<i>All I Ask</i>: Exclusive Excerpt All I Ask: Exclusive Excerpt Nicole McLaughlin " They were full of raunchy sex and far from classic literature." <i>Black Tie Optional</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Black Tie Optional: Exclusive Excerpt Ann Marie Walker "A marriage of convenience soon turns into a battle of wills and sexual tension." <i>Small Change</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Small Change: Exclusive Excerpt Roan Parrish "This fight can only be won by being vulnerable..." <i>Lost and Found Sisters</i>: Exclusive Excerpt (+Sweepstakes) Lost and Found Sisters: Exclusive Excerpt (+Sweepstakes) Jill Shalvis "His hands went to her hips, gripping hard as they stared at each other..."
From The Blog
May 26, 2017
14 Authors Tease Their Next Book
Team H & H
May 25, 2017
Cover Thursday: Exclusive Reveals from Lynn, Linden, Anderson, Fox, Fox, and Cameron
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May 24, 2017
The Dirty Dancing Remake: The Good, the Bad, and Baby
Elizabeth Poteet
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Will Elizabeth Swann Get the Happy Ever After She Deserves in New Pirates of the Caribbean?
Darlene Marshall
May 23, 2017
Dirty Dancing’s Johnny and Baby Last Forever
Mala Bhattacharjee
Showing posts by: willaful click to see willaful's profile
Wed
May 10 2017 1:00pm

From The Thief to The King: How Megan Whalen Turner’s Eugenides Stole Our Hearts (and the Queen of Attolia’s)

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Note: This post contains spoilers for the series. Really, really good spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless!

It's been seven years since the last book in The Queen's Thief series appeared, and fans are thrilled to finally get to return to the alternative universe in sort-of-ancient-Greece this month. Although the series mostly belongs in the young adult fantasy genre, deft characterizations, clever plotting, and an astonishing enemies-to-lovers romance arc in the second and third book have made it a hit with romance readers as well. Thick as Thieves is supposed to stand alone, but here's a spoiler-filled catch-up on some of the major plot elements and characters of the first four books.

The Thief (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) is told by Gen (short for Eugenides), one of the most delightful unreliable narrators of all time. At first glance, he seems a braggart and a whiny weakling, despised by virtually everyone. We meet him in the prison of Sounis, where he's offered a bargain by the king's magus: steal something for the king, and he'll go free. The prize, we learn, is an ancient artifact which the king can use to force a marriage with the queen of Eddis, a naturally well defended mountain country that stands between him and an invasion of the country of Attolia.

[Read more...]

Sat
Apr 15 2017 1:00pm

Movie Night! 9 Books and the Movies That Inspired Them!

Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley

If you spend time on Heroes and Heartbreakers, or with other groups of engaged readers, you'll notice that many of us love the idea of our favorite books becoming movies. But the pleasure can also flow in the opposite direction. I'm not talking about novelizations, but about books that get a little extra kick of interest from evoking our favorite movies.

The movie-book connection doesn't have to be a literal retelling, or even necessarily intentional. As soon as I read the plot description of Jamie Wesley's opposites-attract romance Tell Me Something Good, I knew I had to read it, because the story of battling radio personalities given a show together made me think of one of my favorite movies, “He Said/She Said.” The fact that there are plenty of differences in characters and plot just made it more intriguing and made me want to see where the author would take it. (Though sadly, no one throws a mug.

Other romances which use movie plots as a take off point include Eloping with Emmy by Liz Fielding (“It Happened One Night,” but with a goodhearted rather than arrogant heroine), Short Straw Bride by Dallas Schulze (“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” if it stopped with the first wedding) and My Favorite Bride by Christina Dodd (“The Sound of Music,” but with a heroine from the Regency slums rather than a convent. On her website, Dodd writes, “I get ideas everywhere — from the news, movies, books, friends, songs” so a number of her books fall into this theme. IIRC, Just The Way You Are uses several, including the musical “Bells Are Ringing.”)

[Read more...]

Sat
Nov 5 2016 11:00am

Don’t Be Scared to Leave Me... Er, to Read Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave Me by Gayle Foreman

YA author Gayle Forman's first adult novel, Leave Me, was a delightful surprise—a book that starts out frightening and upsetting, yet develops into a story with a sensitive, warmhearted spirit. Appropriately enough, it's a book I would have cherished when I was a teenager trying to move on to adult fiction, and finding that world full of unpleasant themes and people. Although not a genre romance, I think it's one that many romance readers will also enjoy.

Maribeth Klein, a married 44-year-old magazine editor and mother of twins, doesn't realize for a staggeringly long time that she's having a heart attack. Stress, anxiety, and indigestion are pretty much her New Yorker daily routine, and she doesn't even have the time to investigate. The next thing she knows, she's having emergency bypass surgery... and then trying to recover in a world in which nothing has really changed. Responsibilities. Parenting. Taxes. A husband constantly working late, a best friend/boss who no longer seems to care about her, and a mother who causes more problems than she solves. Lice. And the constant knowledge that she almost left her family forever:

[Read more...]

Wed
Oct 19 2016 9:30am

Books You Love, But...: An Appropriately Love/Hate Relationship with The Hating Game

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game is an enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract story about two coworkers who have worked side by side, in mutual disdain, for a year. Their days are spent in strange battles with unwritten rules: The Mirror Game. The Staring Game. The (especially ugly) HR Game.

“I should mention that the ultimate aim of all our games is to make the other smile, or cry. It's something like that. I'll know when I win.

I made a mistake when I first met Joshua: I smiled at him. My best sunny smile with all my teeth, my eyes sparkling with stupid optimism that the business merger wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to me. His eyes scanned me from the top of my head to the soles of my shoes. I'm only five feet tall, so it didn't take long. Then he looked away out the window. He did not smile back, and somehow I feel like he's been carrying my smile around in his breast pocket ever since. He's one up.”

This debut novel by Sally Thorne came out to enormous acclaim. A starred review from Kirkus. Praise from The Washington Post and Library Journal. In Romancelandia, Twitter has been kvelling, “All About Romance” listed it as a Desert Island Keeper, and Smart Bitches gave it a B+.

[Read more...]

Wed
Oct 12 2016 3:00pm

We Need to Talk About the Almack’s Scene in Pam Rosenthals’s Almost a Gentleman

Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal

Recently Heroes and Heartbreakers asked readers, can a trope be your favorite and least favorite at the same time? It's a strange alchemy that makes a trope that's tiresome in one writer's hands a winner in another's. “Chicks in pants” is high on my list of instant turn-off tropes, but Almost a Gentleman has joined my (very) short list—The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer, The Lady's Secret by Joanna Chambers—of favorites.

Widower David, Lord Linseley, is on the watch for a suitable wife at Almack's. It's quite a shock to him to be hit with lust—or even perhaps love—at first sight:

“He roused himself from his reverie to watch a particularly graceful couple glide by. Yes, that's how it should be done, he thought. There was a purity, a concentration to the young man's swift steps, a perfection to the set of his hips and shoulders, joy of movement elevated to art through intense control and mastery. The lady held herself very upright, but one could feel a tiny shudder of surrender in her posture, a willingness to be led. One could see it in the arch at the small of her back, the confidence with which she entrusted her balance to her partner's gloved hand at her waist.

Of course that's how it's done, Linseley thought. It was how all the important things in life were done—from the body's center. It was how you guided a horse over a gate, heaved a forkful of hay onto a wagon, took a woman to bed. This new dance led one's thought to lovemaking: no wonder there had been such consternation in fashionable circles when the waltz was introduced. The couple whirled back into the crowd; losing sight of them, Lord Linseley stared at the space they'd occupied, astonished and rather shaken by the feelings that had seized him.”

[Read more...]

Sun
Oct 9 2016 1:00pm

The Unromantic Lady (and the Man She Can’t Resist) by Lucy Gordon

The Unromantic Lady by Lucy Gordon

Originally published in 1996, under the name Penelope Stratton, Lucy Gordon's The Unromantic Lady is a traditional Regency from the era when they were still highly influenced by Georgette Heyer, but starting to get nicely steamy. Along with subplots about the love affairs of amiable young idiots about town, encounters with Lord Byron and Wellington, and not-very-historically-accurate references to Jane Austen, we get a married couple carefully not living in each others pockets... while getting naughty under the covers every night.

Beautiful heiress Diantha is more than happy to trade her fortune for a title. The product of a miserable misalliance, she is scornful of love, and yearning for a position high enough to keep her safe from the judgements of others: “I've had it drummed into me that I was balancing on a knife edge because of my parents, and so I must be twice as blameless as any other young lady.” Still, she's a little trepidatious about the dangerously attractive Lord Chartridge:

“Now she was being urged towards a reasonable alliance with a man who was suitable in all respects. What heiress could ask for more? But these logical arguments were chased away by the memory of a man in sodden, skin-tight breeches [How Darcy of him!], his muscles straining as he brought the horses under control. She thought of the power that must live in that hard, athletic body, and a slow heated sigh broke from her.”

[Read more...]

Sun
Sep 11 2016 11:00am

7 Reasons I Loved New Girl’s Nick and Jess (Ness)

(Watch out! Spoilers for Seasons 1-3 of New Girl)

If you haven't watched New Girl (Seasons 1-5 currently available on Netflix; Season 6 coming to Fox September 20), it's a quirky show about a nerdy teacher named Jess who moves into a loft with 3 (later 4) guys: Schmidt is a perfectionist go-getter, Nick is a cranky crank (“A bank is just a paper bag with fancier walls”), Winston is a former basketball pro trying to find his niche, and Couch is a high energy tough guy with a marshmallow center. Hijinks ensue, including many of a romantic nature.

I'll be honest: when I started watching New Girl and saw the hints of a messy “Ness” to come—Nick/Jess—I wasn't all that thrilled. I adore romance, but shipping TV characters is exhausting. The will they/won't they... the roller coasters... the way the show has to mess with a relationship in order to keep things moving... it can easily leave a viewer feeling frustrated and manipulated. And both dorky Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and grumpy Nick (Jake Johnson) are high maintenance characters. I liked the show, but wasn't sure I wanted to invest so much energy in yet another undoubtedly doomed couple.

Having now watched Ness happen from first kiss to (first?) break up, I'm glad I didn't jump ship. Nick and Jess turned out to be an object lesson in how to do a love story arc without making me want to order them to walk the plank.

Why it works:

[Read more...]

Thu
Aug 11 2016 3:30pm

“Books You Love, But...”: The Limitations of Sympathy in Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse Lord

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

A really wonderful book takes you into its own world, and with The General and the Horse-Lord, I was taken into one full of people I adored... mostly. As you might guess from the title, it's not a standard genre romance. Despite a very contemporary setting, well represented by several college-aged characters, it has a bit of the feel of a novel written in the 30s or 40s — partially because of the quiet tone, but also because the two main characters are the sorts of men you might find in those novels. They're older men in a rapidly changing world, which has both bad and good points. (Think Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, only American and far more modern in setting.)

John and Gabriel are both extremely well respected former military men who have now moved on to other careers: John teaching, Gabriel in law. They've lived lives deeply committed to public service, bringing their considerable intelligence and education to their fields. One of the sacrifices they've made for their country is each other: the joy of sleeping in the same bed, waking up together, and sharing their daily lives, instead of just snatched moments.

[Read more...]

Thu
Aug 4 2016 12:30pm

Trope-Flippers: 5 Category Romances that “Mess” with the Formula

Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald

Note: These are all older books, but be aware that spoilers abound!

As I wrote recently, many category readers both enjoy their standard tropes and like to mix it up a bit. Here are some category romances that play with the genre conventions in ways a true fan can appreciate.

1. Smoke in the Wind by Robyn Donald 

Many readers have a love/hate relationship with this book; it's the kind that makes you stay up all night reading while muttering “oh my God, this is so awful” every five pages. Awful as in “gut-punching cruelty,” not as in “badly written,” because it's got some truly fascinating characterizations. One of the most interesting aspects is that the heroine is essentially the Evil Other Woman: she's the hot career woman who warns her sweet virginal cousin away from the hero and tries to use her sexual wiles to keep him. And she loses, big time. But the cool part is, the hero loses, too. Although there is some bowing to romance convention — the heroine actually only had one previous lover—the story is unique.

[Tropes, revisited]

Thu
Jul 14 2016 4:30pm

Bringing It Back: The Subtle Twists of Michelle Smart

What a Sicilian Husband Wants by Michelle Smart

Being a category romance reader can be a bit of a double-bind. On the one hand, the whole point of category lines is that you know basically what you're getting. For example, my two favorite lines are Harlequin SuperRomance and Harlequin Presents, which are almost complete opposites in style. SuperRomances are realistic, with a longer length for detail and depth of characterization; Presents are compact stories, quick shots of strong emotion and high drama. But whichever I'm in the mood for, both lines will deliver.

On the other hand... constantly getting the same thing can get old. You have to feel for the authors, especially of Presents, which tend to have a fairly rigid set of reader expectations. How do category writers keep giving what readers want and expect (and demand!) without getting stale?

Relative newcomer Michelle Smart has been showing how it's done by writing Harlequin Presents in the classic mode, but with subtle twists or a bit of flare. It's hard to convey how much small subversions can refresh a category reader's palate, but turning “oh no, not that again” into “oh, hey, cool!” can change getting what you expected into getting better than you wanted.

[Get even more...]

Wed
May 25 2016 11:40am

Nothing Between Them: Using—and Not Using—Birth Control in Romance

Against the Wall by Jill Sorenson

When it comes to depicting birth control in cis-het romance, readers fall in widely different camps. Some feel the very mention is a buzzkill. Others think leaving it out makes the characters too impossibly stupid to root for. And then there are those—hands up!—who find the world of romance a perfect place to explore ambivalence around fertility control, an edgy area that can be powerfully emotional and arousing. When a guaranteed happy ending can insure that no one has to worry about the effects of pregnancy or children on health, time, personal goals, or money, birth control—or the lack of it—can be a significant marker in the growth of a romantic relationship.

Sometimes it's an indicator of the increasing strength of passion, as in Jill Sorenson's Against The Wall, in which the couple are so carried away, they not only forget protection but get busy on the hood of a car, in a semi-public place. (Pregnancy is definitely not wanted, leading to a rare romance novel use of “Plan B.”) For Sam, in Shannon McKenna's In For the Kill, accidental unprotected sex feeds into his anger at Sveti's use of him for sex:

[It's called protection for a reason...]

Fri
Jan 29 2016 3:30pm

Finding What’s Real in Kathleen Eagle’s Carved in Stone

Carved in Stone by Kathleen Eagle

I always feel a slight disturbance in the fourth wall when I read a romance in which the heroine is a romance writer. That was very much the case with Kathleen Eagle's Carved in Stone, a story about two people who both work in worlds of fantasy: historical romance novelist Elaina Delacourte, and film actor Sky Hunter. When a carefree research trip for Elaina goes badly wrong, they're left in serious trouble with only each other to rely on, a situation which pares them down to essential reality.

The conflict between reality and fantasy is a constant theme throughout the story. At the start, Elaina and Sky are in different head spaces. Sky is sick of playing Indian stereotypes and is holding out for a role with substance. Elaina, who is fairly inexperienced with men—a much too early marriage was annulled after she miscarried—is enjoying seeing how similar romance is to what she's imagined:

“You've got nothing to worry about, Elaina,” Sky said near her ear. “I'm a pussycat.”

She lifted her head, frowning delicately. “I'm not worried.”

“Some women are at this point.”

“And just what is 'this point'?”

He smiled a slow, knowing smile. “The point where we test things out. We see how it feels to touch, using the socially approved method.” (They're dancing.)

She had to remind herself that she knew all that. She wrote these scenes, after all. And it worked, by God, like a charm. His legs brushed against hers just enough to send a shimmering current of warmth from the point of contact to her stomach. She wondered whether the satisfaction she was feeling was predominately intellectual or physical.

[Eagle explores it all in this classic romance novel ...]

Fri
Jan 15 2016 1:30pm

Love Made Visible: Fan Art for Our Favorite Authors

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Note: This post may contain some light spoilers for various series, especially for fans of Rainbow Rowell, KJ Charles, and Cassandra Clare, read with caution!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in an internet world is the outlet it provides for fans to express and share their love for books. Passion and creativity can create wonderful new works of art, from fanfiction and filk songs to videos and visual art. The immediacy and accessibility of fan art makes it one of my favorite mediums: even if you aren't familiar with a book, you can enjoy the artist's style and enthusiasm, and sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt make it easy for us less creative “appreciators” to find illustrations of the works we love.

I first became interested in fan art after seeing the emotion-filled Eleanor and Park images retweeted by author Rainbow Rowell, my attention especially grabbed by interpretations of a beautiful fat heroine. (The book covers had kind of let me down, there.) Some of these images have since been used in a gorgeous special edition of the book, including my favorite, “The Kiss” by Simini Blocker.

[Fan art love ...]

Wed
Dec 23 2015 3:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2015, Part 3

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.

It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 3 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1Part 2, and stay tuned for Part 4:

John Jacobson:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne - Byrne’s new historical is lush and provocative, with the deep language and drama of older historicals and the escapist spunk of newer historicals. Her characters are entrancing in their emotional depth. I was taken away by the narrative - there’s no other book like it out there today.

What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling - Dreiling writes sweet historical romances with a sexy zing. This book hits all of the high notes with strong threads of dramatic action and romantic longing. The hero and the heroine are fundamentally good people caught up in bad circumstances, and the way Dreiling unveils their happily ever after is expert. Dreiling’s added homage to popular reality television in a Regency-garbed setting creates a humor that makes it the perfect sweet confection.

[What are your top 2015 recommendations? ...]

Sun
Dec 6 2015 11:00am

Shipping Sunday: Master of None’s Dev/Rachel

Shipping Sunday: Master of None's Dev and Rachel

A Netflix original series that feels like a diversely cast, millennial Seinfeld, with a dash of Louie, Master of None chronicles the everyday adventures of Dev, a second generation Indian-American, working as an actor in New York. It's hardly a show about “nothing” though: topics include aging, parenting, sexism, racism, and the immigrant experience. And, of course, relationships.

Dev and Rachel's arc gets off to a distinctly weird start, when a condom mishap turns their random hook-up into a trip to the drugstore for Plan B. Although it seems like the kiss of death to any kind of future, Dev acquits himself in a slightly goofy but gentlemanly fashion throughout this awkward-as-fuck situation, making it unsurprising that Rachel is happy to run into him again later. 

[We love all the randomness of this couple ...]

Wed
Nov 25 2015 3:00pm

Getting In the Spirit: Male/Male Best Bets for November 2015

Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan

Holiday romances have become as much a sign of November as falling leaves and leftover turkey. This month offers some that are typically mushy and heartwarming, and also some with a little more edge. If neither is your thing, there's also a sun-drenched contemporary and a forbidden love historical.

Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan

Finding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.

Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.

No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

 But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection.

When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

The third in Cullinan's popular Minnesota Christmas series. Is Paul really the last single man standing? Tune in next November to find out. Will there be more penis sculptures in holiday romances? Read on...

[Lift your spirit with these male/male Best Bets...]

Thu
Nov 12 2015 10:30am

Home is Where the Heart Is: In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

The heart of any good romance is a feeling of exquisite rightness, that sense that the main characters have found their fit and are just where they should be. Roan Parrish's In The Middle of Somewhere delivers that feeling beautifully.

It's narrated by Daniel, who hasn't really had a home since his mother died. This is the kind of family he comes from: his three older brothers all called him “Danielle” even before they knew he was gay. As a boy who loved books, history, music, and pretty much everything else his blue-collar family despised—and inevitably destroyed—he worked hard to escape, to get into grad school,  and to make a place for himself in academic life. Taking a teaching job in a small Michigan town makes sense—but it's also terrifying: “...there's, like, nothing here. I've live in Philly my whole life. I don't know shit about trees or animals or nature. I mean, I just never saw myself someplace so... isolated.”

Daniel says this to Rex, a stranger who epitomizes the isolated life he fears. But after living through tragedy, Rex has found a peaceful home in a quiet cabin in the woods, building things, watching old movies, and cooking delicious food. And he has a lot to teach Daniel about what it takes to be happy.

[Teach me ...]

Wed
Oct 28 2015 6:00pm

Reading Rainbow: Male/Male Romance Best Bets for October 2015

Such a Dance by Kate McMurray

October means it's both the one-year anniversary of this round-up and the second annual Queer Romance Month. In honor of QRM, I kept my eyes open for m/m books which explore some of the other diverse aspects of human sexuality (bisexuality, asexuality, etc.) There's also some interesting historicals, a geeky paranormal, and the return of one of my very favorite stories.

Such a Dance by Kate McMurray

New York City, 1927.

Eddie Cotton is a talented song-and-dance man with a sassy sidekick, a crowd-pleasing act, and a promising future on Broadway. What he doesn’t have is someone to love. Being gay in an era of prohibition and police raids, Eddie doesn’t have many opportunities to meet men like himself—until he discovers a hot new jazz club for gentlemen of a certain bent...and sets eyes on the most seductive, and dangerous, man he’s ever seen.

Lane Carillo is a handsome young Sicilian who looks like Valentino—and works for the Mob. He’s never hidden his sexuality from his boss, which is why he was chosen to run a private night club for men. When Lane spots Eddie at the bar, it’s lust at first sight. Soon, the unlikely pair are falling hard and fast—in love. But when their whirlwind romance starts raising eyebrows all across town, Lane and Eddie have to decide if their relationship is doomed…or something special worth fighting for.

McMurray is most known for her Rainbow Award honored paranormal and contemporary romances, but her website shows considerable research into the Jazz Age, so fans of unusual historicals won't want to miss this.

[Jazz Age clubs here we come!]

Wed
Oct 21 2015 2:00pm

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Season 3 Wrap-Up: Shippers Edition

Shippers must love being teased, because we put up with so much of it! Season 3 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is very much a teaser, whether you're shipping Phryne and Jack, Dottie and Hugh, or both. (And who doesn't love all four of them? I bet someone out there is even shipping a quartet.) But if you can hold out to the end without tearing off your own face, there is payoff, of a sort.

[We love that sort...]

Fri
Sep 25 2015 1:00pm

Plenty New Under the Sun: Male/Male Romance Best Bets for September 2015

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow

The romance has such a basic formula, and there have been hundreds of thousands of them written, but authors still manage to come up with fresh plots, characters, and settings across all subgenres. Here are some of the more intriguing sounding stories for the month.

To Love a Traitor by J.L. Merrow

Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

This is one of a growing number of unusual historicals set in the 1920s, but it's not in the world of flappers and sheikhs. It's a restrained, somewhat sombre character study of honorable people suffering the aftermath of a terrible war. (Though of course since it's Merrow, there's humor as well.) I particularly appreciated Matthew's matter-of-fact attitude about living with a disability. Although this is fairly short, there's plenty of atmosphere to submerge in.

[New plots with these male/male Best Bets ...]