We're saluting the paperback romance this month as the proving ground for some of the best romance and women's fiction authors and the staying ground for endearing stories of relationships. Make room for these inexpensive selections that are guaranteed to fire-up the crisp nights of autumn ahead.

Paradise lost

Match one corporate climber turned Florida tourist town cop with an internationally popular investigative reporter, then add a sea monster for good measure, and you'll find yourself at Next Stop, Paradise, Sue Civil-Brown's zesty new romantic comedy.

Sea monster footprints and a humongous glowing egg on the beach are the least of Samantha Bartlett's problems as she tries to resist Derek Diche, the devilishly tempting Brit who won't take no for an answer. Surrounded by the quirky senior citizens of Paradise Beach, Samantha and Derek discover there's a lot more to investigate about each other than the mysterious phenomena that have stirred up trouble in this sultry paradise.

Heavenly handyman

Beaches not your style? Then try Getting Lucky in Bethlehem, New York. Marilyn Pappano's warm and charming tale of a small town has guardian angels that just may be the real thing.

Lynda Barone is at the top of her corporate game, but her personal life is as much of a wreck as the historic house she's renovating. An all-around handyman looking for temporary work, Ben Foster is just what she needs. He's a Southern bad boy who came to town to get to know his 12-year-old daughter, but the tougher job is convincing Lynda that she's the real fixer-upper in need of his special talents. Pappano's sparkling writing makes for a cozy, heavenly tale.

Conspiracy theory

In the exotic realm of Kashmir, modern-day terrorists plot for freedom in Jasmine Cresswell's gripping international thriller, The Conspiracy. The threads of conspiracy span oceans and continents, drawing Verity Marlowe and Michael Strait back together. Verity has tried to leave the world of international intrigue behind, but Michael and the secret passion between them draw her back into the dangerous global battleground.

Cresswell sends Verity and Michael on a pulse-battering, breath-holding race where best friends may be worst enemies and trust is a gift precariously given, as Verity must decipher the heart of a man she has every reason to suspect.

A perfect arrangement

Knowing a man's heart is a woman's age-old challenge, as Francesca Rawlings learns when she agrees to an arranged marriage to her distant relation, Gyles Rawlings, the Earl of Chillingworth, in Stephanie Laurens' Regency romance, All About Passion. Gyles has his future planned: find a proper wife who'll produce heirs without placing any demands on his emotions. He's convinced he's found that wife in compliant Franni, yet the mysterious gypsy woman staying at the same estate stirs unexpected passions. Laurens writes with a sterling touch as Gyles' carefully planned arrangements are delightfully destroyed.

Sandy's short-takes

Two more not to be missed this month: Suzanne Brockmann's Over the Edge is savvy, soaring, fast-paced suspense, as Stan Wolchonok and Teri Howe take off to rescue a hijacked plane carrying the daughter of a U.S. senator. Beyond-this-world suspense draws Gwen Cassidy into the arms of an unbelievable sleeping beauty, the laird Drustan MacKeltar, in Karen Marie Moning's Kiss of the Highlander. Life in the 21st century is no match for the sensuous, savory promise of the Scotsman who takes her back to his brave old world.

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


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