It really hard to get the balance just right. Romance first and a good mystery.
Here are some books that do it right!
My lists are never in any particular order.
1. Imperfectly Criminal by Mary Frame
Freya Morgan thought it was a great idea to hire the bad boy on campus to beat up her douchebag ex-boyfriend after he cheated and treated her like crap. Fast forward a few months, and nothing she’s done has helped her get over the scars left behind by her ex. Not the paid beating, not the string of dates, nothing.
Dean Collins is in trouble, and it’s all Freya’s fault. After all, she started the trend of all the ladies on campus paying him to do their dirty work. But now, two of the boys he was hired to beat up are dead, and he’s the only connection.
When Freya agrees to help him find the real killer, she discovers that this bad boy isn’t so bad, after all. And getting involved with him means more than finding a killer, it means potentially losing her life…and her heart.
2. The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin
Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter. She has all men wrapped around her finger--except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.
Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu. But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail. Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences...
3. Where the Heart Leads by Stephanie Laurens
Penelope Ashford, Portia Cynster's younger sister, has grown up with every advantage—wealth, position, and beauty. Yet Penelope is anything but a pretty face in a satin gown—forceful, willful, and blunt to a fault, she has for years devoted her considerable energy and intelligence to caring for the forgotten orphans of London's sooty and seamier streets.
But now her charges are mysteriously disappearing. Desperate, Penelope turns to the one man she knows who might help her—Barnaby Adair.
Handsome scion of a noble house, Adair has made a name for himself in certain circles where his powers of observation and deduction have seen him solve several serious and unsavory crimes within the ton. His pedigree, relentless intelligence, and discretion make him a deadly avenger in an elegant guise. Despite his skills—or perhaps because of them—he makes Penelope distinctly uncomfortable, but the stakes are too grave. Throwing caution to the wind, defying every rule for unmarried ladies, she appears on his doorstep late one night determined to recruit his talents.
Barnaby is intrigued—both by her problem and her. Her bold beauty and undeniable brains make a striking contrast to the usual insipid ton misses. And as he's in dire need of an excuse to avoid said insipid misses, he accepts her challenge, never dreaming she and it will consume his every waking hour.
Enlisting the aid of Inspector Basil Stokes of the fledgling Scotland Yard, they infiltrate the streets of London's notorious East End. But as they unravel the mystery of the missing orphans, they uncover a trail leading to the upper echelons of society and a ruthless and clever criminal adept at pulling strings who, becoming aware of them and their efforts, is only too ready to destroy all they hold dear, including their newfound understanding of the intrigues of the human heart.
4. Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann
An unlikely state of affairs. For Navy SEAL Lucky O'Donlon was the original love-'em-and-leave-'em guy. Used to women swooning at his feet. So how could it be that the frustratingly attractive journalist Sydney Jameson had nothing to offer him but one very cold shoulder?
Well, two could play at this game. But first things first--he and Sydney had a job to do.
They had to get their man.
Then there would be time enough for him to get his woman....
5. Desire by Amanda Quick
Upon her father's death, beautiful, headstrong Lady Clarre knew that she must wed, for the protection of the Isle of Desire new fell to her. Yet when her guardian's choice of prospective husband rode through her castle gates, she felt utterly betrayed. All sinewy muscle and savage steel, Sir Gareth of Wyckmere was not the poet she'd requested but a fearsome knight whose only interest was in war.
Legions of robbers had fallen beneath the Hellhound of Wyckmere's sword, and now this bold warrior was certain that he could tame one willful wife. Yet even Gareth could not deter Lady Clare from trying to mold him into her ideal... until their clash of wills ignited a passion that set them both aflame... and a treacherous plot put their lives in deadly peril.
6. Open Season by Linda Howard
Daisy Minor is bored. Worse than that, she's boring. A plain, small-town librarian, she's got a wardrobe as sexy as a dictionary and hasn't been on a date in years. She's never even had a lukewarm love affair, let alone a hot one. So when she wakes up on her thirty-fourth birthday, still living with her widowed mom and spinster aunt, she decides it's time to get a life.
But can a lifelong good girl turn bad? No, not exactly.
But she can pretend, right?
One makeover later, Daisy has transformed herself into a party girl extraordinaire. She's letting her hair down, dancing the night away at clubs, and laughing and flirting with men for the first time in, well, ever. With a new lease on her own place and her life, it's open season for man-hunting.
But on her way home late one night, Daisy sees something she's not supposed to see. Suddenly the target of a killer, she's forced to put her manhunt on hold. But the very moment she stops looking might be the moment she finds what she's wanted all along. Trouble is, before he can share her life, he might just have to save it.
7. To Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt
EVEN THE MOST REFINED LADY
Lady Emeline Gordon is the model of sophistication in London's elite social circles, always fashionable and flawlessly appropriate. As such, she is the perfect chaperone for Rebecca, the young sister of a successful Boston businessman and former Colonial soldier.
CRAVES AN UNTAMED MAN
Samuel Hartley may be wealthy, but his manners are as uncivilized as the American wilderness he was raised in. Who wears moccasins to a grand ball? His arrogant disregard for propriety infuriates Emeline, even as his boldness excites her.
TO RELEASE HER PASSION . . .
But beneath Samuel's rakish manner, he is haunted by tragedy. He has come to London to settle a score, not to fall in love. And as desperately as Emeline longs to feel this shameless man's hands upon her, to taste those same lips he uses to tease her, she must restrain herself. She is not free. But some things are beyond a lady's control . . .
8. Saving Lord Verwood by Elena Greene
Penelope Talcott distrusts Lord Verwood, a notorious rake who’s meddled in the lives of her friends. But while in Brighton, she accidentally saves his life and becomes entangled in his affairs. Someone is trying to kill him and despite herself, Pen feels impelled to help. When scandal forces them into a marriage of convenience, they return to his estate in Cornwall, but mystery and danger continue to threaten their happiness.
For Verwood, marriage to Pen offers an unlooked-for chance for redemption, if he can protect her from the tide of rumor and intrigue that surrounds him. Although he dares not tell her everything, the passion between them grows. But keeping secrets proves dangerous as a nameless, enigmatic enemy from Verwood’s past challenges not only their growing love, but their very lives.
9. All Night Long by Michelle Jerott
An Unexpected Love
To complete her latest project, Annie Beckett must temporarily move in with gorgeous but forbidding Rik Magnusson-who lets her into his home, but not his life. Although Annie tells herself not to get involved, an unexpected kiss ignites a searing passion between them-and soon she finds herself longing to know his every secret.
When Annie breezed into Rik's life, challenging and teasing, he knows he never wants to let her go. And though she's been chasing excitement all over the country, he's betting he can convince Annie that what she's really been searching for all these years is right here, in his arms-because settling down doesn't mean settling for less, when the reason is love.
10. The Butler Did It by Kasey Michaels
ike every noble in the London peerage, Morgan Drummond, Marquis of Westham, expects his butler to be awaiting his return home—even when that return follows a five-year absence. But he didn't expect the horde of strangers who've taken up residence in his house, courtesy of that enterprising butler and a discreet classified ad. Morgan's plan to toss his unwelcome tenants into the street is thwarted by a beautiful but indomitable debutante, Miss Emma Clifford—who's not averse to a bit of blackmail for a good cause.
Now Morgan finds himself squiring the lovely Emma to the ton's most fashionable events—and what's more surprising, he's beginning to enjoy it. Surely he's not falling for such an infuriating woman, even if she does have a way of making him forget his own name? That butler has a lot to answer for—but then again, it's so hard to find good help….
Did I forget your favorite Romance with Mystery? Let me know!
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