Accidental love stories are some of the very best. They are pure hope — the promise of love when we don’t expect it, don’t intend it, don’t want it. Of course, we always want it. Love, in all its forms, is the mark of our humanity. Perhaps that’s why the romances into which we trip and fall are the ones that make such delightful, messy stories. This month, three romances deliver happy romantic accidents.
The genre’s best-loved trope is the enemies-to-lovers tale. Readers instantly know this hero and heroine — the ones who can’t stand each other and yet can’t stand to be away from each other. This is the love story that begins with scathing banter and results in wild smooching against a wall. Or on a desk. Or wherever the enemies in question give in to the instinct to become lovers. Christina Lauren adds her own twist to this storyline in D ating You/Hating You (Pocket/Gallery). Evie Abbey and Carter Aaron are rival Hollywood agents who nevertheless discover they’re perfect for each other, mere days before they find themselves competing for position in their newly merged company. What ensues is a delicious romance that not only showcases a satisfying journey to happily ever after but also a hard-working heroine and a feminist hero. Banter is a hallmark of Lauren’s, and Evie and Carter’s is pitch perfect. At turns hilarious and gut-wrenching, this is a tremendously fun, slow-burn of a romance.
Lady Daphne Forsyth, the heroine of Manda Collins’s Duke With Benefits (St. Martin’s) is a brilliant mathematician with a habit of saying exactly what she thinks at inopportune moments. Daphne is on a self-directed path to spinsterhood — she wants the freedom to study and is willing to find pleasure with lovers rather than a husband. The book opens with her bluntly propositioning the unsuspecting Duke of Maitland for an affair. He refuses, but readers will immediately see that he’s done for. The two are thrown back together several months later when Daphne is bequeathed a cipher that promises financial security — something every good spinster requires. Maitland and Daphne begin to work together to find the cipher (said to be hidden inside the library on his estate) and soon find themselves in danger. Maitland is immediately drawn to Daphne’s clever mind and sets his sights on a future with her, but she takes longer to convince. The romance is lovely, with both hero and heroine falling into love the way people do in life outside of books — in a slow tumble and a sharp drop, all at once.
Separately known for their erotic romances, Sierra Simone and Laurelin Paige teamed up to write Hot Cop (self-published). Livia Ward is a librarian who wants to have a baby yet has sworn off dating. So she enlists dreamy local police officer Chase Kelly for a single purpose — to help her have a child. The request is bonkers, but Chase agrees, relinquishing any claim on Livia or their child. Of course, once the process begins, it’s clear that nothing is going to be as easy as planned. It will come as no surprise that Chase is not the first “hot cop” to find his way into the role of hero in a contemporary romance — the old adage about everyone loving a man in uniform was probably coined by romance readers. With Chase, Simone and Paige make their excellent, nuanced addition to the pantheon of uniformed heroes: He is the perfect balance of power and social conscience, and a hero we can all root for in a very sexy, very satisfying read.
Sarah MacLean reviews romance novels monthly for The Washington Post. Her most recent book is “A Scot in the Dark.”