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April 9, 2023

Fall in Love This Spring with These Three Romance Novels

by MK French

Whether you have a beach trip planned or just sitting on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather, a good romance novel will back it that much better. If you are looking for love within the pages of a book, these three books will have you swooning.

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Yours Truly, the Duke by Amelia Grey

book cover of Regency romance novel Yours Truly, the Duke by Amelia Grey
March 2023; St. Martin's; 978-1250850416
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); Regency romance

Fredericka Hale needs a husband to make herself look better for the courts, as she's trying to keep custody of her deceased sister’s three young children. While she isn't interested in marrying a stranger, the Duke of Wyatthaven needs a wife to avoid losing his inheritance from his grandmother. They plan to live apart and have a marriage of convenience, but of course, Fredericka and the children show up needing a home. There's an attraction between them, and now they just might act on it.

The pair marry, and they clearly are meant for each other. As sweet as Fredericka is, seeing her cousin Jane grandstand and manipulate her to try to get custody of three traumatized children is terrible. It forces the pair into closer proximity than they expected, and of course, it's not an easy thing to fix. This forces her to learn more about her husband and what Wyatt's actually like, not what the scandal sheets say about him. He actually wants the kids to run and play, and interacting with him means she can't overthink everything and be as rigid as she usually is. Wyatt is kinder and generally thinks well of others, while Fredericka internalized her jealousy and anxiety. They know they balance each other out, but they don't realize it until much later. We get our happily ever after even though it truly seems dire, and we get insight into the family dynamics that made Fredericka so afraid of failure. While she doesn't think she can repair the relationship with Jane, there's still a smidgen of hope for the future for everyone involved. 

Buy Yours Truly, the Duke at Amazon

Verity and the Forbidden Suitor by J. J. McAvoy

book cover of Regency romance novel Verity and the Forbidden Suitor by JJ McAvoy
April 2023; Dell; 978-0593500064
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); Regency romance

Verity Eagleman is lonely now that her brother married Aphrodite du Bell. She would much rather stay with the boisterous du Bell family than alone in an empty estate, and there she crosses paths with Theodore Darrington, the doctor that helped to save her brother's life. As the estranged bastard son of the Marquess of Whitmear, Theodore won't pursue any romance with the nobility. Verity doesn't care about the rules of polite society and would pursue him, despite concerns from friends and family.

This book is in the same universe as "Aphrodite and the Duke," (my review here) because Verity is Aphrodite's sister-in-law. Verity had been neglected and emotionally abused by her father and stepmother, leaving her with nightmares and panic as well as a sour view of marriage. The du Bell family obviously has a good one, but she views them and their rambunctious family as an outlier, not something common in the ton. It takes time for her to even realize she has a crush on Theodore, and he is upfront about the feelings he developed for her but won't act on. There's a lot of will they/won't they, which every romance novel has. It was both fun and frustrating to watch that dance happen.

The ending of this book dovetails a bit with the first, though you don't have to have read it. There's enough context in this book to make sense of the events involving Verity's half-brother, and the sudden status reversal that the du Bell family pushes through. I found that to be really unbelievable, but it smoothed the way to the happily ever after. It doesn't magically erase the nightmares or the potential risks of illness that would come with Theodore's practice, but they do push to maintain their happiness with each other. I do enjoy the fact that they have their life together, and it brings them incredible joy, no matter what happens. It's the whole point of a romance novel, and they fit very well.

Wings Once Cursed & Bound by Piper J. Drake

book cover of romantic fantasy novel Wings Once Cursed & Bound by Piper J Drake
April 2023; Sourcebooks Casablanca; 978-1492683865
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romantic fantasy

Peeraphan Rahttana was unaware of the magical underworld in Seattle before accidental exposure to a cursed object leads the vampire Bennett Andrews to rescue her. He is part of an organization that locates mythic objects, but he was too late to save Peeraphan from a deadly curse. It turns out that she's a Thai bird princess of legend and not an ordinary human. This will give her a bit of time, but the curse will still eventually kill her. Together, Bennett and Peeraphan search the supernatural world to find a cure. No matter what they find, she will never return to an ordinary life again.

Wings Once Cursed & Bound is the first book of the Mythwoven series and obviously borrows heavily from Thai myths. Peeraphan goes by Punch as a nickname, and she's aware that she's more than human from the start. Somewhere in her lineage is the mystic bird of myth named the kinnaree, but it's not well known. The Cursed object is actually a pair of red shoes, the ones from fairy tales that induce the dancer to dance to death. Peeraphan can resist them to a point, allowing her to find a way to break the curse and remove them.

The parallel world of supernatural beings alongside humans and regulatory bodies isn't new. I like how this is an international group and there are allusions to deeper lore and traditions from the start. This is fun to read about and also complicates the search for a solution because it could be any traditional spell or herbal remedy to help. The search gives Peeraphan and Bennett time to bond and grow closer, though she's very aware that she's been through a lot and the emotional connection could be because of that. She's not helpless in this situation, and she has a measure of agency and cleverness, especially in the last third of the book. Yes, she needs rescuing to a point, but she's not helpless either. 

The group members are fascinating and all misfits of a sort. They don't quite fit into the supernatural world and don't fit in the human one quite right either. Any misfit not fitting neatly into boxes can appreciate that feeling, and empathize with them as they navigate through their situation.  It's the start of an intriguing series, and I'm really hoping to see the rest of them.

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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