Stef Ann Holm jumps from writing historical romance to contemporary romantic comedy with a yummy, exuberant splash-in-the-latte in Girls Night (Mira, $6.50, 384 pages, ISBN 1551669498). Jillene McDermott's a widowed mom with few assets except her struggling coffee shop on Blue Heron Island, Java the Hut; her late husband's car, which she refuses to drive; and a winsome zest for success that defrosts the iced-over heart of true crime writer Vince Tremonti. Vince has his own trauma to face the living nightmare of a serial killer who has committed a dozen murders just to get a book deal authored by Tremonti. Lured by Jillene and her daughters, Claire and Faye, Vince fears his grotesque situation will taint the sweetness and light he finds with them. Add in the daughters' determination to find a new daddy for their mama, and Girls Night is tastier than a cinnamon-whipped, cream-laced frothy mug of small town Americano. This one's a genuine winner the McDermott girls, all three, will steal your heart, just as they do for the once-jaded Vince Tremonti!Getting in the Christmas spiritDebbie Macomber whips up a delightful concoction of zany Christmas magic as delicious as chocolate steeped with peppermint in The Christmas Basket (Mira, $14.95, 256 pages, ISBN 1551669447). Perhaps the magic of the season will spark a reconciliation for Sarah and Mary, former best friends who have kept their children apart for years because of a simmering feud over a silver tea set. Certainly their children, Noelle and Thom, want to make peace between the moms. But whether it's dueling shopping carts that get them banished from the discount store, or duplicate charity gift lists that threaten to keep the friends at odds, the spirit of Christmas seems doomed again this year. Then Noelle and Thom take matters into their own hands, seeking out a silver set to heal old wounds, while resolving the misunderstandings that set the young loves apart years before. Macomber's madcap merriment is just the magic talisman to remind readers of the true spirit awaiting in the holiday weeks ahead giving and forgiving in the season of joy and light.
Gotta danceWhen the divine diva of modern dance comes face to face with the piano man she once ignobly ignored, emotions run hot in Doris Johnson's fiery story of powerful egos, talents and personalities, Rhythms of Love. Those rhythms run deep in Brynn Halsted's soul, borne of the ideals her parents instilled, and cultivated by Merle, the dance company manager who draws the best from her. But a devastating assault threatens to rob her of her very existence can she survive if she cannot dance? The half-written song of the piano man, Simeon Storey may be the answer to her recovery and the greatest challenge she faces may be to surrender herself to his love. With the complexity of the jazz world she writes about, Johnson strips away the veneer of the stage life to probe the hearts of two provocative talents who are at their best when they merge their Rhythms of Love.A Wedding to Die ForWedding planner Carnegie Kincaid has enough on her mind trying to build her business among Seattle's elite without bridesmaids turning up dead or near drowned amid the extravagant wedding festivities in Deborah Donnelly's brash and zesty tale, Died to Match (Dell, $5.99, 324 pages, ISBN 0440237041). Stir in the zealous pursuit of Zack; a too-young-for-her website designer; and the amorous attentions of Aaron Gold, who's more interested in getting into her bed than into the facts of the case, and poor Carnegie has a juggling act between her business and personal life that would stymie a lesser woman. Encountering quirky caterers and cops and a mystery man she's dubbed Skull, Carnegie agrees to be a fill-in bridesmaid and hopes she's not the next body on the list. Donnelly delivers a delightful mix of brides, bodies and mayhem that's a treat to devour. Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota and lakeside in northern Minnesota.