To those unschooled in the genre, romance seems to celebrate the Prince Charming myth: tall, handsome hero riding in on white horse to save the heroine. But the best romances turn that dynamic on its head and provide a strong, vibrant heroine who saves her hero. Three new romances feature wonderfully damaged heroes who find salvation through love.
Historical romance readers will be thrilled to discover Joanna Shupe, whose third novel, The Lady Hellion (Zebra; paperback, $7.99), is a beautiful and complex love story featuring a hero who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a heroine with a penchant for saving the day. Lord Quint and Lady Sophia Barnes were madly in love years earlier, but a confluence of unfortunate events separated them until Sophie appears in Quint’s bedchamber, asking for him to be her second in a duel. Sophie is masquerading as a gentleman to save prostitutes throughout London, and Quint is the only man she trusts to help her. Quint, however, is a recluse who is sure he is slowly going mad; he is terrified of disappointing — or worse, hurting — the woman he loves. Shupe is very talented, walking a fine line between Quint’s demons and Sophie’s charming, almost madcap character. These two sparkle in this wildly entertaining story.
Alisha Rai blends emotional characters with passionate sensuality in some of the best examples of erotic romance available. In her most recent, Serving Pleasure (Alisha Rai; e-book, $3.99), 32-year-old Indian American heroine Rana Malik has decided to change her wild ways and allow her meddling mother to nag her into finding a husband while she is still young and attractive. But best-laid plans go to waste when artist Micah Hale moves in next door: Rana becomes an accidental (and then purposeful) Peeping Tom, watching him as he struggles with his painting following a vicious attack that nearly killed him. What begins as a one-sided fascination ends with Rana becoming Micah’s model, muse and lover. The arrangement has only one rule: They will not fall in love. Of course, things don’t quite work out that way and the two find themselves desperate for the lives they had prepared for and the ones they desire.
Few authors write damaged heroes better than Elizabeth Hoyt, who has a penchant for wounded warriors and the strong, uncommon heroines who can heal them. Dearest Rogue (Grand Central; paperback, $8) is classic Hoyt, and readers with a soft spot for the princess-saves-prince trope will adore it. Nearly blind Phoebe Batten wants to live like any ordinary aristocratic lady in London, but her overprotective brother won’t hear of it. Instead, he hires Capt. James Trevillion as his sister’s bodyguard, and for good reason. The book opens with the pair narrowly escaping would-be kidnappers (Phoebe is worth a great deal of money as a bride). The two find themselves in hiding, and Trevillion resists his feelings for her, considering himself unworthy of her love. Phoebe, of course, sees the truth, and their emotional love story is a satisfying summer read.
MacLean is a romance novelist and reviews romance books for The Washington Post every month.
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