If your summer leisure plans include a nearby beach or a handy armchair, be sure to pack one of this month's panorama of love stories that will transport you into delicious adventure.

When the career, the love life, the ego everything hit the fan, what's a self-help diva to do? What any sensible woman would do run for her life, preferably to the beautiful Italian countryside. That's exactly what Dr. Isabel Favor does in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' sublime new romantic comedy, Breathing Room.

Actor Lorenzo Gage is on the run as well, from too-avid fans who can't get enough of his dark villainy on film. When he meets Isabel on a sultry Italian night, all the gelato on the piazza won't quench the fire igniting between them nor will just one night.

Isabel soon discovers that Lorenzo is more than just her unwanted landlord at the rustic Tuscan villa she has rented; he's also an unlikely family man and the cornerstone for reconstructing a happy life.

Breathing Room is a delightful clash of wills as Phillips pits the saintly self-help diva against the roguish charms of a celebrity sinner. Add the sunwashed beauty of the Tuscan hills, and move aside, Frances Mayes. In this love story as eternal as the Italian countryside, Isabel and Lorenzo discover that the best part of a famous fa¬ćade is what awaits discovery on the inside.

Here comes the bride
In the midst of planning her daughter's wedding, the mother of the bride discovers that her own love story has yet another chapter in Kathleen Eagle's engaging Once Upon a Wedding. Camille Delonga beams on the sidelines as her daughter Jordan and soon to be son-in-law James Mayfield begin planning for their big day. But Mom is soon drawn into the chaos when her daughter's idea of a small, simple wedding morphs into a joyous family milestone one not complete without Daddy to walk the bride down the aisle. When Creed Burke swaggers back into Camille's not-quite-so-well-ordered life, the long-divorced parents find their own magic embers only need a breath of rejuvenation to re-ignite.

A joyful telling of the fun and foibles of planning the big event, complete with disastrous bridesmaid dresses and a weed-puffing grandmother, Once Upon a Wedding is heart-warming, loving celebration at its best.

Bedding down
No matter what century, what would the mystery and magic of love and marriage be without the bed? And oh, what a bed it is in Once Upon a Pillow, the delicious collaboration of Christina Dodd and Connie Brockway. Historian Laurel Whitney weaves the stories of the Masterson bed for the last tour group through an old English manor before it's sold and closed to the public. First built by the medieval knight, Sir Nicholas, for his lady-love, Jocelyn, the Masterson bed has endured through the rise and fall of the centuries and the Masterson family fortunes. Brockway and Dodd alternate novellas of the couples who come to the bed in successive generations, capturing the historic color of the medieval, Elizabethan and Regency times, as well as the broad sweep of the Cornish coastline where smugglers supplant knights and castle walls tumble. The Masterson bed lives to tell its funny, sexy secrets until the day a new owner threatens to sweep it all away.

Frontier passion
In the wilds of frontier Colorado, one determined schoolmistress will do anything to preserve her father's boarding school, even marry a man she doesn't love, in Sandra Chastain's Western romance, The Mail Order Groom.

Melissa Grayson believes she's marrying a family friend she has corresponded with for years, but Lucky Lawrence recognizes and seizes opportunity where he finds it. Hiding in the mountains posing as James Pickney may keep him safe from outlaw Cerqueda's murderous revenge, but Lucky's masquerade opens up a whole new game of chance as Melissa battles nature, a heartbroken miner and even the town to achieve her father's dream.

Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and lakeside in northern Minnesota.

 

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