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Twice in a Lifetime

Dorothy Garlock (Grand Central)

Garlock's terrific story, set in mid-20th-century Missouri, pairs a lonely single mother struggling to make ends meet with a flashy auto racer who offers to fix up her broken-down truck. Thoroughly credible characters and the aw-shucks charm of their small town make this sweet historical a winner.

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For Real

Alexis Hall (Riptide)

Laurie Dalziel is tall, short-tempered, and in his late 30s—the very picture of a dominant man—but all his inclinations are submissive. Skinny 19-year-old Toby Finch is a budding dominant who's very clear on what he wants, starting with Laurie on his knees. Hall delights the reader with endless reversals of expectations in this poetic, honest, and charming May-December romance with plenty of kinky heat.

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Let's Stay Together

J.J. Murray (Kensington)

A newly single actress answers a sweet fan letter from a Brooklyn maintenance man and the two strike up an improbable long-distance cross-class romance. As Lauren settles into Patrick's life, not even her mother, his father, or the relentless media can dim their love for each other. This is a compulsively readable rags-to-riches love story brimming with memorable characters, magical charm, lively repartee, and delicious passion.

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A Sword for His Lady

Mary Wine (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Clever, competent Isabel of Camoys, a landholding widow, is besieged by suitors: Ramon de Segrave, a soldier sent by King Richard to help Isabel defend her estate on the Welsh border, and Jacques Raeburn, her brother-in-law, who's determined to recover his deceased brother's land. But Isabel enjoys her power and independence, and has no interest in remarrying. Kidnapping, poisoning, a wicked courtesan, and flirtatious banter all play parts in this spirited historical, helmed by a delightfully capable heroine.

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Hell or High Water

Julie Ann Walker (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

This winning romantic thriller is a literal beach read set in the Florida Keys. Ex-SEAL Leo Anderson plans to dive for sunken treasure; CIA operative Olivia Mortimer wants him to help retrieve three capsules of deadly chemicals that were lost overboard by incompetent terrorists. Complications abound in this well-plotted adventure of chilling hijackings, heartbreaking goodbyes, and exciting underwater exploits.

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