I know I recently mentioned my Book Club and how much they mean to me. Last night we had our holiday party, which included dinner (Thanks, Mary!) and treats, plus a Christmas book exchange and, as always, lovely conversation about life and books.

I almost didn’t go. I’m behind on almost everything I’m doing and thought an evening home to get caught up would be a good thing.

And yet…We’ve had all sorts of stressors this year (2016 seems to have been hard on just about everyone, if my Facebook feed is any indication) and the last two weeks have been chock-full of mini-crises. Nothing terrible but enough to make it annoying to deal with (time-consuming phone calls, stress) and a reminder that my mom is old enough that pneumonia is scary, finances are pesky and stretched, elder child is driving cross-country in a really old car, younger child’s college financial aid is messy….

So I decided I needed my Book Club Christmas party.

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I’m so glad I decided to go, despite deadlines and stress. Deadlines will get met or they won’t; stress will work itself out or it won’t. But the balm to my soul was priceless.

(And then I came home to find my husband had wrapped all the gifts—which he’d pretty much acquired on his own—and put them under the tree. Merry Christmas to me, all around!)

I hope you all have places, spiritual and physical, where you can find peace and refuge this busy, hectic, and sometimes stressful season. I know my safe spaces are often with friends, or my family, and in the pages of books.

If the same is true for you, then here are some titles that might be some good options.

Have you heard about The Hating Game yet? (It received a Kirkus starred review and has already been named to a “Best of” list or two. It’s had some serious buzz this year, so I thought I’d check it out. And oh my, serious buzz well-deserved!

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

This is one of those titles that sounds great but really shouldn’t work—there are a lot of romance clichés in the plot, and I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is such a cliché, is she gonna pull this off?” And then she did. Brilliantly.

How? Well, the characters are fascinating, both up front and the more you get to know them. There are lots of mirrors and masks and suppressed emotions that seep out in subtle ways, and then open up like floodgates later in the book.

The narrative is told from Lucy’s point of view, but she knows Josh so well (mostly) that we totally trust her when she tells us exactly what he’s thinking. And she’s almost always right, because he confirms it.

Except, of course, for the BIG stuff.

Their dialogue is smart and delicious, the characters around them are perfect foils and allies to their messy march to enlightenment, and the shift from enemies to soul mates is fascinating and so well done that you cannot put this book down.

12.15 Knight's bridge Enjoy! This is romance and romantic comedy at its best, from a debut author we should all keep an eye on.

Have you discovered Carla Neggers Swift River Valley titles? I recently finished A Knights Bridge Christmas. (It came out in paperback in October.) I just love this series with its dual time lines that follow the history of a town tied to the creation of the Quabbin reservoir. This title pairs Clare, the new town librarian, with Logan, a Boston ER doctor who grew up in Knights Bridge but enjoys his fast-paced big-city life. He begins to question his choices as he helps his grandmother Daisy move into a retirement community and finds himself attracted to Clare. The two discover a rare book that sheds some light into Daisy’s past and a peek at one long ago Christmas that offered hope and healing to two struggling war-wounded families.

I’m running daily giveaways on my Read-A-Romance Facebook page, and A Knights Bridge Christmas will be up this week, along with some holiday book bundles and releases from other favorite authors!

Also, if you love the adult coloring book craze, be sure to check out two giveaways that are wrapping up in a couple days. One includes the Pride & Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, Dracula, and Wuthering Heights “Coloring Classics” titles from Random House (you can find that here); the other one includes the charming Dr. Seuss coloring book as well as another Coloring Classic, A Christmas Carol (that one’s here).

12.15 christmas Carole I’m also giving away a holiday short story collection inspired by Jane Austen titles, which I haven’t had the chance to read but sound like a perfect quick holiday read - Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer. (here)

Great giveaways, very fun books!

Just a little over a week until Christmas, and this year Hanukkah runs from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1 - a very rare occurrence for these holidays (if you consider Christmas to New Year’s Day as kind of “Christmas week”) to align so closely.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope it’s a wonderful season of light and love. I also hope you’re all getting ready, and, in the journey, you find joy!

(P.S. All of these titles make great gifts and stocking stuffers, and these literary themed coloring books are simply delightful!) 

#HappyReading #LoveRomance