Best Romance Novels We’ve Recently Reviewed
Each day, subscribers to Hidden Gems are sent the opportunity to review hundreds of complimentary books spanning more than 15 different genres – and have become well-known for the honest reviews they choose to leave. A new, regular feature on this blog will be a periodic highlight of some true Hidden Gems our subscribers discovered, and why you might want to check them out. Keep checking back for the latest lists, categorized by genre, and learn about some of the best books that we’ve sent out. Or, join our list of readers and help discover future gems yourself!
Romance is always one of the most popular genres for subscribers to Hidden Gems, and in July we shared the opportunity to review dozens of titles with our readers. So many, in fact, that it wasn’t easy to parse them down to a shorter list of just the best romance novels in the past month. We’ve done our best to showcase a variety of different types of romance, while also picking the best ones based on the feedback they received from our subscribers.
Girl Unseen by Athena Daniels
A plethora of awards have already been given to this sexy supernatural suspense by three-time author Athena Daniels, including the Silver Medal in the 2017 Fiction – Paranormal, Readers’ Favorite® International Book Awards.
It’s the tale of a talented medium called Pia, who can speak to the dead – and ends up making a promise to a dead’s girls spirit, which she must then risk everything to keep.
When Pia ends up accused in a series of supernatural murders, she turns to skeptical detective Nate Ryder; who finds that his years in the Special Forces can’t help him fight forces that neither of them can even see.
The book is undeniably a romance story, but the supernatural elements add a delicious chill to contrast with the steamier scenes. Brutally Honest Reviews wrote: “The haunting around which the story occurs is extremely spooky and I found myself getting goosebumps more than once at Athena Daniels’ wonderfully atmospheric descriptions.”
The Secret Thief by Nina Lane
Although undeniably a romance book, The Secret Thief by New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Nina Lane has a certain Stephen King-like quality to it – especially the way the author vividly brings to life the small-town Maine setting, and how the ghosts of the past are often far scarier than anything truly supernatural.
The tale focuses on Eve – a wounded young woman trying to rediscover her life, and Flynn – a quiet and mysterious man regarded locally with suspicion. Their attraction is undeniable, however – and this isn’t so much a tale of seduction as romantic destiny.
Reviewer mjlovestoread praised the character of Flynn, writing: “Flynn. Oh my. The brooding, sexy, man of few words. I couldn’t blame Eve for wanting him to be the star of many a night’s fantasy. Despite their simple and guarded meetings each morning, Flynn said more with his eyes to Eve than she ever thought possible. Like her beloved crossword puzzles, he was one riddle she was hellbent on solving. And I couldn’t blame her one bit!”
EMReads shared my take on Nina Lane’s skill with words, writing: “There are so may elements to this story: mystery, small town charm, horrible villains, romance and gorgeous fairy-tales all weaved together to tell a beautiful and compelling story. Simply put, The Secret Thief is an absolute treat for any romance reader.”
Shielding Josie by Casey Hagen
There’s nothing better than a pairing of equals, and former SEAL Cole Hackett certainly meets his match when he runs into a scrappy female detective, Josie, who is as hot on his heels as he is hot on his latest case.
Reviewer PemD praised the writing of this one: “If you’re a fan of excellent writing, hot investigators, a quick paced plot and sexual attraction, you need to read this one! How Ms. Hagen manages to establish a connection between the reader & the characters in such a short number of pages amazes me. The characters are fully developed and described in such a way, I was able to picture them and recognize the connections between them. I had to laugh at the unique way Josie hid her friend. No spoilers, but read the book and it’ll make you laugh!”
Jessica N particularly loved the feisty character Josie, writing: “Josie was so outgoing, trying to prove herself to her dad, but was also really caring and sensitive. Her strength and her heart really drew me to her.”
Spellbinding His Ranger by Shannon Pemrick
Isaac Asimov was one of the first writers to describe how intertwined man and machine would become in the future; with hardware and ‘wetware’ becoming so interchangeable, it’s difficult to know where humanity ends and robotics begin. It’s a close-to-reality theme explored in Shannon Penrick’s LitRPG romance novel Spellbinding His Ranger.
In this blend of romance and sci-fi, our heroine Mercedes shuns dating in preference for online video games, because she’d rather deal with fantasy than the uncomfortable reality of dating men who might reject her due to her cybernetic arm. One of her close friends, Takashi, eventually draws her out of her shell and teaches her to be open to romance; and his character was one many reviewers seemed to love – with ArecRain praising “his intelligent, open mind, and a big heart. Shannon Pemrick should be commended for creating a hero who encapsulates nontoxic masculinity.”
As a LitRPG, the book is also heavy on the gaming elements – which will appeal massively to some audiences, and not so much to others; although reviewer Meggiepoo promises “I don’t think you need to be a gamer to read the book – the author does a great job of explaining terminology, without it being too much of a drag for those who know the lingo. The descriptions of the game itself are also detailed, and it was easy to visualize them playing.”
The Lifetime of A Second by Jennifer Millikin
When rugged outdoorsman Connor nearly hits runaway Bryn with his truck, he has no idea what irresistible chaos he’s letting into his life – and that’s the fast-paced setup to the latest stand-alone romance in Jennifer Millikin’s Time series.
A lot of romance readers love the steamy stuff, and The Lifetime of a Second is comparatively clean – but a lot of reviewers actually liked that. BookAddict wrote: “This work is beautifully, skillfully written to evoke a deep array of emotion in the reader. If you’re looking for smexy times, you won’t find that here. What you will find is real life challenges and problems, and characters who are authentic, endearing, and relatable as they navigate outside conflicts and their relationship with each other.”
LynnP also praised the characters, both of whom are extremely well-written: “Brynn is snarky, independent and strong. Connor, while very masculine, is also caring and emotionally open. Watching him draw Brynn out of her self-imposed exile made for an enjoyable read. The heat between these two characters is off the charts and the development of their relationship seems natural and realistic within the context of the storyline. Overall a lovely and thought-provoking romance read that makes the reader ruminate on those important seconds in their own life.”
Fates Entwined by Jules Barnard
Cultures collide in this awesome paranormal romance by Jules Barnard, which sees a true-blooded, loyal Fae caught between duty to his people, and his undeniable attraction to human Reese.
My favorite review of this book was from Theresa Esterline, who summed it up brilliantly when she wrote: “Imagine stepping back into the 18th century after partying at the local frat. This is the situation Reese finds herself in. Not only does Jules keep you wound up (okay at times frustrated) on the romance side, but also she does an excellent job explaining the other realmness of the story is very easy to follow!”
One controversial aspect was the Young Adult theme of the book, and it’s steamy contents. Reviewer Moon Stars dismissed such concerns by explaining: “I liked how Jules balanced the Young Adult characters with the adult themes they faced in the Fae World. I also liked how Jules didn’t back down from showing action as well as sex, because come on, eighteen year olds know about sex, a lot have had it, and most would definitely benefit from reading about romantic sex that’s done between two people who deeply care about each other. Plus, this is a fantasy world and young adults are smart enough to realize that, so I applaud Jules Barnard for not holding back and being real.”
The Solemn Vow by Bree Dahlia
Bree Dahlia’s book rests at a 4.5 star average on Amazon, which is pretty good despite committing what some consider the cardinal sin for romance novels – infidelity. Yet the theme of the book is a woman finding happiness with a new man, and as ‘unromantic’ as that element might be, it clearly resonates with a lot of readers.
Reviewer Jennifer Diaz highlighted the plight of heroine Maddie when she wriote: “At home with Cain life is miserable and she can only find peace with Jake. But Jake has broken her heart once before. She must decide if her marriage is worth saving or take the plunge and take a risk with Jake. It’s heartbreaking, emotional, and oh my heart just broke for them all! I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the book: ‘For better or for worse. But what do you do when the worse starts outweighing the better? What do you do when it’s too bad to stay but too good to leave?'”
Amy Stephens explained that the excellent characterization and strong story outweighed any doubts about the cheating aspect: “I loved the angst, the turmoil, the questions, the doubts… Maddie had her hands full that’s for sure. The Solemn Vow was one heck of a story, and while some might not deal well with the subject matter, it was everything I want in a story. Bree Dahlia hooked me, emotions and all.”
CHANCE by Pearl Foxx
This is the second book in our recommendations about cyborgs – but this time it’s very clearly a steamy romance!
CHANCE is the tale of a cybernetically-enhanced league fighter, who seeks redemption for losing the love of his life in hard and heavy combat. His heart is still flesh and blood, however – and it starts beating again when he stumbles into the path of Verity; an outsider who owes a lot of money to the wrong sort of people.
Can Chance save her from the sharks? Only by re-entering the cyborg combat circuit once again.
Reviewer Emily Pennington gave this book five stars, writing: “This is a really good book that draws the reader in to care about these characters. Despite the squalor and devastation of their world, there is a kindness and goodness inside that gives hope. Despite starting at rock bottom with absolutely nothing, Verity looked for the best in every situation. Her bright outlook in the face of adversity touched everyone around her. But finding a happy ending in the environment they find themselves in seems out of reach. Don’t miss this one! It is exciting and suspenseful – definitely worth reading!”
War and Love by Winter Renshaw
Veteran best-selling author Winter Renshaw is no stranger to being on lists of the best romance novels, and this month reminded us why. War and Love introduces us to the ultimate bad-boy in Jude – who appears like an ice-cold, manipulative cad when he tries to steal the heart of recent divorcee Love; but has a genuine and desperate reason for doing so.
Love Alridge is a great heroine, and after escaping an abusive marriage to a made-it-rich millionaire, she doesn’t expect the ‘perfect’ man to come along so quickly. But if she walks down the aisle in less than six months, she loses out on the millions her ex-husband owes her.
Book Addict writes: “What a terrific read! This was such a beautifully woven story – authentic, humorous, tender, heartfelt, steamy and just all around amazing! Love was such a wonderful heroine, fresh from the dissolution of a disillusioning marriage, but trying to discover who she was while her innate goodness and generous spirit remained intact. Jude was fascinating to watch as he struggled with a bad choice made out of desperation and his trying to reconcile that with falling for Love. Their story was so perfectly crafted it practically read itself, keeping me glued to the pages until the wee hours of the morning. This one is certainly 1-Click worthy!”
The Blood And The Barley by Angela MacRae Shanks
Other books in this list were set in the near-future, but this last is a full-bore historical romance set in the highlands of Jacobian Scotland. If you’re a fan of Scottish culture or history, you’ll love this book – and adore the feisty, uncommonly competent heroine Morven, who smuggles whisky but dreams of being a healer.
There’s a traitor in the glen, and as Morven explores her attraction to battle-hardened kinsman Jamie, she worries that this newly-returned stranger might have an ulterior motive for coming back to Strathavon.
Reviewer Avid Reader praised the historical detail of this book, writing: “Some elements of the story, like the painstaking description of whiskey distillation and detailed, mysterious rituals performed by Rowena, the local healer and expert on herb, fairy and folk lore, slowed the story’s momentum occasionally. But they were an integral part of the action and key to understanding the superstitions and way of life during the period. The English attempts to totally subdue the Highland culture and stamp out Catholicism, and the perils of repeated pregnancies and childbirth, are also highlighted. Author Angela MacRae Shanks did an admirable job of bringing the era to life.”