Sarah MacLean picks the best romance books to read this month

In 1972, Kathleen Woodiwiss published “The Flame and the Flower,” and the modern romance genre was born. It was based on a simple concept: the adventure novel, with a heroine at the center of the story. Just as her male counterparts did in thrillers and westerns, the romance heroine broke out of her existing world, fought her own battles and won the day — her hero (and love) at her side. Even as the genre has expanded to include male writers, male readers and male-male romances, the lion’s share of romance novels continue to tell this story of the heroine’s triumph.

This month, Amanda Quick offers up a classic down-on-her-luck heroine who is easy to root for. Set in the 1930s, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Berkley) begins in New York City with personal assistant Anna Harris discovering a single, final instruction from her murdered boss: “Run.” She does so, as far as she can, to Los Angeles, where she reinvents herself as Irene Glasson, a gossip columnist. There she quickly finds herself embroiled in a second murder, which might be connected to the first. She also meets Oliver Ward, a reclusive ex-magician-turned-hotelier. The pair quickly become a kind of Hepburn-and-Tracy as they work together — and sometimes at odds — to solve the mystery. Quick is often named as one of the inventors of the romantic mystery, and she writes the genre effortlessly — the love story and the mystery are beautifully intertwined here, with Anna and Oliver’s romance developing in a slow burn even as they get closer and closer to saving the day, and themselves.

Contemporary romance novelist Julie James writes delicious books about good people who struggle with their personal lives even as they excel at their very difficult jobs. In The Thing About Love (Berkley), FBI agent Jessica Harlow is…

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