Well known to historical romance fans, RITA winner Lisa Kleypas rocks the house with her first hardcover contemporary romance, the Texas-rooted saga Sugar Daddy. Liberty Jones is a smart girl from the wrong side of the tracks who gets thumped by fate when her mother dies in a car accident, leaving Liberty to put her dreams on hold while she rears her little sister. But fate has some good fortune in store, too, and the plucky Liberty finds herself caught between two powerful, rich men one she loved long ago, and one who might be the man of her dreams. Woven with an exquisite sense of place and time, from the hot south Texas trailer park where the sun was as round and white as a paper plate tacked to the sky, to the elegance of Houston's super-rich, Kleypas' passion for the people and culture of the Lone Star State takes the reader on a highly enjoyable ride.

All we have are the sands of an hourglass, slipping inexorably through the narrow waist one day at a time. For Sir Coryn of Ardeth, there are only six months' worth of days left days to atone for a life spent as a brutal and crude warrior, and to experience all the joys and love available to a mortal man. The Hourglass, by Barbara Metzger, is a masterfully drawn historical romance with a helping of the supernatural. Ardeth is a Reaper, one of the many sent to Earth to escort the dying to their reward or punishment. After centuries of witnessing human suffering and recognizing what makes a mortal life worth living, he makes a deal with the Devil to return to mortal life but the Devil gives him only six months. Ardeth leaps at the chance, and plunges instantly into the bloody horror of the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo, where he meets Genie, the shamed wife of a now-dead officer, and offers to marry her to give her unborn child a name. It's meant to be part of his plan to earn redemption. The trouble is, they're falling in love. Metzger's realistic world provides a vivid backdrop for a fast-paced, sometimes funny, always rich romance of rare quality.

Take one long-ago romance during a golden season at Oxford, one heedless youth with a burning desire to know the truth about his parentage, toss in a big publishing auction, and the turning point in a politician's career, and you have one dashedly good read: Special Relationship by Robyn Sisman. When Tom Hamilton arrives at Oxford, he discovers a photo of his mother with a man he doesn't know. A man who looks a lot like Tom. A man who, it turns out, is running for president of the United States. His mother, a literary agent with the biggest break or mistake of her career looming, is not forthcoming, and the outraged youth insists he'll find the answers himself. It's true that Annie had a romance with Jordan Hope, that it ended badly, that there are unfinished notes to the song they shared but oh, this is a wretched time for it all to come to light! Special Relationship is a mature tale of the consequences of young decisions, in which Sisman displays a piercing but gentle eye for human foibles and ambitions.

The Perfect Fit by Louise Kean is a very different British import, an offbeat romance between a burned-out sort of private eye and a young woman who has lost half herself in weight. Sunny Weston, newly svelte after a year-long program to shed a hundred pounds, runs after a kidnapper and rescues a child, along with Cagney James, who saw the crime unfolding from his window and ran to help. Each of this pair of misfits is trying to find where they belong, and both are terrified they're essentially unlovable. Kean's understanding of the terror most of us carry around is quite touching, and we do end up rooting for this odd pair of underdogs in a way that wouldn't be possible with more polished lovers.

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