A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month
Happy New Year! One of my goals for 2019 is to read more fiction, although I already read a lot. Some days, it feels like all I do is read. But there are so many other distractions (hello, Facebook) and so much reading for work — plus all of those magazine and newspaper subscriptions I can’t give up — that the novels seem to pile up faster than I can handle them.
This month, I’m highlighting three romance novels I recently read, as well as a novella. If you’re short on time, novellas and anthologies are a terrific way to discover new authors — and new genres. Whatever your reading goals this year, I hope you’ll make time for a little romance!
The Other Miss Bridgerton (Avon) is Julia Quinn’s third prequel to her delightful Bridgerton Regency series. Poppy Bridgerton is a wonderful heroine, fiercely independent and adventurous, with a sharp wit and keen intellect. She’s determined to wed a man who is her equal; after two London seasons, she still hasn’t met him. Then she stumbles upon a smuggler’s cave and gets kidnapped by privateers…
Captain Andrew James Rokesby’s reputation as a society bad boy is a convenient cover for his true identity as a British spy. He’s headed to Portugal to deliver documents to the British envoy, and he isn’t too keen on having Poppy in tow for the two-week journey.
Poppy has no idea that Andrew is the son of an earl and her neighbor’s cousin, but once she accepts her temporary captivity, she realizes she enjoys the handsome captain’s company very much. And Andrew discovers she’s as smart and clever as she is beautiful.
Poppy and Andrew are a charming couple, and their witty banter is a pleasure to read. While Quinn relies on some oft-used tropes to facilitate the romance, the tightly woven plot makes for an entertaining and fast-paced read. Fans of Quinn’s previous books will adore The Other Miss Bridgerton, but it can also be read as a standalone introduction to historical romance.
Teri Wilson takes on the world of beauty pageants in her engaging The Accidental Beauty Queen (Gallery). On the inside, mild-mannered elementary-school librarian (and Harry Potter fan) Charlotte Gorman couldn’t be more different from her beauty-queen identical twin, Ginny. But when an allergic reaction threatens to disqualify Ginny from her last chance to compete before she ages out of the pageant circuit, Charlotte steps into her sister’s shoes — literally.
Charlotte discovers a whole new world when she “becomes” Ginny, and her newfound role as a pageant contestant puts her in many unfamiliar, and often awkward, situations. It also puts her in close proximity to a hunky judge, Gray, who is less Christian Grey and more Mr. Darcy.
He’s completely smitten by Charlotte’s intelligence and beauty, and the two strike up a fine little romance, but, of course, Gray doesn’t know Charlotte’s real identity. Naturally, things get crazier and more complicated before all is pleasantly resolved.
The Accidental Beauty Queen is part rom-com, part chick lit, but altogether satisfying. Wilson deftly handles the zany, over-the-top plot and crafts a story that is, yes, amusing, but also surprisingly poignant. Charlotte and Ginny get to see each other’s lives from a different perspective, and the sisters’ relationship and devotion to each other is just as enjoyable to read as the meet-cute romance.
Jennifer Ryan kicks off her Wild Rose Ranch series with Dirty Little Secret (Avon). When Roxy Cordero’s estranged father dies, she is shocked to discover she’s set to inherit half of his ranch — but only if she moves to Montana. Roxy is used to being on her own and taking care of herself, but this inheritance offers a different future than the one she imagined.
Noah Cordero’s life is upended when his stepfather dies, leaving him to manage the ranch and care for his younger sister. Then he discovers John Cordero has left half of his beloved ranch to his daughter, Roxy, a woman Noah knew nothing about. He’s resistant to the idea of sharing the ranch — and co-parenting his sister — with a stranger, but when he learns the truth, his world is rocked.
Dirty Little Secret is a story about family, forgiveness, and belonging, with Roxy’s late father trying to make amends the only way he could. Roxy and Noah have to learn to trust each other and move beyond the secrets of the past, but there is no doubt they are meant to be together. The Montana ranch setting makes for a great backdrop for their love story, and this tender and touching western romance is a terrific beginning to a promising new series.
Tikka Chance on Me (self-published) by Suleikha Snyder is a novella that’s getting a lot of buzz — and for good reason. Pinky Grover dropped out of college and returned to her Indiana hometown to help her parents out while her mother is undergoing cancer treatment. While working at their Indian restaurant, she meets (and immediately starts lusting for) sexy bad boy Trucker Carrigan.
Trucker returned to Indiana to become the enforcer of a local biker gang — but there’s more to him than meets the eye. Pinky is an irresistible bright spot in his dangerous life, and his gang’s weekly lunches at the restaurant gives him someone to talk to.
Soon, their fast and furious flirting leads to a sizzling hot fling that they both know can’t last. Pinky thinks Trucker is trouble and will break her heart, and Trucker knows that once his job is done, he’ll have to leave town for good.
Tikka Chance on Me packs a lot of punch that belies its brevity, delivering conflict, characterization, and a sizzling romance. Readers will love the complexity of this short romance and long for more from this talented author. (The sooner, the better!)
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. She’s the digital editorial manager of Your Teen Magazine and a regular contributor to BookBub. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including the Washington Post, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, and more. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright and tell her what your reading goals are for 2019!