Love is at the heart of so much of our lives, and so much of our lives is spent on a journey to it in all its forms, from romantic love to familial love to love of self. This month, three romances navigate that journey — in sometimes unexpected ways.
When professional dancer Gina Morales, the heroine of Alexis Daria's debut Take the Lead (St. Martin's), sets out for the Alaskan wilderness to meet her celebrity partner for "The Dance Off" (a fictional "Dancing With the Stars"), she discovers a bearded woodcutter named Stone Nielson, who has made a career on his own wilderness reality show. Stone has no interest in dancing, but Gina has a plan: She's going to make him a willing (and winning) partner if it kills her. What Gina doesn't realize is that the couple is being set up as the "showmance" of the season, something that Gina resists, wanting to win on the merits of her dancing and not the salacious desires of the TV audience. It's Gina, though, who finds herself with salacious desires. This is a case of extreme opposites attracting: Gina is a hilarious city girl, and Stone is a stoic mountain man with a secret. Together, they are outrageously sexy. Filled with a collection of intriguing characters, this is a light, vibrantly written romance from an author who clearly adores the world she's developed — and the characters she's matched.
Romantic suspense veteran Laura Kaye returns to her fan-favorite Raven Riders motorcycle club with Ride Wild (Avon). Suspenseful and emotional, the novel tells the story of Sam "Slider" Evans, a widower who hires Cora Campbell as a nanny for his two young sons. Cora and Slider have devastating pasts, leaving both mistrustful of partnership and love. But readers will see right away that these two are perfectly paired. They are clever and sweet, with a deep, mutual love for Slider's sons. Woven through is a subplot involving a dogfighting ring that is not for the faint of heart, but this is a romance that is more about love and family in its many forms than anything else. Kaye writes beautifully of parental devotion, love of animals, friendship, and the wild, wonderful family that Slider and Cora create.
Mia Sheridan's Most of All You (Forever/Grand Central) will devastate readers before it delivers its happily ever after. Gabriel Dalton was the victim of a childhood abduction and is now unable to bear physical contact. When Gabriel proposes hiring exotic dancer Ellie Cates to help him learn to tolerate human touch, Ellie — wounded by her own past — offers to teach him her own method of survival: "I remove myself completely, and it makes it bearable." But Gabriel wants to stay present in life. What ensues is the magnificent story of two kindred, shattered spirits finding hope and partnership and eventually love. The story is a long, slow burn of a romance.
Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance. Her most recent book is "The Day of the Duchess."