A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
As we head into the busy holiday season, I find myself looking forward to that hour (or 30 minutes) at the end of the day when I crawl into bed and read. Those books sitting on my bedside table are like quiet, undemanding friends waiting for me to return. When I do, I find myself lingering within their pages longer than I intended, pushing my bedtime later than I should. The resulting book hangovers are real, as every late-night reader knows, but where would we be without the stories that help us slip out of the crazy, frustrating, sometimes-scary reality of the real world?
For me, reading is a form of meditation and prayer. And so, as I use a grocery-store receipt (upon which I’ve written my tentative Thanksgiving menu) as a bookmark, I’m even more thankful this year for the authors and titles that bring me solace, make me smile, and let me be me, the romance-loving reader, for just a little while. Here are two wonderful books I’ve escaped into recently.
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s Witch of Wild Things (Berkley) is the perfect blend of cozy + magic + romance that I love.
After eight years away, Sage Flores has returned to her hometown of Cranberry, Virginia. Like previous generations of Flores women, she and her sisters inherited the gift of magic, with Sage’s particular brand allowing her to communicate with plants. She resumes her old job at Cranberry Rose, the local nursery, and is tasked with locating plants to cultivate and sell. It’s the ideal job for Sage — except for the fact that it pairs her with Tennessee Reyes, her first love, who unknowingly broke her heart years ago.
Sage’s homecoming is steeped in the lingering grief and unresolved conflict that drove her away in the first place. Her sister Teal has never forgiven her for the events leading up to their youngest sister Sky’s death, and Sage hasn’t forgiven herself, either. It doesn’t help that Sky’s ghost appears every time Sage cries, leading Sage to fear Sky’s ethereal presence is a punishment.
Working with Tenn provides a welcome comfort for Sage, and she can’t deny she’s still strongly attracted to him. Though he doesn’t realize it, she was once his online friend — a bond that not only sustained them both, but that had the potential to blossom into a real romance. Despite Sage’s attempts to keep her distance, Tenn is a steady, unwavering presence as she tries to protect her heart and come to terms with her family’s baggage. Their romance unfurls in its own time, as beautiful and inevitable as the flowers they grow.
Infused with magical realism and Mexican-American culture, Witch of Wild Things deftly deals with familial trauma and loss while weaving a thoughtful story of first love, second chances, and learning to let go of the past.
Taking the title of her novel from the lyrics of Stevie Nicks’ “Gypsy,” Alison Rose Greenberg crafts in Maybe Once, Maybe Twice (St. Martin’s Griffin) a tale about a starry-eyed romantic who wants it all.
It’s a classic trope: A single woman makes a pact to marry a cute, equally unattached guy if they’re both still single when she turns 35. Flash-forward a few years, and it’s time for wedding bells to ring. Except, in this instance, Maggie Vine made two such agreements: one with her first boyfriend, successful actor Asher Reyes, and, several years later, with hedge-fund-manager-turned-aspiring-singer Garrett Scholl. Now, as Maggie’s big birthday approaches, she finds herself caught in a love triangle of her own making.
She dreams of a life as a successful singer/songwriter paired with marriage and motherhood. But identifying which of her true loves she’s destined to be with proves almost as difficult as building her career. Maggie thought Garrett might be the guy for her, but when it turns out he’s engaged to someone else, she wonders if she got it all wrong. A serendipitous opportunity allows her to reconnect with Asher, but figuring out how to achieve her professional goals is more pressing than fulfilling a long-ago pact made with the boy she met at summer camp.
Maggie’s story flashes back and forth over the course of her life, from age 30 to her teens to her 20s to 35, as she grapples with how to make her dreams come true. Readers will find themselves cheering for both Garrett and Asher at different points in the book, but this is always Maggie’s story — and only time will tell what her heart might choose.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, two Goldendoodles, a ginger cat, and a green 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 her book recommendations.