Spring into Romance with Top Picks

Ah, spring. Plants in bloom. Birds in song. And romance in the air!

If you're anything like me, your favorite outdoor activity once the weather starts to warm up is lounging in your deck chair or porch swing with a good book, preferably something of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl variety. Whether your taste leans to the sugary or spicy, here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite new and soon-to-be-released romances for this season of love:

The Best Man, Kristan Higgins

The queen of small town romance does it again with this tale of Faith Holland, who returns to her family's upstate New York winery for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped at the altar by her suddenly gay fiancée, Jeremy. And who does Faith blame for this debacle? Jeremy's best man, uber-hottie and now police chief Levi Cooper. Levi's not much happier to see Faith, who he remembers as a kind of teenaged Pollyanna: pretty, popular and incessantly cheerful. But, as fate would have it, circumstances keep throwing them together and the inevitable sparks fly, in the bedroom and out.

There's a lot going on in this book, from Faith's feelings of guilt for her mother's death to Levi's background as a kid from the wrong side of the tracks shipping off to Afghanistan to an extremely amusing subplot involving Faith's older sister, Prudence, and her husband Carl's attempts to spice up their marriage (maybe it's because I've been married about as long as they have, but their antics, especially one particularly memorable sexting scene, had me laughing out loud). But Higgins tells it all with her trademark heart and humor, making the end result a satisfying smorgasbord of love, laughter and happily ever after.

Once Tempted, Laura Moore

Book one in Moore's Silver Creek series, Once Tempted introduces us to the Knowles family, owners of the Silver Creek Ranch. Ward, the eldest of the three KnowLes Children, is smarting from his broken engagement to a would-be gold digger. Enter Tess Casari, a dyed-in-the-wool New York event planner seeking refuge after her brief, disastrous marriage and the death of her ex-husband. They're like oil and water at first. But their chemistry is undeniable, and eventually they embark on what they think is a no-strings-attached affair. As they live and work together, however, those pesky strings start appearing, and the bond between them grows stronger until their pasts come back to threaten it.

Moore has a way with words, and she paints a beautiful picture of ranch life. Ward and Tess' journey from sworn enemies to life-long lovers is filled with highs and lows, peppered with witty banter and melt-your-panties sexual tension. Add to that a rich and wonderful cast of secondary characters, including Ward's mother, Adele, who does her best to help the pair along, and his siblings, smooth-talking Reid and animal-loving Quinn, and you've got a tale fans of contemporary western romance are sure to enjoy. And there's more to come in the next book in thebseries, Once Tasted, which should be out in early 2014.

His Southern Temptation, Robin Covington

Covington burst on the scene in 2012 with A Night of Southern Comfort, the first of her Boys are Back in Town series. Now comes the second, His Southern Temptation. Former Black Ops assassin Lucky Landon wants nothing more than to settle back into the simple life, running his family's farm in their small hometown. So what's he doing at the wrong end of a gun? And why is the holder of said gun his best friend's little sister and Lucky's on-again/off-again lover, Taylor Elliot?

There's plenty of laughs, adventure in the form of a mob boss out to kill Taylor and of course off-the-charts sex. And Lucky's definitely a swoon-worthy hero. Seriously, how could anyone resist this guy, with lines like, "In case I haven't been perfectly clear, let me spell it out. I love you. I want you to stay here and build a life with me. I'm direct - not romantic like you deserve. I say what I want, and that is what I want." Sigh. Fortunately for us, there's two more local lads in the wings: Lucky's pals Teague and Beck. And that's not all Covington has in store for 2013. Her stand-alone novel, Playing the Part, is also due out later this year.

Love on the Line, Kimberly Kincaid

If you're looking for something quick and dirty (pun intended), check out newcomer Kincaid's debut novella, Love on the Line. Okay, it's only available for Kindle. But if, like me, you're a Nook owner, or - gasp - you haven't yet discovered the joy of e-reading, it's easy to download the free Kindle app for your computer. And since the novella's only $0.99 you'll find it well worth the minimal time, trouble and expense.

Kincaid's specialty is foodie romance, and in Love on the Line personal chef Violet Morgan and injured police detective Noah Blackwell stir things up in and out of the kitchen. But Violet, who comes from a family of cops, hates everything about the job, and Noah's not about to be distracted from getting back to what he does best. Kincaid's style is breezy, fun and effectively walks the line between sweet and sexy. A sequel, Drawing the Line, is set to be released in May of this year, with Kincaid's three-book Pine Mountain series to follow from Kensington Publishing in 2014.

Rush, Maya Banks

For all you 50 Shades fans, there's Maya Banks' Breathless Trilogy. The first in the series, Rush, and second, Fever, are currently available, with the third, Burn, scheduled to come out in August. The three protagonists, best friends and business partners Gabe, Jace and Ash, are alpha males at their finest: wealthy, powerful and used to getting what they want. And what they want is Mia, Bethany and Josie. These books aren't for the faint of heart, as Banks delivers a healthy amount of kink en route to true love. But underneath it all are three strong, dominant heroes who fall - and fall hard - when they least expect it.

Lush, Lauren Dane

Dane is another author E.L. James' devotees are sure to love. Smart and sexy, Lush is the most recent addition to her Delicious books, an offshoot of her also popular Brown Siblings series. (The first in the Delicious trilogy, Sway, is part of the Cherished duology; the second, the stand-alone Tart, was released in November of 2012.) Heroine Mary Whaley meets bad-boy rocker Damien Hurley at her friend's engagement party. Their attraction is instant and overpowering, and neither one of them is about to resist. But what starts as a light-hearted fling gets complicated when Damien wants more. It'll take everything in his arsenal to persuade skittish Mary to brave the paparazzi for more than a string of one-night stands.

Dane's dialogue is snappy and her sex scenes smoking. But what makes Tart - and the rest of Dane's Delicious and Brown Sibling stories - so appealing is the strong sense of family and friendship. Damien may be a rock star, but those close to him keep his feet firmly on the ground. And Mary's gal pals have her back at all times but aren't afraid to call her on the carpet when she's in the wrong, like only true friends can. These complex relationships transform Tart into something far beyond the typical erotic romance.

One Sweet Ride, Jaci Burton

Like sports? No one does sports romance better than Jaci Burton. She's a huge fangirl and it shows in her Play by Play series. (Okay. I confess. I like series.) The latest installment, One Sweet Ride, is set in the fast-paced world of NASCAR. It's due out June 4, 2013, but you don't have to wait until then to partake of Burton's steamy sports stories. The first five Play by Play books, The Perfect Play, Changing the Game, Taking a Shot, Playing to Win and Thrown by a Curve are all in bookstores now. Burton explores the worlds of football, baseball and hockey through the eyes of the Riley clan: siblings Mick, Gavin and Jenna and their cousins, Cole and Alicia.

Now Burton's expanded the series beyond the confines of the Riley family to a group of super-hot, mega-talented men who met in college and remained friends. The first of this group, star pitcher Garrett Scott, is Alicia's love interest in Thrown by a Curve. In One Sweet Ride, Burton gives us wealthy race car owner and driver Gray Preston, who meets his match in Evelyn Hill, political aide to his estranged father, United States Senator Mitchell Preston. Like the rest of the Play by Play books, it promises to be a sizzling, fast-paced read.

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From This Author Regina Kyle

Regina Kyle is a lawyer by trade who writes steamy romances with heart and humor on the side. An avid reader who first read Gone (read more...)