Sharon Sala writes a charming story about a second chance at life and love in The Curl Up and Dye. When LilyAnn Bronte lost her high school sweetheart 11 years ago, she became mired in grief. But now, at 28, the sound of a hot-rod engine awakens her to all that’s wrong with her existence. Is the newcomer behind the wheel the next man of her dreams? Her neighbor and best friend, Mike Dalton, sure hopes not. Owner of the town’s fitness center, Mike’s been in love with LilyAnn forever, but she’s never considered him to be romance material.
With nudges from the proprietor of the local beauty salon (the titular Curl Up & Dye), LilyAnn begins making herself over, which prompts Mike to decide to go after what he wants—a future with LilyAnn. Old habits must be broken for them to come together, and, unfortunately, there’s a bad guy stalking LilyAnn, a threat that could bring their burgeoning love affair to a violent end.
While LilyAnn and Mike stumble along their way, the good folks of their small Southern town are there to offer help—and gossip about them, too. Sala makes Blessings, Georgia, a vastly entertaining place to visit.
A CHANGE OF HEART
A simple affair becomes so much more in Darcie Wilde’s historical, Lord of the Rakes.
Beautiful Lady Caroline Delamarre has lived a cloistered country life, watched over carefully by her father, followed by her brother. After she learns of an unexpected trust fund, the now-heiress goes against her brother’s wishes, stopping in London on her way to starting anew in Europe, where she plans to live a life of freedom.
While attending a ball, she meets Phillip Montcalm, who’s known as the “Lord of the Rakes” due to his way with women. The moment their eyes meet, they both experience a tender longing that they interpret as simple desire. Caroline considers Phillip the perfect contender for a brief fling. Never one to deny himself what he wants, Phillip gladly acquiesces to the idea of teaching Caroline about sensual delights. But as they get better acquainted, they also learn more about themselves. Second son Phillip begins to question dedicating his life solely to his own shallow entertainment and pleasure, and Caroline wonders if giving her heart to a man would truly make him her jailor. Though both thought they desired independence, is staying true to that principle enough reason to give up the love of a lifetime? A steamy read of sexual and emotional awakening.
Every young girl’s fantasy becomes a grown woman’s dilemma in the Christian romance Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck.
Accountant-turned-automobile restorer Regina (“Reggie”) Beswick considers herself an average small-town girl, so she’s shocked to discover at 29 that she’s actually a royal princess. Tanner Burkhardt, the attractive Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg, travels to Florida to deliver the news—and to bring Reggie back to the island country in the North Sea.
But as much as Regina is starting to like Tanner—and maybe feel even more—could she possibly give up her friends, family and career in the U.S. to take on a new destiny and rule a land she’s never even seen? Still, her legacy beckons, and she decides to visit the beautiful place.
Meanwhile, Tanner has some problems of his own. Not only is he falling for Reggie, but he also wants to keep her safe from political machinations. And his past keeps creeping into his present, bringing him deep heartache and the feeling that he’s unworthy of a happily ever after with his princess. The two must look to their shared faith and to each other to determine where their futures lie. This is a sweet and sparkling kisses-only romance.
TOP PICK IN ROMANCE
Karen Rose offers another complex, twisting tale of romantic suspense in Watch Your Back. Homicide detective and single mother Stevie Mazzetti is the target of a killer—and she knows it.
While recuperating from an injury sustained in the line of duty, she starts looking into the cases of her now-dead partner—a dirty cop who framed innocent people for crimes they did not commit. After Stevie survives more than one attempt on her life within one week, she realizes that the trouble might be coming from her own department.
Stevie decides to turn to handsome private investigator Clay Maynard for help—even though he’s a man she’s pushed away before. Clay, a former Marine, is as determined to keep Stevie safe as he is to win her heart. Though she has a past filled with loss, he wants to provide a bright future for her and her daughter—but that means catching whoever is after her first.
Together, Stevie and Clay uncover more crimes and ugly truths until they finally pinpoint the person who holds a grudge against Stevie. Along the way, trust and respect grow between the pair—enough to last forever, if they can stop the villain before he stops them. Gripping, intense and filled with characters readers will root for.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a 7 questions interview with Karen Rose, author of Watch Your Back.
Novelist Christie Ridgway writes from her home in Southern California.