After yesterday’s little essay at the start of my Week in Books I feel a little bit like I’ve already talked way too much this week. But I’ve got plans in my head for a summer reading post and a couple of last weeks books are likely to feature in that. So this weeks BotW is a fun and frothy romance, perfect for reading any time of year, not just in a sunny garden in summer.
Ruthie has been working at Providence Retirement Villas for six years. That’s her whole adult life – and she’s turned the job into her entire life. She’s shrunk her world so that it revolves around the residents (human and turtles) and maintaining the place. She is nervous, risk averse, acts way older than her age and her latest fear is what the property developer who has just bought the site might do to up end her life. It turns out that the first thing he’s going to do is land Providence with his son. Teddy has run out of places to stay and needs to raise money for his share of the tattoo parlour he wants to open. He’s tall, dark and handsome – and dangerous for Ruthie’s self control. So she sets him up with the one job no one has ever lasted at: personal assistant to two rich, 90 year old trouble making ladies – who get most of their enjoyment from setting their assistants fiendish tasks. But Teddy looks set to be the one who stays the course – but is his charm for real or is is all just an act?
That’s quite a long plot summary and makes this sound way more complicated than it is. It’s a charming opposites attract romance with a sweet but wary heroine and a charming people pleaser hero who have to do a lot of figuring out about what they both want in life. The retirement village provides an excellent cast of supporting characters to make you laugh as you watch Ruthie and Teddy do some cautious getting to know each other. It does suffer a little bit from the end wrapping up too quickly (oh a common theme returns to my reviews) but I sort of forgive it because it was just so charming for the rest of the book. I’ve been hearing good things about Sally Thorne for a while, but this is the first time I’ve managed to get around to reading one of her books – even though I think I may own the Hating Game. I am annoyed that it’s taken me so long. But again: what is new there. In summary: charming escapist reading.
My copy of Second First Impressions came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in (very expensive) hardback. No paperback (in the UK at least) until next year.
I like writing about swoony romantic books, so although I really liked the new Duncan MacMaster – I mean a murder mystery set at a Fyre-esque festival is lot of fun and I’m sure I’ll write about it properly at some point, but I just loved Kate Clayborn’s Love at First, so my inner romantic won out. Again.
Nora loves her flat, and the building it’s in. She’s loved it since she was a kid and visited her Nona every summer. Now her Nona is gone but the community of her friends is still there and Nora has taken over looking after them. She moved across the country to Chicago to live in it, she’s got her remote working situation sorted and now she just needs to make sure the building’s new occupant doesn’t change the atmosphere. For Will, the flat is an unexpected inheritance from an uncle he didn’t know and didn’t want to. He can’t imagine living in it – so he just wants to deal with it and move on. Soon Will and Nora are low key feuding as she tries to gently sabotage his plans. But it’s more like frenemies than enemies because there’s just something between the two of them…
So this has a lovely prologue setting it up, and then a delightful romance with enemies to lovers and friends with benefits stuff going on. Will and Nora both have reasons why relationships are tricky territory for them and watching them find their way towards each other is lovely. I also adored the other residents of the building with their quirks and their fun and sparky relationships with each other. I really liked Clayborn’s previous book, Love Lettering – I mean it was a Book of the Week and one of my favourites of last year – but I think maybe I like this one even more!
I borrowed this from the library, but I suspect I’m going to be ordering myself the paperback so that I can lend it around – after all I own Love Lettering in paperback and on Kindle… At the moment it’s only available as an import paperback in the UK but when I asked Kate Clayborn on Twitter what was going on, she said she thinks it’s just transitioning to a new imprint. I hope that’s what’s happening – because I have two books of a three book series of hers and I really need the third at some point, so I’ll keep my eyes open and try to remember to update you all when it’s on Kindle and Kobo again.
I said yesterday that I was having trouble picking and I did. There were a few options for today. But the Deanna Raybourn is the sixth in a series – and I’ve written about Veronica before. The Grand Sophy was a reread via audiobook and that book is the very definition of a problematic favourite. I’ve written about several Lumberjanes before (including the novelisations) as well. And when I came to write up my reading list I realised that although I’ve read eight of Jackie Lau’s books and novellas over the last year, I haven’t made one of them a BotW yet. So that made my mind up for me.
Iris Chin likes her independence. She’s a successful structural engineer and a bit of a party girl and life would be pretty much perfect if her family didn’t keep setting up up with men to try and get her married off. But her job and her home life collide when she discovers that Alex Kwong, the one night-stand she snuck out on the next morning, is the man she’s going to have to work with on a new project for work. On top of that she’s moved in with her nosy, meddling grandma and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster…
This makes for a really fun read. Alex and Iris are both convinced that they don’t want to be in relationships – Iris, because she thinks her parents and grandparents relationships weren’t successful, and Alex because his mum has died and left his family broken hearted and he doesn’t want to go through that pain again. But they have great chemistry together, and Iris introduces Alex to her family to help him with some of the female family he’s missing without his mum. Watch them work out their relationship is really good, but Iris’s grandmother nearly steels the show. She’s a 90-something ball of energy – who has learnt English since her husband died, taken a string of cookery courses to fill time and has started reading Harlequin romance novels. She’s brilliant, and I would read a whole series of her setting up her hapless relatives on blind dates!
So this is a couple of years old and the second in a series – I haven’t read the first, but the couple from that do pop up in this. The running theme in the Jackie Lau books that I’ve read are delicious food, meddling families and heroines who know what they want from life and aren’t afraid to go out and get it. So if that is your thing – and you don’t mind feeling hungry while reading, then definitely check this out. Her first book with Berkeley is out at in November and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
I bought my copy of He’s Not My Boyfriend on Kindle but it’s also available on Kobo – and it’s 99p on both of those at the moment. It’s also showing as available to order in paperback, but I can’t work out how easy it actually will be to get hold of.
Ok, so a bit of a cheaty pick this week – because I’m picking two books by the same author, one of which I read the week before – and would have been last week’s pick if it wasn’t for the fact that I really needed to talk about how pleased I was that Enjoy the View really paid off on the promise of the previous books. Anyway, here I am to talk about the latest novel from Rosie Danan – and its predecessor. Because what we need right now is fun, sex positive romance novels. And holidays. But as we can’t have holidays, lets take good books instead!
In the Roommate we meet Clara. Her family is notorious on the East Coast for their scandals. But Clara’s not like them – she’s the well behaved sensible one – except when it comes to her childhood crush. So when he invites her to move cross country, she ups sticks and goes. But when she gets there, her crush is not – he’s going on tour with a band he manages and has let out the other room in the house to another guy. Josh is charming and handsome – and an adult film star. The chemistry between the two of them is insane – but it would make Clara her family’s biggest scandal yet. But soon the two of them are working on a new idea – to tackle the stigma around female desire and help women get better sex. But when will Clara realise that Josh is worth taking a chance on?
The Intimacy Experience centres on Naomi. The sex-positive start up she works for (yes, but that’s only part of the link to the first book!) is a success and she’s trying to extend her work to live lecturing. But she’s struggling to get hired by educational institutions until she meets Ethan. Ethan has just been named one of LA’s hottest bachelors, but the handsome rabbi is more interested in finding a way to bring more people into his synagogue. His congregation is aging and the shul is low on funds. Naomi’s course about modern intimacy seems like the perfect solution to both of their problems – she gets to deliver her seminar series and he gets to try and attract some millennials to the faith. Except as the two of them work together, their growing attraction becomes more and more obvious – as does the disapproval of the board running the synagogue.
I’m writing about the two books together because they’re related but they do different things. And I read them in the wrong order – because of course I did – so I’m going to take The Intimacy Experiment first. The romance in it is great – but it’s also a really wonderful examination of community and service and whether religion and sex positivity can coexist. Now that makes it sound less exciting than it is – and it is actually really quite steamy. Now if you’ve read the Roommate first, you’re probably going to find this a little lower on the heat scale – but hello, the hero is a rabbi and the actual plot doesn’t centre around sex in the same way that The Roommate does – it’s examining intimacy and relationships and what they look like in the modern world.
The Roommate is a really good forced proximity, opposites attract romance – with a really high level of steam – as you might expect from a book centring on female pleasure and the adult entertainment industry. Clara and Josh together make a really fun pair who want to change the world – and who only later realise that they can’t really live without each other. To be fair, Josh realises much sooner than Clara does, but he’s a real noble gent about it!
Of the two, I preferred the Intimacy Experiment – I think because I really enjoyed the setting at the synagogue. I’ve read a bunch of books with Christian priests of various types (or their spouses) involved (like the Max Tudor series) but this is the first book I’ve read set in a synagogue and its community (if you know more, hit me up in the comments) and I loved the sense of community and how much Ethan cares about his people and trying to make the shul thrive.
I’m fairly sure I’ll be recommending both of these – but probably to people looking for slightly different things. If you’ve read The Roommate first, the Intimacy Experiment might disappoint a little on the heat front, but the level of heat in The Roommate is not for everyone – or at least not straight out of the box! My copy of the Intimacy Experiment came from Netgalley, but it’s out now. I bought The Roommate for myself. The Intimacy Experiment came out at the start of the month and is available on Kindle and Kobo, as is The Roommate. The shops may be starting to open up here now, but I still haven’t been into a bookshop, so I have no idea how easy they are to get hold of in physical copies, but Foyles reckons it can dispatch The Intimacy Experiment in a couple of days, and The Roommate within a week, so you never know.
So there were a couple of books in the market for book of the week this week, but in the end I’ve gone for Sarah Morgenthaler’s third book in the Moose Springs series for reasons that will be explained in a couple of paragraphs time.
River Lane is trying to reinvent herself. Her acting career seems to be on the wain, so she’s moving behind the camera and her first job is to make a film for the Alaska tourist board promoting the town of Moose Springs. But when she gets there, Moose Springs really doesn’t want to be promoted. She can’t get her filming permits, no one will go on camera and she and her crew end up sleeping in their truck after their accommodation chucks them out. Her last resort is trying to climb the Mount Veil. Their guide is Easton. Easton is not keen on the film crew – he got chewed out by River for ruining her shot, when he thought he was helping someone who was lost. But he loves the mountain and he’s a professional so he’s going to get them up and down safely. Except the weather and the mountain have other ideas…
I liked but didn’t love the first two books in this series and this book is why I have stuck with this series – because I knew there was a book as good and fun as this underneath it all. I feel vindicated! In the previous books there were flashes of snappy dialogue but not enough characterisation and they just generally didn’t sustain the momentum of the start. But this one has the snappy dialogue, the rounded characters, some proper peril and it has a marmot as comic relief. It’s a lot of fun.
My only real issues with it were one incredibly dumb decision from the heroine (but I sort of understood why she did it from a character point of view and from a drama one, I just think there might have been a better time to deploy that option) and that the ending wrapped up very quickly and I wanted more of a sense of what happened to the film in the end. But as we know I often think romances wrap up too quickly – so I try not to hold that against books too much! A warning though – a lot of this book is spent up a mountain in very cold and wintry conditions – so read it somewhere tucked up nice and warm!
My copy of Enjoy the View came from the library, but is available now on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback – although judging by Waterstones website, probably as a special order.
After a slight diversion with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, a return to some familiar themes for my BotW post today: guaranteed resolutions, romance and an author I’ve recommended before – but for once it’s a new release as this came out on the 9th so I actually read it pretty much on time for once – even if my review is this week. Just quickly, before we talk about the new Talia Hibbert – another of the books I read last week is out today – the new Maisie Dobbs book from Jacqueline Winspear. I’ve written a series I love post about Maisie – but I suspect this one will feature in my end of month mini reviews – I really enjoyed it, but as The Consequences of Fear is the 16th in the series, it’s really hard to talk at length about without giving loads of spoilers for previous books!
Eve Brown’s parents think she’s flighty. To be fair the string of half finished courses and short-lived careers might give that impression – but that’s just because she hasn’t found her passion yet. But when her parents give her an ultimatum after she “ruins” a wedding by releasing some doves too early (to be fair I would probably have liberated them too), she high tails it out of town to prove them wrong. Jacob is looking for a new chef for his B&B, but Eve is definitely not it. But then she accidentally hits hit with her car and he winds up with a broken arm and when he emerges from the fug of his concussion, she’s filing in for him trying to help. He’s a grump, she’s a purple haired Ray of sunshine in a slogan t-shirt. They should be each other’s worst nightmares but the more time they spend together, the more sparks fly.
So this is the third and final book in Talia Hibbert’s series about the Brown sisters and they’ve all been a delight – in fact I recommended the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown in June last year when that was a new released. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, you’ve caught glimpses of Eve, but I think whatever the opinions are you’ve formed of her, you’re probably wrong. It was a fascinating surprise getting to know her and watch her journey. And Jacob is a great hero – as the book unfolds you realise that he’s autistic but that’s not the most important thing about him – and nor should it be – but it’s still quite rare to see autistic characters getting their own love stories, so that feels unusual. This is a slow burn, dislike at first sight, enemies to lovers forced proximity romance – all tropes which I love.
The chemistry and banter between Eve and Jacob is great and the sex scenes are really, really steamy – if I had been reading on a train (as I likely would have been in the beforetimes!) I would have been blushing. I also loved the way that you see the two of them working out and navigating their relationship and its parameters. And there is also no stupid drama for the sake of it here. The conflict is well-thought out and really works – and if something could be sorted out with a conversation then it probably will be, which is also a really positive at this point in time. There’s no coronavirus in this books, but it very much is exactly the sort of book I want – no need – to read after a year of Covid-19 life. And on top of that you get some more of Gigi, the girl’s fabulous grandmother and appearances from the other sisters and their partners. Just lovely. I’m looking forward to whatever Hibbert writes next – but I’m really hoping that the next thing is about Jacob’s best friend…
My copy of Act Your Age, Eve Brown came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and should be nice and easy to get hold of in all formats. Words and Kisses – my current favourite purveyor of romance in the UK is out of stock at time of writing, but they’ll get it back – and I suspect this will be in the supermarkets and on the tables in bookshops (when that’s a thing again) and of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo and audio too.
Yes this week’s pick is technically cheating because I finished this on Monday. Do I care? No. I make the rules, so I get to twist them a little when I want. Anyway, I’m back in contemporary romance this week with Susan Elizabeth Philips’s Heroes Are My Weakness which turned out to be really quite particularly up my street.
Annie Hewitt has arrived on a Maine Island in the middle of winter. She’s out of money and places to live, and she’s moving back to her mum’s old holiday home, Moonraker Cottage. Unfortunately the island is also the scene of one of the worst events of her teenage years, and the person behind it – Theo – is in residence at Harp House nearby. Now she’s trapped on Peregrine Island with a lonely widow, a mute little girl and nosy townspeople with only her trusty puppets for company.
I’ve read quite a lot of Susan Elizabeth Philips – especially her Chicago Stars series* – but this has quite a different feel to it and wasn’t quite what I expected but it was exactly what I needed this weekend (and Monday evening!). It starts off super Gothicky but actually ends up being much sweeter than you expect and also very romantic. There is some death around in the backstories (but not on page) with issues of domestic violence and suicide as well, so if that’s something you’re trying to avoid, please do be aware of that. Ok at the start you’ll have to deal with/get used to some dialogue, well actually inner monologue, from puppets, but don’t let that put you off. It actually reminded me a lot of the feel of some of the earlier Trisha Ashley novels that I enjoyed so much, but without magic – instead it has the puppets. I can’t remember which is the one with the Winged Muse in it, but that one crossed with A Winters Tale. The romance is intriguing, Annie’s journey is good and the winter island community is very believable. It’s also got a bit (quite a lot?) of mystery in there, but it’s not too thrillery or scary.
My copy came from the library but you can get on Kindle and Kobo – where it’s £2.49 at time of writing. I’m not sure if it’ll be in the bookshops because it’s American, but who can predict what it will be like when things are open again at this point!
*there’s a new instalment later this year and I’m really quite excited about it!
Another week, another contemporary romance pick for BotW. This time it’s Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, which has been much buzzed about, to the point where it took months for my library hold to come in, but it was totally, totally worth it.
Luc’s parents were rockstars – and back in the day they made some of their best music together. And then they made him. And it means that he’s sort of famous – even though his dad walked out of his life when he was small and his mum hasn’t made any new music in year. But now his dad is making a comeback – and that means more interest in Luc as well. After an unfortunate picture of him tripping up coming out of a club puts his job (fundraiser at a charity trying to save the dung beetle) at risk, Luc decides that the solution is to get himself a nice normal boyfriend. That’s where Oliver comes him. He’s as normal and sensible as it comes – a barrister, an ethical vegetarian and absolutely scandal averse. The only things that they have in common are the fact that they’re single, gay, and they both need a date for a big event. So they come up with a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until Luc’s job is safe and Oliver’s family party is over. Then they’ll never see each other again. Simple. Except this is a romance and we all know these sort of arrangements never go to plan!
I loved this so much. I’ve written a lot here about my quest to find more of the funny but romantic books that I love reading and which seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s, but which seem to have vanished off the face of the planet these days, in favour of really angsty books where everyone has a miserable backstory or comedies where the comedy is based on humiliation or people being terrible at their jobs (and either not really caring they’re rubbish at their jobs or not realising they are) which is really not my thing. But this was just in that sweet spot. It’s witty, it’s fun, the characters are charming and good at their jobs and the secondary characters are hilarious. It’s just a joy to read. I could have read another 200 pages of Luc and Oliver trying to work out how to have a proper relationship. It really was exactly what I needed last week.
It’s had loads of buzz, been various bookclub and magazine picks and so clearly I’m not the only person who wants to read books like this, and fingers crossed it’s the start of a renaissance. If you’ve got any recommendations for books that do the same sort of thing, please drop them in the comments, because the Goodreads and Amazon suggestions aren’t helping me any! This was also my first Alexis Hall book, so I’m off to dig into the back catalogue, although having chatted to my romance reading friends, I think that the steam levels on some of the others is much higher than this – this is kissing and then pretty much closed door. I’ve already pre-ordered Hall’s next book – Rosaline Palmer Takes All the Cake, which is out in May because a romance set on a baking show is exactly what I didn’t realise that I need in front of my eyeballs!
My copy of Boyfriend Material came from the library, but it’s available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook. It’s a paperback too, but the shops have been closed so long now I’ve lost all sense of what is going to get stocked where and so don’t know how easy it will be to get hold of if you’re trying to order from your indie, but Foyles have it available to order if that’s any indication.
In putting this post together, I realised that amidst the flood of end of year posts, I didn’t do a mini reviews for December. To be fair though, I think I had already written about pretty much everything I enjoyed. As previously discussed ad nauseam in the middle of January I had a severe case of loss of reading mojo that saw me retreat to the safety of old favourites. But before that there were a couple of books I read and wanted to mention to you.
The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant*
This is a delightful middle grade story about an alternative version of Britain where there are magical families of makers who each make one thing. Our heroine, Cordelia, is a hatmaker. But after her father goes missing at sea, she finds it hard to concentrate on the hat her family are meant to be making for the king. But soon she’s swept up in trying to foil a plot against her family – and the makers. I really enjoyed this. I think it would appeal to a lot of children – it’s a fast paced adventure with enough peril, but not too scary and a magical world with consistent rules that are easy to make sense off. NetGalley told me it was out in January – but Amazon tells me it’s actually out mid-February. Either way, I will buy for the middle graders in my life.
If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon
I don’t know how I missed that this was meant to be a Cinderella retelling until after I had finished and I was looking at other reviews. I can only chalk that up to the fact that I just automatically put holds on Weatherspoon’s new books without even looking at the plots – she’s just that reliable at turning out great romances! Anyway this features an aspiring screenwriter, who is trapped as the PA/dogsbody to an obnoxious second generation Hollywood starlet, who hooks up with the newest Oscar-winning actor at a post-Oscars party and then accidentally takes his statuette home with her. Amanda then runs into Sam again at his family ranch, where a friend is getting married. There’s a lot of dancing around whether they want to have a relationship or just a fling, and it’s all very romantic. The denouement is fun – although I wanted a little more comeuppance for our baddie. This came out in October and should be fairly easy to get hold of on Kindle, I don’t know about the paperback.
The House on Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams*
This is a twisty, historical romantic suspense novel about Virginia who travels to Florida in search of answers after the death of her husband. Virginia and Simon were estranged at the time of his death and as she tries to unravel what led up to his death, the reader discovers the story of their relationship. The narrative is split between 1917 when they met while she was working as an ambulance driver in France and their subsequent romance and 1922 as the story of their romance unravels. I got more and more anxious for Virginia as the story went on and the twists kept coming, but I was pleased/happy with the resolution. I’ve written about Beatriz Williams on here before and although I didn’t like it as much as I liked Her Last Flight, it is a lot of fun. In the US this is titled just Cocoa Beach, and it’s also connected to Williams’s earlier novel A Certain Age (Virginia is the sister of one of the characters in A Certain Age) but you don’t need to have read the previous book for this to make sense (I had in fact forgotten what happened in A Certain Age and it didn’t cause me any problems). If we were going to the beach right now, it would be a great beach read. This came out a couple of years back (when I got a copy from NetGalley and promptly forgot about it) and is available on Kindle and in paperback – in the BeforeTimes I used to find physical copies of Williams’s books in the bookshops and the libraries.
Beyond those two, there was a new Stockwell Park Orchestra book which sees the gang on tour in Germany and Belgium, I read another Inspector Littlejohn (which wasn’t my favourite but was still good), And I finally finished the San Andreas Shifters series – which is Gail Carriger writing as G L Carriger and follows a gay werewolf pack and their friends/hangers on in modern day (but with supernatural creatures) California. I’d been saving the last full length novel for a time of need and was reminded that I had it waiting when Miss Gail’s author newsletter flagged that there was a new short story in the series out. So I read them both.
It’s only a few days to go before Christmas now, and so it’s time for my annual Christmas reading post, which as is traditional coming slightly later than I had hoped!
Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance by Riane Konc
Lets start with something utterly cheesy and frivolous! Remember the old choose your own adventure books that we all used to read, well this is one of those but for Christmas movies and written by some one with a sharp eye on the tropes and stereotypes of the Hallmark Movie genre. Depending on how evil you are depends on how long the story is and where you end up, although there is an overarching story. I got this for Christmas last year and it would make a great gift for the person in your life who’s been watching Christmas movies since the day after Halloween!
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
For years Maelyn Jones has spent Christmas in a cabin Utah with a big group of her family’s closest friends. But this year it’s all gone horribly wrong, and even worst it could be the last Christmas at the cabin too. On her way back to the airport, Mae asks the universe to show her what will make her happy. Then tyres screech, metal collides… and she wakes up on the plane on the way to Utah before the holiday has even started. And what happens next is basically Groundhog Day with a romance and Christmas twist, as Mae tries to make her way through the holiday all over again – fixing what went wrong each time to try and break the loop and find her true love. This funny and sweet and it really worked for me – despite the fact that I don’t usually like time travel. I’ve written about Christina Lauren before (most recently about the Honey-Don’t list) and when they work for me, they really work. This is on the right side of the pranks and embarrassment scale for me, as well as being lovely and escapist in what’s been an awful year. The isolated nature of the cabin also means that you don’t really think about how different life in reality at the moment compared to what you’re seeing in the books. Wonderfully escapist.
The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews
I mean honestly it wouldn’t be a Christmas post without a mention of Meg Langslow. Donna Andrews has been on a two book a year schedule with this series for a while, but for the last few years the second book has been a Christmas one. This is the 28th book in the series and sees Meg’s already busy life complicated with the Helping Hands project – matching volunteers up to people who need help with jobs. There’s some one who needs a ramp building for wheelchair access, someone else has a quilt that needs finishing – and then there Harvey the Hoarder who is in danger of losing his home. Meg’s helped him before, so she’s sent in to work her magic again, but after some initial success, he’s found dead in his garage. But who killed him? One of his relatives hoping there’s something valuable in his junk or one of his neighbours who got fed up of living next door to his mess? After last year’s snowed-in murder, this is back in town and has some of the series’ Christmas traditions back in evidence. The mystery is good and I love spending time with the characters. And I think it would just about work for someone who’s never read the series before.
The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Willa Davis knew Keane Winters at high school, but when he comes into her pet shop needing someone to look after his aunt’s cranky cat while he’s at work, he doesn’t even remember her. Despite this inauspicious start, the sparks between the two of them just keep flying. But both of them have issues in their childhoods that make them think that relationships are not at thing that will work for them so they’ll have to work together to build trust and break down each others barriers to get to their happy ending. Now I know this doesn’t sound that Christmassy, but the backdrop to all this is the run up to Christmas and the festivities going on in Willa’s shop, so it totally counts and it has mistletoe in the title of course. This is the second book in Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay, and although you don’t have to read them in order, you will spot stuff from the other books in the series cropping up or being cued up in it. Perfect reading material for the sofa in the cold weather.
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery
This book 12.5 in Mallery’s long-runing Fools Gold series (which feels like it has more in between titles than it does “proper” titles) and is actually closer to a novel in length than to a novella. Our heroine is Noelle, who moved to town to open a festive-themed store The Christmas Attic. Army doctor Gabriel is in town to recuperate after an injury and to visit his brother Gideon. Their parents are in town for the holidays too – and both men, but especially Gabriel, have a difficult relationship with their father – a literal drill sergeant. Gabriel doesn’t believe in happily ever afters, but when he ends up spending more time with Noelle to get away from his dad, he starts to reconsider. As an added bonus here, Gideon is the hero of book 11, and so if you’ve read that, this gives you a sort of extended epilogue opportunity with some old friends too.
The Naughty List by Ellie-Mae MacGregor
A bit of a wildcard here. This is a steamy Christmas novella with a single mum who wakes up on her sofa on Christmas night to find Santa is in her house. Santa – aka Nikolai – is lonely and horny and so is Kate. Thus high jinx and sauciness ensue. It’s not long, but it is fun. Don’t read it on the train though, it might make you blush!
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond*
And finally – the one I haven’t finished yet: this is Gary Raymond’s response to all the people who think that Love Actually is a perfect Christmas movie. I loved Love Actually when it came out, but as time has gone on, I’m more fond of some of the characters than I am about the whole thing, and there are definitely elements that have not aged well to say the least. Whether I’ll come out of this a convert to the Church of Hating Love Actually I don’t know, but I’m a third of the way through and it’s definitely making me laugh as well as think.