February is often regarded as the month of love. But what if you’re the kind of person for whom boxes of bonbons and a dozen roses just don’t cut it? Whether you need some thrills to spice up your tales of love, or prefer something with more action-packed kicking than kissing, here are ten thrillers with a touch of romance.
Lies and Love: 10 Thrillers with Just a Hint of Romance
Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy are two people in love, heading off to get some alone time—which is pretty easy, given that the story takes place before cell phones. Well, they are in love, right? Gina, a dancer, can’t recall the last year of her life, after suffering a head injury during her honeymoon. And she never had a reason to question her love, except that Duncan begins acting strangely. Soon their former lives seem to be catching up to them and Duncan is frantically trying to get her as far away as he can from the gruesome truth. THE END OF GETTING LOST has romance, but the bond between these two lovebirds grows darker and more questionable with every page.
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A psychologically suspenseful, cunning love story following a young dancer unable to recall the last year of her life after suffering a head injury on her honeymoon, revealing an intimate portrait of love’s powers—as well as its dangers.
The year is 1996—a time before cell phones, status updates, and location tags—when you could still travel to a remote corner of the world and disappear, if you chose to do so. This is where we meet Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy, a young artistic couple madly in love, traveling around Europe on a romantic adventure. It’s a time both thrilling and dizzying for Gina, whose memories are hazy following a head injury—and the growing sense that the man at her side, her one companion on this strange continent, is keeping secrets from her.
Just what is Duncan hiding and how far will he go to keep their pasts at bay? As the pair hop borders across Europe, their former lives threatening to catch up with them while the truth grows more elusive, we witness how love can lead us astray, and what it means to lose oneself in love... The End of Getting Lost is “atmospheric, lyrical, and filled with layered insights into the complexities of marriage” (Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy). “Kirman is wonderfully deft with suspense and plot” (Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks) in this “electric page-turner” (Courtney Maum, author of Costalegre and Touch), a novel that is both a tightrope act of deception as much as it is an elegant exploration of love and marriage, and our cherished illusions of both. With notes of Patricia Highsmith, Caroline Kepnes, and Lauren Groff, Robin Kirman has spun a delicious tale of deceit, redemption, and the fight to keep love alive—no matter the costs.
Sometimes we arrive at the unfortunate realization that a person we love is not who they say they are. For Hannah, that moment comes when she discovers that her recently missing husband of one year, Owen, is embroiled in something more dangerous than she’d imagined. After all, it’s not every day federal agents raid your home. His last words were a note to Hannah reading, simply, “Protect her,” referring to Owen’s teenaged daughter, Bailey, who wants nothing to do with Hannah. But the two will have to team up to figure out the truth about Owen and where it is he’s gone. THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME is a twisting, fast-paced thriller that is sure to make you think hard about just how well you know the people in your life.
From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.
We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.
If you were given the opportunity to complete someone else’s life’s work, would you? In VERITY, Lowen Ashleigh doesn’t have much of a choice. Lowen is in dire financial straits, and getting the chance to finish bestselling author Verity Crawford’s work after she sustains a debilitating injury seems like the lucky break she’s been waiting for. But going through Verity’s notes, Lowen discovers an unfinished autobiography detailing some dark secrets, including the way the author’s daughter died. Should Lowen keep this memoir a secret from Jeremy, Verity’s husband, or should she use these confessions to her advantage as she finds herself falling for him? Dark, twisted, and bone-chilling, this book reminds you that love isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
You know what’s worse than being dumped on Valentine’s Day? Going missing on Valentine’s Day. That’s what happened to Saffyre Maddox, a young girl who becomes obsessed with her psychologist, Roan Fours. She’s close to learning some uncomfortable truths about Dr. Fours and his family when she disappears. Meanwhile, Owen Pick, the Fours’ neighbor, get fired from his teaching job at a girl’s school and is generally considered by all to be creepy and weird. As the mystery of Saffyre’s disappearance deepens, so too will your desire to find answers. INVISIBLE GIRL is the kind of heart-stopping thriller you can expect from Lisa Jewell, and while there’s not a ton of romance in it, its Valentine’s Day setting keeps love in the background.
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“I absolutely loved Invisible Girl—Lisa Jewell has a way of combining furiously twisty, utterly gripping plots with wonderfully rich characterization—she has such compassion for her characters, and we feel we know them utterly… A triumph!” —Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone returns with an intricate thriller about a young woman’s disappearance and a group of strangers whose lives intersect in its wake.
Young Saffyre Maddox spent three years under the care of renowned child psychologist Roan Fours. When Dr. Fours decides their sessions should end, Saffyre feels abandoned. She begins looking for ways to connect with him, from waiting outside his office to walking through his neighborhood late at night. She soon learns more than she ever wanted to about Roan and his deceptively perfect family life. On a chilly Valentine’s night, Saffyre will disappear, taking any secrets she has learned with her.
Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct—accusations he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel forums, where he meets a charismatic and mysterious figure.
Owen lives across the street from the Fours family. The Fours have a bad feeling about their neighbor; Owen is a bit creepy and suspect and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night. Could Owen be responsible? What happened to the beautiful missing Saffyre, and does her disappearance truly connect them all?
Evocative, vivid, and unputdownable, Lisa Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).
Sometimes people grow apart, whether because of diverging career paths, traumatic situations, or just a general breakdown of communication. For the Sorenson family, it turns out to be all three. Matt and Elise are a successful couple with a young handicapped daughter Gracie. Matt has been offered a partnership at his law firm; Elise is a competitive equestrian with a shot at the Olympics. But there’s a strain on their marriage, which only grows worse when, on a trip to Matt’s family’s lake cabin, Gracie goes missing. THE SUMMER WE LOST HER is part character study, part deeply tragic suspense.
For fans of Jodi Picoult and Anna Quindlen, comes an “astonishingly profound…exquisitely written drama” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You) about a husband and a wife, a missing child, and the complicated family secrets that can derail even the best of marriages.
It’s been a busy—and expensive—few years for Matt and Elise Sorenson and their young daughter Gracie, whom they affectionately call Little Green. Matt, a Manhattan lawyer, has just been offered a partnership, and Elise’s equestrian ambitions as a competitive dressage rider may finally vault her into the Olympics. But her long absences from home and endless hours of training have strained their relationships nearly to the breaking point.
Now they’re up in the Adirondacks, preparing to sell the valuable lakefront cabin that’s been in Matt’s family for generations. Both he and Elise agree it’s time to let it go. But as they navigate the memories the cabin holds—and come face to face with Matt’s teenage crush, now an unnervingly attractive single mother living right next door—Gracie disappears without a trace.
Faced with the possibility that they’ll never see their daughter again, Elise and Matt struggle to come to terms with what their future may bring. The fate of the family property, the history of this not-so-tiny town, and the limits of Matt and Elise’s love for each other are inextricably bound up with Gracie’s disappearance. Everything for the Sorenson family is about to change—the messy tangle of their past, the harrowing truth of their present, and whether or not their love will survive a parent’s worst nightmare.
Suspense? Romance? Gripping action scenes? Spy novels have all of those things in droves. But what AMERICAN SPY provides is a little more heart-wrenching: the story of a mother’s love. Marie Mitchell is a former FBI agent who flees to Martinique with her twin boys after a man breaks into her home and tries to assassinate her. Her dangerous past is not nearly as dead as she thought, and she writes down her life’s story for her sons, in case she’s not alive to give them the answers they need. Hopping from her childhood in New York to the difficulties of being a Black woman in the FBI during the 1980s, Marie’s tale is gripping and poignant, a spy novel like no other.
Being isolated in a place full of people who love you, protected from the dangers of the outside world, might sound nice until you realize that what I’m describing is a cult. Still, it’s not hard to see the appeal, especially for a loner like Berie. The nineteen-year-old girl gets recruited by a handsome stranger to join the Ash Family farm, where she can leave her old life behind and find people who care for her. And things are going great, with Berie making new friends, but she soon finds those friends are disappearing. THE ASH FAMILY is the kind of thriller that sneaks up on you slowly before shaking you to your core.
When a young woman leaves her family to join a secret off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this “stunning debut,” (The New Yorker) “perfect for fans of Philip Roth’s American Pastoral and the film Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Booklist, starred review).
At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins a community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.
“An excellent debut, Molly Dektar probes life in a cult with a masterful hand, excavating the troubled mind of a young woman,” (Publishers Weekly). The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging. “A captivating and haunting tale” (New York Journal of Books).
Who better to spend Valentine’s Day with than the master of thrills and chills himself, Stephen King? His massive bibliography includes plenty of suspenseful stories with just a touch of romance, but none captures the imagination the way LISEY’S STORY does. The book follows Lisey after she loses her husband, Scott, an acclaimed author to whom she was married for twenty-five years. In the wake of his death, Lisey finds, after going through his papers, that she must travel to Boo’ya Moon—a place of both inspiration and terror for her late spouse—to confront what lies in wait. Heartbreaking and spine-tingling, this is definitely a book that will have you up all night long.
*Soon to be an Apple TV+ limited series starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen*
The “haunting…tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey” (The New York Times), Lisey’s Story is a literary masterpiece—an extraordinarily moving and haunting portrait of a marriage and its aftermath.
Lisey lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a twenty-five year marriage of profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey knew there was a place Scott went—a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, to go to that terrifying place known as Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.
“Intricate...exhilarating” (The New Yorker), perhaps Stephen King’s most personal and powerful novel ever, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love. It is a beautiful, “rich portrait of a marriage, and the complicated affection that outlives death” (The Washington Post).
At first, MEXICAN GOTHIC seems like your standard gothic thriller. Noemí is sent by her father to check in on her cousin Catalina, recently married to a wealthy British man in a remote part of Mexico, when her letters reveal her failing health and deteriorating mental state. But there’s definitely more happening behind the scenes in the dark, old house that Catalina now calls home than the locals know. What should be a simple visit becomes a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, though Noemí isn’t sure which part she’s playing. This journey deep into the heart of the mansion’s secrets is full of drama, horror, suspense, and yes, just a little bit of romance to keep you hooked.
The end of World War II found the world very different than it was when the war began. Expatriate American Leon Bauer, a spy helping the Allies, knows this better than most. In THE ISTANBUL PASSAGE, as his dark world of espionage leaves the central hub of Istanbul, Leon finds himself with one more mission on his hands. But things go wrong very quickly, with Leon getting trapped in a web of deceit, death, and ever-shifting loyalties. And, of course, what spy story would be complete without an affair? If a spy coming to sweep you off your feet is your idea of a good time, be sure to pick this book up.
Photo credit: iStock / Albert Cabezas