5. Someone to Cherish / Kate Rothwell. Here's an entertaining historical set in 19th c. New York City. Callie Scott is an incredibly naive young woman who had been very restricted by her now-dead grandmother. Left on her own, Callie takes a job with her late father's friend only to find herself caught up in a scandal surrounding a murder, and the scandal in turn leaves her homeless. The detective on the case, Cutter, ends up hiring Callie to take care of his dying landlady. Cutter himself grew up on the streets and he feels entirely unworthy of a true lady like Callie. Callie's a funny, engaging character who is a great foil for the stubborn, taciturn Cutter. In enjoyed them both. Plus, it's always great to read a historical set outside of Europe.
4. A Place Called Home / Jo Goodman. This is a contemporary romance by one of my favorite authors. Goodman normally writes historicals and it was very enjoyable to read something so different from what I'm used to from her. Mitch and Thea are acquaintances--their respective best friends are married to one another. When the best friends are suddenly killed in a car accident Mitch and Thea become co-guardians of the friends' children. Mitch has been interested in Thea for a long time, but she's always kept her distance. Thea would prefer to keep her distance from the children as well. There are good reasons for this, and Goodman slowly reveals why as Mitch and Thea develop a relationship with one another and with the children. This is not the most romantic of novels, but I loved the unusual nature of the story and the way that Goodman developed her characters, especially Thea's. I remember thinking about it for days afterwards and I would like to read it again soon.
3. A Lady Awakened / Cecelia Grant. This debut book by Grant has been the subject of a lot of discussion around the web. I'm simply going to say that I liked this book very much. Some reviewers didn't like the heroine; they found her too cold. Yes, she was cold, but I think her impersonal upbringing explained that. I'd like to call this a "lovers to friends" story, but that's not accurate. Martha Russell, newly widowed, wants to get pregnant quickly enough to pass the child off as her late husband's heir. Theo Mirkwood, her neighbor, is dissolute enough to agree. So what ensues is perhaps best described as a "from sexual partners to friends to lovers" story. I like the way Grant twists the genre a little, I like the way she raises numerous moral issues, and I like the way she wrote these characters. They change and grow and if the ending is a little too neat, well, I enjoyed the ride way too much to mind.
2. Unclaimed / Courtney Milan. Another winner from someone who has quickly become an auto-buy author for me. Unclaimed continues Milan's trilogy about the Turner siblings. Sir Mark Turner has become a celebrity because of his book on male chastity. He can't go anywhere without being accosted and Milan's descriptions of Sir Mark's life reminded me of the way our culture makes assumptions about the celebrities of our time. Sir Mark has an enemy who wants him discredited. He hires Jessica, a courtesan, to seduce Mark and so Jessica travels to the small town where Mark has gone to escape the crowds. What follows is a lovely romantic story that's emotional and humorous. Mark and Jessica are complex individuals and Milan does a masterful job of revealing them to us. There are some interesting secondary characters as well. I simply loved this book.
1. Coming Home for Christmas / Carla Kelly. I had a hard time deciding whether this or Unclaimed should be my #1 book for the month. But it was December and the theme was Christmas. The full review I wrote earlier is here.