Lancelot rescues Guinevere from death by fire. Leia frees Han Solo from carbonite. Gatsby takes a bullet for Daisy. In fiction, as in real life, love might inspire acts that are at best foolish and at worst life-threatening, but in the best romances, love is the final, secret ingredient that turns mere mortals into heroes and heroines. This month, three romances explore the way love empowers even the most unlikely candidates, redeems the irredeemable and, ultimately, saves the day.
When heiress Edie Jewell, the ruined heroine of Laura Lee Guhrke’s How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days (Avon; paperback, $7.99), proposes to the impoverished Duke of Margrave, she does so on the condition that the marriage be in name only. Margrave agrees, but after a near-death experience in Africa, has a change of heart. He returns home to resuscitate his sham marriage, only to discover that Edie has closed herself off from love and happiness. Readers should not be fooled by the light title of this book. Guhrke’s complex, proud heroine is a rape survivor, a woman with tremendous strength and no small amount of misplaced shame. “You think you can heal me?” Edie asks in one devastating scene. “I was rather hoping we could heal each other,” Margrave replies. Love will win the day, of course, but not without a fight.
Eight hundred years ago, Zoltan Czakvar, the hero of Kerrelyn Sparks’s How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying) (Avon; paperback, $7.99), mysteriously survived an attack on his village by a tribe of female warriors. For nearly a millennium, the vampire has searched for his father’s killer, but when he finds the tribe alive in modern times, he becomes their prisoner. The female warriors need him to procreate — they’re desperate to boost their numbers — but Neona, the woman who has been chosen to carry his child, recognizes him as the boy she saved from death centuries ago. Zoltan is no longer a boy, however, and the vampire is ready to do anything to find comfort after surviving for so long with vengeance in his heart. Here, the heroine does the saving — with kindness and a deft touch. “You saved me,” Zoltan whispers at one point, shocked by the connection between them that has lasted so long. She responds by revisiting each of his scars, recounting his healing. In classic Sparks fashion, the scene is sexy and poignant with a twist of humor, and serves as a reminder that heroes who allow themselves to be saved are often the most heroic of them all.
Grayson Tyler, the hero of Bella Andre’s Always On My Mind (Harlequin/MIRA; paperback, $7.99), is as broken as they come, hidden away on a farm in Northern California where he escaped after his wife’s tragic death. He’s sworn off love of everything, including the ancient cat that came with the farmhouse. So when dancer Lori Sullivan escapes a terrible relationship, turns up in his driveway in inappropriate shoes and threatens his peace, he wants nothing to do with her. BUT these two characters are powerfully connected, in part because they so deeply understand each other. Both are wounded, but while Grayson believes that love is a weapon, Lori believes it is a salve. When her belief is tested, she cries in Grayson’s arms, “Love is too hard. . . . I’m too weak for love.” She’s wrong, of course, and he knows it; she’s strong enough for love, and that love saves him. Just as it should.
MacLean is the author of historical romance. Her most recent book is “No Good Duke Goes Unpunished.”
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days
By Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon. Paperback, $7.99
How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying)
By Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon. Paperback, $7.99
Always On My Mind
By Bella Andre
Harlequin/MIRA. Paperback, $7.99