STARRED REVIEW
December 04, 2018

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

STARRED REVIEW

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

December 04, 2018

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

STARRED REVIEW
December 04, 2018

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

December 04, 2018

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

STARRED REVIEW
December 04, 2018

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

STARRED REVIEW
December 04, 2018

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

December 04, 2018

December’s best nonholiday romances: contemporary edition

Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

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Tired of holly and mistletoe? Sick of eggnog? Ready to punch the next person who gets “Santa Baby” stuck in your head? Have no fear, these lovely stories are here for your fix of red-hot contemporary romance to warm you head to toe this December—without Christmas playing into the plots at all. These stories don’t feature nativity scenes, Christmas trees or twinkling lights, but each one delivers a strong dose of family love, a hefty helping of communities coming together and a generous display of hearts opening to the idea of real and lasting love.

THE BLACK SHEEP RETURNS
Bryson Wells, the hero of Elle Wright’s Pleasured by You, may joke that his hometown of Wellspring, Michigan, is an African-American version of the quaint, folksy setting of “The Andy Griffith Show,” but his childhood there was certainly no sitcom. Raised by an abusive father, he fled as soon as he could, cutting all ties and vowing to never return. And yet when the fates conspire to bring him home—and the terms of a will require him to stay there for a year—he learns that the only way to overcome his past is to build a better future for himself, for the girl-next-door he’s always secretly loved and for the child they discover they’re having together.

Pleasured by You is loaded with familiar romance tropes: a black-sheep homecoming, a reunion romance with an old crush, a steamy one-night stand leading to a surprise baby. What sets Wright’s novel apart is the strong sense of connection and community underscoring it all. Balancing the hero’s and heroine’s childhood scars—Bryson from his cruel, manipulative father and the heroine, Jordan Clark, from the abandonment of her mother—are their sweet, positive relationships with others. Bryson draws strength and encouragement from his loving relationship with his siblings. Jordan’s devotion to her grandparents proves her capacity for support and commitment despite her self-doubts. And both have friends they can rely on for anything and everything: a shoulder to cry on, a reality check, a wise word of advice, even emergency hair care. As perfectly as Jordan and Bryson fit together, there’s still a sense that the weight of maintaining their happily ever after doesn’t rest solely on their shoulders. They have a wonderful support network to help guide them through whatever obstacles the future brings.

LET THE LIGHT IN
Family and community support are abundant throughout the Latinx neighborhood of Their Perfect Melody, even if the heroine, victim’s advocate Lilí Fernandez, spends most of her time desperately trying to hide her activities from her loving-but-overbearing older sisters. Lilí leads from her heart, whether she’s cheering for her beloved Chicago Cubs, leading a self-defense class for teenage girls at the local community center or all but tackling police officer Diego Reyes to the ground when he stands in between her and a battered woman who needs Lilí’s help. She doesn’t hesitate to put herself at risk if it gives her the chance to help others, to the eternal frustration of her family and Diego. But even as they scold her (which they all do—a lot), there’s also a certain baffled admiration for the way she gives of herself so freely and believes so fervently that she can make the world a better, safer, more compassionate place.

Diego, by contrast, is more closed off, more skeptical. A bad history with an older sister who has been in and out of trouble for years has soured his optimism and given him a colder view of the world. He’s still dedicated to helping—some of the sweetest scenes occur at the community center where Diego and Lilí both volunteer, serving as chaperones, instructors, role models and homegrown heroes to kids of all ages. But Diego is reluctant to trust anyone, even the woman he comes to love. This reluctance, which he calls “protecting her” and she calls “shutting her out,” serves as the real obstacle to their relationship. It’s only when he adopts some of Lilí’s willingness to put her heart on the line that they find their way to each other and discover they truly are, as Oliveras’ series’ name suggests, Matched to Perfection.

CALIFORNIA CATFISHING
Millie Morris of My Favorite Half-Night Stand laughs it off (mostly) when an online dating program tells her she’s a 98 percent match with her best friend, Reid Campbell. But she lets the program “connect” them as a joke, using her middle name and a shadowy profile pic for her account, and is stunned to find herself opening up to him on a level she’s never managed before. Reid’s the person she values and trusts most in the world, but she’s always kept her deepest thoughts, feelings, stories and experiences entirely to herself. Millie doesn’t know how to open up, not even to Reid. But her digital alter ego “Catherine” does. As time passes, Catherine grows closer to Reid emotionally and Millie grows closer to him physically when they start sleeping together (one of the “web lingo” terms they learn is the concept of a half-night stand: when you hook up but leave as soon as the sex is over). Meanwhile, Millie finds herself increasingly torn over what she wants, what she has to offer and what she could possibly tell Reid to make him forgive the snowballing deception.

The writing duo that makes up Christina Lauren manage comedy so well that the emotional depth can sneak up on you like a sucker punch. It’s not an exaggeration to say I laughed and I cried—sometimes simultaneously, such as during a story Catherine tells about her experiences with a childhood bully. The romance is complicated by the moral ambiguity of Millie’s choices, but the writers develop the character so carefully and deliberately, with such compassion for her experiences, that her behavior becomes something that can be understood, even if it can’t really be excused. And the Greek chorus of Millie and Reid’s tightly knit and utterly hilarious group of friends adds to the drama, the comedy and the sweetness of the conclusion by showing the different kind of community that like-minded, loving people can build together.

Get the Books

Pleasured by You

Pleasured by You

By Elle Wright
Dafina
ISBN 9781496716040
Their Perfect Melody

Their Perfect Melody

By Priscilla Oliveras
Zebra
ISBN 9781420144307
My Favorite Half-Night Stand

My Favorite Half-Night Stand

By Christina Lauren
Gallery
ISBN 9781501197406

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