The best books if you want romance, mystery, and suspense in Chicago

Sharon Michalove Author Of At First Sight: Global Security Unlimited 1
By Sharon Michalove

Who am I?

I was born in Chicago and grew up in the suburbs. After a career at the University of Illinois, 150 miles downstate, I moved back to my hometown to recapture the urban vibe that I love. A historian, I love the stories that architecture tells me and wandering the streets of the city never stales. Having romance in my life is important and writing about how relationships can develop in the city is part of that. Everywhere I go in Chicago, I think of how my characters might interact with each other and the setting. Romance can be found in grand restaurants and in odd corners and Chicago has it all.


I wrote...

At First Sight: Global Security Unlimited 1

By Sharon Michalove,

Book cover of At First Sight: Global Security Unlimited 1

What is my book about?

Text threats make novelist Cress Taylor feel her world is crashing down. When Max Grant, a man who passed through her life twenty years ago, turns up at a book signing to renew their acquaintance, she’s suspicious. Should she fall into his arms or run like hell?

A former spy now working in Chicago, Max Grant shuns relationships. When he sees Cress on TV, his curiosity ignites. Will the spark he felt when an awkward American grad student knocked him down with her bicycle burst into flame? Cress is a magnet he can’t resist. As threats escalate to physical danger, Max feels driven to protect Cress. They must learn to work together if they want to stop her nemesis and find their happy ending.

The books I picked & why

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Code of Conduct: Cipher Security Book 1

By April White,

Book cover of Code of Conduct: Cipher Security Book 1

Why this book?

This book combines romance and suspense, humor, and action, all in one package. Shane, a P. I., and Gabriel, a security expert, are separately investigating a person of interest. They eventually cooperate to catch their villain. This is a slow-burn romance with a stiff-upper-lip Brit, working for Cipher Systems in Chicago and an amputee who takes no prisoners. Their explosive mix makes for an exciting ride with a great love story. 

I loved that both Gabriel and Shane live in The Manor, which is the former British consulate. I’d live there myself if I could afford it. Having characters situated in neighborhoods that I know makes the reading experience more authentic. I also loved how Shane handles being an amputee. Her scenes with her prosthetics designer are hilarious.

Code of Conduct: Cipher Security Book 1

By April White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Code of Conduct as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Color of Trauma

By Hollie Smurthwaite,

Book cover of The Color of Trauma

Why this book?

Hollie’s debut novel is a combination of romantic suspense and paranormal with an interesting concept. The female protagonist is a memory surgeon in Chicago. She removes and keeps painful memories from her patients, which weighs on her psyche. Dean, a police officer, asks her to look at the memories of someone in a coma in an attempt to catch a serial killer. As the two become more and more entangled, their search for clues and growing romance, may make Kiera the next victim.

The paranormal aspect is intriguing, and the concept was completely unfamiliar to me. The book is not for the faint of heart because her depictions can be graphic, but if you like urban grit and sexy romance, this may be the book for you.

The Color of Trauma

By Hollie Smurthwaite,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Color of Trauma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Pucked Love

By Helena Hunting,

Book cover of Pucked Love

Why this book?

This is a hockey romance set in Chicago. This is the final book in Helena Hunting’s Pucked series and my favorite. Her fans waited for years for Helena to get Charlene and Darren’s story right. Chicago is a hockey town, so it fits in very well. Underpinned by comedy and angst, a great group of characters, the relationship between the mysterious Darren and his firefly girl, Charlene, are the compelling center. 

In my own book, one scene takes place at a game at the United Center. I have been following my home team, the Blackhawks since the age of eight and when I discovered hockey romance, I was over the moon. I asked Helena why she chose Chicago for her books, and she said it was most like her native Toronto.

Pucked Love

By Helena Hunting,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pucked Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Secret Life of Maggie Blake

By Marilyn Brant,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Maggie Blake

Why this book?

Much like Walter Mitty, Maggie Blake has a rich fantasy life that breaks the tedium of being a housewife with twins. After seven years of marriage to the seemingly stolid Preston, Maggie misses the excitement of her career as an investigative reporter. When a terrorist plot threatens Chicago, Preston and his team move in to stop it. But he is also trying to protect his identity as the Motorcycle Maverick, a masked Zorro-like figure Maggie dreams about. 

Chicago and its environs, especially a suburb that is reminiscent of Lake Forest, add to the texture of the story. The idea of romantic suspense that involves a married couple is unusual and extremely well done. Marilyn is always an inspiration to me as a writer and this book is no exception.

The Secret Life of Maggie Blake

By Marilyn Brant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Life of Maggie Blake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Living Landmarks of Chicago

By Theresa L. Goodrich,

Book cover of Living Landmarks of Chicago

Why this book?

This isn’t romance, mystery, or suspense per se. Living Landmarks are historic places that you can still visit, and they tell us the story of Chicago. Although much was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871, some of the early architecture remains. And what was built after defines the “city of big shoulders.” As the author says, “Chicago is the physical manifestation of dreamers, malcontents, philanthropists, and grifters.” You can read about what is, maybe, the oldest house in Chicago, Clarke House, now a museum or any other of the forty-nine sites. Places I used like the Palmer House, The Rookery, the Art Institute, Union Station, and the Civic Opera House are all represented. The stories are short but compelling and the book is a valuable resource if you want to know more about the romance and mystery that define Chicago. 

Living Landmarks of Chicago

By Theresa L. Goodrich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living Landmarks of Chicago as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Chicago, romantic love, and private investigators?

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