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December 22, 2022

4 Romance Novels to End Your Year

by MK French

We are almost to end of 2022 but there are a few more romance novels coming out that you don't want to miss. If you are needing a new romance to read now, I've also included one that's already published - the rest you will want to pre-order so you don't miss them during all the merry-making of the holidays.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Lost Witch by Paige Crutcher

book cover of romantic fantasy novel The Lost Witch by Paige Crutcher
December 2022; Griffin; 978-1250797391
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); romantic fantasy

In 1922, Brigid Heron is Evermore's healer and a powerful witch. She wishes for a child and goes to Luc Knightly. When their daughter falls ill, Brigid risks the forbidden magic of the Lough of Brionglóid. The wild magic takes her daughter from her, and Brigid is swept a hundred years into the future. At that time, the Knight witches used chaos magic to separate the island Evermore is on and the Otherworld. The village is also being preyed upon by creatures from folklore. To reverse the curse she unleashed, Brigid must work with her magical descendants, Ophelia and Finola. The true answers lie with Luc Knightly himself, and Brigid may lose everything all over again.

Chapter one tells us what happened to Brigid, and shows us both the connection to her goddess as well as with her daughter. When she's thrust a hundred years into her future, her sister's granddaughters are living in her home. The same four Knightly witches are there, trying to siphon power out of the Lough, and Brigid lost all of her memories of the past, even of her daughter. Luc Knightly is a shadowy trickster figure, who had worked with the witches before and now doesn't want chaos to take over the world. Brigid, Ophelia, and Finola don't trust him, and he certainly doesn't do much to cultivate their trust.

The story is compelling, though I think it might have worked just as well without chapter one. It's a different time and tone than the rest of the book, and with the reader knowing more than Brigid at first, it takes some of the sharpness out of those scenes where Brigid wonders who she used to be, why she's forgotten it, and how it could have been her fault that the Lough's seal was undone. I think having it a mystery to the reader as well as Brigid could have brought us further into her perspective. It's already a compelling story with a sense of urgency, that would have worked better. Many of the memories she ultimately gets back don't seem to match the first chapter, which was jarring for me as well.

Aside from that, the coven working against Brigid, Ophelia, and Finola exudes a subtle menace. The magic they use brings on more chaos in the town, as well as the Damned, who are people infected with chaos and fairies from another realm. 

Buy The Lost Witch at Amazon

Never Cross a Highlander by Lisa Rayne

book cover of romance novel Never Cross a Highlander by Lisa Rayne
December 2022; Entangled: Amara; 978-1649370952
ebook, print (448 pages); romance

Ailsa Connery's escape from enslavement is complicated by the arrival of Dubh Mahoun, the Black Devil. Kallum MacNeill's reputation lets him hide that he frees captives, but during one trip he inadvertently kidnaps a servant he assumed strayed from the group. Ailsa plans to head in the opposite direction, but he can’t let her travel alone or expose his true identity. Traveling together is dangerous, especially if neither wants to get emotionally attached.

The slave trade hadn't just impacted the Americas, but also England and Scotland. The people saved from slavers would wind up there, either set free, indentured or "gifted" to nobility. Ailsa and Kallum are both Black, but Ailsa had been essentially kidnapped from a tournament and assumed to be a slave even though she's a Freeborn Scot, and Kallum also is a Freeborn Scot adopted into the MacNeill clan. Of course, escaping with slaves is difficult, but especially when it's in opposition to the English king. The tension between the Scottish clans is another factor, which Kallum must keep in mind. All of this poses a conflict for Ailsa and Kallum, though they're attracted to each other physically and find the prickly personality of the other to be intriguing. The dangers of their journey bring them closer together, and the Highland tropes are very well done here.

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

book cover of Regency romance A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman
December 2022; St. Martin's; 978-1250801586
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); Regency romance

Captain Morgan Davies had been shipwrecked thanks to an incorrect map but is now back in London and ready to face Harriet Montgomery. They'd bet three kisses in the past, and he means to collect. He also means to convince her that he's serious about marrying her, even though she's worried about her father's failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker trying to ruin her work.

The third book in the Ruthless Rivals series, we continue with the Davies and Montgomery families at odds. Of course, the two here had battled an attraction to each other since they were teens due to the family rivalry. The kisses are an excuse for proximity and accelerate the process of seeing different sides of each other, respecting the differences, and loving each other. We get glimpses of the man seeking the map around town, as he had buried treasure using the map Harriet crafted for the military. Morgan treats it as dangerous from the start, but it feels like only an annoyance to the reader in the first half.

Buy A Wicked Game at Amazon

What Wakes the Heart by Karen A Wyle

book cover of historical romance What Wakes the Heart by Karen A. Wylie
October 2022; Oblique Angles Press; 978-0998060460
ebook, print (351 pages); historical romance

Susannah had been looking forward to her job as a teacher in St. Louis until a traumatic encounter led her elsewhere. Karol is a Polish Catholic immigrant in Cowbird Creek, fearing that his sister Bronka would be overlooked in school due to her limited English. The two meet each other, but there are social and religious obstacles between them.

The earlier books in the series are What Heals the Heart (my review), What Frees the Heart (my review), What Shows the Heart (my review). You don't have to have read the earlier novels, but it adds a little background to the cameo appearances of the characters in town. Susannah's trauma is being propositioned by the teaching school's president in an implied quid pro quo and having to look several counties away from home for work to avoid him tarnishing her reputation. Because of this, she answers the ad for Cowbird Creek's new school and soon takes up the challenges of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Nebraska. We go through the first fall, the first winter (and blizzard), and then the prejudices that some of the townsfolk have against Catholics.

Susannah is a thoughtful person, and studies every challenge put before her, even religion. This is a much bigger hurdle than her former college president trying to sour her teaching job or people of her former social class subtly putting down living anywhere that wasn't a big city. Karol is a match for her, caring and considerate in his own way. The slow progression of their relationship is a charming and easy read, continuing the feel-good atmosphere of this series.

Buy What Wakes the Heart at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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