Jaci Burton makes suspense sexy in The Heart of a Killer. When Special Forces soldier Dante Renaldi returns to his hometown, he is welcomed by a homicide. Worse, the murder is eerily similar to the event that sent Dante away 12 years before: a violent attack on his high school girlfriend, Anna Pallino, that resulted in a disturbing death. Anna, now a police detective, is assigned to the case—and she can’t help but suspect Dante and his three foster brothers, who were involved with the incident all those years ago. But the attraction between Dante and Anna still simmers, and he is as determined to explore their chemistry as he is to solve the recent murder . . . and the ones that follow. The good guys are difficult to discern, and old ties (and lies) are tested as Dante and Anna start to question everything they thought they knew. These are lovers to root for and worry over as violent death dogs their every step.

A man finds more than he bargains for in Janette Kenny’s Cowboy Come Home, the finale in her Lost Sons trilogy. In 1895, Trey March returns to the Texas ranch he’d been—literally—dragged from months before. He’s set on getting the wages he’s owed from the owner, only to discover that the man is dead and his daughter, who had been Trey’s lover, is running the place—despite her lack of experience and a desperate drought. Low on cash, Daisy Barton makes a bargain with the man she believes abandoned her: She’ll pay him in stock if Trey will take two months and teach her what he knows about ranching. Aware that he is bound to leave her again, Daisy is determined that he won’t walk off with her heart. However, their passion resurges despite Daisy’s vow and Trey’s reluctance to trust. Other obstacles arise to inhibit their happiness: a vindictive ex-foreman, unexplained “accidents” and welling secrets from their near and distant pasts. Hair-raising adventure and a heart-tugging backstory make this Western romance a pleasure.

In The Next Always, Nora Roberts welcomes readers to the charming town of Boonsboro, Maryland, where the Montgomery family is restoring a historic hotel (and where Roberts owns an inn in real life). Architect Beckett Montgomery is immersed in the project, yet still has time to keep his eye on the object of his daydreams, widow Clare Brewster. Along with her three young sons, she has returned to her hometown where she runs the bookstore near the inn. Close proximity gives Beck the chance he’s always wanted with Clare, and the townspeople are happy to witness what unfolds. Renovation of the inn takes center stage in this story, but relationships are truly the stars: relationships among family, friends, community and, of course, between the hero and heroine. There is no contrived or overly dramatic conflict with this pair, just two good people discovering if they fit. Can Beck embrace a ready-made family? Will Clare, used to fending for herself, be able to let go a little and lean on a man? The answers are obvious, but the journey to the happy ending is the point in romance novels. A touch of the paranormal adds whimsy to a warm, delightful read.

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