An Elizabeth Bevarly contemporary is like one of those lazy river water park rides - all you're required to do is lie back and enjoy the journey. Her latest, Fast & Loose, is just that easy and fun. Set in Louisville during the days preceding the Kentucky Derby, Fast & Loose introduces readers to a special season and two special characters: hotshot horse trainer Cole Early and down-to-earth glass artist Lulu Flannery. Though Cole and Lulu meet on his first day in town, for some time he has no idea the funky place he's rented belongs to her. Cole is intrigued by Lulu when they run into each other experiencing Derby night life, but he's even more entranced by the house's owner who has left him dozens of sticky notes - from amusing cautions against eating her M&Ms to a list of all the reasons he should keep his mitts off her computer keyboard. Once he finds out the two women are one and the same, well, what "King" Cole Early wants, King Cole Early gets. Full of fire and wordplay, Fast & Loose is a sure bet.

There's something delicious about a man, a woman and a wager - the premise of Gayle Callen's Victorian-era historical, Never Trust a Scoundrel. However, heroine Grace Banbury has already lost much as the book opens. Not only has her mother gambled away the family money, she sweetened the pot by giving the winner the right to court and marry her daughter. And that winner, one Daniel Throckmorton, finds Grace very sweet indeed. He's not interested in marriage, though, and Grace is very much interested in helping her family financially, so they devise a second bet. He has two weeks to persuade her to become his mistress or else a valuable violin is hers. This romance between a scoundrel with a heart of gold and a country miss who can stand up for herself creates a fast-paced, satisfying story.

The passion of an orphaned heroine for a time-traveling warrior with magical powers provides the setup for Margo Maguire's action-packed Temptation of the Warrior. In England of 1826, governess-to-be Jenny Keating is attacked, but then aided by a handsome stranger who suffers a head wound during the rescue. To get help for the unconscious man, she poses as his wife. When Merrick Mac Lochlainn awakens, his memory is gone, but beautiful Jenny surely is his beloved. Their passion is explosive and he findsseducing his wife a welcome distraction from the niggling sense of tasks undone. Once he remembers, however, that he's traveled forward in time nearly 1,000 years, he and Jenny are forced to battle earthly and unearthly evil to save his world and their love. The headlong pace is tempered by interludes of tender but stark sensuality between the lovers. Magic and passion - a winning combination!

The last time Hardy Cates walked across the page (in Lisa Kleypas' best-selling contemporary debut, Sugar Daddy) someone said: "He'll make and lose a couple of fortunes, and he'll go through three or four wives." Now readers will see if that prediction comes true in Blue-Eyed Devil. Haven Travis narrates the story of her elopement with one man, the demise of that marriage and her return to Dallas, where she can't retreat from the smoldering Hardy and their explosive attraction. But Haven has other issues to deal with besides one alpha oilman, including her relationship with her family, a new job with a witchy boss and the emotional and sexual fallout from her abusive marriage. These are subjects frequently addressed in women's fiction, and the first-person narration and the often beautiful literary phrasing underscore that association. Readers will root for Haven as she comes into her own and reaches for an intense, passionate, bigger-than-Texas romance.

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