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Romance novels for cold winter nights

By Sarah Wendell,

In Theresa Romain’s Season for Surrender (Zebra, $6.99), a lord with a derelict reputation throws his annual holiday house party, an occasion that consistently creates a year’s worth of rumors and scandalous stories. But this year, 1818, he’s required by the terms of a bet to invite one of the most proper young ladies in London — and keep her there for two full weeks. The lady, Louisa Oliver, sees his party as her last opportunity for adventure and doesn’t expect to find her host so tempting. They’re both trapped in roles they didn’t choose, and soon they realize they have a great deal in common. Added plus: We can all be thankful that, in modern times, holiday parties don’t last two weeks.

Julie Anne Long writes witty and sharp historical romances, and her Pennyroyal Green series is worth reading from Book 1. But you don’t have to start there: A Notorious Countess Confesses (Avon, $5.99), Book 7 in the series, is available now. Evie Duggan is the notorious countess, a former actress and courtesan excluded from society for her ambition and for marrying far above her station. She withdraws to the town of Pennyroyal Green and finds herself drawn to the inscrutable and very hot vicar, Adam Sylvaine. Long’s books are emotional and addictive, so be prepared to seek them all out after you’ve read one.

If you’re looking for contemporary romance with a little angst, conflict and snow, try Sarah Morgan’s A Night of No Return (Harlequin, $4.99). A chief executive’s personal assistant gets stranded in a snowstorm at her boss’s remote castle, and their attraction, which is subtle at work, becomes unavoidable in his home. I have a serious weakness for stories involving people trapped in snowstorms, and the snow in this novel comes with added drama, a wonderful heroine and a lot of emotion, but no shoveling or wet socks.

Paranormal fans will love the new book in Thea Harrison’s fantastic Elder Races series. It’s the type of story that readers describe in sentence fragments because all the compliments rush to the front of their brains at the same time. The first title in the series was “Dragon Bound,” and now the fifth installment, Lord’s Fall (Berkley, $7.99), continues the story of Pia and Dragos. Think of this series as an extended reading vacation — with dragons.

Lauren Dane’s Tart (Berkley, $15) combines some popular themes in contemporary romance with a whole lot of steam. Juliet is a baker who finds herself wavering between two men: one from her past and one from her present. The possibilities of a future with either one — or both — make for some emotional and seductive reading. Plus, there are baked goods, and what isn’t improved with a liberal application of pastry?

Wendell is a co-founder of the romance novel Web site TrashyBooks.com and the author of “Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels.”

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