A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
It’s a new year, and that means new books to read! Covid finally caught up with me in December, unfortunately, so I didn’t get in nearly as much reading time as I would’ve liked during winter break. But it’s been a welcome relief to escape my misery with these page-turning romances. Happy New Year!
If you love all things witchy, like I do, don’t sleep on Avery Flynn’s delightful Witcha Gonna Do? (Berkley), the first book in her Witchingdom series.
In the magical town of Wrightsville, Virginia, Matilda “Tilda” Sherwood is an outré — a rare witch with no powers. It’s a constant source of embarrassment because Tilda was born into one of the town’s oldest and most powerful supernatural families. Adding insult to injury, everyone keeps trying to pair her up with the very attractive and very powerful warlock Gil Connolly.
Tilda doesn’t want anything to do with Gil, but he has an ulterior motive for getting close to her: He’s trying to get his own family out of exile and has been tasked by the witch council with making sure Tilda really is an outré. As it turns out, there’s more to Tilda — and Gil — than anyone realizes. Things go awry when Tilda accidentally curses her family and needs Gil’s help to undo it. Figuring out what Tilda really is, and how to get her newfound talent under control, leads to zany (and sexy) results.
Flynn’s clever worldbuilding and quirky secondary characters make for an entertaining romp. After an abundance of autumn romances featuring magical plots, Witcha Gonna Do? will thrill paranormal fans who can’t get enough of witchcraft and romance.
Samantha Vérant gave me something to look forward to in 2023 — food and travel! — with the tasty The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique (Berkley).
American chef Kate Jenkins is about to see her dream realized: She’s opening the doors to her own Paris restaurant, Bistro Exotique. Unfortunately, she has a disastrous launch that leaves her questioning why she thought she could do this in the first place. Kate’s neighbor, the wealthy and eccentric self-proclaimed spice expert Garrance, has strong opinions about what Kate should do with her new restaurant — including letting Garrance’s son, Charles, into the kitchen.
Charles is a Michelin-trained chef — a rude one. There is no love lost between Kate and this interloper, but she has no choice but to go along with Garrance’s plan if she has any hope of her restaurant succeeding. While Charles’ frosty attitude leaves something to be desired, he has a way with spices and scents that leaves Kate swooning. Or is that the chemistry between the two of them?
The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique is a delicious tale of romance and recipes, and of the alchemy involved in unique and memorable pairings (carnal or culinary). Kate is a likable heroine, headstrong and determined to pursue her dream despite the naysayers, while Charles both challenges and supports her dream. Readers will fall in love with Vérant’s charming Parisian romance and want to stay for the mouthwatering descriptions of the food!
Alexis Hall’s 2013 Glitterland (Sourcebooks Casablanca), the first book in the Spires series, gets a refresh and reissue — perfect for readers who may have missed this talented author’s stellar debut.
Ash Winters is a wealthy, successful writer living with (and trapped by) mental illness. He uses insults and sarcasm to deflect pain, and no one is spared, not even himself. Everything about Ash is muted as he fights bipolar depression by carefully limiting how he lives his life. Then he steps out of his comfort zone one night and encounters Darian Taylor, a gorgeous model from Essex, dancing in a club. There’s something about the beautiful Darian that Ash can’t resist. He is both fascinated by his attraction to Darian and appalled by it; the two men couldn’t be more different.
Their hookup doesn’t go quite as Ash planned, with Ash running away, only to have Darian show up at a book-signing. Things going from awkward to amorous before Ash can figure out how to extricate himself from this ridiculous situation. Then he realizes he doesn’t want to get away from the joyful, happy-go-lucky Darian, which only complicates matters more.
Hall does an incredible job balancing sparkly, sexy romance with serious, real-life mental-health issues. Ash evolves from a prickly, hard-to-like character stuck in an endless loop of self-loathing to a man determined to fight for happiness with an unlikely “glitter pirate of a man” by his side. This is romance done right.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. She’s a regular contributor at BookBub and a lifelong fan of romance fiction. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright or on Bookshop, where she features other book recommendations.