Come on in, 2021. Make yourself at home.

2020, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

In my last newsletter, I looked back. Selectively. I mused about holiday baking traditions and some of the books I really enjoyed in 2020. 2020 was a hard year for just about everyone, including me. I decided to focus on the few positives I could. Food and reading.

This time, I’m going to look forward, to some of the things that are coming in 2021. Some of them, given how weird 2020 was, are also going to be weird. Like… I look forward to commuting. In less plague-ridden times, I commute to my Washington, D.C. workplace via the MARC train. I could also go via the Metro, but the MARC is cheaper and it has its own funny culture. Because you have a regular train (and probably a regular part of the train you sit in), you get to know people who have similar habits. But honestly? When we’re vaccinated and ready to go back to commuting, I know my regular train will not look the same. A family I commuted with for years (Mom, Dad, and kiddo going to her daycare) already moved to a different part of the state a while ago, so I haven’t seen them in a while and miss them. But I am pretty sure others I had gotten to know will have lost their jobs or retired or moved on in other ways. I know that getting to know my new train routine will be a bittersweet time.

The inauguration. Oh, dear. I am so looking forward to the inauguration.

The winery. My husband (known to Twitter as “Mr. B”) and I are regular visitors to Rocklands Farm Winery. Because they have plentiful outside seating that is widely spaced (and strict mask and distancing requirements when you are up and about), it has been a relatively safe place to go since they reopened after Maryland’s spring lockdown. On good-weather weekend days, we are glad to sit at a table outside, read, drink wine, and enjoy the output of whichever food truck vendor is visiting the farm.

Getting together inside with friends, spontaneity, and hugs. We’ve been able to socialize outside a little bit either at the winery or chatting outdoors with our neighbors, but that’s pretty sparse (honestly? My next-door neighbor Andrea and I text each other regularly. The latest? Mr. B and I had a surfeit of Harry & David pears — seriously, how many pears can two people eat? The handoff was contactless, executed by her eleven-year-old). The occasional FaceTime or Zoom call can be wonderful (I was able to get together with my two best friends from high school a while back, see their families, and generally get caught up and it was tremendous fun. We’re going to attend an adult-ed lecture series by our beloved former music teacher and look forward to seeing his face when he sees all us music nerds in his classroom again, even if it is virtual). But all this has to be planned. I look forward to the days when we can just go, “Hey, wanna —?” and just go do it. And I miss hugs. They’re not for everyone and I respect that. But man, I miss hugs.

Wow. That was intended to be positive, but still managed to be rather melancholy. You know what I also look forward to with zero melancholy? Books. More new books! Here are some of the ones I’m most excited about in January and early February (affiliate links ahoy):

Suleikha Snyder’s Big Bad Wolf. (January 26) I was able to get an ARC of this and devoured it. I’ve read a lot of Suleikha’s novellas and short stories. She writes brilliant short works, packing so much into every single word, and I was eager to see how she took to a longer novel. Well, brilliantly. Of course. I’m not a huge paranormal reader, but this one was great fun with a side of dystopian futurism that prickles under the skin of the story. The blurb: Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. He took out the mobsters responsible for killing his foster brother, and that one act of vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York's supernatural-controlled underworld. He knows that shifters like him deserve the worst. Darkness. Pain. Solitude. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever.

Lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia knows Joe is guilty, but she's determined to help him craft a solid defense...even if she can't defend her own obsession. Just one look from the wolf shifter makes her skin burn hot and her pulse race. When a payback hit goes wrong, Neha's forced to make a choice: help Joe escape or leave him to his fate. Before long they're on the run—from the monsters who want him dead, from their own traitorous hearts, and from an attraction that threatens to destroy them.

Karen Booth’s Gray Hair Don’t Care. (February 8) I also got an ARC of this a while back and tore through it. I’m an utter sucker for friends to lovers and this delivers that 100%. It’s also about characters who are around my age, which is rare in genre romance. The blurb: Everything went wrong. And then she went gray.

At 47, newly divorced makeup artist Lela Bennett is dreading her next steps. Dating. Meeting people. Not letting herself go. But then she runs into Donovan James and tries something different—sleeping with her sexy crush from college. Unfortunately, in a post-orgasm stupor, Lela confesses she was in love with Donovan all those years ago. He responds by leaving while she sleeps. The next morning, her gray hairs are practically taunting her. She knows she has to get it together. Forget men. Embrace her age. Own her gray.

Donovan James is a marketing genius, but his ex-wives will tell you—nothing freaks him out like feelings. Three years after his one-night stand with Lela, he’s focused on his daughter’s lifestyle company, but unprepared to meet the face of the beauty division. It’s Lela. With stunning silver locks and new confidence, she’s no longer swayed by his charms. When business starts booming, the universe seems intent on throwing them together time and again. And suddenly, two people convinced that romance was behind them are wondering if love could be what’s next.

Beverly Jenkins’ Wild Rain. (February 9) There was a collective squeal that could’ve been heard from space when this book was announced, as Spring, the sister of Colton Lee in Jenkins’ Tempest, was a much beloved character. The blurb: Banished by her grandfather at the age of eighteen, Spring Lee has survived scandal to claim her own little slice of Paradise, Wyoming. She’s proud of working her ranch alone and unwilling to share it with a stranger—especially one like Garrett McCray, who makes her second-guess her resolve to avoid men. 

Garrett escaped slavery years ago and is now a reporter in Washington. He’s traveled west to interview Dr. Colton Lee for an article, yet it’s Lee’s fearless sister, Spring, who captures his interest. Clad in denim and buckskins instead of dresses, she’s the most fascinating woman he’s ever met. And he’s certain she also feels the connection that sizzles between them. 

But when a shadow from Spring’s past returns, all is on the line: her ranch, her safety—and this wild, fierce love.

In my book news, it’s just three weeks until Acting Up drops! My cover artist, Marika Bailey, has been creating a seriously cute cover and I can’t wait to show it to you. In the meantime, you can add it to your “To Read” list on Goodreads, or preorder it on Amazon or Google Play for the discounted $0.99 price that will go up to $2.99 on release day. Other platforms and print links will be coming soon.