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Happy Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances

Summer of Love i
Mary McLain/NPR
Summer of Love
Mary McLain/NPR

As we get into the hottest, most languorous months of the year, it's the perfect moment for a hot read — and just in time, our big summer book list is here. It's the NPR Books Summer of Love, and we have 100 great romances for you, from historical to paranormal to LGBTQ to the subgenre that started it all, category romance (the slim-spined Harlequins of your childhood).

Back in June we asked you to tell us about your favorite romantic reads, and you responded in droves. (We had to shut the poll down early after more than 18,000 nominations flooded in!) Once the votes were tallied, we turned to our expert panel, reviewers Bobbi Dumas and Sarah Wendell, and authors Sherry Thomas and Michelle Monkou, to help us break down the categories and shape the final list into a love story for the ages.

"It is my sincere hope and belief that readers new to the romance genre can pick up any recommended title on the list and find an interesting, affecting and satisfying read," says Thomas. We hope new readers and longtime fans alike will find a happily ever after here — but if we've left out one of your favorites, please tell us about it in the comments!

Here's a printable list to take to your local library, and here are some quick links to make it easier for you to navigate: Historical, Classics, YA, Suspense, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance, Inspirational, Contemporary, Category Romance.

Historical

Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels series)

by Loretta Lynda Chase

Paperback, 375 pages, Harpercollins, $4.99, published January 1 1995 | purchase

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Lord of Scoundrels
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Loretta Lynda Chase

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We recommend the entire Scoundrels series in any order, but Lord of Scoundrels stands out for the matchless banter between gruff, unruly Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, and his lovely nemesis Jessica Trent — an unrepentant bluestocking who's determined to wrest her dimwitted brother Bertie away from Ballister's crowd of rowdies.

Indigo

by Beverly Jenkins

Paperback, , Iuniverse Inc, $19.95, published April 1 2000 | purchase

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Indigo
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Beverly Jenkins

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Like so many of the authors whose names came up in this poll, it was hard to pick just one Beverly Jenkins book, but both our readers and our panelists agree, this story of love on the Underground Railroad is a standout favorite. Coming in a close second was another historical romance, Topaz, about a feisty newspaperwoman who ends up married, only slightly against her will, to a handsome deputy marshal.

Outlander (series)

by Diana Gabaldon

Hardcover, 662 pages, Random House Inc, $35, published July 5 2011 | purchase

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Outlander
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Diana Gabaldon

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One of the most popular picks in our poll, Diana Gabaldon's swashbuckling, century-spanning tale of a World War II nurse who tumbles backward in time to the Scottish Highlands in 1743 — and falls in love with a roguish young soldier — is now a hit television series.

Texas Destiny

by Lorraine Heath

Paperback, 379 pages, Penguin Group USA, $6.50, published June 1 1997 | purchase

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Texas Destiny
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Lorraine Heath

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Houston Leigh survived the Civil War, though badly scarred both inside and out. But will he survive a dangerous journey along the wild trails of Texas with Miss Amelia Carson, his handsome brother's mail-order bride?

The Serpent Garden

by Judith Merkle Riley

Paperback, 449 pages, Random House Inc, $14.95, published January 8 2008 | purchase

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The Serpent Garden
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Judith Merkle Riley

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Left in debt when her philandering artist husband is murdered by his mistress's own jealous husband, Susanna Dallet must rely on her skills as a painter of miniatures to survive her new position at the court of the devious Cardinal Wolsey. Luckily, there's a wayward angel and a handsome but easily ruffled court secretary looking out for her.

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (MacKenzies series)

by Jennifer Ashley

Paperback, 320 pages, Leisure Books, $7.99, published April 28 2009 | purchase

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The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
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Jennifer Ashley

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As with so many entries in this list, you really should read the whole series. But if we had to pick just one, it'd be this one. Brilliant and yes, troubled, Ian MacKenzie has been banished to an asylum by his cruel, powerful father. Freed upon his father's death, Ian makes an impulsive marriage proposal to Beth Ackerly, a wealthy widow who decidedly wants no more drama in her life.

The Bedwyn Saga

by Mary Balogh

Paperback, , Random House, $5.99, published March 1 2003 | purchase

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Slightly Married
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Mary Balogh

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Mary Balogh is a prolific historical romance author, and readers gave the most votes to her books about the spectacular, seductive Bedwyn brothers and sisters. But we'd be remiss if we didn't also mention her excellent Survivor's Club series, about seven survivors of the Napoleonic wars who find themselves convalescing together at a stately home in England.

Ravished

by Amanda Quick

Paperback, 385 pages, Random House, $5.99, published July 1 1992 | purchase

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Ravished
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Amanda Quick

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Fossil-hunting rector's daughter Harriet Pomeroy summons the notorious Viscount St. Justin to sleepy Upper Biddleton to hunt the thieves who've been hiding loot in the caves where she works. Love, intrigue and a lot of old bones can't be far behind. Amanda Quick is a pseudonym for the prolific contemporary romance author Jayne Ann Krentz (who also writes futuristic romance under the name Jayne Castle).

The Wallflowers (series)

by Lisa Kleypas

Paperback, 375 pages, Harpercollins, $6.99, published October 1 2004 | purchase

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Secrets of a Summer Night
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Lisa Kleypas

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Lisa Kleypas writes solid contemporary romances too, but this series about a quartet of 19th-century young women who band together to conquer the London marriage market was a favorite with our voters and our panelists.

The Bridgertons (series)

by Julia Quinn

Paperback, 371 pages, HarperCollins, $5.99, published January 1 2000 | purchase

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Duke and I
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Julia Quinn

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You can start pretty much anywhere in this beloved series about an alphabetically named family (Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne ... all the way to Hyacinth). The Bridgertons are some of the most famous siblings in romance — and the books are also a lovely example of familial love surrounding the individual love stories.

The Brothers Sinister (series)

by Courtney Milan

Paperback, 268 pages, Createspace Independent Pub, $12.99, published December 12 2012 | purchase

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The Duchess War
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Courtney Milan

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There's nothing actually sinister in this interconnected series of stories about very smart women (a chess prodigy, a newspaper publisher, a scientist and an astronomer, among others) and the left-handed men they fall for. Courtney Milan is a master of the intelligent relationship discussion — which, trust us, is incredibly romantic.

The Rules of Scoundrels (series)

by Sarah MacLean

Paperback, 386 pages, HarperCollins, $7.99, published February 28 2012 | purchase

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Title
A Rogue by Any Other Name
Author
Sarah MacLean

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Four notorious aristocrats — Bourne, Cross, Temple and the mysterious Chase — have built their lives around London's most notorious gambling hell, The Fallen Angel. But love has a way of offering absolution (without making you give up the baccarat table).

Flowers from the Storm

by Laura Kinsale

Paperback, 471 pages, Harpercollins, $6.99, published October 1 1992 | purchase

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Flowers from the Storm
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Laura Kinsale

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The dissolute Duke of Jervaulx is brilliant at both seduction and writing scientific papers — which he does with a blind Quaker mathematician. But when he's left speechless and straitjacketed by a stroke, it's up to the mathematician's daughter, Maddy Timms, to see that there's still a man inside the restraints — and to reconcile her Quaker faith with her growing love.

Spindle Cove (series)

by Tessa Dare

Paperback, 389 pages, HarperCollins, $7.99, published August 30 2011 | purchase

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Title
A Night to Surrender
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Tessa Dare

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The seaside town of Spindle Cove is often known as "Spinster Cove" because of its lively population of unmarried women. But even in this haven for disaffected or delicate ladies, love finds a way in.

Maiden Lane (series)

by Elizabeth Hoyt

Paperback, 388 pages, Grand Central Pub, $6, published October 14 2014 | purchase

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Title
Wicked Intentions
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Elizabeth Hoyt

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Regency England is one of the most popular settings for historical romance, but Elizabeth Hoyt steps back a century for the Maiden Lane books, set in a bustling, grimy 1730s London that teems with gin sellers and foundlings, noblemen and small, irritating dogs. And in the background is the mysterious Ghost of St. Giles, a sword-wielding vigilante who may be a guardian of the city's poor — or something more sinister.

Pennyroyal Green (series)

by Julie Anne Long

Paperback, 375 pages, HarperCollins, $6.99, published February 1 2008 | purchase

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The Perils of Pleasure
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Julie Anne Long

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The Everseas and the Redmonds rule the lovely Sussex, England, town of Pennyroyal Green — and the two powerful families can't stand each other. Naturally, that leads to secrets, grudges and all kinds of attraction, for the Everseas and the Redmonds, and anyone else who comes to town.

The Bride

by Julie Garwood

Paperback, 358 pages, Pocket Books, $6.99, published February 1 1991 | purchase

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The Bride
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Julie Garwood

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When the king orders Scottish laird Alec Kincaid to take an English bride, he sets his sights on Jamie, the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison. But Jamie has sworn she'll never love such an arrogant, brooding Highland barbarian — and that's even before murderous rumors begin to circulate about Alec.

The Pink Carnation (series)

by Lauren Willig

Hardcover, 388 pages, Penguin Group USA, $19.95, published February 3 2005 | purchase

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The Secret History Of The Pink Carnation
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Lauren Willig

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Lauren Willig takes the plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel and runs wild with it in this swoon-worthy series about florally named spies battling it out against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Bracketing the historical romance is modern-day historian Eloise Kelly, who unmasks the titular Pink Carnation (and finds a love of her own) while researching her dissertation.

A Knight in Shining Armor

by Jude Deveraux

Hardcover, 392 pages, Pocket Books, $18, published January 1 2002 | purchase

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A Knight in Shining Armor
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Jude Deveraux

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We couldn't quite decide where to file this time-traveling romance, but eventually we went with the setting for the start of Nicholas Stafford's story. He's a 16th-century knight reincarnated in the 20th to clear his unjustly tarnished name, with the help — and soon the love — of Dougless Montgomery, an American abandoned in England by her faithless fiance.

Not Quite a Husband

by Sherry Thomas

Paperback, 341 pages, Random House, $6.99, published May 19 2009 | purchase

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Not Quite a Husband
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Sherry Thomas

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Our expert panelist Sherry Thomas landed on the list with this emotionally intense story of a young Victorian nobleman who travels the world to find his estranged wife — a rare-for-her-time surgeon who has made a new life for herself in a far corner of India.

Desperate Duchesses (series)

by Eloisa James

Paperback, 384 pages, HarperCollins, $7.99, published June 1 2007 | purchase

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Desperate Duchesses
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Eloisa James

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Eloisa James is a professor of Shakespeare when she's not writing romance, and it shows in these sparkling stories, laced not just with Shakespeare, but also with Marlowe and Christopher Smart. It's almost as fun to play spot-the-literary-reference as it is to follow the adventures of James' exquisite duchesses.

Something Wonderful

by Judith McNaught

Paperback, 418 pages, Pocket Books, $6.50, published January 1 1991 | purchase

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Something Wonderful
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Judith McNaught

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One of Judith McNaught's most beloved books, Something Wonderful is the story of innocent country girl Alexandra, who saves cynical nobleman Jordan from a highway robbery — and winds up married to him after a misunderstanding. But Jordan doesn't quite know what to do with his young and very unexpected bride.

The Windflower

by Laura London

Paperback, 534 pages, Grand Central Pub, $8, published April 29 2014 | purchase

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The Windflower
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Laura London

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At over 500 pages, The Windflower may be a little dense for some readers, but this tale of a gently reared young American miss swept away by a dashing English pirate captain is a classic of old-school romance — and it's finally been reissued after years out of print.

The Spymasters (series)

by Joanna Bourne

Paperback, 373 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.99, published January 2 2008 | purchase

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Title
The Spymaster's Lady
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Joanna Bourne

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The lure of the Napoleonic Wars proves strong again in Joanna Bourne's Spymasters books, featuring a cast of dashing French and British spies finding love amid the danger. Bourne's ability to write convincingly French dialogue — in English — makes this series a standout.

The Duke of Shadows

by Meredith Duran

Hardcover, 371 pages, Simon & Schuster, $33, published April 13 2013 | purchase

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The Duke of Shadows
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Meredith Duran

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Emmaline Martin, betrayed by her caddish fiance, meets soon-to-be-duke Julian Sinclair in India just before the sepoy uprising of 1857. They fall hard for each other, but a deception keeps them apart until a cold London spring, years later.

Beast

by Judith Ivory

Paperback, , Harpercollins, $5.99, published April 1 1997 | purchase

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Beast
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Judith Ivory

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Louise Vandermeer is 18, beautiful, rich, bored and very aware that her life is limited by those factors. To escape, she agrees to marry aristocratic rake Charles d'Harcourt sight unseen, unaware that a scar and a limp mar his looks. For a lark, Charles decides to travel on his fiancee's ocean liner and seduce her secretly in her darkened stateroom — but the prank backfires when he falls madly in love with his own wife to be.

To Have and to Hold

by Patricia Gaffney

Paperback, 384 pages, Penguin Group USA, $13.95, published March 1 2003 | purchase

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To Have and to Hold
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Patricia Gaffney

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Rachel Wade is finally free after years in prison for the death of her husband, a crime she did not commit. But as a thoroughly fallen woman, the only work she can find is as housekeeper to the cynical, jaded Viscount D'Aubrey.

The Captive

by Grace Burrowes

Paperback, 439 pages, Sourcebooks Inc, $7.99, published July 1 2014 | purchase

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The Captive
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Grace Burrowes

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Gillian, the Countess of Greendale, has survived a brutal first marriage. Christian, Duke of Mercia, has survived capture and torture by the French. When she takes over the management of his household upon his return to England, these two terribly damaged people begin to build a new life together. (This, too, is part of a series that's worth checking out in any order you want to read them.)

The Lotus Palace (series)

by Jeannie Lin

Paperback, 378 pages, Harlequin Books, $7.99, published August 27 2013 | purchase

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The Lotus Palace
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Jeannie Lin

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Set in colorful Tang Dynasty China, these richly detailed romantic mysteries center on the celebrated courtesans of the Lotus Palace, who seem to attract as much trouble as admiration.

All Through the Night

by Connie Brockway

Paperback, 320 pages, Amazon Pub, $12.95, published November 19 2013 | purchase

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All Through the Night
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Connie Brockway

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Anne Wilder leads a double life: respectable war hero's widow by day, roof-crawling jewel thief by night — a dangerous pursuit that leads her straight into the arms of Colonel Jack Seward. But Jack doesn't know that the seductive thief who charmed him, and the honorable widow he loves, are one and the same.

Blaze

by Susan Johnson

Paperback, 486 pages, Random House, $5.50, published September 1 1992 | purchase

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Blaze
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Susan Johnson

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Portrayals of Native Americans in romance can be problematic, but our judges loved this story of a spoiled Boston heiress who heads west with her father to inspect some gold mines, and the Harvard-educated Absarokee leader who challenges their claims.

Morning Glory

by LaVyrle Spencer

Paperback, 432 pages, Penguin Group USA, $16, published February 3 2009 | purchase

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Morning Glory
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LaVyrle Spencer

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Widowed Elly Dinsmore has been treated cruelly in her small Georgia town. She's got two young boys and a third on the way, and she needs a man to help out. So she places a classified ad for a husband — and gets Will Parker, a lonely drifter condemned to live on the fringes of society after serving time for murder. Morning Glory takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster of love, betrayal, war and trials, but Will and Elly finally get their happy ever after.

Simple Jess

by Pamela Morsi

Digital Download, , Smashwords, $4.99, published March 9 2012 | purchase

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Simple Jess
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Pamela Morsi

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In the aptly named town of Marrying Stone, Ark., widow Althea Winsloe has been given an ultimatum by the townsfolk: Find a husband by Christmas, or they'll find one for her. The last thing she expects is to fall for farmhand Jess Best, a good man who's been written off by the town because he doesn't think quite as fast as they do.

The Morning Gift

by Eva Ibbotson

Paperback, 410 pages, Penguin Group USA, $9.99, published September 6 2007 | purchase

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The Morning Gift
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Eva Ibbotson

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Ruth Berger, daughter of a Jewish professor, was meant to escape Vienna, but her plans went awry. As the Nazis march on the city, her father's colleague Quinton Somerville decides to rescue her with a quick marriage of convenience — he'll sweep her away to England, and they'll get a quick annulment. But neither Quin nor Ruth counted on falling in love.

A Lady Awakened

by Cecilia Grant

Paperback, 362 pages, Random House, $7.99, published December 27 2011 | purchase

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A Lady Awakened
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Cecilia Grant

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Buttoned-up widow Martha Russell is desperate. If she doesn't produce evidence of an heir soon, her late husband's cruel family will seize the estate she loves. There's only one solution, obviously: She offers to pay her rakish neighbor Theophilus Mirkwood for a month of assignations. And Mirkwood is determined that Martha will get her money's worth.

The Summer of You

by Kate Noble

Paperback, 326 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $8.99, published March 1 2011 | purchase

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The Summer of You
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Kate Noble

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Lady Jane Cummings is finally out of mourning for her mother, but her father is showing signs of dementia, and her brother has only just returned from the Continent, where he escaped the responsibilities Jane has had to shoulder. Jane needs a distraction, and it arrives in the form of reclusive neighbor Byrne Worth — who has mysterious ties to a highwayman who's been plaguing the area.

The Rake

by Mary Jo Putney

Paperback, 410 pages, Kensington Pub Corp, $7.99, published March 27 2012 | purchase

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The Rake
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Mary Jo Putney

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Notorious wastrel Reggie Davenport is only good for gambling and drinking — until a relative offers him a second chance in the form of a manor house, complete with secretive estate manager Alys Weston. Romance ensues, but Alys' past and Reggie's alcoholism prove to be formidable obstacles to overcome.

Classics

The India Fan

by Victoria Holt

Paperback, 404 pages, Sourcebooks Inc, $12.99, published March 5 2013 | purchase

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The India Fan
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Victoria Holt

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Rector's daughter Drusilla Delaney becomes a companion to the spoiled, arrogant Lavinia Framling. But which will prove more dangerous to her — a supposedly cursed peacock feather fan, or Lavinia's brooding brother Fabian?

North and South

by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell and Patricia Ingham

Paperback, 540 pages, Penguin Group USA, $12, published January 1 1996 | purchase

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North and South
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell and Patricia Ingham

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Blurbed by Charles Dickens himself, North and South features one of the most memorable heroines in Victorian literature: Margaret Hale, who conducts a stormy romance with industrialist John Thornton while clashing with him over her quest to improve the lives of the workers in their gritty Northern mill town. A resonant mix of romance and social concern.

The Far Pavilions

by M. M. Kaye

Paperback, 957 pages, St Martins Pr, $22.99, published February 1 1997 | purchase

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The Far Pavilions
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M. M. Kaye

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An epic tale of forbidden love during the British Raj. British botanist's son Ashton Pelham-Martyn is orphaned in India and raised to believe he's an Indian boy named Ashok. Anjuli is a neglected princess, condemned first to an unwanted marriage and then to suttee when her husband dies — but happiness beckons for Ash and Anjuli in the "far pavilions" of the Himalayas, away from the prejudices that have kept them apart.

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

Hardcover, 392 pages, Sterling Pub Co Inc, $7.95, published October 30 2004 | purchase

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Pride And Prejudice
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Jane Austen

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Jane Austen's most famous work was one of your favorite picks (second only to the Outlander series). So much has been said about Elizabeth and Darcy that now their place in the romance canon goes without saying — we'll just leave you with the mental image of Colin Firth diving into that lake.

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

Paperback, 328 pages, Lightning Source Inc, $7.95, published June 30 2008 | purchase

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Jane Eyre
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Charlotte Bronte

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A poor, mistreated heroine, a dour, misunderstood hero, and a mad wife locked in the attic — if that's not romance, we don't know what is! Reader, she did indeed marry him, and they lived happily ever after.

Venetia

by Georgette Heyer

Paperback, 375 pages, Sourcebooks Inc, $18.99, published May 1 2011 | purchase

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Venetia
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Georgette Heyer

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We couldn't have a romance list without Georgette Heyer, the venerable grandmother of the genre. And readers agreed, giving the nod to Venetia, her charming 1958 novel about a sheltered Regency beauty who sees the best in a notorious society rake and then convinces her family to approve the match.

YA

Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

Hardcover, 328 pages, St Martins Pr, $18.99, published February 26 2013 | purchase

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Eleanor & Park
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Rainbow Rowell

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Rainbow Rowell's story of two misfit kids who fall in love over mixtapes and comic books in 1980s Omaha, Neb., was one of our favorite books of 2013 — and a favorite with our voters, too. While the ending is slightly ambiguous, we choose to believe Eleanor and Park got their happily ever after. We love them too much not to!

Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins

Paperback, 400 pages, Speak, $9.99, published August 4 2011 | purchase

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Anna and the French Kiss
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Stephanie Perkins

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Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, Ga., hanging around with her best friend and flirting with a hot co-worker at the local multiplex. But then her father decides to send her off to boarding school in Paris. Anna's misery begins to lift only when she meets the gorgeous (and, sadly, taken) Étienne St. Clair.

The Queen's Thief (series)

by Megan Whalen Turner

Paperback, 16 pages, Harpercollins Childrens Books, $6.99, published January 1 2006 | purchase

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The Thief
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Megan Whalen Turner

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A slight exception to our happily-ever-after rule, the romance in the Queen's Thief series gets off to a rocky start in the first book. But stick around for the next few volumes in this story of a master thief who steals the heart of a queen, and then must face the reality of being king.

Perfect Chemistry

by Simone Elkeles

Paperback, 360 pages, Walker & Co, $9.99, published December 23 2008 | purchase

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Perfect Chemistry
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Simone Elkeles

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High school golden girl Brittany Ellis finds her life turned upside down when she walks into her senior chemistry class and ends up partnered with tough guy Alex Fuentes, a gang member who longs to leave the life and go to college. Things start to spark when Alex impulsively takes a bet that he can get Brittany into bed.

Adios to My Old Life

by Caridad Ferrer

Paperback, 246 pages, Simon & Schuster, $17.95, published July 4 2006 | purchase

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Adios to My Old Life
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Caridad Ferrer

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Singer and guitarist Alegria Montero wants to make it big, and she's hoping that a shot on a reality show will help her leave behind her boring life of playing family parties. But when she makes it to the finals of a competition for the "next Latin superstar," she has to deal with the whirlwind of publicity, professional jealousy and a budding romance with NYU production major Jaime Lozano.

Suspense

I-Team (series)

by Pamela Clare

Paperback, 342 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.99, published August 5 2005 | purchase

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Title
Extreme Exposure
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Pamela Clare

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If you ever got annoyed that Lois Lane couldn't figure out Superman's secret identity, try Pamela Clare's I-Team books, featuring tough-minded investigative reporters who find love while digging up dirt on everything from environmental hazards to al-Qaida kidnappings.

In Death (series)

by J. D. Robb

Paperback, , Berkley Pub Group, $5.99, published July 1 1995 | purchase

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Title
Naked in Death
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J. D. Robb

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Nora Roberts makes her second appearance on the list (writing as J.D. Robb) with the long-running romantic suspense series, In Death. After a long debate, we named the Nora Roberts Rule after her: While many great writers were nominated, only Roberts is legendary enough to show up twice!

Nine Coaches Waiting

by Mary Stewart

Paperback, 342 pages, Independent Pub Group, $16.95, published May 31 2006 | purchase

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Nine Coaches Waiting
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Mary Stewart

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In this classic gothic suspense story, governess Linda Martin arrives at a mysterious French chateau to take care of the 9-year-old master of the house and discovers a sinister uncle, a dashing, sardonic cousin, and a possible plot against the life of her young charge.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Psy/Changeling (series)

by Nalini Singh

Paperback, 345 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $6.99, published September 5 2006 | purchase

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Title
Slave to Sensation
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Nalini Singh

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Nalini Singh's extensive Psy/Changeling series is set in a world torn between two races: The ruling Psy have awesome mental powers, but no ability to feel emotions. They punish any sign of desire, and they're on the brink of war with the shape-shifting Changelings.The action begins with one Psy desperately trying to conceal evidence of her feelings and the Changeling who sees her as the key to solving a murderous mystery.

The Iron Seas (series)

by Meljean Brook

Paperback, 456 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.99, published January 3 2012 | purchase

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Title
The Iron Duke
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Meljean Brook

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Steampunk is more than just a fashion statement in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas books, set in an alternate world where the Mongols conquered Europe with the aid of fantastical machinery. Dive in with the first book, The Iron Duke, about a military hero who falls for a police inspector when she comes to investigate a dead body dropped — via dirigible — at his doorstep.

Kate Daniels (series)

by Ilona Andrews

Paperback, 260 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $6.99, published March 27 2007 | purchase

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Title
Magic Bites
Author
Ilona Andrews

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Human technological progress has triggered a magical apocalypse, and mercenary Kate Daniels lives in the wreckage. She relies on her skills with a sword to protect her from enemies who want the magic in her blood — enemies who kill her guardian and throw her into the path of shape-shifter Curran, Lord of the Free Beasts.

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Ember

by Bettie Sharpe

Digital Download, 94 pages, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., $0.99, published February 22 2011 | purchase

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Title
Ember
Author
Bettie Sharpe

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Poor Prince Charming is cursed: Every woman who looks at him is instantly enslaved by love. And poor Ember turns to the dark arts in order to resist the prince's pull — but can he resist her? Bettie Sharpe reworks the story of Cinderella with, as she puts it, "sex, violence and naughty words."

The Inheritance Trilogy

by N. K. Jemisin

Paperback, 1472 pages, Little Brown & Co, $20, published December 9 2014 | purchase

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Title
The Inheritance Trilogy
Author
N. K. Jemisin

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N.K. Jemisin's tale of human women caught up in divine disputes is one of the best fantasy series of recent years, and also one of the most stirring romances: It's packed with gods and lovers whose bonds shape their world — and the worlds to come.

A Civil Campaign

A Comedy of Biology and Manners

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Paperback, 534 pages, Pocket Books, $7.99, published August 1 2000 | purchase

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Title
A Civil Campaign
Subtitle
A Comedy of Biology and Manners
Author
Lois McMaster Bujold

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Often described as "a Regency romance in space," A Civil Campaign stars Lois McMaster Bujold's memorable hero Miles Vorkosigan (and his clone brother Mark) as they scheme for the hearts of the women they love (and try to keep Mark's nonromantic scheme to engineer food-producing bugs from getting out of control).

Archangel

by Sharon Shinn

Paperback, 390 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $6.50, published April 1 1997 | purchase

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Title
Archangel
Author
Sharon Shinn

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In the fallen utopia of Samaria, an angel and a slave girl are thrown together in a divinely arranged marriage that proves anything but divine. Can Gabriel and Rachel overcome their differences in time to perform the holy rite that might save their planet?

Warrior's Woman

by Johanna Lindsey

Paperback, p. cm., Harpercollins, $5.99, published May 1 1990 | purchase

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Title
Warrior's Woman
Author
Johanna Lindsey

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There are probably more sensible books by the great Johanna Lindsey — she's better known for the pirate yarn Gentle Rogue — but none so outlandishly fun as this tale of a space-faring security officer who lands on a planet of giant leather-trousered barbarian warriors and winds up claimed by the biggest brute of them all.

Paranormal

Charley Davidson (series)

by Darynda Jones

Paperback, 338 pages, St Martins Pr, $7.99, published November 29 2011 | purchase

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Title
First Grave on the Right
Author
Darynda Jones

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Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and a full-time Grim Reaper, meaning she sees dead people and tries to guide them into the afterlife (and occasionally hunt down the people who left them dead). As if that weren't complicated enough, she gets caught up in a devilishly hot romance with the actual son of Satan — a relationship that only gets more intense as the series progresses.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood (series)

by J. R. Ward

Paperback, 408 pages, Penguin Group USA, $7.99, published February 19 2014 | purchase

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Title
Dark Lover
Author
J. R. Ward

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The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a band of entertainingly named (Rhage, Phury, Tohrment) and highly trained vampire warriors, brothers who protect their kind from vampire slayers when they're not falling for very special women. Ward has extended the series to include relatives and friends of the original brothers, but we recommend starting at the beginning with Dark Lover, the tale of vampire king Wrath.

Immortals After Dark (series)

by Kresley Cole

Paperback, 360 pages, Pocket Books, $6.99, published March 28 2006 | purchase

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Title
A Hunger Like No Other
Author
Kresley Cole

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In Kresley Cole's world, there are hundreds of paranormal races living secretly alongside humans. But every 500 years, war breaks out — and that time is now. Vampires and Valkyries, demons and sorceresses spark and court against a backdrop of supernatural battle in these award-winning paranormal romances.

Fever (series)

by Karen Marie Moning

Paperback, 349 pages, Random House, $6.99, published August 28 2007 | purchase

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Title
Darkfever
Author
Karen Marie Moning

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When MacKayla Lane's sister is murdered, a single clue leads her into the dangerous world of the Fae and an equally dangerous attraction to two men: the ruthlessly sexy alpha Fae V'lane, and the powerful, secretive Jericho Barron.

The Winter Sea

by Susanna Kearsley

Paperback, 536 pages, Sourcebooks Inc, $16.99, published December 1 2010 | purchase

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Title
The Winter Sea
Author
Susanna Kearsley

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Novelist Carrie McClelland hopes to turn an obscure historical battle into a best-seller. But when Carrie discovers a strange connection to the events she's writing about, her novel — about a young Scotswoman battling English spies while falling for a dashing soldier with a price on his head — turns out to be more truth than fiction.

Cry Wolf

by Patricia Briggs

Paperback, 310 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.99, published July 29 2008 | purchase

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Title
Cry Wolf
Author
Patricia Briggs

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Anna never knew werewolves existed until she became one herself, and not just any old werewolf. Anna is neither an Alpha nor a submissive but an Omega wolf, the rarest of weres, destined to bring peace to warring wolves and love to one of the country's most powerful packs.

Vampire Huntress (series)

A Vampire Huntress Legend

by L. A. Banks

Paperback, 303 pages, St Martins Pr, $6.99, published January 5 2004 | purchase

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Title
Minion
Subtitle
A Vampire Huntress Legend
Author
L. A. Banks

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Damali Richards is a popular spoken-word artist and producer. She's also the Neteru, a special human born once every thousand years to fight the dark threat of vampires with a jewel-encrusted sword that's 7,000 years old. Can she keep the world — and her vampire lover, Carlos — safe?

Dark Hunter (series)

by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Paperback, , St Martins Pr, $6.50, published October 1 2002 | purchase

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Title
Night Pleasures
Author
Sherrilyn Kenyon

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We are Darkness. We are Shadow. We are the Rulers of the Night. And this is a very entertaining, long-running (and hot) series about immortal warriors dedicated to defending humanity. Immortality, it turns out, isn't so great without love.

LGBTQ

The Magpie Lord

by K.J. Charles

Paperback, 210 pgs, Samhain Publishing, $10.86, published September 2 2014 | purchase

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Title
The Magpie Lord
Author
K.J. Charles

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Set in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace, this is the story of Lucien Vaudrey, who returns home to take up his title after the deaths of his father and brother. But he needs to fight the magic that's killing off his line, and for that he needs the help of quiet young magician Stephen Day — who bears no love for the Vaudreys.

Fated Love

by Radclyffe

Paperback, 311 pages, Perseus Distribution Services, $15.95, published September 30 2004 | purchase

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Title
Fated Love
Author
Radclyffe

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Four out of four panelists agree: You should read all of Radclyffe's books. Start with Fated Love, the story of trauma surgeon Quinn Maguire and the unexpected mutual attraction she feels with her boss, Honor Blake. The story really gets going when Honor begins to suspect Quinn is hiding something.

Hot Head

by Damon Suede

Paperback, 310 pages, Lightning Source Inc, $17.99, published June 30 2011 | purchase

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Title
Hot Head
Author
Damon Suede

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Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has been stifling his feelings for his co-worker and best friend, Dante Anastagio. But then Dante runs into money troubles and proposes that the two friends put on a show for a website that specializes in hunks in uniform.

Cut & Run

by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Paperback, 348 pages, Lightning Source Inc, $17.99, published September 30 2008 | purchase

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Title
Cut & Run
Author
Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

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A killer is on the loose, and FBI Special Agent Ty Grady has been partnered with another agent, Zane Garrett, to crack the case — but it's hate at first sight between cocky, confident Grady and serious Garrett. They'll have to figure out how to stop bickering before the killer makes them his next victims.

Keeping Promise Rock

by Amy Lane

Paperback, 332 pages, Lightning Source Inc, $17.99, published January 30 2010 | purchase

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Title
Keeping Promise Rock
Author
Amy Lane

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Crick Francis found his true love at the age of 8: Deacon Winters. But Crick is sure he'll never be good enough for Deacon, and Deacon is too painfully shy to admit his own attraction. When they finally come together as adults, a misunderstanding leads Crick to make an impulsive decision that could tear them apart forever.

Butterfly Tattoo

by Deidre Knight

Paperback, 288 pages, Samhain Pub Ltd, $16, published February 2 2010 | purchase

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Title
Butterfly Tattoo
Author
Deidre Knight

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Michael Warner has been dead inside ever since he lost his lover in a car crash. Their young daughter, too, is mourning her other father. But Michael begins to wake up when he meets Rebecca O'Neill, a former actress who's dealing with her own devastating losses.

Inspirational

Maid to Match

by Deeanne Gist

Paperback, 363 pages, Baker Pub Group, $16, published June 1 2010 | purchase

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Title
Maid to Match
Author
Deeanne Gist

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Bright-but-poor Tillie Reese lands a job as a housemaid on the Vanderbilt family's Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. But her dream job is jeopardized when she falls for rugged footman Mack Danvers — after all, the help mustn't get involved with each other. Our readers also recommended Tiffany Girl, Deeane Gist's story of love at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Redeeming Love

by Francine Rivers

Paperback, 479 pages, Random House Inc, $15.99, published May 2 2005 | purchase

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Title
Redeeming Love
Author
Francine Rivers

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Francine Rivers retells the Biblical story of Hosea, setting it in Gold Rush California and turning the Old Testament prophet into a sympathetic rancher who heeds a divine calling to marry an abused prostitute.

Erotic Romance

Natural Law

by Joey W. Hill

Paperback, 360 pages, Createspace Independent Pub, $16.99, published March 30 2005 | purchase

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Title
Natural Law
Author
Joey W. Hill

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Alpha male homicide detective Mackenzie Nighthorse goes undercover in a bondage club in search of a murderess — and finds he's increasingly unable to keep his desires separate from his investigation. Especially when he meets Violet Siemanski, a young dominatrix who seems to know just how to unlock his hidden self.

Liberating Lacey

by Anne Calhoun

Paperback, 272 pages, Createspace Independent Pub, $14.99, published January 22 2010 | purchase

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Title
Liberating Lacey
Author
Anne Calhoun

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Lacey Meyers is divorced after 15 years of boredom and bad sex. She just wants to have a little fun with studly young cop Hunter Anderson. Neither of them sees a future together ... but they just can't seem to stay away from each other.

The Lady's Tutor

by Robin Schone

Paperback, 360 pages, Kensington Pub Corp, $14, published September 1 2000 | purchase

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Title
The Lady's Tutor
Author
Robin Schone

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Elizabeth Petre, the daughter of a prime minister, is a perfect Victorian wife, but her charms are lost on her cold, indifferent husband. Determined to win him over, she asks for lessons in seduction from the notorious Ramiel, who calls himself the Bastard Sheikh. At first enraged by her request, Ramiel eventually takes on the task, with the aid of The Perfumed Garden, a classic collection of Arabic erotica.

Contemporary

Bet Me

by Jennifer Crusie

Paperback, 391 pages, St Martins Pr, $7.50, published August 1 2004 | purchase

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Title
Bet Me
Author
Jennifer Crusie

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Minerva Dobbs is an actuary whose wild side only peeps out in her choice of shoes (plastic, kitten heels, cherries and goldfish). Cal Morrissey is a serial dater who takes Min out to dinner on a bet — which, no spoilers here, she already knows about. It's a tasty tale of love, Elvis records and really good Italian food, and as a bonus, it comes packaged with another Crusie favorite, Welcome to Temptation.

Heart of the Falcon

by Francis Ray

Paperback, 286 pages, St Martins Pr, $7.99, published November 30 2010 | purchase

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Title
Heart of the Falcon
Author
Francis Ray

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Oil company engineer Madelyn Taggart has broken a lot of boundaries as a young black woman in a very white, very male field. She hasn't yet found a love to match her career success, but her brother's buddy Daniel Falcon — rich, suave and oh-so-handsome — might just fit the bill.

Something About You

by Julie James

Paperback, 323 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.99, published March 2 2010 | purchase

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Title
Something About You
Author
Julie James

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Both our judges and our readers love Julie James' FBI/U.S. attorney series. We recommend you start at the beginning, with the story of Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde. Unwitting witness to a murder, she's thrown together with FBI agent Jack Pallas — who just happens to blame Lynde for a botched case three years ago.

The Chocolate Kiss

by Laura Florand

Paperback, 342 pages, Kensington Pub Corp, $14, published December 24 2012 | purchase

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Title
The Chocolate Kiss
Author
Laura Florand

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Paris chocolatier Magalie Chaudron and her aunts are sorceresses of the sweet, stirring wishes into their cauldron of chocolate. Magalie's cozy world is threatened when the famous pastry chef Philippe Lyonais decides to open a shop nearby, but eventually she can't resist the temptation to venture out for a taste.

A Bollywood Affair

by Sonali Dev

Paperback, 294 pages, Kensington Pub Corp, $15, published October 28 2014 | purchase

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Title
A Bollywood Affair
Author
Sonali Dev

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Mili Rathod was promised to her husband at the age of 4 and hasn't seen him since. But as a married woman, she has the freedom to leave India for America and education. Hotshot Bollywood director Samir Rathod just wants to find the woman his brother was shackled to and get her consent for a quickie divorce — but Mili is far more than he expected.

Dream Man (series)

by Kristen Ashley

Paperback, 518 pages, Grand Central Pub, $7, published January 28 2014 | purchase

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Title
Motorcycle Man
Author
Kristen Ashley

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Kristen Ashley's word-of-mouth sensation series was a big favorite with our voters, and we recommend you start with Motorcycle Man. Tack and Tyra meet and hook up at a tequila-soaked barbecue, but sparks fly when Tyra realizes her big new job is managing the office at Tack's custom car garage.

Chesapeake Bay Saga

by Nora Roberts

Paperback, 342 pages, Berkley Pub Group, $7.50, published January 1 1998 | purchase

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Title
Sea Swept
Author
Nora Roberts

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Nora Roberts is a legend in the genre — so legendary, in fact, that she's the only author we let on this list twice. Many, many of her books were nominated, but our favorites are the Chesapeake Bay books, about the four adopted Quinn brothers — boat racer Cameron, boat builder Ethan, high-powered advertising executive Philip and artist Seth — and, of course, the women they love.

Lucky Harbor (series)

by Jill Shalvis

Paperback, 326 pages, Grand Central Pub, $6.99, published September 28 2010 | purchase

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Title
Simply Irresistible
Author
Jill Shalvis

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Lucky Harbor is one of those delightful towns you find so often in romance — chock-full of lonely men and women starting over, and centered around a ramshackle inn run by sisters Maddie, Tara and Chloe. There are more than a dozen Lucky Harbor books so far, so pick one and dive in.

Chicago Stars (series)

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Paperback, 381 pages, HarperCollins, $12.99, published July 1 2008 | purchase

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Title
It Had to Be You
Author
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

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Forget Da Bears — the Chicago Stars are the Windy City's hometown team in this series, and the focus of all kinds of romantic shenanigans from the moment New York hotshot (and, unfortunately, sports ignoramus) Phoebe Somerville inherits the team after her father's death.

Troubleshooters (series)

by Suzanne Brockmann

Paperback, 392 pages, Random House, $6.99, published June 1 2000 | purchase

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Title
The Unsung Hero
Author
Suzanne Brockmann

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If you like your heroes (and heroines) superheroic, the Troubleshooters are for you. Navy SEALs, FBI counterterrorism operatives and professional security guys tackle danger and desire in this long-running series. The most recent volume, Do or Die, was an NPR Books Concierge pick last year.

Virgin River (series)

by Robyn Carr

Paperback, 423 pages, Harlequin Books, $7.99, published December 18 2012 | purchase

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Title
Virgin River
Author
Robyn Carr

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The California town of Virgin River sounds like a great place to start over (or even just to take a vacation): towering redwoods, clear streams and, everywhere you look, hunky cops, former Marines, Navy officers and fighter pilots waiting for love to bowl them over.

The Mackenzie Family (series)

by Linda Howard

Paperback, 248 pages, Harlequin Books, $5.99, published April 1 2000 | purchase

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Title
Mackenzie's Mountain
Author
Linda Howard

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A multigenerational family saga featuring Wolf and Mary Mackenzie and their adventurous children: Navy SEAL Zane, test pilot Joe, anti-terrorism operative Chance and their sister, horse trainer Maris.

Blue Heron (series)

by Kristan Higgins

Paperback, 426 pages, Harlequin Books, $7.99, published February 26 2013 | purchase

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Title
The Best Man
Author
Kristan Higgins

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Dating is tough in tiny Manningsport, N.Y. (population 715), but the town is nevertheless home to all sorts of romantic adventures for the Holland family — sisters Faith and Honor, who run the Blue Heron vineyard, and their heartthrob brother, Jack. Brother and sister restaurateurs Connor and Colleen O'Rourke add to the complications.

The Madaris Family (series)

by Brenda Jackson

Paperback, 301 pages, St Martins Pr, $6.99, published April 5 2005 | purchase

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Title
Unfinished Business
Author
Brenda Jackson

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Brenda Jackson has written over a hundred books, so we're kind of spoiled for choice, but we recommend you start with her first series, about the soapily sensational Madaris family and their romantic adventures. There are more than 20 books in just this series, so dive in anywhere!

Wild Seasons (series)

by Christina Lauren

Paperback, 385 pages, Simon & Schuster, $16, published May 13 2014 | purchase

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Title
Sweet Filthy Boy
Author
Christina Lauren

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Christina Lauren's Wild Seasons series was a favorite with voters; the debut volume, Sweet Filthy Boy, about an American woman who has a wild Vegas weekend with a sexy Frenchman and decides on impulse to follow him to France, was named a Romantic Times Book of the Year in 2014.

Intimate Betrayal

by Donna Hill

Paperback, 409 pages, Harlequin Books, $6.99, published March 22 2011 | purchase

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Title
Intimate Betrayal
Author
Donna Hill

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There's one story investigative reporter Reese Delaware can't get to the bottom of: the tragic accident that killed her family. But when she takes an assignment to profile Maxwell Knight, a secretive tech magnate, she begins to uncover some dangerous secrets. This was made into a movie for the BET network, but trust us — the book is better.

Crazy Thing Called Love

by Molly O'Keefe

Paperback, 357 pages, Random House, $7.99, published January 29 2013 | purchase

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Title
Crazy Thing Called Love
Author
Molly O'Keefe

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Unflappably professional morning show host Madelyn Cornish (any relation to our Audie? We wonder) is hiding a broken heart. And then the man who broke it, bad-boy hockey star Billy Wilkins, comes crashing back into her life when her producers decide he needs an on-air makeover.

Black Knights Inc. (series)

by Julie Ann Walker

Paperback, 364 pages, Sourcebooks Inc, $7.99, published August 7 2012 | purchase

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Title
Hell on Wheels
Author
Julie Ann Walker

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Biker boys and ex-Navy SEALs are two great tastes that taste great together in Julie Ann Walker's Black Knights Inc. books., about a bunch of Harley-riding toughs who are really a covert special operations team.

The Girl You Left Behind

by Jojo Moyes

Paperback, 464 pages, Penguin Group USA, $16, published June 24 2014 | purchase

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Title
The Girl You Left Behind
Author
Jojo Moyes

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A 100-year-old painting is at the center of this emotionally gripping story, set partially in France during World War I and partially in the present day. Widowed Liv Halston treasures the portrait of an unknown young woman, a gift from her husband before his sudden death. And then she falls for Paul McCafferty, who just happens to be tracking down a painting that meets that description, appropriated by the Germans during the war.

Category

A note about the often-overlooked and misunderstood subgenre of category romances: These quick reads are most closely associated with pioneering romance publisher Harlequin, and come in dozens of subgenres from historical to inspirational. For many years, categories made up most of the romance market. And while the publisher-generated titles can seem a little ... erm, silly (The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable Girl, we're looking at you), if you like romance pared down to just the essential love story, category romances may be the thing for you.

Doukakis's Apprentice

by Sarah Morgan

Paperback, 186 pages, Harlequin Books, $4.99, published September 20 2011 | purchase

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Title
Doukakis's Apprentice
Author
Sarah Morgan

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When Polly Prince's family business is taken over by the arrogant (but sexy) tycoon Damon Doukakis, she becomes his apprentice — and she's determined to be successful in her new job. Before long, she finds herself at Damon's side as he negotiates an important deal in a dangerously romantic city — Paris.

Sex, Straight Up

by Kathleen O'Reilly

Paperback, 219 pages, Harlequin Books, $4.99, published April 1 2008 | purchase

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Title
Sex, Straight Up
Author
Kathleen O'Reilly

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Part of Harlequin's steamy Blaze line, this is the story of a Sept. 11 widower whose beach romp with the daughter of a famous auction-house family turns serious when a scandal threatens to bring down her family business.

Her Hesitant Heart

by Carla Kelly

Paperback, 281 pages, Harlequin Books, $6.50, published April 23 2013 | purchase

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Title
Her Hesitant Heart
Author
Carla Kelly

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Set in 1875, Her Hesitant Heart follows Susanna Hopkins, who has escaped an abusive husband for a new life on the frontier. When she hits Cheyenne, she runs out of money — and into the arms of military surgeon Major Joseph Randolph.

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