JR Ward (The Black Dagger Brotherhood) and Christine Feehan (The Carpathian Novels) are two queens of paranormal romance best known for their action-packed vampire series. The two have now broken the mold with exciting new books. Other standout recent romances include a hilarious LGBTQ royal game and a modern take on Little woman.
Claims, JR Ward (Gallery books, $ 10).
Claims is the first in the Ward’s Lair of the Wolven series. Lydia Susi is a scientist working for the Wolf Study Project in upstate New York. The book opens with her discovering a gray wolf in the woods just as it collapses, apparently another victim of animal poisoning that WSP staff have found in the area. Lydia suspects that the poisonings are linked to the luxury resort that crosses the valley.
She and the vet bring the wolf back to the clinic, where Lydia is informed that a candidate for a position has arrived. Daniel Joseph turns out to be eye-catching. He was finally hired as a handyman.
He and Lydia are drawn to each other, especially as alarming incidents begin to occur. As they investigate the poisonings, they find themselves caught in a web of danger.
With Claims, Ward takes you on a crazy race full of twists and turns. You end up with a cliffhanger, cursing that you have to wait for the next book to find out what will happen next. Members of the Brotherhood clan also make an appearance, with Xhex featured in his own mysterious story that will intersect with that of Lydia and Daniel.
Murder at Sunrise Lake, Christine Feehan. (Berkley, $ 28).
In Christine Feehan’s first independent novel in nearly 20 years, Stella Harrison found a busy yet peaceful life as the owner of Sunrise Lake Resort. She has a group of good friends she made in the small resort town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but none of them know of her troubled past as the daughter of a serial killer who was sidelined because of his special psychic powers.
Now, years later, Stella has premonitory nightmares about another killer again. She knows that a fisherman is going to be targeted near the lake, but not exactly where.
Sam Rossi, her handyman, realizes that she is upset. He is a man of few words and fewer emotions, but he is observant and capable, and there is a quivering attraction between them. Stella confides in him.
He turns out to be an ex-serviceman and basically has a special set of skills, and he promises to keep her safe.
As the two try to find out more about the killer, they find themselves in ever more danger. Stella doesn’t know who she can trust – suspicions have even been raised about Sam. But she knows she must count on his help, and their growing love.
Play at the Palace, Paul Rudnick (Berkley, $ 16).
At the start of this wickedly funny and witty LGBTQ romance, Carter Ogden is still recovering from a bad breakup with her cheating boyfriend. Depressed at the thought of being nearly 30 and still single and underemployed – although he enjoys his job organizing events – he heads to his favorite place in New York City. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, he can speak to God about what is deep in his heart, even though he is a Jewish boy from New Jersey.
With a clear heart, he heads to the United Nations, where his company is organizing an event for the Royal Clean Water Initiative, led by the international dreamboat Prince Edgar of Great Britain.
Ahead of the event, Carter shares a moment of connection with the openly gay crown prince before the prince’s staff arrive and take him away. Carter is surprised when, a few days later, he receives a phone call from Edgar’s assistant, who says the prince is inviting him to dinner.
A picnic ensues, then Carter invites Edgar to his sister’s wedding, where the King makes a splash at Temple Beth Israel in Piscataway. But the next day, a hacked photo of them topless and sitting on a bed goes viral.
Carter is invited to England, where he faces an intrusive press, scheming royals, and a delightful Queen Catherine.
Play at the Palace is a bit light on actual romance – we don’t quite understand why Edgar falls in love with Carter so quickly – but it’s airy and sarcastic comedy. The book also touches on deep topics, including class separation, the burdens of royalty, and homophobia.
Can this relationship last? We encourage the two men to find their happiness forever.
Beth and Amy, Virginie Kantra (Berkley, $ 16).
In this sequel to Meg & Jo, on March’s two older sisters, Virginia Kantra focuses on the younger two of Louisa May Alcott Little woman.
Beth has reached adulthood and is a talented singer and songwriter. Amy is a handbag designer and her New York-based Baggage business is taking off.
Amy has been in love with Theodore James Laurence III, the rich boy next door, since she was a child. Trey, of course, had always been in love with Jo. But three years ago, when she met Trey in Paris after her split from Jo, Amy and Trey shared a passionate night.
Now Jo is marrying her sweetheart, chef and restaurateur Eric Bhaer, and everyone returns to North Carolina, where Amy is sure to meet up with Trey.
Beth has toured with country star Colt Henderson, for whom she has written a few hit songs. The two are now a couple, although the self-centered singer doesn’t notice that Beth doesn’t like the spotlight. In fact, she threw up. Colt suggests that she go home for Jo’s wedding, then take time off and rest.
Kantra’s books are a delight for readers who grew up with Little woman, as she reinvents modern romances for sisters, whose love for each other remains.