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Magically Romantic Reads For A Short Solstice Night

The midsummer sun rises over Stonehenge.
Stonehenge Stone Circle
The midsummer sun rises over Stonehenge.

You need not be a druid to feel a sense of magic on Midsummer, the shortest night of the year. As far as we can tell, ancient civilizations around the world celebrated summer and winter solstices as some of their highest holidays, and it makes sense that people who lived off the land would be tuned in to the changing seasons. Winter has the longest night, when the landscape seems most bleak and barren. But in summer, the earth is at its most lush and abundant — and for those that believe, the veil that separates the fairy world from our own becomes thinner, and the magical world's sway on us is at its strongest.

Despite the global spread of Christianity and the Church's attempt to co-opt the summer solstice as a holiday connected to St. John the Baptist — whose legendary birthdate was June 24th — I would hazard a guess that even in the most devout eras of history, as villagers lit their bonfires and gathered to revel on the beaches, St. John wasn't truly the first thing on their minds.

No matter what your views, there is something enchanted about summer in general, and Midsummer in particular. And just in time for this year's solstice, I wanted to share a few books that have two of my favorite elements, especially at this time of year: magic and romance.

Solstice Reads

The Glass Kitchen

by Linda Francis Lee

A modern-day rendition of Shakespeare's The Tempest, this delicious book has Portia Cuthcart escaping a failed marriage in Texas to land in Manhattan, determined to make a way for herself by recreating her family's restaurant in New York. Portia has a magical gift with food and people that she has turned her back on. But as her sisters' lives unravel, and Portia herself grows closer to the damaged family living in the townhouse above her basement apartment, she must embrace all the gifts, talents and quirks that make her who she is, becoming the woman she is destined to be and saving them all in the process. An enchanting, witty and wholly satisfying mix of food, magic, romance and self-discovery.

Lost Lake

by Sarah Addison Allen

Elderly Eby Pim knows she is fighting a losing battle trying to keep her dying campground in business. Closing Lost Lake seems to be the only option — but some of her long-standing summer regulars show up anyway, determined to have one last fling with their beloved home-away-from-home. Then Eby's long-lost great niece arrives with her daughter, reconnecting with her own forgotten dreams — as well as her first love — and bringing hope for Lost Lake. Allen is the master of magical details and plots that combine a fairy-tale sensibility with character-driven pathos. This imaginative, lyrical novel is an intricate web of magical misfits, Southern gothic charm and the power of new possibilities, both romantic and redemptive.

Cure for the Common Breakup

by Beth Kendrick

Coming to Black Dog Bay — the Delaware beach haven renowned for being the best place to heal from a breakup — Summer falls in love. With the charming town; with a new set of friends; with a quirky teenage misfit; and with the teenager's annoying, frustrating older brother, Dutch, who also happens to be the mayor. No question there's magic in the air, but there's also malevolence in the form of Hattie Huntington, the village real estate villain who holds everyone captive with her constant threats to sell her property (i.e. the town). Between Hattie's vendetta with Dutch and her fascination with Summer, suddenly Black Dog Bay's newest fan may be the only one who can save it. But at what cost? The magic in this novel is subtle and revolves around an old town legend, but Kendrick's witty storytelling and Summer's fun yet complex character weave their own special spell.

The Witch of Belladonna Bay

by Suzanne Palmieri

14 years ago, Bronwyn turned her back on her fractured family, her Southern roots, and the boy she thought she'd love forever. Now her brother is in jail, accused of murdering her childhood best friend, her father is floundering and her niece is running wild, practically raising herself while burdened with magical tendencies and secrets no child should have to bear. Bronwyn comes home to untangle the mess the well-intentioned but misguided men from her past have created, while navigating ghosts — real and metaphorical — in order to embrace her true self and forge an authentic future. This is Palmieri's second novel, and while at times the mystery is imperfect, the unique characters, a lushly rendered Deep South mysticism and an elegant, poetic writing style make it an enchanting read.

Valour and Vanity

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Kowal just keeps getting better and better in her series featuring renowned Regency illusionists Lord and Lady Vincent. On their way to visit the famous glass houses in Murano, Italy, Jane and Vincent fall victim to an elaborate con that leaves them penniless social outcasts accused of fraud. Unable to contact any friends who can help them, they must survive on next to nothing while forging new friendships and alliances that ultimately help them turn the tables on their swindlers. An emotionally touching reflection on love and marriage in troubled times that moves smoothly and organically into a high-spirited, magical heist adventure.

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis. She mostly reviews for Kirkus Media, and she discusses books on her blog ReadWriteLove.net.

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Bobbi Dumas