Christmas at the Ranch

St. Martin’s Griffin. Sept. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781250818584. pap. $16.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Novelist Samantha Morgan is afraid of everything, but flying is near the top of the list. When she’s coerced into flying to her publisher’s holiday ranch party, to distract herself, she fixates on the attractive man in the next seat, who turns out to be the publisher’s son, Drew Wentworth. Drew is trying to work up the courage to tell his fiancée that he doesn’t want to move back to New York and break the news to his father that he doesn’t want the family business. As Samantha faces her fears, she begins to rely on the security she feels with Drew, but then his fiancée arrives, planning a surprise holiday wedding. Will Drew break the engagement, or will Samantha end up maid of honor at his wedding? This chaste holiday romance features insipid characters with no chemistry. There are problematic scenes and plot devices throughout the novel: Samantha’s fears are trivialized and dismissed by Drew, a white shopkeeper continually draws on her knowledge of Native American beliefs to give advice, and Samantha relays long summaries of her books.
VERDICT Despite an interesting love triangle and forced-proximity premise, this romance from Hughes (A Magical New York Christmas) falls flat.
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