Thirsty (Loveswept, e-book), by Mia Hopkins, is a powerful, honest look at love as both a motivation and a risk. Sal Rosas has returned to his Los Angeles neighborhood after years in prison for grand theft auto. Sal grew up a member of a gang — the same gang his father was in. But now that Sal is on parole, he is working to steer clear of the group and the people from his past who are still in it. He works multiple jobs for little money and struggles to find a place to stay, until an older woman on the block offers him a room in her garage. The new space comes with a roommate of sorts — Vanessa Velasco, whom Sal has known his whole life. Now a widowed single mom, Vanessa is doing everything she can to give her daughter the best life possible. Nothing about Sal’s journey is easy; his paralyzing fear of failure puts his happiness, and his future with Vanessa, in jeopardy. The book, told from Sal’s perspective, is a beautiful, authentic look at the challenges of starting over, the terrifying hope of the future — and the dangerous lure of the past.
Sophie Campbell, the heroine of Caroline Linden’s My Once and Future Duke (Avon) was orphaned at 12, shipped off to a boarding school, and eventually disowned and left to make her own way. These are especially challenging circumstances for the daughter of a scandalous gambling viscount and an opera singer in Regency England. Sophie learned to gamble from her father, however, and she finds her way to the Vega Club (what happens there, stays there), where she gambles to support herself. Sophie stays beyond the notice of the membership until Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware comes calling. He wagers 5,000 pounds to buy Sophie her independence, and she quickly accepts; if she loses, Jack wins a week with her. Jack prevails, setting off an emotional, intense romance between two unlikely partners — the pragmatic heroine who knows that money makes the world go round, and the privileged duke who has never had to consider the challenges of solitude and poverty and is full of snap judgments.
When good girl Rosa Fernandez decides to cut loose at her sister’s wedding reception, she has every intention of a one-night stand with Jeremy Taylor. She does not, however, intend to get pregnant. The setup to Her Perfect Affair (Zebra Shout), by Priscilla Oliveras, is a classic romance plot: When Rosa tells Jeremy about the baby, he immediately proposes, but his plans are upended when Rosa declines. Jeremy has spent his life trying to be the antithesis of his deadbeat father, and while Rosa is eager for Jeremy to be a part of their child’s life, she wants to be more than a responsibility for the man she marries. What follows is an honest look at the myriad emotions that come with unplanned pregnancy. Jeremy’s frustration with Rosa’s refusal is palpable, but the powerful hallmark of this book is Rosa’s proud insistence that she stand for herself. Otherwise, what kind of mother could she possibly be? Oliveras has a knack for writing big, boisterous, supportive, interfering families, and there is a delightful one here, filled with differing, overwhelming opinions about Rosa and Jeremy, whose long, slow tumble into love is as authentic as it is rewarding.
Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance. Her novel “Wicked and the Wallflower” will be published in June.