This month’s highlights show the wide range of the romance/women’s fiction market. There’s a book for every reading taste, from stories about modern women on the run from themselves or from paranormal influences, to historicals that allow the reader a taste of the past.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo is smart chick lit that’s an absolute pleasure to read. English professor and Austen expert Emma Grant is heartbroken after her divorce when an intriguing communication lures her to England and a possible cache of Jane Austen’s unpublished letters. Her desire to inspect them is complicated by her renewed acquaintance with fellow professor Adam Clark, and the series of Austen-related assignments that the guardian of the letters gives to Emma. Yet through these tasks Emma learns about herself and her attitudes toward love and marriage. While the growing romance between the heroine and Adam is sweet, sweeter is the new sense of self that Emma gains. Written in first person and flavored with interesting Austen information, this is a book readers will drink down like a lovely cup of fragrant tea.

Star attraction
Readers who love witty romance with a heart of gold will consider Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ latest contemporary, What I Did for Love, their personal valentine. In a story ripped from the headlines (sort of), actress Georgie York publicly learns that the action movie hero husband who abandoned her has gotten his new lover pregnant. Georgie is reeling, and wondering how to shore up her pride, image and tanking career, when calamity strikes again in the guise of her long-ago co-star, bad boy Bramwell Shepard. After a Las Vegas party gone wrong she finds herself married to him . . . and just maybe with a plan to fix everything that’s wrong with her life. But there is still something strange happening to her heart, which is buffeted by waves of sexual attraction and dangerous emotions she is starting to feel for the man—the husband—she’s sure she despises. Full of engaging characters whose flaws only make them more endearing, this romance is love, Phillips-style, at its charming best.

Sins of the fathers
Madeline Hunter tells a tale of secrets and shadowy conspiracies in her London-set historical, The Sins of Lord Easterbrook. Reclusive hero Lord Easterbrook is surprised when a woman from his past calls at his home in Grosvenor Square. During their time together, he’d kept his true identity from her and it doesn’t take him long to discover she isn’t looking for him, but for the answer to a mystery that led to her father’s death and threatens her family’s trading business in Macao. Just like she did seven years before, Leona Montgomery enflames his desires. But she’s older and wiser now, and Easterbrook has to struggle to win her trust. Once partnered in bed and out of it, they work together to unravel the mystery that has brought her to London, while the knowledge that she will soon return home to the other side of the world hangs over them. The reader will care deeply for Easterbrook and Leona as they reveal hidden motives and their secret hearts in this sensual and poignant story.

Betting on a duke
Written with sophistication and wit, The Courtesan’s Wager by Claudia Dain features a talented but notorious matchmaker. Ex-courtesan Sophia Dalby has pledged her skills to help young Lady Amelia in her quest to capture a duke . . . but has someone else caught Amelia’s eye? Certainly sparks fly between herself and the disapproving Lord Cranleigh, who is definitely not a duke, and they’ve been caught more than once in scandalously close quarters. What are the people in town supposed to think? Told in a delightfully dry, tongue-in-cheek voice, this romance chronicles verbal skirmishes and even a physical brawl or two as part of an ongoing battle in the war of love.

Strong and sexy
The paranormal world feels real and the plot is action-packed and super-sexy in Kate Perry’s Marked by Passion. Told through the voice of Gabrielle Sansouci Chin, a bartender and artist, this romance begins with Gabrielle’s discovery that her estranged father has died and left her as guardian of an ancient scroll with special powers. Despite her reluctance to take on the role of the artifact’s protector, Gabrielle finds she can’t turn away from it, nor from the sexy Brit, Rhys Llewellyn, who seems to know more about her and her situation than is safe. With bad guys shadowing her through the streets of San Francisco, not to mention the spirit of her father and the tantalizing sensuality that Rhys exudes, Gabrielle has her hands full. There are secrets to uncover and danger to confront in this story of a woman learning to accept her new duties and the love of a powerful man.

Christie Ridgway writes contemporary romance from her home in Southern California.

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