part of Harlequin Temptation’s “Rebels & Rogues” series, this all-consuming, character-driven story has kept its appeal, while the paranormal aspect adds a twist.

RWA 2017rwa.png21417

RWA 2017 Library Grant Winner

The Philipsburgh Public Library, MT, is the winner of this year’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) Library Grant. In keeping with the requirements, the library will use the $4,500 award to expand its large-print romance holdings and purchase eight ereaders and preload them with romance novels.

RWA 2017 Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year

Danielle King, Alafaya Branch, Orange County Library System, Orlando, FL

RWA 2017 Vivian Stephens Industry Award

Tina Dick, Editor in Chief, Walking in the Clouds

RWA 2017 Academic Research Grants

Dr. Ria Cheyne (Liverpool Hope Univ., England), “The Disability and Romance Project”; Dr. Kate Brown (Huntington Univ., IN), “Dukes, Dowers, Devises, and Demesnes: The Paradoxical Place of English Law in the Historical Romance”

Librarians’ Day!

Plans are well under way for Librarians’ Day at the annual RWA conference in July. Set for the final day of the get-together, Saturday, July 29, the event presents a mix of librarians, authors, and industry professionals on a series of panels addressing topics such as “Top Romance Trends and How To Use Them in Your Library” and “The Language of Love: How To Talk Romance When Doing Readers’ Advisory,” as well as YA Romance and a preview of romances releasing this fall. The luncheon speaker will be Brenda Jackson, a best-selling author of more than 100 romance novels and a member of RWA’s Hall of Fame. The cost of the entire day is $25. For more information and to register, go to www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=795.

Note: Scholarships for the day’s registration fee are available. For application details, go to www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=129. The day ends with an open Literacy Signing, with hundreds of authors available for chat and photo ops.

Harlequin Dare

harlequindare.jpg42517Using the London Book Fair as a backdrop, Harlequin announced the launch of Harlequin Dare, a new line of “riveting, irresistible romance stories featuring highly explicit sexual encounters, making it the publisher’s sexiest series ever.” Strong, empowered heroines who “dare” are paired with hot, successful, alpha-male heroes in intense, character-driven stories made all the more glamorous by the international settings. (Idyllic American small towns are probably not on the menu here.) The books will be about 50,000 words in length, with the first titles scheduled for release in January 2018. Four titles will be issued each month in ebook format in North America and in both print and ebook formats in Australia and the UK. Do we dare not pay attention?

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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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