Romance / Erotica
by Sandra Worth
Plot/Idea: The author has created a lavish and detailed plot that deftly combines history and romance in this captivating work. The scope of the work is vast, and the plot far richer due to its historical context. The work offers a perfect blend of all the best elements of quality romantic fiction.
Prose: The prose here is truly top notch. Description, dialogue, action - all are expertly handled while simultaneously advancing a well-crafted story with a protagonist so real to the reader that they feel her joys and pains every step of the way.
Originality: Worth's skillful blending of historical fiction and romance results in a highly memorable reading experience.
Character/Execution: Worth does a stellar job with characterization. Zoe in particular comes alive in the author's skillful hands, while the historical settings and examination of the fall of Imperial Constantinople are equally authentically crafted.
by Harmke Buursma
Plot/Idea: Anne Through Time is the fourth novel in the Magical Bookshop series, which centers on a portal through a bookstore that provides characters with a passage back to time to the regency era. In this installment, Anne Blakely grapples with her father's death and her family's impending financial ruin while holding out hope for love--and finding it where she didn't expect. The time travel element is subtle in this installment, and the book reads primarily as an unconventional regency romance.
Prose: The author is a capable writer, equally skilled with dialogue, action, and description. The era comes alive throughout her work.
Originality: Anne Through Time, as with the other novels in the series, strikes a delightful balance between regency romance and sci-fi.
Character/Execution: Buursma's cast of historical characters is wholly convincing. Readers will feel as whisked away into another era as the individuals who encounter the titular magical bookshop.
by Gwen Hernandez
Plot/Idea: The author presents an engrossing cross-genre work that blends romance with a well-developed suspense storyline. The action is convincing, while the relationship between Emma Gallagher and Jason Chin–whose professional lives intersect years after dating in college–offers compelling sexual tension.
Prose: The author is a talented writer and storyteller, able to engage the reader and hold interest from beginning to end. Action, dialogue, and description are well-balanced, and the work is a pleasure to read.
Originality: Lie With Me expands on conventions, delivering an action-filled, second-chance romance with protagonists who, while initially in conflict, ultimately work together toward a greater good.
Characer/Execution: Hernandez excels at crafting layered characters whose pasts are organically unveiled throughout. Emma is a particularly rich character, with convincing actions, thoughts, and motivations. The chemistry between Emma and Jason is palpable, and readers will root for them to defeat their foes, find a way to reconcile their past mistakes, and be together.
by Jordyn Kross
Plot/Idea: Kross offers a truly engaging opposites attract story that will delight romance readers. The plot flows along smoothly and rapidly, offering insight into both sides of an unlikely budding relationship, which will keep the reader invested.
Prose: The author is a talented writer, able to capture and hold the reader's interest and bring characters to life. Equally skilled with dialogue, action, and description, Kross delivers a deeply satisfying, character-driven romance.
Originality: Kross satisfies genre expectations, while offering some gratifying diversions for her characters.
Character/Execution: The author switches the focus of the narrative from Katherine, who is clearly the protagonist, to Gabe and back again, allowing the reader insight into not only Katherine's thoughts and emotions but into his as well. This affords readers the opportunity to learn what motivates both of them and ultimately endears readers to their relationship.
by Kelly Miller
Plot/Idea: The Darcy Secret provides a unique expansion on the Pride and Prejudice canon. The engaging storyline finds the Darcy family struggling with dark secrets that could interfere with Fitzwilliam's marriage to Elizabeth Bennet. Miller delivers plenty of twists, making this a delight for Jane Austen fans.
Prose: Miller masters the historical prose and setting of the Regency era, and the story maintains a natural rhythm throughout. The abundant dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth is refreshing, and Miller adds a taste of spice to the plot for contemporary readers.
Originality: This is a fresh elaboration on Pride and Prejudice, and Miller capably embellishes the well-known characters.
Character/Execution: Miller's writing teems with heart, mystery, and intrigue—and will please both established Jane Austen fans as well as readers new to the genre. The central couple's strength is heartwarming, and the novel avoids trivial drama to create tension, allowing the couple to work together to tackle their challenges.
by Roseann Cotton
Plot/Idea: Overall, the author presents an engaging and enjoyable story with an outcome that readers will eagerly anticipate. There are some plot elements that feel exaggerated, such as Vanessa's reaction to her father's vehicle accident.
Prose: The author is a skilled writer, capable of polished prose and diction that fit the book's premise well. The trim writing makes the story easy to read as well as engaging.
Originality: The storyline is nuanced and entertaining, with strong themes of belonging and self-discovery that resonate throughout.
Character/Execution: The major players are convincing and masterfully executed—including Vanessa, Greg, and JP—allowing readers a deep understanding of who they are and the motivations driving their actions.
by Victoria Price
Plot/Idea: The storyline is entertaining and will feel familiar to genre fans. The initial meeting between Sara and Darren is a stretch, but the story quickly moves beyond the implausibility of that moment to deliver a well-rounded, appealing romance.
Prose: Price is a skilled writer, able to balance dialogue, description, and action well—all of which keep the story moving ahead at a steady pace.
Originality: Although the romance genre can be predictable, Price is able to differentiate this work from others through masterful characterization, setting, and circumstances.
Character/Execution: Price crafts likable and refreshing characters, particularly with central protagonists Sara and Darren. Readers will root for their happy ending, despite their missteps.
by Libby Malin
Plot/Idea: This is a highly enjoyable historical fake engagement romance. By nature of the genre, there's a formulaic component to the plot. Nevertheless, the author adds a layer of complexity and introduces wholly charming characters that make the story feel fresh.
Prose: The author is equally adept at dialogue, detail, and action. The work authentically captures the actions, attitudes, and language of the era.
Originality: Malin delivers on the expectations of the genre, while providing an original storyline and substantive characters.
Character/Execution: Characters are not only individually compelling, but they collectively create a vivid depiction of the age. The reader is provided a first row seat into Cora and Bill's perspective and experiences, while less central characters, like Cora's parents, add to the overall reading experience.
by Harmke Buursma
Plot/Idea: Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme is a charming, entertaining narrative that centers on Rosemary, a pianist living in 1976. The novel takes an unexpected turn when Rosemary is thrust back in time to the 1700s. With its many appealing qualities, readers may wish the book provided more space for plot lines and relationships to fully form.
Prose: The prose nicely propels the plot forward, and is often poetically descriptive.
Originality: Sage, Rosemary, and Time indulges in some well-loved tropes, but does so without coming across as tired or derivative.
Character/Execution: Though Rosemary is a finely established character, the novel's affords less opportunity for other individuals (besides Leo) to come alive. Refreshingly, the other female characters Rosemary meets during her voyage are friendly, not scheming rivals for Leo's attention.
Blurb: When life presents Rosemary with some unforeseen struggles, a perfect escape is presented to her in the shape of a magical bookshop that transports her back in time to Georgian England, where she finds purpose and love.
by LoLo Paige
Plot/Idea: Paige pulls the reader in immediately with strong characters who rub each other the wrong way but have a passion for what they do. Action packed, readers will have a better understanding of the language of fire and the Alaskan wilderness.
Prose: Told from two different points of view, the passionate tone of the characters propels the storytelling. Paige doesn’t shy away from portraying strong characters with rigid personalities. When the romance begins, Paige successfully shifts the tone yet maintains the character’s drive.
Originality: The reader will learn plenty about firefighting, smoke jumping, and the complex dangers inherent in the profession. The author also reminds the reader that running and racing sled dogs is not inhumane while using Alaska as a vivid backdrop.
Character/Execution: Rainie is a strong female character who reminds the reader that smoke jumping is serious business as her passion emanates off the page. The antagonizing male character grows on the reader as he begins to let his guard down with the female lead.
by Katherine Grace
Plot/Idea: Just a Fling is an appealing love story that balances passionate, fast, and tension-filled scenes with pockets of slow and contemplative moments. From beginning to end, readers will be swept into the world of Dawn and Callan’s romance, and all the secrets held unspoken until the very end.
Prose: Just a Fling features pacey and direct prose, similar to Emily Henry’s style of writing in People We Meet on Vacation. The writing is clean and keeps readers engaged throughout.
Originality: While the tale of a British-American summer love affair is somewhat familiar, the explorations of mental health and trauma provide welcome depth and substance. At times, the story would benefit from greater contrast between its romantic leads or greater stakes. Nonetheless, Just a Fling is a well-crafted romantic novel.
Character/Execution: Callan's struggles with his wife and daughter’s death provide a compelling contrast against the backdrop of his perfect face, physique, and personality. Dawn is well-painted as a strong, independent woman with high aspirations. While it is easy to fall into the story and into these characters’ lives, a bit more coloring of their inner and outer worlds would make the tension and world of this story feel that much richer.
by Michelle Mars
Plot/Idea: This straightforward plot, following two unlikely protagonists who discover that the best matches aren't always the most obvious, allows for few twists and turns, though Mars uses a playful tone and humor to keep the story moving forward.
Prose: Written in alternating first-person perspectives between Jason and Summer, the book's lighthearted mood shines through as the couple's relationship matures. Readers will cheer for their success, and Mars delivers plenty of heat from the start.
Originality: This book lives up to its title. Mars's use of creative wordplay—particularly with the names of Summer's bakery products—along with characters who work hard to break down each others' walls, is a winning combination.
Character/Execution: Both Summer and Jason are charming and witty, willing to take risks and be vulnerable—characteristics that make them appealing as they grow together.
by Felicita "Terry" Robinson
Plot/Idea: The plot, though a bit simplistic, examines love and betrayal through a new lens. The characters are likeable and the story is engaging.
Prose: Robinson's prose is competent, though it suffers in places from awkward phrasing and inconsistent details.
Originality: Pierre's Choice prompts readers to reflect on the tapestry of love and devotion that often interlaces with regret and second-guessing.
Character/Execution: Protagonist Pierre, who feels the pressure of the heavy burden he carries, is striking in his quest to find true happiness, and Robinson skillfully portrays his efforts toward fulfillment while avoiding hurt for those he loves.
by R.L. Merrill
Plot/Idea: Everything's Better With You is a pleasant mix of classic romance tropes and unique challenges for the story's gay couple, Leslie and Joe. There are sections of the novel that feel unnecessarily drawn out, and the drama between the couple comes across as manufactured at times.
Prose: The prose is clear and engaging, compelling the reader forward even when the plot slows down.
Originality: Everything's Better With You is a heartwarming, original queer love story. Readers will appreciate the diverse characters and the ways in which domestic violence, trauma, and heteronormative masculinity are addressed (and in a way that does not feel triggering).
Character/Execution: This novel has a large cast of characters that add levity and interest to the plot—the relationship between the Payton brothers is especially enjoyable. There are parts of the novel in which Leslie's character feels slightly stereotyped (the aging jock with reservations about being openly gay), and also moments in which his qualms about Joe and their relationship slow the plot, but the happy ending is well worth the wait.
Blurb: Everything's Better With You is a sweet and steamy queer love story that follows ex-NFL star Leslie and his long-time crush Joe, a professional dancer.
by Morgan Rivers
Plot/Idea: This erotic thriller kicks off with an intriguing mystery and a rising body count. As a detective finds himself entangled with a captivating psychopath, Rivers creates a scintillating and tension-filled read.
Prose: Whether conveying intimate erotic scenes or detailing aspects of a criminal investigation, Rivers's prose is smooth and highly readable.
Originality: Rivers provides a compelling blend of genres that allows for steady dramatic and sexual tension.
Character/Execution: Readers will relish the complex dynamic that exists between the two protagonists. Terana is a compelling, layered character who is deliciously wicked, while Sergeant Walker is provided an intriguing blend of fortitude and vulnerability.
by Brian Price
Plot/Idea: The premise of Once Upon a Subway is an intriguing one: two ex-lovers bump into each other on a Philly subway train, and in between the moments of their brief interaction the readers learn about their past. Both battling inner anxieties (and insufferable parents), Wyatt and Harper's story moves between raw reflections and romantic possibilities.
Prose: The prose is clear, efficient, and allows the circumstances to come alive.
Originality: While the narrative includes familiar romance tropes, the format is creative and fresh, and the reader will appreciate that the novel resists a predictable happily-ever-after.
Character/Execution: Romance readers will enjoy the work's romantic suspense and the candid characterization of the primary characters. Some elements are left uncertain, primarily whether Harper and Wyatt will succeed in their respective endeavors.