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For July: 3 Romance Novels Grounded In Reality

40-Love, by Olivia Dade

In romance, characters often face obstacles that are larger than life — pirates, spies, secret plots, paranormal forces. And sometimes our heroines grapple with issues closer to reality, like how to have both a satisfying career and a deeply satisfying love life. Romance heroines — they're just like us! These three novels remind us that it's worth fighting for both a romantic and professional happy ever after.

Olivia Dade's 40-Love pairs an "older" woman (she's only 39!) with a young former tennis pro (he's 26) for a sexy, snappy and heartfelt romance. Assistant principal Tess Dunn is on vacation with her bestie, who goes ahead and books Tess tennis lessons with the resort's cute coach ... whom she's already met in an early morning beach/bikini top mishap. Sparks fly and boy bands are earnestly discussed and despite their age differences, there's a definite attraction. Tess keeps trying to work — she's up for a big promotion — but Lucas makes that impossible. Try as she might to dismiss him as just a young player (both on and off the court) he makes it impossible with his attentiveness and devotion to her.

Lucas Karlsson is a former pro tennis player forced out of the game he loves by injuries. From his first meeting with Tess, he's attracted to her curves and — let's be honest — her breasts. But he really falls for her because she sees his intelligence and full potential and challenges him to be more. It's all fun, games and hot sweaty sex until the vacation is over and they have to decide if they can turn their fling into lasting love.

A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee is a certainly a sweet escape. Food critic Landon Kim is in the small town of Weldon, Calif., for one day. But that one day is long enough to sample the worst bundt cake ever, and to have a hot one-night stand with a woman he meets at the local brewery. One month later Aubrey Choi, baker of said bundt cake, is horrified to discover that a simple mix-up led to an awful review ... written by her one-night stand. Worst of all, her bakery, Comfort Zone, is losing tons of business as a result. Despite a campaign from her local fans, Landon can't issue a correction or second review.

But he has a better idea: Feature Aubrey as a guest host on the food show that his best friend is filming. This necessitates a week in Napa in a shared villa, along with wine tasting, baking and lots of sexual tension that they can't quite resist. With their professional reputations reliant upon keeping their business and pleasure separate, they both have a lot to lose by falling in love. But soon they have to choose between the careers they worked so hard for — or the love of a lifetime.

Hate Crush, by Angelina M. Lopez

In Hate Crush by Angelina M. Lopez, a rock star and a princess find a second chance at love — or rather, a chance to fake it. Princess Sofia has bet her kingdom, literally, on a new winery that she hopes will bring prosperity to her people. Both her reputation as a party girl and the kingdom's old guard stand in the way of her success. She needs to attract attention order to promote the daring new venture. What better way that rekindling a (fake) relationship with her rock star ex-boyfriend for the cameras, while strolling the beautiful vineyards of her kingdom?

Aish Salinger is in a bad place — he's battling rumors of plagiarism after his bandmate committed suicide. Once upon a time, he gave up the love of his life for fame and fortune, and now he has neither. So the opportunity to see Sofia again, even if it's only to fake a relationship to get media attention, is one he can't refuse. Ten years after their breakup, Sofia and Aish are are still nurturing major heartache, which naturally gets in the way of their charade. But once they discover their passion is as hot as ever, things start looking up for everyone. This is a sexy, steamy novel full of twists, turns and surprises on the way to success — and happy ever after.

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book isSome Like It Scandalous.

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