A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
Happy August! As I’ve squeezed reading in between kids’ activities, various household crises, and a to-do list that keeps getting longer, I’ve been reminded why I love romance fiction so much: The stories make me happy.
In a life that is always too busy, and in a world that can be pretty grim sometimes, there is something magical about reading a book that leaves me feeling good. I read romance and walk away with a renewed belief that as long as there is love in the world, there is hope.
My reviews this month feature stories about redemption and second chances for characters who find love — and hope — where they least expect it.
Devoted to Pleasure (Berkley) is the first book in Shayla Black’s Devoted Lovers series, though fans of her work will recognize some characters from earlier books.
Ex-soldier Cutter Bryant is a bodyguard who agrees to take on a high-profile job protecting a Hollywood actress. He’s a good guy with good intentions, and his long-term plan is to settle down in his hometown to be the husband to a woman he doesn’t love and the father to a child who isn’t his. Taking care of other people keeps him from having to focus on what’s missing from his own life.
Shealyn West is a small-town girl turned actress who became an overnight sensation for her role in a hot new television drama. Her glamorous looks are perfect on the surface, but her relationship with her co-star is a sham and she is being blackmailed by someone who has a sex tape of her with her former bodyguard. She has some serious trust issues, so letting Cutter get close isn’t going to be easy, no matter how hot the bodyguard might be.
Devoted to Pleasure is a fun and steamy romp, with plenty of chemistry between Cutter and Shealyn. The suspense plot is solid and makes for some adrenaline-fueled conflict and tension between the protagonists. Black is known for her sexy-as-sin alpha-male heroes, and she delivers in this promising start to a new series.
Room Service (Dafina) is the third book in the Innkeepers series by Rochelle Alers. What I love best about this romance is that it features two people in mid-life who know how to be on their own — and have their reasons for wanting to stay that way — but still can’t help falling for each other.
New Yorker Jasmine Washington is a woman at a crossroads. Her career and her marriage are over, and she’s in no particular hurry to get into another relationship. But there’s something about Cameron Singleton she just can’t resist.
Cameron is a sexy investment banker who has made a name for himself as one of the most eligible bachelors in New Orleans. He has no interest in settling down, either, but sparks fly when he meets Jasmine at a wedding. Soon, they’re making plans to see each other again and navigating a budding relationship that comes with a fair amount of emotional baggage.
Alers does a beautiful job building a believable story between Cam and Jazz. Interesting secondary characters round out the charming romantic plot, and it’s nice to revisit the storylines from earlier books.
Brave New Earl (Sourcebooks Casablanca) is the first book in Jane Ashford’s the Way to a Lord’s Heart series. This sweet, unassuming historical romance was a delightful surprise.
Benjamin Romilly, Earl of Furness, lost his wife in childbirth five years ago. The ensuing years have been difficult for the earl, and he hasn’t been the father he needs to be to Geoffrey. When his wife’s cousin arrives, intent on collecting his wild son and making sure he’s raised properly, Benjamin begins to come out of his fog of depression and realize how much he has to live for.
Jean Saunders is an independent, strong-willed woman, but she is also patient and warm-hearted, and that’s just what Benjamin and Geoffrey need in their lives. She never planned on having a family of her own, but she wants to do right by her young nephew. Her attraction to Benjamin makes her consider what it might be like to be a wife and mother, though she has her own reasons for resisting the romantic fantasy.
In helping to bring father and son closer, Jean ultimately finds a place for herself. Benjamin discovers the healing power of love and the hope to be found in new beginnings. Ashford does a great job with the emotional growth of her characters, while Benjamin and Jean bring out the best in each other.
More Than Words (Forever) by Mia Sheridan is, in a word, special. I’ll be honest: I put this book aside, not intending to review it because it was published earlier in the summer and I had so many newer releases on my list. Then I read a few pages, became instantly hooked, and knew before I was half-finished that this beautifully written fairytale romance would be one of my favorites of the summer, if not the year.
Jessica Creswell and Callen Hayes met as kids, and their friendship blossomed. They became each other’s refuge from the problems at home, until the day Callen simply disappeared. A decade has passed, and they meet again in France, where Jessie is living her dream as an historical translator. Callen is a celebrated composer, but he has a bad-boy reputation that makes Jessie wary of becoming another notch on his bedpost.
Callen is dealing with writer’s block, and he is afraid his career is over. Jessie knows Callen isn’t the boy she once knew, but she also knows she can’t turn her back on him when it’s clear his life is spiraling out of control.
Sheridan does a wonderful job of building a poignant and believable love story between the childhood friends that keeps the reader guessing whether they will get their happily-ever-after. This is what romance is all about.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including the Washington Post, USA Today, Upworthy, Narratively, and more. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright and tell her what you’re reading this summer!