When it comes to love, the English language bears no shortage of cliches. Somewhere between “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Love is blind” is the old chestnut “Love strikes when you least expect it.” Anyone who has tried to meet a sweetheart online knows that this adage can be more fiction than fact, but there are great rewards in the unexpected love story: spilled coffee in a crowded elevator, eyes meeting on the Metro, sheepish acknowledgment as two single parents pick up their kids on the first day of school. This month, three romances offer love when it’s least expected.
Ex-Navy Seal Blake Junger moves to Idaho to hide from anything that might make him feel. A recovering alcoholic with terrifying demons, Blake thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he finds a secluded cabin on the outskirts of town. What he doesn’t realize is that the house comes with neighbors: beautiful and bruised Natalie Cooper and her charming 5-year old daughter. In “What I Love About You ” (Avon; paperback, $7.99), Rachel Gibson gives us the story of two characters who are terrified of what love might do to them. This story is romantic and deeply emotional — the descriptions of Blake’s battle with alcohol are particularly moving — all while displaying Gibson’s trademark sexy humor.
The latest installment in Kristen Callihan’s steampunk-paranormal-historical romance hybrid, the Darkest London series, might be Callihan’s best book yet. When the heart of part-human, part-demon Will Thorne was ripped from his chest, genius Holly Evernight created a clockwork heart to keep him alive. But that heart is slowly consuming Will, turning him to metal. He vows to exact his revenge on Holly — until they meet and he discovers that as an “elemental,” Holly can command metal and keep it from taking over his body. “Evernight” (Grand Central/Forever; paperback, $6) is a perfectly paced, tremendously sexy romance set against a beautifully wrought backdrop. As Holly works to cure Will’s affliction, it becomes clear that the magic that will save him will ultimately destroy her, and the stakes of their unexpected love get higher with each page. When Will vows, “Everything, all that I endured, was worth it because I found you,” readers might tear up. This is a gripping, near-perfect romance that will satisfy even those who resist the steampunk genre.
Set in the early 14th century amid the Wars of Scottish Independence, Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard series is a richly researched love letter to Scotland’s national hero, Robert the Bruce. The latest installment is “The Arrow” (Ballantine; paperback, $7.99), which begins with a horrifying account of the burning of a Scottish village by the English in 1307. Fifteen-year-oldCate of Lochmaben, who is 15 and the sole survivor of the attack, is rescued after days without food or water by Gregor “Arrow” MacGregor, master marksman and member of an elite band of Highland warriors. Gregor takes Cate under his protection, delivers her to his home and leaves her for five years while he returns to battle. When he finds his way home, scrawny young Cate is gone, and in her place is beautiful, headstrong Catharine, who has vowed to make Gregor love her. McCarty’s gift lies in writing strong characters into wildly entertaining — often unexpected — scenarios. Readers can’t go wrong with her latest.
MacLean’s next book, “Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover,” will be published in November.