A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
November has arrived, and Mother Nature is showing off her colors here in Virginia! As the last of the leaves slip from the trees later this month, I’ll be thinking about what I’m most thankful for in 2022 — including the books that entertain me, sustain me, and transport me. Here are a few of the ones I’ve loved recently!
Sarah Echavarre Smith’s The Boy with the Bookstore (Berkley) pairs entrepreneurs who share the same building in a clever grumpy/sunshine romance.
Usually cheerful, sometimes awkward, and wholly relatable, Joelle Prima is the owner of a cozy Filipino bakery. Despite her culinary-career plans being derailed by financial and family issues, Joelle has found joy in running her own shop. For over a year, she’s been crushing hard on her neighbor, swoon-worthy but curmudgeonly bookseller Max Boyson. Never mind that all signs are pointing to their mutual attraction; the path to true love doesn’t run smooth for this pair.
Their situation goes from frustrating to untenable when building renovations force them to share a much smaller space. Suddenly, Joelle can’t get away from the hottie she’s been dreaming of — and that’s not necessarily a good thing. To keep their businesses afloat, Joelle and Max need to make peace and get along. Of course, being forced into such close quarters leads to all kinds of revelations as they open up to each other and work through their issues.
Smith deftly weaves a romance about two people who are clearly meant to be together if only they can get out of their own way. The secondary characters, particularly Joelle’s family, make this charming story of a buoyant baker and a cranky bookseller a delicious standout!
Kerry Rea’s Lucy on the Wild Side (Berkley) is a rollicking romp of a romance that surpassed my (high) expectations!
Primatologist Lucy Rourke is dedicated to the gorilla troop in her care, and she’s angling for a promotion to senior primate keeper. When her zoo is chosen to be featured on a wildlife documentary series, it’s an opportunity for Lucy to share her passion for the gorillas — and according to her boss, Lucy’s ticket to securing that coveted promotion.
Kai Bridges is the handsome, charismatic host of “On the Wild Side with Kai Bridges,” and he butts heads with Lucy right from the beginning. He also happens to be the son of Lucy’s idol, a celebrated primatologist whose work has been a huge inspiration for Lucy. She soon suspects, however, that Kai is more interested in racking up ratings than caring for gorillas. Meanwhile, Lucy is more comfortable behind the scenes than in front of the camera — unlike her own mother, an actress who abandoned Lucy when she was a child.
Lucy and Kai find common ground in working with animals (and working through their mother issues), and antagonism soon gives way to attraction. Rea layers her quirky story with a cast of colorful characters and interesting wildlife facts. Lucy’s commitment to her work never takes a back seat to her growing attraction to Kai, which is both realistic and refreshing. There’s also plenty of humor and the occasional chuckle-out-loud moment in this one-of-a-kind romcom.
Sophie Cousens’ Before I Do (Putnam) is a thoughtful and romantic story about the moments and choices that change our lives in unexpected ways.
Audrey is about to marry Josh, but she’s having second thoughts. They are complete opposites — Audrey is a dreamer who’s always looking to the stars, while Josh is practical and grounded. Audrey doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of her mother — who has multiple failed marriages under her belt — but how can she be sure Josh is the right man for her?
More seeds of doubt are planted when Josh’s sister arrives at the rehearsal dinner with a surprise plus-one, Fred. For Audrey, Fred is the one who got away, a man she spent a single wonderful day with six years ago and then never heard from again. Minor annoyances are bound to crop up during the course of planning any wedding, but as one thing after another goes wrong, Audrey can’t help but think the universe is sending her a message. She knows she loves Josh, but is that enough?
Will this bride jump into marriage cold-feet-first and hope for the best, or take the bad omens seriously and run in the opposite direction? Through past and present timelines, Audrey’s story follows a twisty path that does eventually lead to marriage…to somebody. Getting to that heartwarming resolution is worth the journey; Cousens has created something special with this lovely tale.
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.