We review the season's best new romance books from Shakespeare-inspired tales to thoroughly modern LGBTQ+ couplings.
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As the leaves fall and the temperature dips, there's nothing we love more than cuddling up with a good book.

If you want to get cozy with a romance novel this season, here's seven of our favorite new releases — from warm-hearted, feel-good reads to deeply emotional, swoony tales.

Fall Romance
Credit: HarperCollins

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne

Sally Thorne makes spooky season a year-round proposition with a quirky romance that is, in essence, Frankenstein fan-fiction. Angelika Frankenstein, the sister of the more famous Victor, has labored right alongside her brother in his scientific experiments. Lonely and viewed as an odd spinster by the entire town for her predilection for speaking her mind, Angelika decides to make her perfect match β€” literally. Selecting body parts from the morgue, she stitches together and reanimates her ideal man. Only he's not so sure he wants any part of this. What has always made Thorne's books such an outright delight is the vein of something strange and unusual running through them just below the surface. Here, she brings that out to play, while also exploring themes of loneliness, grief, and loss in profoundly moving fashion. The book does contain a central issue of consent, and it might be difficult for some readers to move past the fact that Angelika's hero has no agency in being brought to life and selected as her match. But anyone who's read Frankenstein knows that part of the storytelling is a purposeful interest in probing the limits and morality of science. That's no less the case here. Angelika yearns for Will, as he calls himself, but she ultimately leaves the choice to woo her in his hands. Meanwhile, Will feels that he must uncover the truth of his life before his first death before he can make peace with his attraction to Angelika. As Thorne's first historical, the book offers up her usual sense of humor, given even more free rein in the particulars of her fictional 19th-century town. There is an inherent mystery in Will's background, which the book seeds in satisfying ways. But its true magic lies in the way it probes the mysteries of the heart, how grief can twist and cripple us, and the joy of learning to take life and love as it comes. As for Thorne's writing, there is one truism that makes it leap off the page: it's alive, it's alive!

Heat Rating: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: A-

Fall Romance
Credit: Little, Brown

Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan

Kennedy Ryan's latest is a fairly untraditional romance, the story of two wounded humans, Josiah and Yasmen, whose brutal miscarriage and stillbirth tore them apart. When an accident sent Yasmen spiraling into a deep and dark depression, it drove a rift between her and Josiah, until she asked for a divorce. Now, nearly two years later, Yasmen has found her way back to joy, and she and Josiah have found a natural rhythm to their co-parenting and shared business endeavors. But as Josiah starts to put his toes in the dating pool, Yasmen realizes she might have made a mistake β€” and her chemistry with Josiah remains undeniable. Soon, an impulsive kiss flames into something more. Ryan has an extraordinary gift for probing the fractures of a broken heart and the painstaking, beautiful work it takes to put it back together. Before I Let Go is a searing, thoughtful look at loss and depression, and a vital reminder that mental illness is a liar. It's also a whole-hearted endorsement for therapy, championing its role in repairing Yasmen and Josiah's love. The book is not a light read by any means, but somehow, Ryan always manages to ring her heavy stories with an aura of hope and a propulsive narrative that makes them impossible to put down. Reading her books, this one is particular, is like pressing a bruise β€” they hurt so good. Because, of course, they're also rife with Ryan's gift for writing toe-curling sex scenes. I never thought it possible to enjoy having my heart clawed out of my chest so much, but Ryan makes the painful downright poetic β€” and reminds us that love, and second chances, are within our grasp if we give ourselves over to the whispers of our inner souls.Β 

Heat Rating: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: A

Fall Romance
Credit: St. Martin's Publishing Group

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

I very much wanted to love Meryl Wilsner's sophomore novel. The premise β€” a college senior accidentally hooks up with her best friend's mom during parents' weekend β€” sounded absolutely delicious. Wilsner so deftly handled the power dynamics of a boss-employee relationship in their first novel, Something To Talk About, that it seemed the perfect space for them to venture next. Mistakes Were Made begins with a promising hook, the aforementioned one-night stand between student Cassie and mom Erin, saucy and hot in all the right ways. But the pacing, particularly in the second half of the novel, lags, jawing too much between the forbidden romance between Erin and Cassie and Cassie's own sense of betrayal of her friends. Wilsner, who wrote a delectably slow burn in their first novel, opts for a far more explicit tact here β€” but the sex scenes do eventually become a bit rote. Perhaps that's because Erin and Cassie repeatedly make eyebrow-raising decisions, including getting hot and heavy while said best friend sleeps down the hall in her childhood bedroom. Kinks and taboos in fiction are meant to break barriers, to tantalize us with our fantasies that would probably be wildly inappropriate in real life. The challenge here is that Wilsner is such a relatable writer, one who writes with a breezily contemporary sensibility, that it feels hard to separate the boundaries of reality with the steamy fantasies of fiction. As a result, Cassie and Erin's relationship can feel more belabored than sexy. It's not their age difference or even the MILFiness of it all, so much as it is the choices they both make that continually betray the trust of the people they claim to love most in the world. I'm never here to yuck anyone's yum, but this simply didn't work for me as much as I longed for it to. The book still carries Wilsner's signature wry sense of humor, and they write erotic yearning in a class all their own. But Mistakes Were Made can't escape the overriding sensation that somewhere along the way a mistake was, in fact, made.

Heat: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: B

Fall Romance
Credit: National Geographic Books

Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese

Chloe Liese makes her traditional publishing debut with this lush, swoony contemporary take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. When fastidious Jamie Westenberg and gloriously chaotic Bea Wilmot are tricked into going on a date by their friends and family, they decide to get revenge by pretending to be a perfect match and then breaking up in a spectacular fashion. The only trouble is that once they start pretending, they can't help but actually fall for each other. Liese is an uncommonly lyrical writer, painting images of her characters and their dates with the vibrancy of artist Bea's own brush strokes. Bea, like Liese herself, is neurodivergent, and her past trauma in an abusive relationship has made her believe she should turn her back on love. Similarly, Jamie's own familial history and anxiety has prevented him from opening up to a partner. But the two find a soft place to land in the other, their idiosyncrasies perfectly aligned, rather than catastrophically ill-suited as they initially assume. The things that have earned them criticism from others in their lives are allowed to flourish in each other's presence. It doesn't follow Much Ado About Nothing to the letter (for one, Jean Claude, the dupe for Claudio, is an outright jerk from the word go) β€” but Liese weaves in aspects of Benedick and Beatrice's love story (and famous dialogue exchanges) in winking, witty ways. For those of us who have had passages like "I love nothing in the world so much as you, is not that strange?" and "I love you…no more than reason" tattooed on our hearts, it's the perfect acknowledgement of this endlessly intoxicating, sparring, enemies-to-lovers couple. Jamie and Bea are spiky and vulnerable in all the right ways, though squishier and less self-assured than Shakespeare's famous lovers. But that only makes them all the more easy to love with so much of our hearts that none is left to protest.

Heat Rating: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: A-

Fall Romance
Credit: Harlequin

The Gentleman's Book of Vices by Jess Everlee

Happily-ever-afters for LGBTQ+ storytelling are still shockingly few and far between in pop culture, but the romance genre is working hard to fill that gap. Jess Everlee turns that notion of "Bury Your Gays" and tragic romance on its head with her new historical romance. Charlie Price, a resolute drunken reprobate, has resolved to marry a woman with the aim of paying off his debts and staying in his family's good graces. But before he does so, he plans to have one last hurrah, securing the autograph of his favorite author to add to his explicit novel collection. When Charlie shows up at Miles Montague's bookshop and knows his secret identity as smut writer Reginald Cox, he's furious, until a series of events sets off a blistering affair between them. In the past (and in Miles' own stories), Miles and Charlie's love story would've ended in tragedy. But instead, Everlee crafts a scorching affair between the two damnably decent men and delivers a delicious deus ex machina that allows them the happiness they crave and deserve. Miles, in his gruffer, introverted ways, is a delectable foil to Charlie's extroverted amiability, but their romance is a combustible one. Everlee, however, tells a touching tale of their ability to contain that explosive spark and nurture it into a well-tended fire. All it takes is a healthy degree of eroticism, a loving family, even better friends, and a desire to risk it all for the one you love.

Heat: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: B+

Fall Romance
Credit: HarperCollins

Duke Most Wicked by Lenora Bell

I await the release of a new Lenora Bell novel the way some people (also me) wait for Christmas. Her historical romances are always engrossing, lush, and downright moving. Her latest, Duke Most Wicked, does not disappoint. Haunted by his father's cruelty and a terrible secret, Brandan Delamar, Duke of Westbury, has made it his sole mission in life to be a ruined rake. But when Viola Beaton, his sisters' affectionate and bright-eyed music teacher, points out that his sisters need him to reform his ways to have any chance on the marriage market, an attraction flares. Viola is the loveliest of heroines, warm, cheerful, and stubbornly optimistic, even while nursing a healthy degree of pragmatism. West is cut from the finest of rakish Duke cloths, a dissolute drunk, gambler, and brawler, until the love of a good woman brings him to his knees. Viola is also a talented musician and composer in her own right, struggling with supporting her famous composer father over letting her own talents shine. West sees her skill and not only celebrates it, but finds ways to champion and forward it. Bell always stacks her novels with memorable supporting characters, but this might be her best group yet. There's the women of the Boudicea Club, Viola's friends who we've met in previous novels. But the most charming of all are West's distinctive set of sisters β€” a hopeless romantic, a bluestocking, a fashion maven, a tomboy, and a perfect lady. Bell never falls into the trap of painting her side characters with a broad brush, letting each one breathe, fully formed, even if they're only on the page for brief moments. More and more these days, I just want a cozy romance to lose myself in β€” a perfectly pitched blend of longing, romance, sexy sequences, and heart. Bell offers that up in spades and proves why she keeps earning a spot on my keeper shelf.

Heat Rating: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: A-

Fall Romance
Credit: Amazon Publishing

Kiss Me, Catalina by Priscilla Oliveras

Priscilla Oliveras continues her Queens of Mariachi series with this modern take on The Taming of the Shrew/Kiss Me Kate. When ambitious singer Catalina "Cat" Capuleta gets a shot at her dreams joining fellow mariachi and superstar Patricio Galan on tour, she is determined to go toe-to-toe with him. But Cat can't help getting under Patricio's skin and his smoldering good looks hide a surprising vulnerability that might be enough to push her to question her "no dating mariachi" rule that stems from a childhood wound. The more time they spend together, the more their music flows out of them β€” but can either trust the other long enough to forge a true connection? Oliveras writes lyrically of the mariachi culture and Cat and Patricio's love for songwriting and singing; her words themselves are like a song. She writes characters who are inherently decent, which can sometimes make for slightly blander protagonists, but here Cat and Patricio are stubborn, fiery, and passionate β€” their loyalties to their careers and the people they love their guiding lights. That leads to zippy banter, the insults and loving jabs flying fast and loose. Beneath that all is the respect and admiration for musicians and storytellers that makes the passages where they are performing or writing songs truly sing. Oliveras has a knack for writing stories of family β€” the ways love can be woven into the threads of those bonds and make it all the stronger. Her novels are full of people that feel both strikingly real and kind to a fault (even with their foibles or shortcomings, they are never cruel). It's nice to spend some time in her world, where music, romance, and la familia are all you'll ever need.

Heat Rating: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Grade: A-

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