This month's offerings from Romancelandia include a brooding duke, the best friends a girl could ask for, and an extra helping of meet-cutes. Not to mention all the steamy kisses and happy endings.
Beauty and the Beast gets the historical romance treatment in Amalie Howard's The Beast of Beswick. The novel checks many Regency boxes: Beautiful, headstrong ruined woman (Lady Astrid Everleigh) and her young innocent sister are at the mercy of greedy relations and lecherous lords who scheme to marry them off unless Astrid can come up with a plan. Which she does — Her plan is the Duke of Beswick; no one would dare cross her if he's at her side.
Nathaniel Harte, the Duke of Beswick, was horribly scarred in battle and is now a brooding recluse at his estate, with only his cheeky servants as company — until she comes along. Astrid isn't scared of him, and she's more than ready to match wits. She's also not afraid to back down from his kisses. In fact, she downright enjoys them. His efforts to push her away are futile, especially once he starts falling for her. This is a novel for those who like brooding and moody heroes, heroines who stand up to them and modern romances with an old school flair.
JN Welsh's In Rhythm is full of backstage drama and steamy romance, with a fun glimpse into the electronic dance music scene. DJ Asha "Velvet" Kendall is one half of the lady duo Bedazzled Beats — and they're on the verge of making it, big time. Not only that, she has an electrifying connection with Isaak "Zazzle" Van Sandt, a member of the superhot group Tres Armadas. But his hard partying lifestyle results in an overdose and a stint in rehab; he's on the road to recovery when he and Asha find themselves on tour together. Sparks fly, onstage and off.
Asha can't deny the chemistry between them, but with her past, she's wary of getting involved with someone struggling with addiction, especially when her band is blowing up and her bandmate is M.I.A. But when Zazzle proves he's willing to risk it all to help her, she realizes she can be there for him too.
Would Like to Meet, by Rachel Winters, kept me turning pages way past my bedtime. The setup is appropriately cute: Evie Summers, a long suffering agent's assistant, finally gets a chance at a coveted promotion — if she can get an insufferable Oscar-winning screenwriter, Ezra Chester, to deliver his promised romantic comedy. He needs inspiration, and Evie aims to provide it by staging various meet-cutes, and hopefully finding love. But could Ezra be The One? Or what about that cute widower in the coffee shop?
At the heart of most romantic comedies is a woman's relationship with herself — something Would Like to Meet gets. Beneath all the hijinks, gimmicks and disasters is a story of a woman rekindling her love of writing and learning to insist on her own worth. So often that means a heroine seems wishy-washy in the early pages, but it's worth the journey to see her transform into a woman to be reckoned with. Now that's a happily ever after!
Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book is Some Like It Scandalous.