Romance round-up: Exciting tales from Isabella Bradford, Maya Banks, and Susan Mallery

(LEFT) Filled with fierce action, Maya Banks' story is a thrill ride. (RIGHT) "Hold Me" begins a new trilogy in Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series.

A Sinful Deception

By Isabella Bradford

Ballantine Books. 395 pp. $7.99.

Reviewed by Lidija Dorjkhand

It's not often you read a historical romance in which the heroine faces danger of ruin beyond the usual romantic indiscretion. Isabella Bradford's latest book touches on some surprisingly heavy subjects. A Sinful Deception is the second book in the Breconridge Brothers trilogy by Bradford, a pseudonym of Susan Halloway Scott, who lives in Chester County.

Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy is a rake who steers clear of eligible maidens. An encounter with Serena Carew at a ball may change his mind. Beautiful and mysterious, she intrigues him. He learns she is a wealthy heiress who grew up in India and came to England seven years ago after nearly succumbing to the fever that took the lives of her father and all in her household.

The aloof beauty has spurned all suitors. Geoffrey cajoles her into accepting a dance, then a walk on the terrace, where he surprises her by speaking Hindi. Her usual reserve melts a bit and they chat.

That night, a recurring nightmare returns to Serena: She relives the horror of the fever and death all around her, including that of her older half-sister. She awakes and realizes she has been a fool for encouraging the handsome Lord Geoffrey. She must keep her distance from everyone, never marrying, because she is harboring a terrible secret: Her sister was her father's true heiress, born of his late wife. Serena is his illegitimate daughter with an Indian dancing girl whom her father took as his mistress. English rescuers mistook the sick girl, the sole survivor, as her father's only daughter.

Serena can reveal her secret to no one, not even her grandfather and aunt, who dote on her. She can never marry. What if she had a baby who was dark-skinned like Serena's mother? She knows she must turn Geoffrey away, despite her wild attraction to him. And Geoffrey won't take no for an answer. Serena decides to give in to passion one time and makes an assignation with Geoffrey. But her relatives come home early and discover the two in an embrace. Serena and Geoffrey are forced to marry.

Foreboding and dread overtake the book, and you know something will happen to bring Serena's perilous secret out in the open, despite the happiness and love the two find in their marriage. Will Geoffrey stand by her? Will she be forsaken and reviled? You read on feverishly, but with trepidation, to find out.

In His Keeping
By Maya Banks

Avon Books, 432 pp. $14.99

Arial Rochester is the beloved daughter of a billionaire and his wife. She does not know it, but she was left on their doorstep as an infant with a note saying that her biological parents must give her up to protect her from danger and that the child must never know the true circumstances of her birth. Devastated by previous miscarriages, the Rochesters fall in love with the infant. They whisk her away to Europe and establish a false paper trail that shows she is their natural child. From now on, her protection is their top priority.

As she grows up, up, Ari and her family are constantly surrounded by security. She is trained in self-defense. Ari also has special powers of her own. As a child she is able to move objects with her mind. Her parents drill it into her that she must never reveal this power to anyone, and Ari eventually stops using it.

Now she is a young woman. When an attack forces her to defend herself, the struggle and her use of telekinesis against her attackers are caught on video, which goes viral. Her parents decide they must pack up and head out of town. Ari waits for them while they run out to get supplies. But they don't return, and she knows something is wrong. Ari is attacked outside the house by one of the guards but manages to escape.

Her father had told her that in case of trouble she must contact Caleb or Beau Devereaux of Devereaux Security. In disguise, she travels to the office and meets with Beau. He recognizes her from the viral video, and she explains her situation and her special powers, but Beau is unperturbed. (His sister-in-law, subject of the first volume in author Bank's suspenseful Slow Burn series, is psychic.) He agrees to help Ari locate her parents.

On their way out of the building, they are shot at, and a violent chase ensues. Backup finally arrives, but Ari is in bad shape, from both a bullet wound and bleeding from her nose, mouth, and ears - a psychic bleed from overusing her rusty powers. As Ari recovers, Beau realizes he is drawn to her, and she is attracted to him, too.

Ari and Beau eventually learn that her birth parents were part of a breeding program for the development and research of psychic powers and that this program will stop at nothing to capture Ari.

Filled with fierce action, Banks' story is a thrill ride. Ari must learn to use her powers without injuring herself if she wants to save her parents, Beau, and herself.

Hold Me
By Susan Mallery

HQN Books, 384 pp. $8.99

Hold Me is the first of a new trilogy in Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series. Destiny Mills has come to the small California town of Fool's Gold to help set up a search-and-rescue computer program.

The peaceful tourist town is a perfect locale for Destiny, who strives to keep her life calm and orderly, even as she wrestles with her own emotions. The impact of a chaotic childhood compels her to avoid drama. But she's also the daughter of two famous but tempestuous country singers. From them she has inherited a need she can't ignore to write songs and sing.

She isn't counting on her new coworker to be so attractive. Kipling Gilmore heads the town search-and-rescue team. He was an Olympic gold-medalist skier until a devastating injury forced him to retire from the slopes. He finds her just as attractive and hopes that while she's in town they can become more than coworkers, though he's not looking for anything long term.

She can't deny her emotions for long, either. One night of too many Long Island ice teas and karaoke, and she throws aside caution and turns to Kipling in passion.

With humor and heartfelt emotion, Mallery shows how Destiny and Kipling must deal with the aftermath and their deepening feelings for each other. Destiny must face head-on her long-denied emotions and the drama from which she usually runs.