For February, 3 Swooningly Romantic Reads As Valentine's day approaches, we bring you three novels that take ideas of romance far beyond flowers and chocolate — from a wicked wager with a hot rogue to a fake date that turns into real love.
NPR logo For February, 3 Swooningly Romantic Reads

Review

Book Reviews

For February, 3 Swooningly Romantic Reads

In real life, we tend to think of romance as flowers, wine and Hallmark cards. But in a romance novel, it's a wicked wager with a hot rogue, a fake date that becomes a very serious fling, or a passionate love affair with a dangerous man. For this oh-so romantic month, here are three genuinely romantic novels to enjoy — flowers and wine optional.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory begins with a classic rom com setup: Man is stuck in an elevator with an attractive woman, so he invites her to attend a wedding as his fake girlfriend. As one does. Drew Nichols is Los Angeles-based pediatric surgeon, in San Francisco for the weekend to attend the wedding of his ex-girlfriend. Alexa Monroe is the mayor's chief of staff. After their meet cute, Drew and Alexa genuinely hit it off and enjoy a lot of hot sexy times. And so, other conflicts must ensue.

Those conflicts include managing long distance dating, balancing two high-powered careers, navigating an interracial romance and OMG trying to figure out what he meant by that text. This novel reads like a truly contemporary contemporary romance in that the hero and heroine grapple with issues anyone dating today will relate to — but with the promise of happily ever after.

Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller is a charming historical romance that had me laughing out loud. The story begins when the Earl of Westfield is shot by his unhinged ex-mistress. Being a typical Regency romance hero, he's a domineering rogue who has scared off all his nurses — except for one. Her name is Sophia Camden and she aspires to be a physician, so when Westfield wagers that she won't last ten days as his nurse, she accepts the challenge and demands that if she wins, he'll support a law allowing women to practice medicine. Swoon!

This novel reads like a classic Regency romance with the alpha rogue, the spitfire heroine and the silliness (Oh, that scene with the dog in the bedroom!), but it doesn't feel dated. While our smart and competent heroine can be a bit of a ninny about sex and our hero occasionally verges into excessive alpha territory due to his lack of emotional processing power, this is still a highly enjoyable read, packed with danger and intrigue, snappy banter, sexy times, Secret Pain and Past Heartaches and a happy-ever-after that's exactly what I wanted.

February weather always makes me want to get away to a warm place, if not in real life, then in fiction. For that, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is an excellent escape. Elisa Perez and her sisters, all wealthy daughters of a sugar baron, were exiled from Havana in . Decades later, Elisa's granddaughter Marisol returns to spread her grandmother's ashes, and when she finds box of her grandmother's love letters detailing her illicit romance with a passionate revolutionary, she becomes determined to dig up long held family secrets.

While she unravels the truth of her grandmother's past, Marisol naturally falls into a love story of her own. Told in alternative points of view between Marisol and Elisa, this is not one but two romances about the struggle to balance true love, family and country. Next Year in Havana reminds us that while love is complicated and occasionally heartbreaking, it's always worth the risk.

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author.