Jessica Wade is a senior editor, acquiring science fiction and fantasy for Ace & Roc books, and some mystery too. But she’s become an avid romance reader since working at Penguin Random House and she’s delighted to share her can’t-miss-books on Berkley/NAL’s romance list!
When I first started reading historicals, and kept asking people who their favorite regency author was, a name that came up over and over was Mary Balogh. Her writing is emotional, lovely, and clever, and I’ve adored every book of hers I’ve read. The newest is Only Enchanting. I’m reading it right now and it’s SO GOOD. It’s got tension and angst and wonderfully nuanced characters. People told me she was the best, and they were so right!
Joanna Bourne’s historicals are unusual, thrilling masterworks, set among English and French spies in roughly the time of the French revolution. Bourne’s deft dialogue, unforgettable characters, swift pacing, and rich historical detail are irresistible. Her books are mostly interlinked, and focus on secondary characters you’ve met in previous novels, so it’s a ton of fun to get to know ‘old’ characters in new ways. Her most recent book is Rogue Spy, and it’s totally wonderful. I also particularly enjoyed The Forbidden Rose and The Black Hawk.
If you haven’t read Julie James, get thee to a bookery, and I mean NOW. These books are The. Most. Fun. Romances. EVAR. Our whole office is essentially a big Julie James fan club. Julie writes contemporaries, and most focus on lawyers and FBI agents. Her dialogue is SOLID GOLD. The heroines are all feisty, fun, interesting modern women, and the heroes aren’t bad either. I have introduced so many friends who have never read romance to Julie James, and to a one, the response I have gotten is basically a version of “OH MY GOD WHERE HAVE THESE BOOKS BEEN ALL MY LIFE.” Right here, kids, and by right here I mean wherever books are sold. I’ll say start with Just the Sexiest Man Alive, about a lawyer who has a famous actor, with a famous ego, assigned to shadow her. High jinks ensue. But really, every one of her books is wonderful.
Samantha Young writes seriously intense contemporaries. I loved ON DUBLIN STREET, which tells the story of American, early-twenty something Joss, hiding from her past in Scotland. The hero is pretty alpha, and their romance sizzles off the page… it’s ultra emotional, angsty, and engaging, and I stayed up til 2 am to finish it in one sitting.
Cara McKenna writes superhot, gritty contemporaries. When I heard in a meeting that the hero of After Hours was an orderly at a psychiatric hospital, I knew this book was something really different… and I wondered how it would work. But oh my goodness, it does. She writes fluid, searing prose, and has perfected the unusual hero (and heroine). At the very top of my TBR pile are her Hard Time (which centers around a prison library) and Lay it Down (about a motorcycle gang).
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