Romance Roundup: February 2024

A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.

Romance Roundup: February 2024

I know it’s only February, but it feels like spring isn’t far off. Depending on how far north you live, that might sound like wishful thinking, but there are plenty of books to read (and Valentine’s chocolate to eat) to hold me over until warmer temperatures arrive. Here are the books that kept me snug through our recent cold snap in Virginia — any one of them would make an ideal accompaniment to a heart-shaped box of Godiva!


Sarah Grunder Ruiz has written the perfect cozy romance in Last Call at the Local (Berkley).

Raine Hart is a musician with ADHD who left medical school and her life in Boston to become a performer in Europe — until all of her equipment, including her beloved guitar, is stolen in Ireland. Jack Dunne offers her a temporary job at his pub, the Local, until she can figure out her next move. He inherited the pub and wants to revitalize the place, but his OCD makes it difficult to follow through on his dreams. With Raine’s help, maybe he can turn the family business into something special.

From the moment Raine walks into the Local, there’s a strong mutual attraction between the wandering busker and the tattooed proprietor. Unfortunately, their romance has an end date because Raine can’t imagine giving up her nomadic life, and Jack can’t fathom leaving his home. In light of their very different perspectives and needs, a long-term relationship seems impossible, but that doesn’t stop their growing feelings for each other. Somehow, they have to figure out a way to make things work or lose each other forever.

Fans of small-town romance will love this tale of neurodivergent opposites attracting in a quaint Irish town. Raine and Jack are both likable, relatable characters dealing with mental-health challenges. There’s plenty of witty banter and sexual tension between them, and the charming secondary characters, including Jack’s cat, Sebastian, add to the friendly ambience of this satisfying story.


Suzanne Allain’s The Ladies Rewrite the Rules (Berkley) delivers a Regency romance with a feminist twist as a young widow finds love with an enterprising bachelor.

Widowed after the death of her much-older husband, Diana Boyle has no interest in marriage, but would-be suitors are lining up to court her nonetheless. Puzzled, she uncovers why men are coming out of the woodwork: Her name has been published in the widows’ section of “The Rich Ladies Registry or the Bachelor’s Directory.” She decides to track down and expose “Mr. D,” the creator of the list, which leads her to the handsome and eligible Maxwell Dean.

Max insists his intentions are honorable. He only wants to help younger sons without an inheritance find successful matches with wealthy women. Diana decides to bring the women in the directory together and inform them of its existence and purpose. Then they decide to use the guide to discover which of the men are after their money and which might be acceptable mates. Diana’s plan leads to some clever misdirection between the ladies and their would-be suitors, and Diana not only finds her voice, she makes some lasting friendships along the way.

Despite their purposes being at odds, Diana can’t deny Max is everything she could want in a husband — if she wanted one. And notwithstanding his belief that marrying for money is the only option for a younger son like himself, Max realizes his feelings for Diana have nothing to do with her wealth. Allain’s fresh and witty Austen-esque romance is a welcome addition to the genre.


A cybersecurity analyst teams up with smoking-hot CIA operative in Tiana Smith’s debut adult novel, The Spy and I (Berkley).

Dove Barkley is a penetration tester — an honest hacker paid to find vulnerabilities that could compromise a business’ network security — in Washington, DC. It’s a solitary job, but it works for introverted Dove, even though it means she hasn’t had a serious relationship since her boyfriend broke up with her two years ago. Her older sister, Madison, is a jet-setting travel photographer who wants to help Dove break out of her rut.

A dinner meetup with Madison turns into a case of mistaken identity that ends with a shootout that leaves a mysterious man dead and Dove in possession of a locked briefcase. Soon, Mendez (his first name is on a need-to-know basis) comes to Dove’s rescue, claiming to be a CIA operative and Madison’s partner. Although Dove had no idea her sister worked for the CIA and doesn’t completely trust Mendez, she has no choice but to go with him.

The pair end up in Prague, the home base for a powerful arms dealer who plans to kill a high-level CIA official. The problem is, the CIA thinks Madison has been turned, and Mendez has a shoot-to-kill order. With bad guys around every corner ready to take them out, Dove and Mendez work to unravel the espionage plot while Dove tries to clear her sister’s name — and determine if Mendez’s attraction to her is genuine or just part of his assignment. Smith keeps the pages turning with plenty of action and humor, and even Dove’s hacker language is entertaining. (And Swifties will appreciate that Dove’s go-to four-minutes-to-hack-any-network song is “I Did Something Bad.”)

Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, two Goldendoodles, a ginger cat, and a green parrot. She’s a regular contributor at BookBub and a lifelong fan of romance fiction. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright or on Bookshop, where she features her book recommendations.

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