Holiday Romance Recommendations from Jennifer Ryan

Something Old

If you believe in fate and soulmates, you’ll love Cathy Maxwell’s A SEDUCTION AT CHRISTMAS. They locked eyes across a ballroom once, but when Fiona Lachlan meets the Duke of Holburn she has next to nothing in this world except her beloved hound Tad – and someone is trying to kill him. If he doesn’t find out who and stop them, he’ll miss his Christmas wedding and a life with the only woman he ever loved.  

Something New

I love discovering a new author. And this debut hooked me.

Carly Bloom’s BIG BAD COWBOY is sweet and naughty, sexy and heartwarming, a thoroughly enjoyable – and a little bit wicked – read.

Something Borrowed

My very good friend and fellow Avon author Lori Wilde writes a Christmas book every year for her fans. This year is no exception - THE CHRISTMAS KEY received a starred review from Publishers Weekly! “The magnetism between Naomi and Mark is breathtaking and real, the magic of Christmas enhances their romance. Readers will cheer for the wounded warrior who may have found a place to call home.”  

So it’s no wonder I asked Lori for her favorite Christmas read…

“I recommend Annie Rain's CHRISTMAS ON MISTLETOE LANE. I love her writing and the book just gives you all the feel-good tingles of the holiday season. It's heartwarming, emotional and sweetly captures the spirit of Christmas.” Lori Wilde

Something Blue

If you want to laugh and have your heart melt, I highly recommend you read a Jill Shalvis book. Once I start reading, I can’t put them down. SWEET LITTLE LIES starts off her Heartbreaker Bay series. San Francisco is the perfect romantic backdrop to this heartwarming friends-to-lovers story. Sometimes your heart’s desire is only a wish away.

Look for my upcoming release DIRTY LITTLE SECRET – book 1 of my brand new Wild Rose Ranch series that’s all about romance and scandal for the women who grew up at the notorious Nevada brothel as they try to make a life outside their mothers’ world.

I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

Happy reading!
-Jennifer Ryan
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The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Best friends Abby and Riya have spent their junior year miles apart. Wanting to fix things between them, Riya invites Abby on a trip to Europe over the summer. Abby doesn’t really know what to expect from the trip, but heads to Europe to meet Riya. Unexpectedly, Riya’s cousin Neel is also tagging along on this adventure. While Riya is annoyed by his presence, Abby doesn’t seem to mind him too much. The girls moving from country to country with Neel in tow makes for an interesting itinerary—Neel always has a tour arranged, or something else to rush off to, while the girls prefer a laid-back approach. The dynamic of the trio changes as secrets are revealed or kept secret, making for an emotionally rocky trip.

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is an entertaining tour of Europe, perfect for the armchair traveler. Even though their friendship isn’t always perfect, Abby and Riya are a great duo. They both look out for each other and are actively working to become the friends they once were. They also balance each other well, which creates a nice dynamic between the two. I also appreciated that this story is really based on friendship and while there is a romance that develops, it doesn’t consume the story (after all, friendship was the basis behind the whole trip). In addition, Culbertson includes many wisdoms in the story among humor and history tidbits, that all work together to make the book especially interesting. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is the story of two friends, set in the rich culture of Europe.

Holiday Catalog Highlights


Our Holiday Catalog this year is full of great titles for your friends and family. Those of you who attended events at Country Bookshelf this year won't be surprised to see Warblers & Woodpeckers by Sneed Collard, or Hearth: A Global Conversation on Identity, Community and Place on the list.

Take an ingenious global tour of with The Global Economy as You've Never Seen It. This book is full of amazing and though provoking info-graphics. Satisfy the chef's on your list with Savor: Entertaining with Charcuterie, Cheese, Spreads and More, featuring helpful advice from industry experts and beautiful photographs from Kimberly Stevens. Get outside with Epic Hikes of the World from Lonely Planet, or wander forests with the new photographic Hidden Life of Trees - the illustrated edition of Peter Wohlleben's bestseller. 

Be a good neighbor by gifting The Good Neighbor - Maxwell King's definitive biography of Fred Rogers - which is also a fantastic audiobook (and bookseller favorite) available from our partner Libro.FM. 

And for the fiction lover, we recommend There There by Tommy Orange. This fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking, wondrous portrait of an America few of us have ever seen is one of the New York Times' Best Books of the Year and is the January pick for the Montana Racial Equity Project's book club. 

For the young people on your list - we recommend The Atlas Obscura Explorer's Guide, or We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands by Rafael Lopez. Chapter book lovers will love Monstrous Devices by Damien Love. And don't forget Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi for the teens on your list - this new fantasy series is not to be missed!


View the the full catalog HERE. 


An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

It was an ordinary day for April May, until her subway card didn’t work and she had to walk home. On her way, she stumbles across a new art installation. At the time she doesn’t think much of it, as many artists come to New York to show their sculptures. But, something about this statue catches her eye, and she decides to call her friend Andy to come see it, too. He agrees that it is impressive and they decide to make a video about it. They also name it Carl. The two don’t think much about it until the next morning when they find out that other Carls have popped up around the world, and that their video has gone viral. They become instantly famous. From that point, April and Andy’s lives are changed as they navigate fame and the mysteries surrounding Carl.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is a fun and interesting read. It is easy to relate to April because she is such a human character. When she first encounters Carl, she reacts as anyone would and makes light of the situation. As  she gets caught up in the adventure and excitement of being famous, she also discovers that there are possible dangers ahead. Green’s humor really comes through the pages and you can’t help but laugh out loud. But the story also keeps you on your toes. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense until the very last page.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds

Claire L reviewed The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds - Pre-order your copy today! Due out March, 2019

Jack and Kate’s story starts on the staircase at your typical college party. Immediately, they connect over their mutual love for cereal. Jack gives Kate his number, but doesn’t hear from her for a few days. When he finds a message from her on his phone, he invites her to the first of many outings—and finally to prom. She doesn’t show up, and Jack is worried and confused. He learns Kate has an illness from which she eventually dies. Jack is absolutely devastated.

In his devastation, Jack finds himself experiencing deja vu. Suddenly, he’s back at the staircase where he and Kate first met. Just like the first time, she says “Excuse me, man, but you’re sort of damming up the steps.”

Justin A. Reynolds writes with humor and thoughtfulness as he explores the finality of death in Opposite of Always. While this was not always an easy book to read with its inevitable ending, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments. Jack had so much hope, and his hope was contagious. I actually enjoyed Jack’s re-experiencing the day he and Kate first met as it brought a familiarity to the story. I also liked how Jack re-evaluates his decisions each time he’s sent back. In addition, I loved Jack’s friends and relationship with Kate because it reminded me of how important good friendships are. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is an optimistic and humorous take on a more serious topic.


- Claire L

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

Quarterly Romance Reading Recommendations from Author Jennifer Ryan

It's a new season, and that means brand new reading recommendations from author Jennifer Ryan (Montana Heat series)

Something Old

My obsession with historical romance continues with one of my favorite authors. 

WHEN A DUKE LOVES A WOMAN by Loraine Heath  

Get lost in – because I sure did - this perfectly crafted, superbly told page-turner where passion overrides a Duke’s duty and an independent commoner’s practicality and love is the only thing that can intertwine their two very different worlds into a lifetime of happiness neither of them thought possible. This books transports you to the Whitechapel slums where hardship and struggle are a way of life and one woman rises above her circumstances to become a tavern owner. An unlikely and uncommon life for a woman back then, but even the temptation of the London ton and an affair with a Duke can make this independent woman give up what she’s worked so hard to achieve – and lucky for her, the Duke agrees.


Something New

A new to me author… 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with HelenKay Dimon several times over the last few years. We both write for Avon and attend author events together. She’s fun, witty, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But in all the time I’ve known her, I never read one of her books. For shame, I know. But then we were both nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA® award for Romantic Suspense. HelenKay won! And I was so proud of my publishing sister. We celebrated her well-deserved win that night with wine. How do I know it was well-deserved? Because of course I picked up one of her books to check out the competition. ;) I fell so hard for her characters and her writing. I immediately bought all the books in her Bad Boys Undercover and Games People Play series. I do not do that often, but I had to read ALL of her books.

I suggest you start with THE FIXER. Smart. Sexy. Intriguing. A cold case that makes this a great page-turner. Wren is the perfect secretive loner with an awkward side Emery and I fell hard for. You will, too. And then you’ll want the whole Games People Play series, too!


Something Borrowed

My good friend and fellow western romance author A. J. Pine - author of the Crossroads Ranch series and her most recent release, TOUGH LUCK COWBOY – couldn’t wait to tell you all about her latest cowboy crush…

“The cowboy who stole my heart was Eli Garrett from PART-TIME COWBOY by Maisey Yates. He's a rancher and Copper Ridge's deputy sheriff. Nothing like a man who can pull off a uniform and a cowboy hat all while making Sadie Miller--and readers--swoon!”

Something Blue

I absolutely love the cover for Sophie Jordan’s THE DUKE BUYS A BRIDE. That dress. Gorgeous. The almost kiss. Sexy. And the title. What? I had to know more about this story. A selfish – and a bit lost – Duke finds compassion and obligation lead him to reevaluate his life and the choices he’s made. He thinks he’s helping Alyse – saving her – but she saves him from an insubstantial life and fills his lonely world with love. You’ll root for Marcus and Alyse along their journey and cheer when they admit all they want is each other and succumb to a love they both wanted but neither saw coming.


Be sure to check out Jennifer's latest release is MONTANA HEAT: TEMPTED BY LOVE. It’s the last book in the series – but stands alone. DEA agent Jay Bennett falls for this best friend’s little sister, who knows his dangerous life and wants nothing to do with it, except neither of them can fight the temptation to be together.

I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

Happy reading!


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If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemun-Broka

Claire L reviewed If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Pre-order your copy today! Out  4/23/19

Popular girl Cameron Bright has a reputation for not being the nicest person in school. Cameron has never worried too much about her reputation—that is until her crush Andrew agrees with everyone else about Cameron’s personality. In an effort to get back in Andrew’s good graces, Cameron decides to make an ‘Amends’ list of all the people she needs to make amends with. It starts with Paige—the girl who ruined her chances with Andrew. At first her efforts are purely for Andrew, but Paige sees right through that. So, Cameron finds herself hanging out with Paige and her friends, and Paige’s brother Brendan. As time goes on, Cameron realizes that maybe she isn’t just completing the list for Andrew anymore.

First of all, I love that both of Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s books relate back to Shakespeare and his works because I'm always a fan of book references within books. And, the reference to The Taming of the Shrew allowed for a neat parallel in the story. Going along with that connection, I really liked Cameron's character development because I think it shares a good message about being yourself and the importance of doing just that. In the beginning Cameron was a strong character by always being honest and saying what she thought, but in the end she was stronger in a different, real way. All together If I’m Being Honest has a lot of positive elements that I really appreciated seeing represented in a story.


-Claire L

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.


Basically, this book is everything I've ever wanted in a sci-fi book and more. I don't know about you but I'm a fan of fantasy and sci-fi books that adapt cultures that aren't my own into the world that they've created and that's exactly what Somaiya Daud does in this magnificent book. 

It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once I did I couldn't stop. The beginning two or three chapters were a little dull, not necessarily in a bad way, but they weren't riveting, instead, they were filled with exposition. That exposition-filling (or whatever that's called) made it hard for me to keep track of things since I got a bit of an information overload. By the fourth chapter, though, I got into the rhythm of the book and the story really flowed. 

Other than the few roadblocks in the beginning, the rest of the book was paced incredibly well and the storyline matched with character arks with a precision I'm not used to in stories, especially not from debut novelists. 

Perhaps the biggest triumph of the book is the fact that the story manages to be both plot and character driven- the characters drive the plot and the plot drives the characters in a way that leaves you feeling like you're very much in the middle of the action. 

I wish I'd gotten a bit of a better explanation of different cultural aspects because by the time I'd gotten a hold of them, the scenes involving them had more or less resolved themselves. That being said the world building is fantastic and, as someone who just adores well built worlds, I fell head over heels for this world. Like I would actually marry it. 


All in all, I give this book 5/5 stars.


-Alexina L