Foreword Reviews

Love on the Move


How do you measure love? By its intensity, its capacity to change the world? This fall’s indie romances ask readers to see differently, appreciate the unfamiliar, and fall in love with what’s new and dazzling. From a goblin-haunted forest in the Pacific Northwest, to pre-Reformation Germany, to the velvet curtainst of a New York City theater, these romances offer wonderful stories of love and partnerships that blossom in unexpected places.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me

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Julie Wright
Shadow Mountain
Softcover $15.99 (320pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Who knows romance better than Jane Austen? Emma Pierce is pretty sure her favorite author is the expert on love, relationships, and finding a worthy partner. But in Lies Jane Austen Told Me, she is shown to find that there’s more to matchmaking than just clicking on Mr. Darcy’s dating profile.

Modern, clever, and funny, Wright’s novel is a smart remix of tropes from Austen’s work. Austen fans will find frequent references to Pride And Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, and each chapter begins with a quote from an Austen novel. The characters feel familiar, too: Emma Pierce is the perfect Austen heroine. She’s twenty-six, on a fast-track career in marketing, and sassy but still waiting for Mr. Right. When she looks up from her iPad, she discovers that the relationship she’s committed to is built on sand.

“I deserved to be with someone who loved me, not with someone who ditched me to grill fish for someone else,” Emma decides after catching her boyfriend, Blake, making dinner for another woman. It’s hard, because she wants to get engaged, but her best friend, Silvia, takes her phone away. Adrift in hookup culture, Emma is searching for the real thing. She looks to Austen’s novels for advice but slowly learns that real life is not exactly a romance novel. With the right guy, it can be even better.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me is a satisfying and sweet contemporary romance that knits together romantic classics with modern manners.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Love Remains

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Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press
Softcover $15.99 (350pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Sarah M. Eden’s Love Remains is a charming historical romance in the Hope Springs series. It brings together a blind teacher and an Irish berry farmer in Wyoming Territory, in 1871.

Tavish O’Connor and Cecily Attwater aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. Their bickering is “worse than a couple of Kilkenny cats.” She’s English, which is anathema to Tavish, with his Irish roots; his grandmother still remembers being evicted from the family farm by the English.

Cecily arrives on Tavish’s farm to help his seventeen-year-old brother, Finbarr, learn to live with his blindness. Finbarr’s future has vanished; he has become reclusive. But Cecily, who is blind as well, is living proof that it’s possible to be sight impaired and still live a full, empowered life. As Finbarr and Cecily’s student-teacher relationship grows, she and Tavish learn to “see” one another as well.

Love Remains is an unexpectedly moving story. Cecily is a strong heroine who’s confident in herself. Her nonsightedness isn’t a handicap. Tavish’s changing perception of disability is meaningful and touching, as is Cecily’s eventual acceptance of his character flaws. Research and historical details add weight to this page-turner, and quick, clear writing keeps the story skimming along.

Love Remains shows that love is about more than just seeing the other—it reveals us to ourselves as well. Tavish and Cecily are a delightful couple and a wonderful addition to the Hope Springs series.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Echo After Echo

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Amy Rose Capetta
Candlewick Press
Hardcover $17.99 (432pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

“Being an actor is all about finding keys from the real world that open imaginary locks,” and as young actress Zara Evans discovers, the doors opened by her acting lead to unexpected places. Echo After Echo is a tightly written, sensitive young-adult romance set in the New York theater world.

For Zara, landing the lead role in her favorite Greek tragedy seems like a dream come true. She’s loved the characters Echo and Ariston since she read the play; now, she’s cast in a new production directed by an icon in the industry.

Zara enters the theater world like Persephone taking her first steps. She’s delighted, dazzled, and disillusioned. At the center is Eli Vasquez, the assistant lighting director.

Eli is rough where Zara is soft, and at first the girls seem like an odd couple. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and even the mysterious “accidents” that plague the production can’t deter them.

Echo After Echo is an incredible work. Capetta writes with an awareness that is smart and progressive. She treats Zara and Eli’s interracial, queer romance with respect. Capetta breathes life onto the page with lines like “They’ve made an island, a safe place to stand for a few moments before the city pushes them down the sidewalk and washes them away.” Hers is an exciting new voice in young-adult romance.

Echo After Echo is a diverse, confident romance that brings to life the powers of young love in a New York City theater.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Loving Luther

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Allison Pittman
Softcover $14.99 (432pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In time for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s challenge to the Catholic Church, Allison Pittman’s Loving Luther is a moving and rich historical romance based on Luther’s relationship with his wife, Katharina. In addition, it shows how their marriage was actually significant to the Lutheran faith.

Katharina von Bora expected to spend her life married to God. After taking vows in the convent where she was raised, though, she finds that her new relationship with God is different from that which the nuns raised her to have: “I was subject to God, and to no one else.”

Her sense of freedom and empowerment is tangible, and her inner fire is sparked again by a letter from Martin Luther, in whom she finds a spiritual partner. Soon, she’s embroiled in a crisis of faith that touches the very heart of the Reformation.

Loving Luther is a sophisticated, provocative novel. Instead of dwelling on the couple’s courtship, the story goes deep into the roots of the Reformation. Luther and Katharina interrogate their faith, living out their convictions in a way that is both inspiring and profoundly human.

Loving Luther is a novel with depth, and it is unexpectedly touching. Katherina and Luther, in search of a happy ending, find one another. Their love, Pittman shows, really did change the world.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Roxie & Fred

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Richard Alther
Regent Press
Softcover $19.95 (318pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Sharp and sensual, Roxie and Fred is a provocative love story that explores a May-December relationship.

Is it ever too late to fall in love again? On her way into her eighties, Roxie is in a contemplative phase. She has had her share of husbands, children, and life’s demands, and has now retired to her artist’s studio, where she lives alone, doing yoga and painting.

She thinks her romantic days are over, until she meets Fred. A recent empty-nester who’s dipping into watercolors, Fred at first sees Roxie as a mentor, guide, and fellow artist. But soon, it is apparent that their attraction to each other is more than just cerebral.

Roxie’s attractiveness is emphasized; her skin is “aged but supple and smooth like fine oiled hide.” Her vegetarian diet, daily yoga, and creativity have kept her young. Fred’s attraction to her is less taboo because of her youthfulness, and so there is a missed opportunity to push the envelope in their relationship.

Richard Alther’s technical knowledge of art, painting, and composition pervade the novel, adding another expressive layer. Roxie and Fred have an eclectic, quirky mode of speech that can be hard to follow at times, and wordplay sometimes gets the best of the scene.

Roxie and Fred depends heavily on internal monologue; the first two chapters are exclusively the main characters’ ruminations. The story picks up once the romance begins.

Art becomes a bridge between two very different people, who yearn for connection. For Roxie, it’s the last love affair of her life. For Fred, it feels like the very first time.

Roxie & Fred is a sweet, sultry romance that shows how desire based on intellectual attraction trumps disparities of age and experience. These artists’ affair is definitely one to remember.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

The Goblins of Bellwater

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Molly Ringle
Central Avenue Publishing
Softcover $13.95 (288pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The Goblins of Bellwater is a delightfully creepy paranormal romance set in the rich landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

The forest that surrounds Bellwater, Washington, is dreamy, dark, and deep. It’s a place where anything could happen—especially when the magical creatures that live in the trees meddle with human behavior.

A modern fairy tale based on Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market,” The Goblins of Bellwater is packed with gorgeous details:

White shelf-shaped mushrooms stuck out of the fallen logs, but they grew in no particular pattern and Skye doubted they would glow if she cupped her hands around them to shut out the light.

Paths appear and vanish, leading people astray. Once they’re alone in the woods, the goblins prey on them, locking them into a strange enchantment. Skye and her friend Grady are drawn into the goblin’s magic. They’re unable to speak of what’s happened; only Skye’s sister Livy and her boyfriend Kit can help set them free. The four neighbors fight back against the sinister forces that have ensnared Bellwater for generations.

Of course, the hard part is getting people to actually believe. The Goblins of Bellwater has a wonderfully sassy, modern sensibility. Moving to town, Grady is surprised at the high cost of housing, especially when such a big price tag is attached to such a small space.

Characters have cell phones, casual sex, and a scientific attitude. Magic and goblins aren’t exactly on the menu. The tension between the magical world and the real one is excellent, and keeps suspense high throughout the novel.

The Goblins of Bellwater is a journey to a world that feels both familiar and freaky—a wonderful place to get lost.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

The Night Language

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David Rocklin
Rare Bird Books
Softcover $15.95 (322pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Oscar Wilde called gay love “the love which dare not speak its name” when homosexual relationships were illegal, stigmatized, and taboo. The Night Language, by David Rocklin, revisits such a time, finding gay men closeted not only by culture, but by their fears of what they could lose by coming out.

Philip Layard, an apprentice to a doctor on the battlefield of present-day Ethiopia, becomes the guardian of Prince Alamayou of Abyssinia. Both men are black, and although they’re very different, they are treated as equals by Victorian culture.

The Prince is taken from the war in Abyssinia to the court of Queen Victoria “so he could present himself as a grateful foreigner.” As Alamayou learns to speak English, it becomes apparent that he’s not going to play the role that Parliament wants.

Philip is his faithful supporter, guardian, and lover. They find a common language that binds them together against political forces.

The Night Language is lovely and complex. It opens slowly, folding in historical details with ease. There’s no doubt that the novel is written with a modern eye: the era’s sharp racism is cinematic and soft, seen through a long lens.

Rocklin, who is white, spends plenty of time in the heads of his main characters—a problematic choice. Still, his writing sparkles.

The Night Language captures a magical, doomed relationship at the peak of the British Empire.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Chasing Red

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Isabelle Ronin
Softcover $15.99 (400pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Is there anything better than an odd couple? Chasing Red, a hot new romance by Canadian author Isabelle Ronin, throws together two unlikely people and lets their passion develop at a tantalizing pace. This vivacious novel is a fun, addictive read.

Caleb Lockhart is, in a word, spoiled. He’s a college basketball star, king of campus, and surrounded by adoring coeds. His wealthy family provides everything he needs, from a sleek condo to a new car.

When he meets feisty, earthy Veronica at a club, he’s totally unprepared to romance her. She’s his opposite in every way: hardworking, self-sufficient, sharp, and from the working class. Temporarily homeless, she needs a place to stay, which gives Caleb his chance.

He’s pretty awkward, and he knows it, but Veronica—or “Red,” as he calls her—is endlessly patient. She has to be: Caleb’s generosity keeps her off the street. While Veronica tries to figure out her next step, the two evolve past Caleb’s juvenile pickup lines to form a meaningful connection.

Although there are more serious implications of their relationship, Caleb and Veronica are sweet, young, and light with each other. Their banter sounds true to life. “Live-in service” feels a bit contrived, especially without the added dimension of a 50 Shades-esque bondage relationship, but the romance’s gears turn quickly enough to move past its ungainly plot points. Chasing Red’s characters are its selling point, and Ronin has a marvelous hand with dialogue and characterization.

Chasing Red is a perfectly sweet romance, with just the right amount of spice.

CLAIRE FOSTER (August 27, 2017)

Claire Foster

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