Indulge Your Readers’ Passions | Romance Reviews

What Is It About a Duke? Despite the rarity in real life of the existence of dukes, as well as other nobles, they are alive, well, and constantly multiplying on the pages of popular historical romances—especially those set during the 19th century. Although there has always been a trend toward aristocratic heroes, more so in earlier traditional Regencies that focused primarily on the socially elite, lately the number of dukes seems to be increasing. It’s only natural that authors want their heroes to be exceptional, and aside from royalty, a duke is about as singular as a historical ideal can get. If your readers’ passions run toward high-ranking title-holders, check out the works below.

LOVE THOSE NOBLES

Ashford, Jane. The Duke Knows Best. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Duke’s Sons, Bk. 5). Dec. 2017. 354p. ISBN 9781492621683. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492621690. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Verity Sinclair was raised in the staid environment of the Chester Cathedral with her father, the dean, and she is finally having her first London Season—and looking for adventure. She certainly doesn’t want to marry a country vicar, even one as handsome and wellborn as Lord Randolph Gresham. Fortunately, Randolph isn’t interested in Verity, either. She’s far too opinionated, and there’s the embarrassing matter of the ram in the Christmas pageant that landed him in the Archbishop’s bad graces and is sure not to sit well with Verity’s straitlaced father. She is definitely off his list, so why is he being asked to sing an impromptu duet with her at a party? The flawless blending of their voices and the pure joy of the moment stun them both, forcing the pair to rethink their feelings as well as their individual goals. VERDICT Smart repartee, a host of delightful characters, exceptional period detail, and music so beautifully described that readers can almost hear it float off the page make this exquisite charmer one to savor. Ashford (Nothing Like a Duke) lives in Beverly Hills, CA.

redstarChase, Loretta. A Duke in Shining Armor. Avon. (Difficult Duke, Bk. 1). Dec. 2017. 383p. ISBN 9780062457387. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062457394. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Smart, well-read Lady Olympia ­High­tower has no idea why the scapegrace Duke of Ashmont proposed to her, but she knows that she only accepted for the financial good of her family (and their library, of course). Now, minutes before the wedding, she’s having second thoughts. Fortified with a bit too much brandy, she flees into the rain, only to be seen and tracked down by the Duke of Ripley, one of Ashmont’s best friends and another of the three notorious Dis-Graces. All Ripley wants to do is bring her back to her intended, but the more time they spend together, the less sure he is of his own intentions. A canny bluestocking virgin and an honorable rakehell duke lead fans on a rollicking escapade in a delectable story that overflows with Chase’s signature lively wordplay, hilarity, and simmering sexual tension. VERDICT Another riveting read from the unparalleled Chase (Dukes Prefer Blondes); she lives in Worcester, MA. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17; see also “Editors’ Fall Picks,” LJ 9/1/17, p. 34.]

Grey, Amelia. To the Duke, with Love. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Rakes of St. James, Bk. 2). Dec. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781250102515. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250102522. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Knowing his scandalous past could ruin his sweet younger sister’s chances for a good marriage, Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawks­thorn, hopes to short-circuit the gossip and get Adele betrothed before the season begins. He sets his sights on affable Paxton Quick, but then his plans go awry when he finds himself engaged in a fierce battle with Paxton’s outspoken older sister, Loretta. She’s not about to let her brother be caught in the arranged marriage trap that almost ensnared her, and she challenges Hawk at every turn. Naturally, Paxton and Adele have something to say as well. A colorful supporting cast, including an intriguing street urchin, keep the action swift and realistic. VERDICT Sparks arc between perfectly matched protagonists as they fight their feelings and each other in a sexy, spirited story that will not disappoint. Grey (Last Night with the Duke) lives on the coast of Northwest Florida.

redstarKrahn, Betina. A Good Day To Marry a Duke. Zebra: Kensington. (Sin & Sensibility, Bk. 1). Dec. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781420143478. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420143485. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

When newly rich Daisy Bumgarten’s free-spirited Nevada ways collide poorly with the notions of the snobbish New York elite, her social-climbing mother sweeps her off to England with one goal in mind: Daisy must marry a duke and ensure her younger sisters’ futures. Guilt-ridden Daisy agrees, determined to become oh-so-proper and prove herself worthy of a duke’s notice. She succeeds remarkably well, until Lord Ashton Graham, the targeted noble’s skeptical brother, sets out to expose her true motives but ends up being captivated by the irrepressible Daisy in the process. Quick wit, bright humor, and a cast of vivid characters result in a refreshing romance that is vintage Krahn. VERDICT A brilliant start to an engaging new trilogy—and the author’s first historical in a decade. Krahn (Soldier’s Rescue) lives in Bradenton, FL. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17.]

redstarOwens, Robin D. Heart Sight. Jove. (Celta, Bk. 15). Dec. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780451488176. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780451488183. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

HeartMates since childhood, holographic artist Avellana Hazel and seer Vinni T’Vine, the Prophet of Celta, descend from ­Celta’s most important families and know it’s finally time they were wed. But for years, there have been attempts on Avellana’s life owing to rumors of her dangerous Flair, and Vinni has done his best to protect her—only now the threats are becoming more serious and closer to home. A feared yet at-risk heroine who finally takes control of her life and an overprotective hero who learns to give her room to fly claim their love despite obstacles. This politically and religiously nuanced story is as insightful and thought provoking as it is romantic. VERDICT Exquisite worldbuilding, realistic character development, and a lightly humorous touch make this another stellar addition to Owens’s exceptional series. Gorgeously done. Owens (Heart Legacy) lives in the Denver area.

Rodale, Maya. It’s Hard Out Here for a Duke. Avon. (Keeping up with the Cavendishes, Bk. 4). Dec. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062386816. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062386793. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

American-born horse breeder James ­Cavendish never wanted to be a duke. He’d never even thought about it until his father died, and now he’s heading to England with his three younger sisters in tow, expected to assume the responsibilities of the Durham title. Still, for one more night he wants to be just James, having a pint at the pub and maybe finding connection. He certainly doesn’t hope for an unforgettable evening or for the mysterious woman he meets to be his aunt’s companion ­Meredith Green. Determined to keep her distance, Meredith understands the danger of scandal even if James does not. Though class and culture clash fiercely as James struggles to learn his “Duke Lessons,” he’s a bit too American to let social station taboos keep them apart. A reluctant duke who comes into his own and a gently bred commoner with a past risk disgrace for love. VERDICT A lighthearted romp enhanced by witty quotes from The Rules for Dukes; a perfect addition to the series. Rodale (Lady Claire Is All That) lives in New York City.

REGULAR FOLKS

Cole, Alyssa. A Hope Divided. Kensington. (Loyal League, Bk. 2). Dec. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496707468. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496707475. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Trained at her mother’s knee in herbal medicinal arts, freedwoman Marlie Lynch is taken in by her white father’s family at Lynchwood. She spends her time crafting new remedies and secretly helping the Union cause, which includes hiding escaped prisoner Ewan McCall in her lab. Her uneasy peace is shattered when a vicious in-law invites the arrogant Commander Cahill and his ruthless Confederate Home Guard to move into the house. Before long, Marlie and Ewan are fleeing for their lives on the Underground Railroad, with peril close behind. A quietly courageous healer and a Union officer battle hatred, intolerance, and cruelty in a compelling story of the Civil War told from an often neglected point of view. VERDICT Exceptional historical detail and abundant literary and philosophical references guarantee this well-written story will appeal to both romance and historical fiction fans. Cole (An Extraordinary Union) lives in New York City. [See “Editors’ Fall Picks,” LJ 9/1/17, p. 34.]

Douglas, Emma. No Place Like You. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Cloud Bay, Bk. 1). Dec. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781250111029. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250111036. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Years ago, teenager Leah Santelli spent one passionate night with Zach Harper before he left town to become the rock star he was meant to be. Now Zach has returned to their tiny island community. With some of his bandmates taking time off, Zach is home to record his first solo album in the studio that had made his dad a legend. But Zach needs a producer. Leah, now a sound engineer and in charge of the studio, is the perfect choice, and she’s thrilled at the opportunity. But working so closely sets some old embers ablaze, and though Leah is determined not to lose her heart—again—Zach is coming to realize that she is the one he really wants. VERDICT Modern, upbeat, and sexy, this music-rich story drops readers into the heart of the recording business. It includes just enough detail to make it seem real while delivering a satisfying reunion romance. Douglas (A Season of You) lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Jordan, Sophie. Beautiful Lawman. Avon. (Devil’s Rock, Bk. 4). Dec. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780062666567. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062666574. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Living down her family’s reputation in a small town like Sweet Hill, TX, isn’t easy, but Piper Walsh has been doing her best to keep things together for her sister and herself until their brother gets out of prison and they can move away and start new lives. Who does condescending Sheriff Hale ­Walters think he is, interfering and telling her how to behave? Yet as the antagonism between them grows, so does an attraction that is impossible to resist, despite their best efforts. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks and an arrogant lawman clash superbly from the get-go in this supersteamy romance that benefits from a dash of menace and a life-altering revelation. VERDICT Sure to keep the pages turning and fans of the series enthralled. Jordan (The Scandal of It All) lives in Houston. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17.]

redstarKrentz, Jayne Ann. Promise Not To Tell. Berkley. Jan. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780399585272. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399585265. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Twenty-two years ago, Virginia Troy was one of eight children rescued from a blazing barn by Anson Salinas when cult leader Quinton Zane decided to cut his losses, burn his compound—and everyone in it—to the ground, and run. But Virginia, now a successful art gallery owner, hasn’t forgotten that nightmare. When one of her artists, a reclusive woman who was once part of the cult, dies in a fire, she suspects murder and at long last reaches out to the cop-turned-­PI who saved her. She is more than astonished to find one of her fellow “survivors” in Anson’s employ. Cabot Sutter is as haunted by the past as is Virginia and just as determined to track down the killer. VERDICT Fast paced, chilling, and totally engrossing, this latest romantic thriller takes readers on an intense roller-coaster ride filled with unpredictable loops, passion, and wry wit—with more adventures to come. Krentz (When All the Girls Have Gone) lives in Seattle. [Previewed in Joyce Sparrow’s “Love Is All Around,” LJ 10/15/17.]

redstarMorgan, Sarah. Moonlight over Manhattan. HQN: Harlequin. (From Manhattan with Love, Bk. 6). Dec. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780373804030. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488022753. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When a disastrous “date escape” out a bar bathroom window lands professional dog walker Harriet Knight in the emergency room with a twisted ankle, she figures that’s the last she’ll see of disapproving ER doctor Ethan Black. Then she learns that he is the reluctant, clueless, temporary dogsitter for one of her canine clients and could use her help big time. Suddenly, her life is more challenging—and a lot more romantic. The verbal barbs fly and the chemistry sizzles as these two opposites learn that each has what the other needs. A shy heroine finds her mettle and a driven physician gains a fresh perspective on life (and dogs) in a romance that brings love to a deserving duo. VERDICT This touching seasonal sparkler delivers on all counts, whether readers live in Manhattan or not. Morgan (Holiday in the Hamptons) lives near London, England. [See Best Genre Fiction 2017, Romance, p. 28.]

Last-minute HOLIDAY GOODY

Scott, Regina. His Frontier Christmas Family. Love Inspired Historical. (Frontier Bachelors, Bk. 7). Dec. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780373425501. pap. $5.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488017964. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Callie Murphy is stunned when new Wallin’s Landing pastor Levi Wallin tells her that her brother Adam died in the gold fields. As if that weren’t shocking enough, it seems Adam named Levi guardian to his baby daughter, to Callie, and to Callie’s twin brothers. Now Levi has invited them all to live with him, and what choice does she have? But Callie was raised in the gold camps, and that hardscrabble and violent life has left her defensive and wary—especially of people as alien to her as these folks seem to be. Trust is slow in coming, but as the Wallins work their heartwarming magic, Callie and Levi drop their barriers. VERDICT A pastor struggling to make up for his errant past and a young woman who needs to learn to trust find forgiveness, acceptance, and love. This family-rich, faith-infused Christmastime read is perfect for series fans and newcomers alike. Scott (Mail-Order Marriage Promise) lives in Tacoma.

Newsworthy: Audible Romance

Amazon has announced the launch of its Audible Romance Package that will allow readers unlimited access to a large number of audiobook romances—best sellers, Audible Originals, and Audible Exclusives—for $6.99 (add-on to an Audible subscription) or $14.95 (stand-alone subscription). For more information, see www.audible.com/romanceme.

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)

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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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