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Ayesha at Last

Uzma Jalaluddin (Berkley)

In this excellent modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, aspiring poet Ayesha Shamsi juggles her dreams and the stifling expectations of Toronto’s Indian-Muslim community. Family loyalty is a recurring theme as Ayesha overcomes her prejudice against conservative Khalid and he learns to accommodate different viewpoints. With humor and abundant cultural references—both manifest in the all-seeing, all-criticizing aunty brigade—Jalaluddin cleverly illustrates the social pressures facing young Indian-Muslim adults.

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The Doctor’s Date

Heidi Cullinan (Dreamspinner)

Cullinan’s heart-wrenching contemporary adeptly mixes heavy themes with lighthearted banter and tender romantic gestures. Hospital HR director Erin Andreas has harbored a crush on anesthesiologist Owen Gagnon since they were teenagers. A comedy of errors leads to Owen rescuing Erin from his controlling father’s house, and the two men teach each other what safety feels like. This is a beautiful story of two nervous but determined white knights saving each other from their dragons.

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Kingdom of Exiles

Maxym M. Martineau (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Martineau’s impressive debut novel, the first of a romantic fantasy trilogy, marries grand-scale wonder with the intimacy of relationships among traveling companions and a layered plot. An assassin hired to kill a renegade psychic finds himself falling for her instead, while a quest beckons and danger threatens. Intricate worldbuilding melds traditional high fantasy with a hint of Victorian sensibility for a deliciously complex story.

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A Prince on Paper

Alyssa Cole (Avon)

Sexual and gender identities, grief, self-respect, acceptance, and love are explored in the faultless third and final Reluctant Royals romance, in which a fake engagement between a European prince and an African finance minister’s daughter quickly becomes real. Cole weaves family drama and emotional growth into a passion-filled story worthy of its irresistibly complicated and diverse characters. This affair of the heart is deeply satisfying.

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The Unhoneymooners

Christina Lauren (Gallery)

This dazzling standalone contemporary is a hilarious comedy of coincidences. Olive Torres hates Ethan Thomas, but the two of them are stuck taking the Maui honeymoon intended for their unwell siblings. To Olive’s surprise, Ethan slowly reveals himself to be a genuinely decent guy, and soon they’re sharing that big honeymoon suite bed. Lauren brilliantly wields familiar rom-com tropes to craft a delightful enemies-to-lovers romance that will have readers hanging on every word.

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