Two holiday offerings will give readers a burst of Christmas spirit, while a medieval romance and a rollicking tale of suspense provide plenty to enjoy by the fireside.

Susan Wiggs bestows a delightful gift in Lakeshore Christmas. Avalon’s Heart of the Mountains Church is the site of the annual Christmas pageant and the town’s librarian, Maureen Davenport, is director. The prim woman loves the holiday season and she’s paired in her new duty with someone who claims to dislike it—child-star-all-grown-up Eddie Haven. He’s to provide help as part of a court order, and handsome, charismatic Eddie seems too much man for Maureen. They bump heads over everything from Christmas songs to dating, because, inexplicably to the buttoned-up librarian, heartthrob Eddie wants to take her out . . . and make out, too. Wiggs tells a sweet and poignant tale about risk and reward that incorporates characters from previous books in the series. As an extra sweet treat, an appendix of recipes is included.

The science of love
In Janet Chapman’s A Highlander Christmas, heroine Camry MacKeage’s family wants her home for the holidays, but that’s not a simple wish to grant. A rocket scientist now turned dog-sitter, Camry is reluctant to face her parents and siblings with the truth that she has left her prestigious job. When work rival Luke Pascal Renoir shows up at her parents’ house in a snowstorm, he is sent back out into the cold to return Camry to the family fold. No easy task for Luke, who must face down a bar fight, rambunctious dogs and a distrustful and disgruntled woman in order to fulfill his assignment. But there’s help along the way in the kind of magic the MacKeages are known for, as well as from the elemental attraction Camry and Luke feel for each other. Can two science-minded, fact-based personalities believe in something as ephemeral as love? A humorous plot line, self-deprecating characters and a decided dose of enchantment make this a warm read for the season.

In captivity
A Storm of Passion by Terri Brisbin is the first of a trilogy set in medieval Scotland. Hero Connor is honored and rewarded as a seer in Lord Diarmid’s household. His visions are used to cement Diarmid’s power, and Connor is content with the situation until a certain woman visits his chamber. While no stranger to the way his special power draws women to him, Connor’s experience with this one is different. And Moira proves just how different she is when she attempts to assassinate the seer for his alleged role in the massacre of her family. Connor survives the attempt and Moira survives the consequential rapes and beatings she receives at the order of Lord Diarmid. Rescued by Connor yet chained in his chamber, Moira comes to learn more about the man—and out of enmity grows a much softer emotion. Can she forgive him? Will Connor and Moira outlast the power struggles swirling about Diarmid? There’s violence and earthy sex in this gripping story that speaks to the redeeming power of truth and love.

Risking it all
Christie Craig writes a story of fast-paced romantic suspense in Divorced, Desperate and Deceived. The last unmarried member of the Divorced, Desperate and Delicious club, Kathy Callahan has a month to fill while her young son vacations with her ex. Finally, she decides, she’ll go for that hot fling she’s fantasized about with the hunky neighborhood plumber. But after two years of flirtation, the plumber seems plumb uninterested. Before Kathy can absorb this change of affairs, she and the plumber are caught up in a wild adventure involving stolen cars and men with guns. As they flee for their lives, secrets are shared, and they find time to experiment with the attraction that’s simmered between them from the beginning. But can Kathy learn to trust a man who is not exactly as he seems? And what about her heart? She’s made mistakes before and maybe Luke Hunter isn’t a safe bet. But love seldom is, and readers will root for these two likeable characters to take the risk anyway.

Christie Ridgway’s latest contemporary love story, “Original Zin,” is published in the anthology Double the Heat, out this month.

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