In these three new romance novels, down-on-their-luck heroines experience a sudden change of fortune thanks to the arrival of a swoon-worthy bad boy, the unexpected inheritance of an old house and revelations about a forgotten past. With love, and a little help from their friends, they create their own happily ever afters.
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne is both hilarious and heartbreaking all once, and a delight to read from start to finish. Ruthie Midona is only 25 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she dresses, acts or lives her life. Teddy Prescott doesn’t realize it either, at first, when he mistakes her for a granny during one of her rare trips away from Providence Retirement Villas, where she lives and works as office manager.
Of course Teddy ends up being the boss’s son, a bad boy harboring a secret pain and dreams of opening his own tattoo parlor and … her new neighbor when he’s assigned to live and work at the Villas. Ruthie, still smarting from their first encounter, sets him up as the assistant for the wealthy and outrageous Parloni sisters, who delight in tormenting all their young male assistants. And then she proceeds to focus on her new project: a dating profile and makeover crafted with the expertise of Melanie Sasaki, her friend and fellow office worker. She is not trying to attract Teddy.
Teddy soon charms his way into the hearts of the Parloni sisters and Ruthie’s too. Everyone knows this bad boy and good girl should not get together, and yet. This novel has a delightful cast of side characters and subplots, but the real pleasure is the vividly drawn, beautifully layered characters of Ruthie and Theo. This one kept me up late crying, in a good way.
If fixer-upper fantasies are your thing, don’t miss Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle. The only time Maybell Parrish was ever happy was the one childhood summer she spent with her aunt Violet at her big house Falling Stars, in rural Tennessee. It’s been a slog ever since, as she works a thankless job in housekeeping at a Pigeon Forge resort — and her recent promotion to event coordinator is only to make up for the boss’s daughter catfishing her with a photo of a gorgeous man. He lives rent free in her frequent daydreams. She has a lot of daydreams.
Because this is a romance, Maybell finds out that she has inherited the house and that she has to share it with Wesley Koehler, the real man behind the photo that has inspired her fantasies. At first, Wesley is grumpy. At first, their vision for the house clashes. It’s no surprise what happens next: They work together to clean up the house, and in doing so they bring out the best and worst in each other as they fall in love. Maybell’s voice and point of view make the story funny, engaging and enchanting. And Wesley’s deeply romantic gestures make Maybell’s imaginary world pale in comparison to her real one.
In Vanessa Riley’s England-set historical The Earl, A Girl and a Toddler, Jemina St. Maur has quite a backstory — and that’s just the part that she remembers. After surviving a shipwreck, she spends two years in the Bedlam mental hospital before being freed. She has no memory of anything before that. Her rescuers are The Widow’s Grace, a secret collective of women advocating for widow’s rights, working with the assistance of Barrister Daniel Thackery, Lord Ashbrook, who is willing to, ahem, “assist” with necessary legal paperwork to free her and others from Bedlam.
Years later, her memory still hasn’t returned and Jemina has questions about her past that only Daniel can answer. He refuses — at stake is custody of the beloved toddler he’s adopted , who has also survived the shipwreck. As their every encounter becomes heated and charged, their relationship is no longer about unlocking her past but possibly forging a future together. The mystery about Jemina’s past, especially, keeps the pages turning until a very satisfying happy-ever-after.
Maya Rodale is a bestselling author of historical romance. Her next novel is a work of historical fiction about Nellie Bly. Connect with her on Twitter: @mayarodale