There is perhaps no more rewarding romance heroine than she who is not expected to find love. The archetype comes in many disguises — the wallflower, the spinster, the governess, the single mom — but always with one sad claim: Love is not in her cards. She is too smart, too old, too serious, too sensible — and love is not for the sensible, after all.
Nonsense! This month, three romances offer up a Miss Lonelyhearts who finds love in a most rewarding way.
Governess Phoebe Baker is keenly aware of her position in Regency England. She knows the rules: “Governesses don’t dance. Governesses cannot walk out in public with a man. Governesses should not have suitors.” Of course, most governesses don’t have handsome earls hanging around — not that Phoebe knows that Ned, the Earl of Ashby, is conspiring behind the scenes. Kate Noble’s The Game and the Governess (Pocket; paperback, $7.99) is a Regency-era “Trading Places,” and Ned has switched identities with his secretary to prove that he can win any woman he desires on his own merit, without his title. Noble, a writer for the Web series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” spins a clever, tremendously entertaining tale of truth and lies, love and friendship. When Phoebe discovers that the man she loves has lied to her from the start, readers’ hearts break along with hers. And when Ned repairs the damage, everyone is satisfied.
The Firefly Café is the first of three novellas in Lily Everett’s Homecoming (St. Martin’s; paperback, $5.99), each of which is about one of three billionaire brothers. When Dylan Harrington, the “Bad Boy Billionaire” of Everett’s Sanctuary Island series, turns up on the quiet island for a few weeks of rest, he isn’t expecting to find his vacation home occupied by waitress and single-mom Penny Little. Penny mistakes Dylan for a handyman — which he goes along with once she reveals that she can’t stand those entitled Harrington brothers. The two are soon deep in an old-
fashioned courtship, despite her hesitation. Here’s a heroine who doesn’t believe herself worthy of love, the result of a devastating past relationship. When the truth comes out about Dylan, she can’t help but mistrust his feelings: “Was I a novelty to you, Dylan? A single, working-class mom, someone so far beneath you it made me exotic?” But Dylan doubts his worth, too, and when they finally sort out their insecurities, the love these two find is fulfilling in a way that’s becoming a hallmark of Everett’s books.
Rosalie Hughes, the heroine of Sophie Jordan’s A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin (Avon; paperback, $7.99) was packed off to finishing school a decade ago, and no one ever returned to collect her once she was finished. The goodwill of the school is no longer available, however, and Rosalie has been dumped, unceremoniously, on the Duke of Banbury’s doorstep. The duke is an inveterate rake and the boy whom Rosalie has been dreaming of since she was a child. Of course, he has no interest in being saddled with a spinster ward, so he does his best to ignore her until he can get her married. It sounds like a fine plan until Rosalie decides to take matters in hand, wanting “to live for myself and not be at the mercy of others for once.” When Rosalie turns up at Declan’s men’s club, disguised as a woman with far more experience than she actually has, he doesn’t have a chance, especially once this wallflower decides she doesn’t much care for walls. What ensues is a charming romp — funny, emotional and enormously sexy — that will leave readers eager for more.
MacLean is the author of seven historical romances. Her most recent book is “No Good Duke Goes Unpunished.”