Romance Reviews | February 15, 2014

THE APPEAL OF IMPERFECTION What is it about the physically wounded or damaged hero or the disabled or not-quite-beautiful heroine that attracts readers, as more of these characters seem to be doing lately? Apparently, someone got the message that romance devotees don’t want to read about only “perfect” people, e.g., all those breathtakingly stunning, talented women and strong, drop-dead gorgeous men who have everything going for them. As much as that kind of perfection is admired, individuals who are a little bit flawed and somewhat impaired—just like the rest of us—yet come out on top are much more interesting and their stories more heartening. Here are few titles where imperfections are the perfect thing.

doordie022814Brockmann, Suzanne. Do or Die. Ballantine. (Reluctant Heroes, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 576p. ISBN 9780345543790. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345543806. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Ex–Navy SEAL and convicted jewel thief Ian Dunn went to prison in order to keep his family safe from the mob. When a shadowy government agency offers him his freedom in exchange for his help in rescuing a pair of kidnapped children and won’t take no for an answer, he does the only thing he can—he kidnaps attorney Phoebe Kruger and sets out to protect his family (and stay alive himself) in the fallout that is sure to come. Between avoiding the mob, finding the kids, and dealing with his growing feelings for Phoebe, Ian has his hands full. ­VERDICT Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and superbly plotted, this nonstop thriller will leave fans breathless and is a flawless start to Brockmann’s new series. Brockmann (Headed for Trouble) divides her time among Siesta Key, FL, New York, and Boston. [See Prepub Alert, 9/15/13.]

redstarDare, Tessa. Romancing the Duke. Avon. (Castles Ever After, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062240194. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062240163. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

With a name like hers, Isromancing-the-duke022814olde Ophelia Goodnight should have been headed for romance. Instead, left destitute by the death of her author father, she is heading for a surprise inheritance from her godfather and her last hope—a moldering property in Northumberland, Gostley Castle. But the castle is not empty. An angry—and nearly blind—Ransom William Dacre Vane, Duke of Rothbury, insists that the property is his and Izzy can’t stay, setting the scene for a passionate, touching, sometimes hilarious romp that has surprises at every turn. An undaunted heroine who believes in love, a wary hero who doesn’t, and a supporting cast like none you’ve ever seen practically spring from the pages of this refreshing, heartfelt tale and skillfully propel the plot to its breathtaking, satisfying conclusion. ­VERDICT Humor, whimsy, and joy overflow as a most unlikely pair find their happy ending in this fairy tale–come–to–life, the first of what promises to be another addictive series for Dare (Any Duchess Will Do), who lives in Southern California.

redstarJeffries, Sabrina. When the Rogue Returns. Pocket. (Duke’s Men, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781451693485. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451693522. HISTORICAL ROMANCEwhen-the-rogue-returns022814

Ten years earlier, newlyweds Isabella and Victor Cale’s lives were shattered when treachery and distrust (and some stolen royal jewels) drove them apart and out of each other’s lives. For years, Victor searched for Isa and for years she hid. Now, as an investigator for Manton’s Investigations, Victor heads to Edinburgh to look into the background of a local nobleman’s intended. Of course, the respectable widow, an expert paste jeweler, turns out to be Isa, and suddenly both their worlds change as they come to terms with what really happened a decade ago. VERDICT Plot twists galore, a pair of appealing, conflicted protagonists, and a cadre of delightful secondary characters make this a perfect addition to ­Jeffries’s “Duke’s Men” series. This beautifully crafted romance reveals the gradual but exquisite renewing of a broken relationship; sure to become a keeper for the author’s many fans. Jeffries (What the Duke Desires) lives in Cary, NC.

redstarLerner, Rose. Sweet Disorder. Samhain. (Lively St. Lemeston, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 324p. ebk. ISBN 9781619219731. $5.50. REGENCY ROMANCE

sweetdisorder022814Widowed and the happily independent writer of Improving Tales for Young People, Phoebe Sparks is not about to marry again, especially not simply to make someone a “freeman” in time to vote locally in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But then wounded war veteran Nick Dymond shows up at her door, charged by his lady mother with marrying Phoebe off to ensure his brother Tony’s election, and Phoebe learns that the reputation of her teenage sister is about to be ruined if Phoebe doesn’t wed appropriately. Admirable, complex, immensely likable protagonists are complemented by a diverse cast of beautifully realized secondary characters (a pert, flirty maid and a delightfully starchy valet named Toogood are especially diverting) in a smart, literate, Regency-era tale that bypasses general ton glitter for village drama (and a dash of scandal) and drops readers into a refreshing, insightful mix of family dilemmas, business and political machinations, and social class differences that won’t disappoint. VERDICT Graced with sharp, realistic detail, lively wit, wry humor, and a sexy, erotic edge, this well-written story will leave fans anxious for their next visit to Lively St. Lemeston. Lerner (A Lily Among Thorns) lives in the Seattle area.

Woods, Sherryl. Home to Seaview Key. Mira: Harlequin. (Seaview Key, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780778315896. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460325278. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCEhometoseaviewkey022814

Nearly drowning is not normally the best way to meet men, but when Abby Dawson Miller is rescued from the surf by paramedic Seth Landry, she can’t deny the attraction. Newly divorced Abby is back in town to make a fresh start and recover the part of herself she’s lost. She’s definitely not looking for love. Neither is Seth. Matchmaking friends, Abby’s plans to develop her family’s property at Blue Heron Cove, a few meddling busybodies, and a host of other issues keep life simmering and the action on track in a story that is both realistic and romantic. ­VERDICT Warm, poignant, and satisfying, this second title in Woods’s “Seaview Key” series is an exceptional read. New York Times best-selling author Woods (Seaview Inn) divides her time between Key Biscayne, FL, and ­Colonial Beach, VA.

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Burrowes, Grace. The MacGregor’s Lady. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781402268724. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402268731. HISTORICAL ROMANCE


Carr, Robyn. The Chance. Mira: Harlequin. (Thunder Point, Bk. 4). Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780778315995. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460326992. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Dawson, Delilah S. Wicked After Midnight. Pocket. (Blud, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781451657913. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451657937. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Ekholm, Marion. Just Like Em. Harlequin Heartwarming. Feb. 2014. 393p. ISBN 9780373366651. pap. $6.50; ebk. ISBN 9781460328309. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Fennell, Judi. What a Woman Wants. Berkley Sensation. (Manley Maids, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780425268292. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101625477. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

London, Julia. The Trouble with Honor. HQN: Harlequin. (Cabot Sisters, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780373778454. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460327098. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Maxwell, Cathy. The Bride Says No. Avon. (Brides of Wishmore, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 371p. ISBN 9780062219251. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062219268. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Shalvis, Jill. Once in a Lifetime. Forever: Grand Central. (Lucky Harbor, Bk. 9). Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781455521135. pap. $6; ebk. ISBN 9781455521142. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE


Leigh, Allison. Once upon a Valentine. Harlequin Special Edition. (Hunt for Cinderella, Bk. 11). Feb. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780373657933. pap. $5.50; ebk. ISBN 9781460325650. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Second Time Around

Jackson, Lisa. Midnight Sun. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780727883438. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Kelly, Carla. Reforming Lord Ragsdale. Sweetwater: Cedar Fort. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781462112241. pap. $8.99; ebk. ISBN 9781462110209. REGENCY ROMANCE

Macomber, Debbie. Country Bride. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780727883483. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Spindler, Erica. Longer Than. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780727883568. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

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)