Opposites attract in this playful and laugh-out-loud rom-com from Lambda Award finalist Karelia Stetz-Waters.
Cade Elgin has a life and career in New York City, and she’s determined to get back to both as soon as possible after her aunt’s funeral in Portland. However, when she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s sex toy store — and has to save it from foreclosure — Cade realizes she’s not going anywhere. But making Share the Love profitable won’t be as easy as Cade had hoped. Her new partner has an infuriating lack of business sense, and an infuriating ability to turn Cade on.
Selena Mathis knows that nothing is more important than saving Share the Love. Not her pride, not her inconvenient attraction toward her new business partner. Cade may be more buttoned-up than Selena usually goes for, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to turn the store around. But the more they work together, the harder it becomes for Selena to ignore her growing feelings for Cade. And she starts to wonder if there is something more important than saving Share the Love.
England, 1948: Semi-retired spy Leo Page and country doctor James Sommers team up to solve a decades-old mystery.
When James learns that an uncle he hasn’t heard from in ages has left him something in his will, he figures that the least he can do is head down to Cornwall for a weekend to honor the old man’s parting wishes. He finds the family home filled with half-remembered guests and unwanted memories, but more troubling is that his uncle has tasked his heirs with uncovering the truth behind a woman’s disappearance twenty years earlier.
Leo doesn’t like any of it. He’s just returned from one of his less pleasant missions and maybe he’s slightly paranoid about James’s safety, but he’s of the opinion that rich people aren’t to be trusted where wills are concerned. So he does what any sensible spy would do and infiltrates the house party.
Together they unravel a mystery that exposes long-standing family secrets and threatens to involve James more than either of them would like.
Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.
After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.
As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.
I adored Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Alexis Hall’s baking show romance last summer, so I was very excited about another cooking show romance, and TL;DR—this book was everything I could have hoped for and more.
Dahlia and London’s Odd Couple vibe is so charming, and at the risk of sounding too cliché, their differences are the reason they work so well together. There’s also a forced proximity element at play—they aren’t sharing a room with only one bed, but as contestants on a reality show, their mobility is somewhat limited. Of course, they are allowed out in the “real world” (no pun intended), which leads to some of the best scenes in the book.
With so many reality shows out there, there are plenty of elements to pick and choose and Frankenstein together a unique show, but Kelly really knocks it out of the park with Chef’s Special. The worldbuilding is fresh and fun, from the cooking challenges to the personalities of the judges and other contestants.
Speaking of which, there is an antagonist, but she is not given very much on-page time at all. This was a good decision because more interactions with this person would have been needlessly exhausting and taken away from the feel-good atmosphere of the book.
There is some moderate angst that had me wanting to break the fourth wall, but it was a necessary step in order to achieve the growth and introspection needed to achieve the HEA.
I would absolutely recommend Love & Other Disasters. It’s so refreshing to have a non-binary love interest in a romance novel, and having them come out on a cooking reality show validates their gender identity, not just for themselves but for the entire country. There is so much more I could write in this review, like London’s relationship with their father, or how all the cooking made me hungry, or Dahlia’s need for change on the heels of a divorce, but I’m going to end by repeating that this book was everything I could hope for and more.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley.
Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.
Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.
Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.
Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.
If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis is available in trade paperback and eBook on December 28th!
A marriage lost is found again in this cheeky new romantic comedy from acclaimed author Jayce Ellis.
As executive chef at one of the hottest restaurants in DC, DeShawn Franklin has almost everything he’s ever wanted. He’s well-known, his restaurant is Michelin starred and he can write his own ticket anywhere he wants. Until his grandmother calls him home and drops two bombshells:
1) She has cancer and she’s not seeking treatment.
2) She’s willing half her estate to DeShawn’s ex-husband, Malik.
Make that three bombshells.
3) That whole divorce thing? It didn’t quite go through. DeShawn and Malik are still married.
And when DeShawn’s shady uncle contests Grandma’s will, there’s only one path back to justice: play it like he and Malik have reconciled. They need to act like a married couple just long enough to dispense with the lawsuit.
Once DeShawn is back in Malik’s orbit, it’s not hard to remember why they parted. All the reasons he walked away remain—but so do all the reasons he fell in love in the first place.
Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich’s “If This Gets Out is an absolute showstopper! Equal parts edgy and adorable, this bright, joyful book has everything I look for in a queer YA romance.” —Phil Stamper, bestselling author of The Gravity of Us
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartthrobs in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.
But privately, the pressure to stay in the closet has Ruben confiding in Zach.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe with an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, the two come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben realize they will never truly have the support they need.
How can they hold tight to each other when their whole world is coming apart?
Peregrine Hind, known to all as the bloodiest highwayman ever to bedevil the road, seeks only one thing—revenge against the Dartham family. And so when a robbery sends the second Dartham son and notorious rakehell Alexander Dartham tumbling to Peregrine’s feet, it seems like fate has given Peregrine his vengeance at last. Except then Alexander offers him a desperate bargain: to kidnap him instead, so Peregrine can harvest a generous ransom from Alexander’s family first. Peregrine agrees, but he’s in no way prepared for a captive like Alexander, who insists only on the softest beds and the finest wines…and who enjoys being tied up a little too much…
Two Rakes for Mrs. Sparkwell – Eva Leigh
The last thing Mrs. Vivian Sparkwell wants is to tie her life to another stifling husband. But thanks to the surprise terms of her last marriage contract, if she refuses any reasonable offer to wed again, she loses her widow’s portion. What she needs is a thorough and public ruining to make her would-be suitors cry off. Who better to provide the necessary scandal than notorious rake Rushton Cantley? Yet when Rush proposes that his friend, gaming hell bruiser Jack Morgan, join in on the ruination, Vivian can’t decide if she’s shocked—or aroused. How far is too far when infamy is on the line?
A Rake, His Patron, & Their Muse – Nicola Davidson
London playwright and notorious rake Lennox Townsend is renowned for bold melodrama and bolder pleasures. When he loses interest in both, his shy yet devoted patron Lord Jonathan Grant escorts him to a country boarding house managed by repressed widow, Mrs. Viola Prescott. The trio soon surrender to sizzling—and forbidden—passion, made sweeter as each share their deepest secrets and find acceptance of their true self. Yet cold reality is ever ready to intrude, and they know happiness is fleeting. Or is it?
Monsieur X – Adriana Herrera
Joseph Cantor Marshall never imagined reaching the pinnacle of artistic success would be so… uninspiring. Desperate for a spark of excitement he attends the notorious masked soirée at the most exclusive sex club in Paris. The moment he walks in he’s entranced by the mysterious X, the embodiment of the painter’s darkest fantasies. But X is as slippery as he is tempting, and soon Marshall’s days and nights are consumed by growing desire for his elusive lover. Will falling for X prove to be Marshall’s undoing or his greatest masterpiece?
Sold to the Duke – Joanna Shupe
Though she once lived a life of privilege, Lady Eliza is now destitute and desperate to care for her ill sister. She decides to sell the one thing of value she has left: her virginity. At the auction, a shocked Duke of Blackwood recognizes Eliza and refuses to allow her to fall into the clutches of a depraved bidder. But his role of noble rescuer is upended when the proud beauty insists on giving him his money’s worth…
What does it mean to get a second chance in a game that offers few?
Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.
The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.
Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.
Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell is available in trade paperback and eBook on October 26th!
In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.
Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.
Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…
When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?
Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.
Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.
One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.
I will admit to raising my eyebrows—sardonically, of course—at the way Charlotte and Adrianna fell in love as soon as they fell into bed, but shortly thereafter, I was totally rooting for them to overcome their obstacles and get their HEA.
To be fair, they do have a pre-existing relationship, so this is not the story of two strangers falling in love, but they do go from acquaintances to… not…very quickly. But when something feels right, you go with it.
Although the title refers to where Charlotte and Adrianna initially meet, most of the book doesn’t take place in Madrid *and* the protagonists spend most of the book apart. BUT, thanks to modern technology, they can still be together even when they’re in two different places.
And on that note, the chemistry is 100% scorching hot, and one can only surmise that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is the reason why they can’t keep their hands off each other when they’re in the same place. And why they have erotically-charged video chats.
There’s a ton to like about this book: the protagonists are both Black women who work in academia. They’re also a bit older than the average age of romance protagonists, which is wonderful—I don’t mind reading about people barely out of college, but it’s always a nice change of pace to read about people (whispers) my own age. But I am here for the academic drama and I am here for shutting down critics—no, it is not just a cartoon rabbit. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, but read the book to find out what I’m talking about.
Because Charlotte and Adrianna spend most of their time apart, they are bolstered by secondary characters like James and Esther, who both deserve books of their own, although not together, of course.
I would absolutely recommend Meet Me in Madrid. It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I got hooked, I couldn’t put the book down. This is a tender and sweet love story and I couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of food—yum! I am looking forward to reading more from Lowell in the future.
I received an ARC of this book from Carina Press/NetGalley
The car arrived with the luggage while they were still flirting and deliberating in the kitchen, the cava as yet unpoured. Hearing the buzzer, Adrianna had reluctantly thrown on a robe and slippers and run down the three flights, leaving Charlotte still leaning on the counter to contemplate what came next.
“I’m putting your very nice suitcase in my room,” a breathless Adrianna said as soon as she closed the apartment door behind her. “It won’t fit in the study.”
It would have fit in the study. But it fit a lot better in the bedroom.
“I’m out here,” Charlotte informed her. She had taken the bottle and glasses and resituated herself on the living room sofa. If it had been in the States, the long, upholstered couch with its plethora of throw pillows would have sat smack-dab in front of a flat-screen TV. This one, by refreshing contrast, faced a wall of tall, arched casement windows looking onto mostly sky and a distant cityscape punctuated by the city’s numerous church towers. Today the potted trees and summer furniture on the neighboring balconies were coated with an inch or two of velvety snow.
What sun there had been was already dimming.
Adrianna was surprised, but certainly not disappointed, to find Charlotte curled up at one end of said sofa, glass in hand, taking it all in just as she herself liked to do at sunset.
“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte said. “Doesn’t look like any place else I’ve been.”
“Sure doesn’t.” Adrianna sat down close beside Charlotte. Encouragingly close, she hoped.
Charlotte filled Adrianna’s flute with pale bubbly and raised hers in a wordless toast. Their glasses clinked.
“What are we drinking to?” Adrianna asked.
“Bank closures and oversold hotels?” Charlotte replied with a laugh and a gulp. Her legs were folded under her and as she went to set down her glass, she slipped into Adrianna’s shoulder, not seeming to mind at all when Adrianna leaned into her and caught her eye.
“If you’d have looked at me like that in school, I’m not sure what I would have done,” Charlotte said.
“I can’t promise I never did,” Adrianna admitted. “Especially there at the end.”
“You were definitely shopping around at one point, as I recall. Like a freshman for new classes,” Charlotte said. “Least that’s what it looked like from where I stood.”
“I was a train wreck,” Adrianna said solemnly. “My ex cheated on me with someone I cared about and I was worried to death I wouldn’t get a job—and interviewing cross-country practically every week while I finished the last chapter of my diss. Those days seem incomparably easy, yet completely impossible when I look back. But I fucked things up with a lot of people and I hate thinking about it.”
“Your heart was broken,” Charlotte said, reaching for the cava. She’d stopped looking at Adrianna but her voice conveyed empathy.
Had someone broken Charlotte’s heart? Adrianna wanted badly to know.
“And I did that to others in return,” she said.
“You are indeed a heartbreaker,” Charlotte laughed.
“You’re one to talk,” Adrianna replied. “I can’t believe you weren’t dating your pretty little ass off—or seeing faculty on the sly at least. I don’t think I do believe it.”
“Well, you can believe it or not. I’m not saying I didn’t sleep around some. But grads and faculty were off-limits. Not out of moral approbation. I just knew it would throw me off my game. I don’t mind telling you I had tempting offers from both parties.”
Good thing Adrianna wasn’t one of those former suitors. It was so much better finding her again like this, now that they were both past the stage of perpetual heightened insecurity. Now that there was no history with Charlotte, only possibility.
Neither of them were drunk, just usefully relaxed, their inhibitions disarmed by the alcohol, their focus sharpened by the caffeine.
Adrianna set down her own near-empty glass and turned toward Charlotte.
“Let’s toast to layovers instead.”
“Come here,” Adrianna said, just to see how Charlotte reacted to being told what to do.
“Make me,” she replied, finishing what was left in her flute and starting to rise.
“Where are you going now?”
“I’m thirsty. Think I’ll get a glass of water…”
“Fuck the water,” Adrianna said. She pulled Charlotte back down to her for a deep, wet kiss that burned deliciously from the sparkling wine in her mouth and on their lips. Charlotte responded with a kind of unrestraint, immediately taking the lead. God did she. Adrianna suddenly seemed to feel her touch everywhere.
It was one of those moments when you don’t realize how much you want something—someone—until she’s within reach. She wasn’t going to lose her second chance.
About the Author
Verity Lowell is a professor and occasional curator who writes queer of color romance. She likes imagining and describing a world where art, ambition, and history provide the background for diverse and steamy love stories, mostly about women falling hard for women. She and her partner and their cats live in New England and sometimes elsewhere.