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September 26, 2020

10 New & Notable Romance Novels

by MK French



Romance novels are great for escaping reality for a few hours. Whether you want hot & steamy, fun & fluffy, or sad but sweet, the romance genre has it all. Check out some new and notable romance novels that I've read recently.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham

A Highlander is Coming to Town
September 2020; St. Martin; 978-1250315052
ebook, print (304 pages); holiday romance 
Holt Pierson dreads Christmas now that he’s stuck on the family farm while his parents go off to Florida for the holiday. He’s always done what was expected of him, whether he liked it or not, and is starting to question that way of life. Enter Claire Smythe, the singer in a band hoping to hide out in a small town. He tries to draw out her story and help her, but she resists.

A Highlander is Coming to Town is another cute Highland, Georgia novel, following A Highlander Walks into a Bar (read my review) and A Highlander in a Pickup (read my review). There's no need to read those novels first, as the characters don't feature in this one very much. This focuses on Claire being drawn out of her shell by Holt, a genuinely nice guy that's patient and friendly, backing off until she's ready to engage.

There isn't any dreadful problem to solve in the book. Claire is avoiding her responsibilities to her family and inheritance, which is revealed partway through the book; she's so afraid of it that she took off and didn't look back, not setting down any roots. This leaves her as lonely as Holt. They're adorable together, and I enjoyed seeing them realize how much they care about each other and the people around them. 


All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne

All Scot and Bothered
September 2020; St. Martin; 978-1250318862
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); Victorian romance
As Lord Chief Justice of the High Court, Cassius Gerard Ramsay wants to investigate the gaming hells in London, particularly the one notoriously run by a woman. Cecelia Teague had inherited the place when she had hoped her mother’s scandalous origins could be forgotten after a benefactor sent her to a prestigious boarding school and university. While in society, Cecelia is attracted to Cassius, but she has to hide her business from him. How can she keep her secret in the face of escalating danger?

All Scot and Bothered is the second book in the Devil You Know series, following How To Love A Duke In Ten Days (read my review). It's not entirely necessary to have read the first book, but of course, it helps when oblique references are made to its events. I love how Cecilia isn't a thin waif, but a larger and voluptuous woman. She's smart and fascinated by mathematics and logic puzzles, and wants to leave a positive impact on the world. Of course, it's a surprise to inherit the gambling house, where some ladies also sell themselves, as well as a book of secrets in code. Cassius is a stern man, mostly because he grew up with little and has much to prove. That the two are at odds is a huge plot point and the main source of tension. 

I had very emotional moments reading this book, particularly in the second half of it. Both had been emotionally abused as children, and are broken in different ways. Cecilia had people she could trust and love afterward, which allowed a measure of healing, enough so that she could see the best in others and appreciate the joys in life. Cassius didn't really have that until her; the friends and family members were kept at a distance and didn't really push past that. The vulnerability that Cassius has with Cecilia is a huge draw for this book, and I love that neither has to give up who they are when we reach the happily ever after. 

Buy All Scot and Bothered at Amazon

Follow Me Darkly by Helen Hardt

Follow Me Darkly
September 2020; Entangled; 978-1682814994
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); new adult romance
Skye Manning is a photographer, working for a social media influencer and hotel heiress in Boston. This is how she meets billionaire Braden Black, who is sexy and domineering. It opens a whole new side of her she doesn't want to give up despite his secrets.

Follow Me Darkly is the first half of the Follow Me duology. Skye's boss is unpleasant from page one: an entitled, self-absorbed rich girl who doesn't care about anything but her own image. Ick. I feel for Skye, who has to put up with the mercurial antics as part of her job in order to afford to live in Boston. That being said, my first impression of Braden isn't much better. He bullied his way past Skye, insists on taking her to dinner, tells her he wants to sleep with her, and obviously, she does, too, or she wouldn't be there. If this happened to me I would be leaving the restaurant, no matter how hungry I was. But this is a book following a Fifty Shades style of introduction, so she stays and I dread the inaccuracies of BDSM that will follow. 

While this is written well and the sex is hot, I couldn't get past the one-third mark because of Braden's personality. His entitlement as a rich man in control of everything, even relationship parameters, to the extent of disregarding Skye's opinion. This is a huge turn off for me. I am sure that fans of the Fifty Shades series will enjoy this. But I love seeing give and take of a different kind in relationships, and I see none of that here.

Buy Follow Me Darkly at Amazon

Ghost Moon by Kathryn Knight

Ghost Moon
April 2020; Indie; 978-1732252257
audio, ebook, print (250 pages); gothic romance
Lark Cavanaugh leaves New York City for Cape Cod, where she inherited an old house. She doesn't believe in ghosts, but maybe now she has to. Her new neighbor Jesse Holt is a veterinarian and former military, but she's not interested in a relationship. He can't leave her when odd things happen at the house, and now they have to discover what really happened.

Owning a creepy-looking mansion in Massachusetts that is possibly haunted gets to Lark right away, and that sets the tone for the rest of the book. She and Jesse meet and are attracted to each other, but don't act on it right away. As they get to know each other, more odd things happen in the house and Lark begins to sleepwalk. By the time the two get closer, the haunting intensifies and Lark is caught up trying to survive it. We get a mystery involving the past, revealed in flashes as she experiences it.

I got caught up in Lark's story as well as that of the ghost and found it really hard to put down. I had to race through to the end to find out what happened, and everything was tied up nicely.

Buy Ghost Moon at Amazon

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard

Miss Tavistock's Mistake
June 2020; Lilliput Press; 978-1733311120
ebook, print (281 pages); regency romance
When Feodora Tavistock meets Captain Gabriel Rempeare for the first time, she finds him infuriating. It doesn’t matter that her father wanted her to marry him before he died and he was at sea for a decade. She adopts the identity Lady X when dealing with him, and manages to avoid ever meeting him with her true name. He isn’t what she thought he was, however. How can she correct the mistake? 

Like many other Regency romances, part of the challenge in getting the hero and heroine together are the rules of Society. It’s a consequence of manners, breeding and classism, which had been drilled into Feodora since she first arrived in England at nine years old. Her father almost immediately died along with her mother in a carriage accident, leaving her under the care of her uncle. Marriage to her cousin Gabriel was expected long before she was even aware of it, and she always relied on that for her future. The misunderstanding she had based on rumors in a newspaper is compounded by her refusal to formally meet Gabriel and her insistence to house staff to never let them meet in person. It might seem rather childish to a modern reader, but reputations were everything back then, especially to those that grew up in sheltered and idealistic homes.

Margaret (she prefers it to Feodora and so do I, really) persists in her scheme even outside of her country household. It’s a gamble that puts her further and further into trouble. I’m not terribly fond of this kind of miscommunication as a gimmick in general. I like that Margaret was able to talk to Gabriel and get to know him better and see for herself that rumors flying were actually referring to his brothers. Both were terrible people, and Margaret was easily fooled. It’s likely all too common for the time period, but at least the mistake does get corrected.


The Seduction of Laird Sinclair by Kara Griffin

The Seduction of Laird Sinclair
May 2020; Indie; 979-8646934643
ebook, print (308 pages); Scottish romance
Clan rivalries are more important than kings in the Highlands of Scotland, though kings do hold sway. Callum Sinclair has other things to worry about, however. He’s the target of assignation, his brother the laird is dead and his wife died in childbirth with a child that wasn’t his. Violet Danvers’ husband was executed for treason to the king, and the king wants her to marry his favored knight. Instead, her husband’s comrade sends her north. She can’t ever return to England, and she needs Callum’s help to stay in Scotland.

The Seduction of Laird Sinclair is book one of the Lairds of the North series of novels. Callum isn’t as superstitious as other Highlanders in his clan, but he was definitely struck down and handed a terrible turn of fortune at the same time a shooting star was seen in the sky. Violet’s husband had been an honest man, which was pretty much his death warrant in King Richard’s treacherous court. Rather than marry the abusive and scheming Nicholas Colfax, her husband’s friend sends her to Callum, whose life he saved on the battlefield. Both have their own issues to contend with  There’s mutual attraction, though Callum is resisting Violet’s attempts to catch his attention. It’s actually kind of funny to know that his friends approve and inadvertently help her cause.

The inevitable conflicts in the novel arise in the form of family. Callum’s cousin Hawisa mistreats his daughter, urges her dog to attack Violet, and then tries to kill her outright. Callum’s other cousin is missing, then so his uncle. Talk about his faithless wife and his dead brother adds more distress, as well as concern that his brother in arms Keith might have conspired against him. Violet is determined to think the best of everyone, to the point where she sometimes seems naïve, which balances out Callum’s paranoia. We still get our happily ever after, and then a summary of the author’s research into the period and the historical figures woven into the text. It’s a fun and quick read for this medieval romance, and the start of a series that will be great for others who enjoy the genre.


What Frees the Heart by Karen A. Wyle

What Frees the Heart
July 2020; Oblique Angles;  978-0998060477
ebook, print (273 pages); western romance
Cowbird Creek, Nebraska is a small town, and not everyone is content with the life they're leading. Tom Barlow is a farmer with a wooden leg, making him feel as though he doesn't have much to his future. Jenny is a prostitute at Madam Mamie's and doesn't think she has a future going forward either. The two are drawn to each other and possibly can create a new future together.

What Frees the Heart is a Western romance, taking place following the Civil War. While it's in the same town as What Heals The Heart (read my review), you don't have to know the characters from the first story in order to understand this one. We still see plain-speaking Clara from that book, as well as the doctor, but they don't figure in this story at all. Starting off with Tom's day to day life, we see the way he feels about his wooden leg, as well as how people point it out or look down on him. While he possibly has the opportunity to work with the town doctor sitting down, he's still dissatisfied with life overall. We also meet Jenny as she's being chastised for not being "friendly" enough with customers because of her coarse manners. I also find it interesting that she has to get "lessons" from another prostitute, and there references to safe sex practices for the time. It might be mortifying for Tom, but I found the discussion fascinating.

Tom and Jenny are fascinated with each other, but contact is limited due to the nature of her profession. She can't really leave the bordello for social visits, as customers would be less likely to go there. They still care about each other and try to deal with their difficulties as best as they can. Tom has to deal with people taking advantage of him or throwing it in his face that he obviously cares about Jenny when she continues to work with customers. If out in public, she's treated as a pariah because of that profession. These concerns are dealt with in a reasonable manner for the time, and are a real struggle that they would face.

Love is not without obstacles or compromise, and the two have a lot more support than they thought they did. I enjoyed the realistic way that their relationship grew. I think they'll be more than ready to face the uncertainty their future brings, and it'll be fun to see glimpses of them in future novels of the series.

Buy What Frees the Heart at Amazon

Chasing Ginger by Marie Lavender

Chasing Ginger
March 2020; Indie; 979-8622022708
ebook, print (442 pages); romantic comedy
Ginger Halloway and her friends call each other the Misfits. They often get into different antics but are always there for each other. Ginger is a size 22 and recently took a “miracle pill” to make herself instantly sexy. Lance Franklin is now interested in her, and she can’t help but think this is too good to be true.

Chasing Ginger is the first book of the Misfits Series and features a larger heroine that’s the object of the billionaire’s affections. The opening references all of the crash diets that Ginger tries, as well as failed dates with men. She’s already on dating apps by the time she tries the InstaSin, which replaces her hormonal birth control and alters her pheromones. My science and medicine background had a really hard time with that portion of the book because that was not a proper way to get informed consent and the doctors explaining how everything worked did a piss poor job. But, for plot reasons, Ginger goes along with it anyway. Though it has nothing to do with hormones, she immediately gets tons of matches on dating apps as soon as she puts a video on her profile. I suspect the interest has more to do with the newfound confidence; now that she isn’t feeling so desperate about her appearance or dating history, her inner self can shine.

The meet-cute with Lance is definitely farcical on one level, but chilling on another. While there were about twenty men showing up for the speed dating she set up from the dating site, some were taking it to possessive levels and even stalked her. He’s a very Southern gentleman, and Lance is a genuinely nice guy. We go through their dates and the awkward conversations as they get to know each other, their outlook on life and dating and dancing together for a charity event. Both have their own insecurities; Ginger worries about her weight and appearance, Lance worries that he would be used for his money.

Of course in any romance novel, there has to be a bit of a struggle to get to True Love, and it usually involves miscommunication of some kind. That part always annoys me, as realistic as it can sometimes be. I love how Ginger has the Misfits and Tom as her close friends, and that they all gather around her and offer support and unconditional love. Everyone needs friends like that, and I do appreciate all the gestures of friendship that they make.

Buy Chasing Ginger at Amazon

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

The Vanishing
January 2020; Berkley; 978-1984806437
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romantic suspense
Decades ago, an explosion in the cave system near the small town of Fogg Lake was known as The Incident. Unknown gases released made the residents sleep for two days. When they woke up, they had been changed, and some of them were having visions. Two residents, Catalina Lark and Olivia LeClair, had witnessed a murder years ago, and use their ability to see visions to solve cases as adults. Olivia goes missing, and no one takes it seriously except Slater Arganbright, a member of the mysterious organization the Foundation. Someone wants to make sure that the murder fifteen years ago stays hidden, and Catalina might be next.

I actually received this gift as an audiobook, so like the overachiever I am, I tried to read this while doing other tasks and reading other books. Ambitious? You betcha. It's a little over eight hours, so of course, I'm going to try to do multiple things at once. Especially when I usually read pretty quickly.

The psychic phenomena involved in this novel is similar to others that show up in Jayne Ann Krentz's novels, or ones that show up in the futuristic ones she writes as Jayne Castle. If you like that, this will be in line with what you want to read. There is a case of dead collectors of occult items, which the Foundation wants to investigate. Catalina Lark is requested for her investigational skills, though she has some bad experiences with the Foundation. That sets her in opposition to  Slater from the start, the first obstacle in their inevitable romance as they investigate the murders. Another would be Catalina constantly being called a "fake psychic" when in public, and I felt bad for her with every nasty comment thrown her way.

Much of the story focused on the missing friend and dead collector, as well as the psychic phenomena. There are many descriptions regarding the ability, hiding it, and that objects could carry an echo of the terrible things that could happen. It's an interesting story, with suspense as they track down the killer. While our two main characters learn more about each other as the novel progresses, and so do we, it isn't overtly romantic and they're not constantly battling an instant attraction. Honestly, I like that better given the short period of time that this entire story takes place. This allows them to develop a friendship first, and then deepen the relationship from there.

There are probably some details I missed by multitasking, but I still enjoyed the story. It's the start of a series, and I find it really fun. I don't mind that it follows a formula because it's comforting that way and reminds me of all the other Jayne Ann Krentz books I enjoyed reading.

Buy The Vanishing at Amazon

Secrets of the Ravine by Brenda Whiteside

Secrets of the Ravine
September 2020; Indie; 979-8679280281
ebook, print (261 pages); romantic suspense
Magpie MacKenzie sees the dead ringer for her long-dead love walk into her shop the same day skeletal remains are found in town. Zac Peartree is a lawyer with an orderly life that deliberately visited haunted Joshua, Arizona. He’s drawn to Magpie and has visions as well as déjà vu. The two team up using that déjà vu and clues from Magpie’s father’s past to unravel the mystery surrounding the skeleton while avoiding death themselves.

We start immediately with Zac and Magpie meeting in her shop, and he looks exactly as her boyfriend had when he disappeared twenty-eight years ago, right when her father’s girlfriend had been killed in their home. The story starts out slowly, introducing the two characters and the people around them, as well as letting us get to know the town and its populace. Frank has a good relationship with Magpie even after his bout of drinking when her mother died and after his girlfriend was found dead in the house. They have loving and easygoing father-daughter conversations, especially with the anniversaries of the deaths and Zac showing up in town. I really enjoy how that is portrayed in the book. He has his faults, but Frank loves his daughter and Magpie still loves her dad and understands the stresses in his life.

The relationship develops out of desire and the possibility of reincarnation, but they do get along very well even with the age difference. Magpie is a forty-six-year-old woman with eighteen-year-old twins while Zac is twenty-eight. It’s openly discussed, as Magpie has some worry about the age gap and all that it would entail. She isn’t treated as old or tainted, but a desirable woman and a viable love interest. It’s great to see that because a lot of books don’t discuss women over 35 unless it’s a midlife crisis kind of book, while this is a romantic suspense story. Zac is there for Magpie to lean on emotionally, given the roller coaster she’s put through here, and he’s more than willing to help her father as well.

Stylistically, the memories Frank had of the past being italicized and offset bugged me a bit, but that could be because I was racing through the book and that forced me to slow down because I skipped lines otherwise. Otherwise, this was an easy read and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Buy Secrets of the Ravine at Amazon


Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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1 comments:

  1. Thanks so much, MK. I appreciate your time in reviewing my book.

    ReplyDelete

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