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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

April 22, 2024

3 Romance Novels to Read

by MK French

If you read Donna's A to Z Challenge post on Saturday, you learned that the romance genre makes up the largest segment in global book sales. That is easy to believe because who doesn't love a happily ever after? You learn more about the romance genre in Donna's post. But if you are looking for some great romance novels to read, check out these.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

How to Plot a Payback by Melissa Ferguson

book cover of romantic comedy How to Plot a Payback by Melissa Ferguson
April 2024; Thomas Nelson; 978-0840702913
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); romantic comedy

Screenwriter Finn Masters joined the staff of Hollywood's highest-rated, longest-running sitcoms. The star, Lavender Rhodes, once destroyed his acting career and wrecked his past relationship and doesn't even know it. Finn won't let her destroy this dream job, too, and realizes he can change the course of her career as he writes for her character. Everything goes wrong with each attempt to do so, and he's caught up in the drama. It also makes him see her in an entirely new light.

Finn is rather grumpy and dour, a serious crime series writer who takes the career opportunity of a lifetime. He isn't mean at heart, though he resents Lavender and hates even the mention of her. She's flighty and perpetually cheerful, almost willfully so, determined to see the best in everything.  Their interactions take a turn when he sees the potential harm in his pranks; he isn't trying to seriously hurt her and goes out of his way to correct the situation. That takes it from a dangerous plan to a slapstick one. I sympathized with him from the start and wasn't exactly rooting for Lavender either at first. But like with Finn, she grew on me and I saw her good points, too. The two are a good pair, complementing one another. The book is a fun take on the grumpy/sunshine trope, complete with Hollywood magic.

Buy How to Plot a Payback at Amazon

The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George 

book cover of Gilded Age romance The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George
April 2024; Berkley; 978-0593441008
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); Gilded Age romance

New York residents loved to gossip about Cora Dove's parentage. When her dying grandmother gives her and her sister generous dowries out of guilt, they’re told the funds will be released once they’re married far away from New York. England seems far enough away, and Cora only wants a husband that will respect her. The Earl of Devonworth wants to pass a bill benefiting the working class' water supply and will need money to do it. The marriage of convenience has more strings attached than they thought, including actual desire and secrets untold.

Cora's biggest secret is one we know from the start: she's illegitimate, as are her sisters and her biological father wants them all far away from his friends and legitimate daughter so he won't be embarrassed by their existence. This isn't spoken of in polite society of England, so her true parentage remains hidden. The wedding goes off without a hitch and is far more lonely than she thought it would be. As the eldest, she tries to keep everything hidden until her sisters are married, and she doesn't know anyone else in London. With similar views on the rights of women and the poor, Cora and Leopold grow closer as they work together on his speeches.

There's a good bit of historical accuracy in this story, from the terrible winter destroying some of Leopold's holdings to the suffrage movement and legislation to help the common workers. In this atmosphere, the forward-thinking couple develops mutual respect and friendship, which complicates the marriage of convenience and turns into a friends-to-lovers scenario. It's a fun execution of these favorites and a great look at the time period on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. As thr first book of The Doves of New York series, we're sure to see Cora and Leopold as they help Cora's sisters in future novels. 

Buy The Stranger I Wed at Amazon

Love You, Mean It by Jilly Gagnon

book cover of romantic comedy Love You, Mean It by Jilly Gagnon
April 2024; Dell; 978-0593722961
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); romantic comedy

Ellie Greco had to return to the small town she grew up in after her father's death to run the family deli. Their landlord might rent out the place to a gourmet food department store, so she tries to plead her case to the landlord's son Theo. Unfortunately, the ceiling caves in and knocks him out, and she panics in the aftermath, claiming to be his fiancée. His amnesia immediately afterward means the ruse works, but he does get his memory back. He wants to use the fake engagement to get what they both want, and it works until Theo's former fiancée returns and sees right through them.

If Jilly Gagnon's name sounds familiar, it's because she's written really good thrillers. This book is her first rom-com, with "just the right amount of amnesia." If you've seen the movie "While You Were Sleeping" imagine that mashed with "You've Got Mail" and you have an idea about the premise. (We'll handwave my old rom-com references, yes? Yes.) At first, Ellie lies so that the hospital will let her know that he's okay after the accident, but initially, he has amnesia and she rolls with it. He gets his memory back quickly, but he also doesn't want the big mega-deli to come in and essentially take over downtown. Theo has fond memories of the building and didn't want it to become yet another soulless store gutted of character. Ellie wants to save her family deli. The former fiancée Sam is smart and sees that Ellie's story doesn't quite add up, and the two are actually really friendly with each other. She's another strong personality and still has feelings for Theo, so she's willing to help them sell the fake relationship and is hoping to have a second chance with Theo as long as Ellie doesn't have any real feelings for him. While Ellie says no, she and Theo of course catch feelings as the ruse progresses.

Fake relationships turning into real ones is a great trope and is done really well here. In addition, Ellie is working class and Theo has been more upper class in town, adding to the tensions between them from the start. Aside from those differences, each really do value family and hard work, and aren't as caught up in appearances as some of Theo's family members. Sam isn't a villain in the story trying to break them up, and there are other characters who make notable appearances throughout the story. Ellie's family members are really fun to see on the page, as much as Theo's father is hateful. Ellie has to do a lot of emotional work to be ready for a relationship, which makes for a somewhat sudden turnaround in that beat of the story. Still, we reach our happily ever after, and even some of the side characters get a positive future as well.

Buy Love You, Mean It 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. These sound like great stories! I wonder if I can squeeze them in, among the books I read for reviews! LOL