There’s a long-beloved saying in the romance genre: “The heroine always wins.” In books by women and for women, it should come as no surprise that heroines are the heroes of the action, finding themselves, their power and their future through love. But these are not simpering misses. These are strong women, deeply committed to their dreams, their passions and those they love. And in the best romances, heroines are survivors — eager for their happily-ever-after but willing and able to stand alone as they wait for their perfect match.
In “Chase Me” (Avon Impluse; paperback, $4.99), Tessa Bailey — known for her self-reliant, sexually confident heroines — introduces her “Broke and Beautiful” series, centered on a motley trio of roommates who find love in New York. (Think modern-day “How to Marry a Millionaire”). Aspiring actress Roxy Cumberland is willing to do anything to make ends meet — including hiring herself out as a singing telegram. When she turns up in a bunny costume on lawyer Louis McNally’s doorstep to sing a salacious ode to his private parts, readers immediately see where the two will end up. Louis and Roxy are a terrific match from the start. But Bailey is a master at portraying a heroine with a complex core, and Roxy’s proud character carries the novel — making readers wish she was their roommate, empty bank account be damned.
Tracy-and-Hepburn-style banter with a twist of powerful sensuality is the hallmark of Elle Kennedy’s “The Deal” (Elle Kennedy; e-book, $4.99), a charming new-adult romance featuring a powerful heroine who has overcome tremendous odds. Quiet and artsy rape survivor Hannah Wells is shocked to discover herself drawn to the star football player at her college, so shocked that she enlists the help of Garrett Graham, captain of the school’s ice hockey team, to teach her how to land a jock. While Hannah and Garrett never imagine that their arrangement will bring them closer, readers will see it coming and enjoy every minute as the two become friends and then lovers. Kennedy deals with Hannah’s past trauma with deft authenticity, rendering the more erotic parts of the book lovely and emotional, but it’s the story’s dialogue that really shines. Hannah and Garrett are delightful, as is this novel.
Single mother Elise Fountain was asked to leave her job as a teacher at a school for recalcitrant girls when the circumstances of her son’s birth came to light. Without any hope of a respectable job and being desperate to ensure her son’s future, Elise accepts a position in the home of Lord Philippe Lavay, an obstinate aristocrat with little hope for his future. Recognizing that no one else will employ a single mother with a questionable past, Elise has no choice but to survive and thrive, doing her best to restore the Lavay residence and heal its master. What ensues is a deeply romantic tale of unlikely love. While “It Started With a Scandal” (Avon Impulse, $7.99) is less lighthearted than the other nine books in Julie Ann Long’s Pennyroyal Green series , the romance is emotional and richly rewarding, and Elise and Phillippe’s journey is near-perfect.
Sarah MacLean’s most recent novel is “Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover.” She reviews romance for The Washington Post every month.