Adding my notes of sadness and consolation to the beloved Word Wenches as the romance community faces a world without Jo Beverley, who lost her battle with cancer on Monday.

If you’ve somehow missed this news, please visit the Word Wenches blog where they have set up a memorial page. Hundreds of people are leaving lovely messages for the Wenches and the community who was so lucky to know her. (You can find the touching tribute here.)Romance_Christmas

I’m sad and stunned by the news, but it also makes me grateful to have known Jo in even the smallest way and to raise a quiet toast to her and her friends, the Wenches, some of my favorite writers and people in the romance community.

So today, I’m going to take the time to read a story or two from the two Christmas anthologies The Wenches did together, Mischief and Mistletoe and The Last Chance Christmas Ball. (This anthology will also come out in mass market paperback in September.) Because when devastating news like this comes across my desk, I feel like snuggling into a little Christmas romance, one of my favorite reading retreats—even if it is nearly eighty degrees outside.

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Jo had a release in April, The Viscount Needs A Wife, part of her Rogues Series, which I haven’t yet read. So if you haven’t already picked that one up, that would be a great way to honor her. Rest in peace, Jo. And happy reading and writing, wherever you are.

Are you an anthology fan?

Some of my favorite authors have come out in some collections that are getting great buzz recently. If you like erotic romance, be sure to check out The Devil’s Doorbell, a collection of “seven tales of sexual empowerment and erotic defiance, featuring the hottest storytellers of erotic fiction.” These include Megan Mulry, Megan Hart, M. O’Keefe, Jeffe Kennedy, and Anne Calhoun. Hard to go wrong with that lineup!

Also, check out Gambled Away, a collection of five historical novellas with a gambling theme that recently released—it includes stories from Jeannie Lin and Joanna Bourne (also one of The Wenches), two fantastic historical writers, plus a title from Molly OKeefe (M. O’Keefes alter ego and a favorite contemporary writer of mine) with a story that kicks off a historical Western series she’ll be releasing online.

Romance_Summer Finally, I did have the chance to listen to The Girl From Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux a couple of weeks ago, which was a sheer delight! Somehow chef Casey Reddick is recruited to play Elizabeth Bennet in the regional playhouse’s production of Pride and Prejudice, up against hollywood heartthrob Tate Landers’ Mr. Darcy. After a problematic and humiliating first meeting, Casey’s itching to put the movie star in his place, both on-stage and in real-life. Deveraux’s modern take on Austen’s classic is witty and fun, with the romantic intensity we expect from this romance legend. It’s the first of a series, and definitely worth a read.

Off to find some Word Wench Christmas romance. What about you?

Happy reading! Xo

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.comShe mostly writes about books and romance for NPRThe Huffington Post and Kirkus.