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For December, 3 Romantic Holiday Escapes

'Tis the season when an escape from holiday madness may be necessary --and these three romance novels will whisk you away to fictional worlds where all the high stakes drama is resolved with true love and happily ever after.

In Penelope Janu's charming contemporary romance, On The Same Page, our heroine, Miles Franklin, is a lawyer with a secret she'll keep at any cost — even love. Which is funny, since the secret is that she's the wildly successful historical romance novelist Emma Browning and the man keen to learn her real identity has striking similarities to her latest hero.

When her assistant enters her in the prestigious Stapleton Literary Prize, Emma has no expectation of winning. But she does win — and the prize is an exclusive contract with Iconic Publishing, run by Lars Kristensen. He's determined to save his publishing house, and for that he needs the reclusive Emma — who he suspects is really Miles, the author's "difficult" representative. The real conflict in this novel is Miles's determination to keep her secret, and it highlights the complicated feelings many of us may have about the genre we love. Miles is proud of her work and loyal to her readers, but her snobbish parents have made her deeply ashamed of her talent — and she definitely knows that she's valuable to Iconic only in terms of her sales potential. And then there's the sexy Lars to complicate things further.

Miles's stubbornness may grate on some readers, but it's worth it for the funny secondary characters and hysterical and swoon-worthy scene when Lars demonstrates what really makes him hero material.

The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham flips the script on one of historical romance's most traditional plot points: the Lady Who Must Wed Or Be Ruined. With the stroke of her pen, gossip columnist Lady Constance Stonewell derails Julian, the Earl of Apthorp, and his ambitious political plans to save his crumbling estate. The honorable thing to do is propose marriage — which she does. He refuses, so they embark on a fake engagement instead with the intent of salvaging his career. After all, he's been in love with her for eight years, so what's four more weeks? This, dear readers, is just chapter one.

For years Lady Constance and Apthorp have been at odds — her reckless and daring behavior has only been an attempt to get his attention, and his lectures about manners have been his way of protecting her. In truth, he's always been in love with her. She has always wanted him. Now, they risk their scheme coming to light and the loss of the love they've finally found. This is a beautifully written, character-driven story that expertly unravels a big misunderstanding, and surprises with its twists and turns and wicked secrets right up until the end.

It wouldn't be a December romance review column without at least one holiday-themed happy ending. Alexis Daria's novella Dance All Night starts with a kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve. Jess Davenport and Nik Kovalenko's chemistry is instant, but shortly after, he hits the road as a professional dancer in a touring production, and she stays in L.A. for her gig on the reality show Dance Off. They meet again at a holiday party almost a year later. Sparks fly, of course.

But Jess is a total holiday scrooge. She doesn't do Christmas — her plans for the big day are spend it alone with her DVR. And she's pretty sure Nik is not the man for her; the last thing she needs is another guy who'll leave her. But Nik has changed, and he's ready to settle down with the woman he's been dreaming about all year. He asks for three dates to convince her to fall in love with Christmas — and him. The dates are romance novel-worthy, and Jess's feelings are complicated, but never fear: This a heartwarming novella that reminds us of the simple pleasures of baking cookies, frolicking in the snow or simply being with the ones you love.

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author. Her new book is Duchess by Design.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Maya Rodale