Christie Ridgway

★ Never a Duke

In Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes, a determined lady teams up with an almost-gentleman to search for women who have gone missing in Regency London. Ned Wentworth, who was adopted into a wealthy ducal family as a child, is intrigued to receive a note asking for aid from Lady Rosalind Kinwood, known for her dedication to charitable causes. Instinct urges him to demur, but Rosalind’s beauty and her fear for her missing lady’s maid calls to him. As Ned and Rosalind meet to discuss his investigation, a slow-burn romance full of understated yet heart-aching yearning begins. Burrowes’ writing style evokes classic Regency romance with its witty repartee and loving attention to clothing. Tortured-yet-tender Ned is an unforgettable hero who learns to value himself as much as those around him do. This is the seventh entry in Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series, and fans will revel in glimpses of past couples and feel delighted that the worthy Ned has found love at last.

Mad for a Mate

MaryJanice Davidson pens a furiously paced, full-of-fun shifter romance in Mad for a Mate. Magnus Berne, a brown werebear of Scottish extraction, is surprised when Verity Lane washes up on the beach of his private island. He’s fascinated by her presence, then even more fascinated to learn she’s a squib—a werecreature that cannot shift—and is part of a club that takes dangerous dares to prove their worth to the world. When fellow club members begin dying, Magnus worries about the lovely Verity, and though usually reclusive, he opens himself up to her world and heart. Nimble-minded readers will delight in Davidson’s almost stream-of-consciousness style and occasional authorial interjections. She never spoon-feeds readers the rules of her paranormal world, which keeps the pace brisk and suits Mad for a Mate’s all-around quirkiness.

When She Dreams

Amanda Quick returns to the glamorous 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, California, in When She Dreams. Intrepid Maggie Lodge resolves to discover who is trying to blackmail her employer, a popular advice columnist. As part of her investigation, she travels to a conference in Burning Cove along with her newly hired (and newly minted) PI, Sam Sage. The conference’s subject intersects with one of Maggie’s personal interests: lucid dreaming, a state in which dreams can act as a conduit to psychic abilities. After a conference attendee’s suspicious death and an encounter with a scientist who is obsessed with Maggie’s abilities as a lucid dreamer, the pair realize this might be much more than a case of simple blackmail. Maggie’s can-do attitude finds a perfect complement in ex-cop Sam’s world-weariness. Falling in love is an unexpected delight for both of them, but longtime fans will not be surprised by Quick’s imagination and mastery of storytelling, which never fail to entertain.

Tired of gloomy vampires and brooding werewolves? Two lighthearted, fizzily fun paranormals, plus a truly unforgettable Regency hero, await you in this month’s romance column.

★ Boss Witch

A witch hunter is on the prowl in the Midwest in Ann Aguirre’s delightful Boss Witch. Clementine Waterhouse, one of the owners and operators of the Fix-It Witches repair shop, vows to save her family and coven by distracting Gavin Rhys, a sexy Brit who’s arrived in town to snatch away the power of any witch in the vicinity. Gavin and Clem quickly discover a powerful spark of sexual attraction between them, and it’s enough to keep them both bewitched, bothered and bewildered until reinforcements are called in from Gavin’s team. Can they craft a solution to an age-old enmity and find a forever love? Boss Witch may be a paranormal romance, but Gavin and Clem have problems every reader can relate to: meddling family, impossible expectations and fears of intimacy. There’s plenty of amusing whimsy piled into Aguirre’s imaginative story, made all the more charming by her energetic and vivid writing style. Boss Witch will make readers believe in the unbelievable, and wish for a little magic for themselves.

To Marry and to Meddle

A couple finds their new marriage less than convenient in To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters. For years, Lord Julian Belfry was satisfied with his scandalous reputation as the owner of an unsavory theater. He’s only the second son of a marquess, after all, and not set to inherit any grand title. But respectability would certainly sell more tickets, and he thinks that marrying the beautiful but impoverished Lady Emily Turner will help him reach that goal. Emily agrees, as she’s more than ready for a married lady’s relative independence—and it doesn’t hurt that Julian is handsome and charming. But as the pair learns to live together, they must confront uncomfortable truths about themselves. Will these new revelations make or break their union? Waters’ prose harkens back to foundational Regency romance author Georgette Heyer, but Emily and Julian’s individual journeys of learning to like their authentic selves are timeless. A witty cast of secondary characters and glimpses of backstage theater life add to the fun.  

Going Public

A workplace romance starts slow then burns hot in Going Public, the second book in Hudson Lin’s Jade Harbour Capital series. Elvin Goh loves his job as assistant to Raymond Chao, a hotshot fixer and partner at private equity firm Jade Harbour, even if Elvin’s all-hours and hands-on assignments mean he can’t ignore the many lovers who parade in and out of Ray’s bed. Elvin and Ray are already a great team, but sorting out a thorny, potentially dangerous problem in a Jade Harbour holding brings the pair closer together—and into a new kind of intimacy. Watching sweet, innocent Elvin and jaded playboy Ray navigate new waters will melt readers’ hearts. Lin excels at revealing the inner workings of her characters’ minds, and when they wear their feelings on the sleeve of a luxury business suit . . . well, the appeal is multiplied.

Calling all fans of opposites-attract love stories! We’ve got three steamy recommendations for you in this month’s romance column.

★ Hook, Line, and Sinker

Two delightful people find both themselves and true love in Tessa Bailey’s sequel to It Happened One Summer, Hook, Line, and Sinker. Film production assistant Hannah Bellinger’s latest project is being shot in her late father’s small hometown of Westport, Washington, where she met fisherman Fox Thornton the summer before. They’ve been texting buddies ever since, and she bunks at his place during the shoot. Fox is funny and incredibly handsome but a self-avowed shallow player, so she’s certain she’d never fall in love with him. Except there is so much about Fox to love: his humor, his self-deprecation, the way he believes in her (not to mention his unending sex appeal). Fox is constantly there for Hannah, and the evolution of their relationship from pals to passionate lovers feels authentic at every step of the way. Bailey is a master at articulating emotion through both narrative prose and dialogue, and readers will feel everything going through the hearts of this charming yet imperfect couple. Every page in this fabulous novel is pure romance gold. 

Kamila Knows Best

Farah Heron retells one of Jane Austen’s classic in Kamila Knows Best. Accountant Kamila Hussain lives a busy life taking care of her father, her dog and her many friends. But is she paying enough attention to her own needs and what she might really want . . . such as Rohan Nasser, a man she’s known forever? Heron’s prose completely captures the breezy, confident tone of her modern Emma. Like Austen’s protagonist, Kamila is a devoted daughter, inveterate matchmaker and she’s just a bit self-centered. But she’s as vivacious and fun to read about as Heron’s descriptions of clothing, decor and mouthwatering meals. A warm, wisecracking set of secondary characters and contemporary concerns fortify the rom-com plotline. A very good groveling scene (a trope beloved by many romance readers in which a character humbles themselves for love) is included, along with a recipe for biryani in this all-around delicious love story.

The Lady Tempts an Heir

Harper St. George’s lush Victorian romance, The Lady Tempts an Heir, sees a brash American fall at the feet of an English lady. Maxwell Crenshaw, the heir and manager of a prosperous ironworks, leaves New York City to check on his ailing father in London, which means he’s right back in the world of Lady Helena March. She’s oh-so proper and oh-so beautiful, and when they are both pressured by their families to marry . . . well, why not give themselves some breathing room by faking an engagement? In the way of these things, of course, Max and Helena find passion and then love, falling for each other as they discover they share similar stances regarding the rights of women and the plight of factory workers. But they live on separate continents and they’d agreed this wasn’t to last, right? Max and Helena’s sensuous, engaging and entertaining love story is deepened by St. George’s pitch-perfect evocation of the tender yearning of lovers separated by distance and circumstance.

Tessa Bailey strikes rom-com gold and Jane Austen’s Emma gets a delightful modern makeover in this month’s romance column.

Stories that chronicle the discovery and cementing of a soulmate are unfailingly popular, whether they spring from mythic origins or feature a dramatically foiled kidnapping. The endings are no surprise, but it’s the endless ways to reach that happy moment that make romance fans come back again and again and again.

Electric Idol

Neon Gods author Katee Robert returns with another contemporary take on Greek mythology in Electric Idol. Psyche, the daughter of Demeter, is being groomed to take her place in the city of Olympus’ hierarchy when she encounters Aphrodite’s son, Eros. He’s as deadly as he is beautiful, and his work as his mother’s ruthless fixer has made him a legend. But when Psyche does him a good turn, she attracts not only Eros but also the lethal intentions of his mother. Robert employs one of the most beloved romance tropes, the marriage of convenience, when Eros offers to marry Psyche in order to protect her. Two strangers becoming quickly but intimately acquainted, then falling in love and finally committing to each other, is not only delicious, it’s practically a microcosm of the entire romance genre. Electric Idol has danger, a clever heroine and just enough world building to not weigh down its best feature: the emotional metamorphosis of the seemingly monstrous Eros into a kind and adoring lover. Don’t miss this sexy and sensational book.


Seoulmates completes Jen Frederick’s lovely and lyrical duology about Hara Wilson and her journey to Seoul, South Korea, to find her roots. In the first book, Heart and Seoul, Hara found her birth mother and fell in love with the charming and rich Yujun—only to learn that he is her stepbrother. (In Korean culture, a romantic relationship between stepsiblings is completely taboo.) As Seoulmates begins, the pair are trying to decide if being together is worth becoming outcasts from both their family and society. Hara feels conflicted, but not about her love for Yujun or her fascination with the culture and food of Seoul, which Frederick describes in lavish (and delicious) detail. The intimate first-person perspective allows readers’ hearts to ache and soar along with Hara’s as she experiences both disaster and triumph. Learning to navigate a different culture and language as well as new relationships is a hard road, but Hara is stronger than her doubts. Even though a happily ever after looks out of reach, Hara learns to trust herself and the people she’s let into her life in this highly enjoyable read.

Highland Wolf

Love blossoms for a laird’s daughter after she’s saved from an unwanted marriage in Highland Wolf by Lynsay Sands. On the verge of being forced to marry one of her uncle’s friends, Lady Claray MacFarlane considers leaping to her death, but she’s rescued by a mercenary known as the Wolf. He plans to return her to her father, but he also has a secret—he’s her betrothed, Bryson MacDonald, who was thought to have perished years ago. Though Claray initially befuddles her no-nonsense husband-to-be with her soft spot for wounded animals, she ultimately proves herself to be the stalwart partner he needs. Danger lurks, but that doesn’t stop the lusty pair from finding time for each other in smoking-hot scenes. Sands keeps the action moving, and readers will fall head-over-heels for the ferocious Wolf and his growing tenderness for his lady. The detailed descriptions of medieval life and well-drawn characters make Highland Wolf a standout historical romance.

On a Night Like This

There’s something enchanting going on in Lindsey Kelk’s On a Night Like This. Told in a breezy first-person voice, this charming British rom-com finds personal assistant Fran Cooper taking on a temporary assignment that involves spending the night on an Italian island that is playing host to an over-the-top celebrity- and billionaire-studded event known as the Crystal Ball. Tired of stewing over her cheating fiancé and stalled life, Fran decides to sneak into the party. Once there, she meets Evan, who seems to have stepped out of her most romantic daydreams. Their eyes meet and it’s magic, but Evan insists they have this one night of friendly fun without thoughts of the future. This is sigh-worthy, entertaining escapism, all dressed up in sequins. The exotic locale and Cinderella touches add to the kisses-only fun.

Count Your Lucky Stars

Old friends find good fortune in Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur. Olivia Grant is still recovering from the end of her relationship with her high school sweetheart when she gets a golden opportunity for career advancement: planning a last-minute wedding between local VIPs. Color her shocked when the best woman is none other than her childhood BFF Margot Cooper, with whom she had a spring break fling during her senior year. The two avoided discussing their feelings when they parted, but 11 years later, sparks still fly between them. This extremely sexy rom-com is full of lingering glances and fiery love scenes, and there’s an awesome circle of found family helping the old friends and sort of new lovers sort through their feelings. While there are obligatory scenes played for laughs, Bellefleur also makes the sincere observation that the person who sees you the clearest is often the person who scares you the most. Thoughtful conversations about relationships balance the comedy in this ultra-satisfying read.

The details may change, but one thing in romance remains guaranteed: a happily ever after.

The Redemption of Philip Thane

A self-described wastrel gets a chance to change in The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne. In exchange for a hefty sum, the low-on-funds titular character agrees to deliver a speech on his wealthy aunt’s behalf during Plough Day, a local holiday in the small village of Whittlesey. On the journey there, he picks up the beautiful and brainy Margaret Allen. She needs a ride due to a broken carriage; he needs distraction from the boring task ahead. Margaret doesn’t succumb to his wiles, and after giving his speech, Philip can’t wait to leave town . . . but then he wakes up the next morning and discovers that it’s Plough Day all over again. And again. And again. In this Groundhog Day-style story, Philip realizes he’s fated to repeat both the speech and his attempts to woo Margaret, all without success unless he can mend his selfish and arrogant ways—and maybe also fall in love. Berne has penned an extremely clever and entertaining addition to the canon of “rake redemption” romances, and readers are bound to find it smart, tender and surprisingly sweet.

Weather Girl

Matchmaking goes awry in Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Meteorologist Ari Abrams teams up with sports reporter Russell Barringer to bring together their feuding bosses, who are also ex-spouses. But as they work to spark a do-over for the pair, they find themselves also feeling a little amorous—toward each other. The gun-shy Ari, who’s recently broken off an engagement and is unsure how to share her experiences with depression, begins to take a chance on single dad Russell, but can they stay the course and really commit? This is mainly Ari’s story, and it’s told in her engaging first-person voice, with Russell filling the role of the wonderful guy who hopefully isn’t too good to be true. Secondary characters add sparkle and fun, and there are brief but deeply enjoyable glimpses of newsroom life in this delightful romance.

The Rebel and the Rake

An aristocrat and a well-educated lady’s companion try to maintain their distance—and their disguises—in Emily Sullivan’s Victorian romance The Rebel and the Rake. Rafe Davies, the second son of an earl, plays the role of charming dilettante while actually spying for the Crown. His latest mission is to discover the source of anonymous threats made to John Wardale, a very wealthy self-made man, while attending a house party at Wardale’s Castle Blackwood in the Scottish Lowlands. Posing as a callow rogue has never bothered Rafe before, but then he meets Sylvia Sparrow, a quiet bluestocking whom he wishes to impress with more than his good looks and facile conversation. While Sylvia is similarly attracted to Rafe, she knows nothing can come of a relationship. She’s hiding aspects of herself, the most damning of which is that she was once imprisoned on suspicion of being an anarchist. But hearts cannot be denied, and the pair are soon sharing steamy love scenes while their true natures are gradually revealed. Danger and desire intertwine in this tale of deception and injustice, an engrossing read that follows two characters who deserve their happily ever after.

Two historical romances twist tropes to their own clever ends in this month’s romance column.

Whether the setting is a small town, a big city or a seaside refuge, romance has an extra chance to spark and thrive during the holiday season. Characters go home again, or go elsewhere to escape home, but there is no refuge from the potent combination of favorite scents, beloved foods and tender kisses.

★ Duke, Actually

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday sparkles with wit and charm. In this modern fairy tale, Dani Martinez decides she is post-men and love-averse as she waits for her divorce to become final. Still, she’s excited about being a member of the wedding party for her best friend, Leo, even if that includes contact with Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla. The ultra-handsome aristocrat rubs forthright English professor Dani the wrong way . . . until one night, friendship blossoms and they begin to support each other through career and family drama. The dual settings of New York City and Max’s fictional European country of Eldovia add to the fun, but it is the clever banter, smoking love scenes and delightful characters that make this romance like a perfect cup of cocoa—rich, delicious and warming all the way to the heart. Don’t miss it. 

★ A Season for Second Chances

Settle in by the sea with Jenny Bayliss’ A Season for Second Chances. When chef Annie Sharpe discovers her husband’s latest affair, she decides to forge a new life. Finances force her to take a position as a winter guardian for Saltwater Nook, a historic residence in the small town of Willow Bay on the coast of England. The small town has a special history, and the community is dedicated to upholding its traditions. Saltwater Nook is important to the people of Willow Bay, and increasingly so to Annie. Her mind spins toward somehow devising a future for the place, despite knowing the property is set to be razed in six months. Then there’s the curmudgeonly nephew of the owner, a man who is brusque and appealing by turns—sparking other fantasies. There’s so much to love about this enchanting story. Readers will want their own seat at the cafe Annie opens and to attend every quirky holiday party the townspeople dream up. This lovely, cozy read is perfect for winter. 

The Matzah Ball

Holiday magic clashes with real-life problems and a shared awkward past in The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer. Rabbi’s daughter, romance novelist and secret fan of all things Christmas Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt reluctantly attends her parents’ Shabbat dinner, despite knowing her childhood archnemesis, Jacob Greenberg, will be at the table this week. He’s in New York City to put on a splashy, high-end event: the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration set to take place on the last night of Hanukkah. Rachel finds herself in dire need of a ticket to the swanky sold-out party, since she’s desperate for inspiration for the Hanukkah-themed romance she’s being paid to pen. There are some amusing rom-com moments involving funny costumes and ballgowns worn with fuzzy socks, but the heart of this story is the central couple’s need to face their pasts and deal with their presents, including Rachel’s daily, very real struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome. Rachel finds a beauty she’s never noticed before in Hanukkah, all while falling in love with Jacob, who proves himself to be a true hero. The Matzah Ball is sweet, kisses-only and highly sigh-worthy.

The Holiday Swap

Twin sisters switch lives and find their matches in The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox. When a concussion causes chef Charlie Goodwin to lose her senses of taste and smell, she fears she might also lose her shot at a bigger and better professional gig. To save the day, her twin, Cass, agrees to take over Charlie’s current job of co-hosting a reality baking show in Los Angeles, while Charlie steps in at the family bakery in the small mountain town of Starlight Peak. Since both identical twins are accomplished bakers, no one will be the wiser. From here, cue rom-com conventions: confused exes, befuddled bosses and inconvenient romantic attractions as their subterfuge does not go as smoothly as Cass and Charlie imagined. Starlight Peak is the perfect snowy setting for Christmas cheer as the plot’s knots untangle and everyone finds their happy ending. Be warned that this kisses-only romance is full of mouthwatering descriptions of cookies, breads and cakes that just might inspire readers to take a turn in their own kitchens.

No Ordinary Christmas

Former high school sweethearts get a do-over in No Ordinary Christmas by Belle Calhoune. Small-town librarian Lucy Marshall vows to keep clear of Dante West, her high school boyfriend and ex-BFF, when the hunky action star returns to Mistletoe, Maine, to film a movie. Given that his looks are a cross between the Rock and Idris Elba, she doesn’t have much luck resisting when Dante asks to talk. He has amends to make with the girl he never forgot and the family he left behind after running off to Hollywood. Perhaps the holiday season will sweeten everyone’s feelings for him. But can good intentions and charming community events create the conditions he needs to finally win Lucy’s heart? While the pair exchange hugs and kisses only, it’s not long before hearts are also engaged in this warm, appealing tale of new understanding and belated forgiveness. The adorable town of Mistletoe is a snow globe-perfect setting in this satisfying holiday romance.

Make the holidays that much sweeter with these five romances.

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