Romance Reviews, August 2012

Lazy Summer Reads Despite the unpredictable weather we have endured lately (winter tornadoes, anyone?), it’s reasonable to assume that August and early September will be as hot and sultry as they have always been. It’s days like these, when it’s too hot to move and even the flies slow down, that you know summer is on its way out and the frantic fury of fall will soon take charge. It is the perfect time to relax with a good romance. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices—steamy or sweet, serious or hilarious, true to life or paranormal. So grab a frosty glass, find a cool, shady spot, and settle in with one of these delectable treats.

Garwood, Julie. Sweet Talk. Dutton. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780525952862. $26.95. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
A survivor of childhood cancer and parental neglect, attorney Olivia MacKenzie advocates for children, works for the IRS, and secretly plans to send her corrupt, charismatic father to prison. A job interview explodes in violence, throwing Olivia into the orbit of magnetic FBI agent Grayson Kincaid, and suddenly she is forced to deal with an instantaneous, passionate attraction that is far more threatening to her peace of mind than the villain who wants her dead. A valiant heroine with her own agenda clashes with a hero who won’t take no for an answer in this dynamic mystery that tantalizes fans with plenty of red herrings, complex plotlines, and a delicious romantic relationship that isn’t quickly resolved. VERDICT Don’t be fooled by the sweet title! This riveting page-turner draws readers into a character-rich adventure that sensitively addresses family issues and highlights the importance of loyalty and long-term friendship. Garwood (The Ideal Man) lives near Kansas City.

starred review starGray, Juliana. A Lady Never Lies. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780425250921. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Concerned with his old friends’ dissolute lifestyle and wanting to be in Rome for an upcoming horseless carriage exhibition and race, inventor Phineas (Finn) Burke coerces them into going with him to Italy for a year of study and healthier living at a remote Tuscan castle. Unfortunately for Finn, the attractive, maddening Lady Alexandra Morley and her two companions have leased the very same castle. His idyllic vision goes up in smoke as six lives collide spectacularly with passionate sparks, lively banter, and flashes of humor. A heroine in need of funds and a hero determined to validate his invention are pitted against each other in a gently magical story—complete with cursed castle and mysterious inhabitants—that beautifully sets the stage for the next adventure in the series. VERDICT The charming plot, enlightening historical detail, breathtaking sensuality, and unusual 1890s Tuscan setting take a backseat to the exquisite characterizations, clever dialog, and addictive prose that make this exceptional debut stand apart. Fans will be anxious for the rest of the trilogy (A Gentleman Never Tells, Nov. 2012; A Duke Never Yields, Feb. 2013). Gray lives in the Northeast.

starred review starJames, Eloisa. The Ugly Duchess. Avon. Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780062021731. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

A tall, strong-featured heiress with striking potential but no beauty, Theodora Saxby despairs of attracting Lord Geoffrey Trevelyan’s attention. When James Ryburn, Earl of Islay, Theo’s best friend, complains that his father wants him to wed, the pair hit upon the perfect bargain: a faux courtship that will keep James’s scheming father off his back and make Geoffrey jealous. But it is James who ends up jealous as too much alcohol and a compromising kiss result in a wedding and a compelling, unforgettable story of betrayal, heartache, and love. ­VERDICT Exceptionally well-developed characters evolve with flair. Fast-paced, witty dialog, flawless plotting, exquisite sensuality, and a delectable dusting of humor make James’s latest reimagined fairy tale a joyful work of art that is not to be missed. The print version includes a bonus short story that is a little gem. James (This Duke Is Mine) lives in the New York City area. [The Ugly Duchess was chosen as a hot BEA pick. See “From Magick to BBQ & Backlist,” LJ 7/12, p. 35.]

The following titles are reviewed in the August print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Alers, Rochelle. Angels Landing. Forever: Grand Central. (Cavanaugh Island, Bk. 2). Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781455501380. pap. $7.99. MULTICULTURAL

Andersen, Susan. That Thing Called Love. HQN: Harlequin. (Razor Bay, Bk 1). Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780373776917. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

Anderson, Sarah M. A Man of Distinction. Harlequin Desire. Sept. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9780373731978. pap. $4.99. MULTICULTURAL

Castle, Jayne. The Lost Night. Jove: Penguin Group (USA). (Rainshadow, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780515152845. pap. $7.99. FUTURISTIC

Dodd, Christina. Wilder. Signet Select: Penguin Group (USA). (Chosen Ones, Bk. 5). Aug. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780451413246. pap. $7.99. PARANORMAL

Goodman, Jo. The Last Renegade. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 97804250250969. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

McMaster, Bec. Kiss of Steel. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (London Steampunk, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9781402270277. pap. $6.99. PARANORMAL

Novak, Brenda. When Lightning Strikes. Mira: Harlequin. (Whiskey Creek, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780778313519. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

Robards, Karen. The Last Victim. Ballantine. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780345535405. $26. PARANORMAL

Thomas, Jodi. Wild Texas Rose. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). (Whispering Mountain, Bk. 6). Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780425250372. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Wiggs, Susan. Return to Willow Lake. Mira: Harlequin. (Lakeshore Chronicles, Bk. 9). Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780778313847. $24.95. Contemporary

Second Time Around

Kelly, Carla. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand. Sweetwater Bks. Sept. 2012. c.468p. ISBN 9781462110605. pap. $8.99. REGENCY HISTORICAL

Michaels, Fern. Beyond Tomorrow. Severn House. Aug. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780727881670. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY

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)