Here is the monthly update from the Romance Readers of your library staff, bringing our love of romance into the light of day, and reveling in that dirt that so helps our minds to grow….
Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader
I am a loyal devotee of the Food Network, especially the shows that allow you to go behind the scenes and see how a restaurant functions, how a kitchen comes together to produce culinary masterpieces, or delicious comfort food. Also, I like eating things. Especially scrumptious things. So, naturally, I am also drawn to any romances that feature chefs, cooking, and food in general. And it doesn’t get much spicier, or sweet, than Kate Meader’s Hot in the Kitchen series.
Each of the three books in this series has a good deal to recommend it, but I was particularly fond of the third book, Hot and Bothered, featuring two loyal best friends who find a way to become even more together. Wine bar owner Taddeo DeLuca and Jules Kilroy have been best friends since Jules ran away from London to be with her family in Chicago after finding out she was pregnant two years previously. Tad may enjoy plenty of female attention, but after losing both his parents, he knows how important friendship is–and how unworthy he is of Jules. But when her friends convince Jules to join an online dating site in order to meet some new people, Tad realizes that he can’t bear the idea of anyone else romancing Jules, or helping to raise her son, Evan. But can he convince her–and himself–that they can be more together?
I find the best-friends-to-lovers trope a particularly tricky one. It’s a very difficult line to cross, and not all authors pull it off well. Meader is an exception, however. She embraces the awkwardness and difficult of Jules’ relationship with Tad, while still reveling in those moments where everything works perfectly. This isn’t an easy road for either character. Jules has been hurt before, not only by her son’s father, but also by Tad, who is dealing with the weight of his own guilt and self-doubt about being the man Jules deserves. At the heart of their relationship, however, is a world of respect, trust, and vulnerability that makes their eventual revelations that much more powerful. The fact that their friendship remains tantamount to this story is what makes the romance so meaningful.
Also, there is food. And wine. This is another series to which you will want to bring plenty of fortifying snacks. Bon appetit, readers!
Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens
Being relatively new to the world of romance novels, I decided to take a look at some lists of classics of the genre. In my search, I stumbled on romance writer Sarah MacLean’s Read More Romance page, and couldn’t resist her recommendation of Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens.
Devil’s Bride is the first of Laurens’ well-known series, The Cynster Novels, which now includes more than 20 books. Through Devil’s story, we’re introduced to the Cynster family, dominated by a group of six elegant, commanding, and completely rakish male cousins known around the ton as The Bar Cynster. The Cynsters are known for pushing society’s standards of acceptable behavior to the limit, but the family is wealthy and powerful, and the men of the Bar Cynster command a sense of respect as much because of as despite their wild behavior. Despite their reputations, above all else, the Cynsters value family, and it’s common knowledge that the only thing Cynster men fear is the strong-willed group of Cynster wives. In the Cynster novels, Laurens tells the stories of each man meeting his match.
At the head of the Cynster clan stands Devil, the Duke of St Ives, a man who earned his ominous nickname as a child and has never been called anything else by anyone but his mother ever since. At the opening of the novel, when forced to take shelter from an impending storm, Devil Cynster and Honoria Prudence Anstruther-Wetherby find themselves caught in a compromising situation. Having spent the night together in an abandoned cottage, the only acceptable thing for them to do is get married. For his part, Devil knew Honoria would be his wife the moment he saw her, so he is eager to do the right thing. However, Honoria cares little for society’s opinion of her, and has no desire to get married to anyone let alone a man she has just met. Before they can be together, Honoria must come to terms with a great loss in her past, and Devil must reconcile his uncomfortable feelings for, and prove himself to, the woman he wants to be his duchess. Devil’s Bride is a beautifully developed romance that explores the growth of two strong-willed characters, clearly meant for each other.