The heroine of Kylie Scott’s “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” (Kylie Scott) is Adele, who at the book’s opening, arrives for her father’s wedding after seven years away. Adele had fled to Sydney at 18 after an embarrassing and misguided attempt at seducing her father’s prized employee, Pete Gallagher, whom she’d loved for years despite his being 15 years her senior. Older and (hopefully) wiser, Adele and Peter are forced together for the duration of the wedding week. What begins as an uncomfortable, awkward reunion quickly turns into a delicious, clandestine affair; Adele isn’t interested in losing her heart again, and Pete can’t bear the idea of betraying her father’s trust. Of course, the heart wants what the heart wants, and Pete and Adele are soon wild for each other.
Scarlett Peckham stakes a powerful claim on erotic historical romance with the stunning “The Duke I Tempted” (NYLA), which combines the rich emotion of a traditional gothic romance with complex, modern characters who captivate. Archer, Duke of Westmead, has spent years restoring his family name and estate, and now requires an heir to ensure a long line of future dukes. He plans for a wife who will not love him and who will not ask questions about his devastating past or his membership in a club designed for sexually submissive men. It seems the perfect plan until Archer discovers brilliant, fascinating Poppy Cavendish on his estate. Poppy is a botanist eager to build a business in exotic plants — something she can’t do if she is wed, as married women of the time could not legally own businesses. But then scandal intervenes, and Poppy and Archer are forced to marry and to discover that they can, in fact, love each other. Here is a novel about the lies people tell, the barriers we build to protect ourselves, and the fears we must overcome to let ourselves be loved.
Zoey Castile’s “Stripped” (Kensington) is a charming romantic comedy featuring a male stripper and the schoolteacher who steals his heart. Or perhaps it’s the other way around? Because of a laundromat goof, Robyn Flores discovers a sequined American flag thong in her clean laundry. She has no idea that it belongs to her extremely handsome neighbor, Zac Fallon. It turns out he dances in an all-male revue (think “Magic Mike XXL”). Then Robyn sees Zac at her best friend’s bachelorette party, where he’s the main attraction. Surprise turns into desire, and soon Robyn and Zac agree to a short-term, summer fling. Life, of course, has other plans. What follows is a witty, wonderful romance that speaks to who we are, who we are meant to be, and who we are meant to be with. Castile fills Robyn and Zac’s world with a raucous, supportive cast of family and friends who will have readers wishing they could linger in these pages just a little longer.
Sarah MacLean is an author of historical romance. Her most recent novel is “Wicked and the Wallflower.”