Sun
Jun 5 2011 5:21pm

It’s Christmastime Somewhere: Beat the Heat with a Christmas Regency

A Regency Christmas Feast by Mary Balogh et. al.It might be heating up where you live, but it’s Christmas every day when it comes to a great story. I don’t reserve these wonderful traditional Christmas Regency stories for those few special weeks in December; in fact, whenever life is too much with me, whenever I need a reminder of the strength and tenacity of love and family, these are the stories to which I turn—even if it’s 80 degrees outside.

Here are my top five holiday stories…which I offer up on the understanding that the list might be different next month.

Mary Balogh, “The Wassail Bowl,” A Regency Christmas Feast, 1996

In this story, Mary Balogh tells of lost love found when a betrayed beauty and a jealous lord learn just how hard it is to resist each other. Balogh often alludes to the story of Joseph and Mary in her Christmas novellas. And in “The Wassail Bowl,” a father is desperately anxious to see his son, currently living with his estranged wife…and “her” daughter accompanies her mother and brother to the earl’s estate at Christmas. Things are not as they seem, although the book does not get off to a good start when the countess flings the contents of the Wassail Bowl in her husband’s face (Balogh kindly provides the recipe so we know exactly how sticky and icky it feels to have trickles of sugary port wine wassail dripping down your neck). Christmas and children and a lost love regained make for a perfect tale.

The Christmas Cat by Jo Beverley et. al.Jo Beverley, “A Gift of Light,” The Christmas Cat, 1996.

When a tenacious tom courts a fiery feline at Christmas, his master and his mistress follow suit. Christmas and cats, spinsters and cats, only your cat loves you: trust Jo Beverley to turn these clichés upside down in this whimsical tale. A mistress and her maid and her heated cat meet a man and a valet and a Tom on the prowl. Our hero does not believe in the magic of Christmas and our heroine is still mourning her loving parents and looks forward to a lonely, albeit financially comfortable, future. All three couples move through the delightful movements of a Christmas dance of love. As is so often the case with Jo Beverley, Christmastime heals wounds from long ago, allowing strangers to meet, fall in love, and create their own special holiday memories,

Edith Layton, “The Gingerbread Man,” A Regency Christmas Feast, 1996.

Edith Layton leads a divinely handsome duke, strangely bedeviled by his taste buds, to a woman he does not suspect he hungers for. One of the most important triggers of memory is the sense of smell; one of the most ubiquitous smells of Chrismas is gingerbread. And in this story, the duke is convinced he’s smelling gingerbread everywhere, and is he really, or is he just dreaming? He asks everyone what their memories of Christmas gingerbread conjure, including a poignant conversation with his soon-to-be ex-mistress (he can’t continue their relationship once he sees how sad her memories are). Just a touch of woo-woo in this one. A perfect story for those who love the childhood friends to lovers trope.

A Regency Christmas Eve by Diane Farr et. al.Diane Farr, “The Reckless Miss Ripley,” A Regency Christmas Eve, 2000.

Set on Christmas Eve, capturing the season’s true spirit of charity and goodwill—and proving time and again why love is the greatest gift of all. What would Regencies be without a snowy road trip and “how conveeeenient” as they say, since marriage is so often the consequence of an enforced stay together due to the inclement elements. This delightful tale evokes memories of Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion and it reminds us that Christmas is the season of redemption and forgiveness. He’s a young man who never really was a rake but he lost a lot of his family’s money chasing after a woman no better than she should b …but he met someone fresh and lovely, who makes him believe in love again. The heroine is a delightful hoyden with a plan to get to Bath willy-nilly and nothing but true love will change her journey’s destination.

Edith Layton, “The Rake’s Christmas,” A Regency Christmas, 1995. Edith Layton shows us how love can reform a rake who sets out to save a needy girl from the likes of a rogue far more devilish than he. The deux a machina plot is often used at Christmas time, the ’life’s a stage and we are merely players’ trope. Never more so than in this story of a poor girl from a loving home, a man, disillusioned and sad from the war and a cynical all-knowing rake. How will this three-way dance end? Unusually, the heroine’s choices are presented in stark relief: she can don a spinster’s cap next Christmas and fade into the woodwork or she can become a rake’s mistress. The specter of poverty is drawn with poignant strokes but not to worry. The gentle reader is presented with a very swoon-worthy ending.

Can you share five favourites of your own?


 

Janet Webb, Book Lovers Resource

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12 comments
Donna Cummings
1. Donna Cummings
Janet, what a wonderful post -- although I can scarcely bear the thought of Christmas, since spring just made its (long overdue) appearance! It's been a long while since I've read a Christmas Regency. The next time I have the urge, I will start with this list, and then come to you for five more recommendations. :)
Miranda Neville
3. Miranda Neville
Good choices as usual, Janet. I haven't read the Jo Beverley, probably because I tend to avoid books with kittens on the cover (love kittens, but on covers they may indicate excessive cuteness. Beverley, however, irn't usually guilty of cuteness). My favorite Christmas novella may be one by Mary Jo Putney, set in Italy. The hero is the guy who lost the girl in The Rake and the Reformer. Can't remember the title but it's a lovely story.
MistMiraHaven
4. MistMiraHaven
I really miss the Traditional Regencies that used to be publised in handsome little volumes! Those really were treats and stories to savor. I wish a publishing house would start putting those out again, maybe gear them towards teens? One of my favorites was "Miss Davenports' Christmas" I believe by Marion Chesney. It was wonderful and I used to read it every Christmas, until my inlaws helped us move one spring and my book disappeared! It was a really sweet story.
Janet Webb
5. JanetW
@MistMiraHaven I didn't think there was a Christmas Regency I hadn't read ... but Miss Davenport's Christmas is one that's new to me. Thank you: Marion Chesney is such a terrific Regency writer too.

@Miranda Neville I think I've read that story by Mary Jo Putney but time for a re-read ... Christmas stories set in other lands are so rare.

@Donna Cummings I'm always here girlfriend, Recommendations R Us! :)
Myretta Robens
7. Myretta
I always looked forward to the Christmas anthologies. There probably isn't a Mary Balogh Christmas novella that I didn't like, but I think my favorite is The Surprise Party. I'd also like to add Carla Kelly's Make a Joyful Noise and The Christmas Ornament to your list. All three teriffic Christmas stories.
Janet Webb
8. JanetW
@Myretta, so many of Balogh's Christmas stories have children in them, playing very important and vital parts -- and that's such a treat. I do love the 3 orphans in The Surprise Party but the children of The Bond Street Carolers really ring my chimes (since both the brother and sister have such magical parts to play).

I actually included The Christmas Ornament in my list but I decided it was too unusual, too special a story. I have plans for it :)
MistMiraHaven
9. Janga
What a great list, Janet! My list features many of the same writers as yours, but with different stories.

"The Rake's Christmas" by Edith Layton with an aging rake as an unexpected but endearing matchmaker.

"A Mummer's Play" by Jo Beverley in which this favorite author does in a few pages what she does so well in her novels: she creates two imperfect, hurting humans and allows them to discover one another and a love that brings healing and wholeness.

"The Bond Street Carolers" by Mary Balogh, which features a lord who dislikes Christmas, a boy with the voice of an angel, a lovely, lonely window, and a little girl who wants a papa for Christmas.

“No Room at the Inn” by Carla Kelly in which a heroine named Mary journeys to the farm of her newly discovered grandmother and finds her Joseph along the way.

“Christmas with Dora Davenport” by Nancy Butler, a delightful Regency version of the classic film Christmas in Connecticut.

If we include contemporaries in the list, I’d add another:

“Change of Heart” by Jude Deveraux, which features the oldest in the large Taggert brood – Frank, a reclusive billionaire, who befriends a twelve-year-old genius named Eli, who is matchmaking for his mother.

I love “Sunshine for Christmas,” the MJP story Miranda mentioned too. I always enjoy rereading The Rake more knowing that the repentant Lord Randolph Lennox got his HEA too.
Janet Webb
10. JanetW
Janga, how "jinx" of us: I actually did mention the Rake's Christmas story -- a wonderful & unusual one. Thx for all your suggestions! I said: Edith Layton, “The Rake’s Christmas,” A Regency Christmas, 1995. Edith Layton shows us how love can reform a rake who sets out to save a needy girl from the likes of a rogue far more devilish than he. The deux a machina plot is often used at Christmas time, the ’life’s a stage and we are merely players’ trope. Never more so than in this story of a poor girl from a loving home, a man, disillusioned and sad from the war and a cynical all-knowing rake. How will this three-way dance end? Unusually, the heroine’s choices are presented in stark relief: she can don a spinster’s cap next Christmas and fade into the woodwork or she can become a rake’s mistress. The specter of poverty is drawn with poignant strokes but not to worry. The gentle reader is presented with a very swoon-worthy ending.
MistMiraHaven
11. Janga
I should have said "some different stories," Janet. Sorry! Actually, we could both probably do five Edith Layton Christmas novellas we love. She left us some treasures, didn't she?
cate nugent
12. nurcat
Please ladies, you cannot think of Christmas regencies, & omit Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe . - Wherein Turnip Fitzhugh proves he's not a complete pillock, falls in love, sorts out a traitor AND creatively disposes of ( in several cunning ways) that most noxious bit of culinary gubbins that is the Christmas pudding ! I'm also another fan of MJP's Sunshine at Christmas, as well as her other Christmas novella's .
MistMiraHaven
13. DianeFarr
I've been dithering about this, wondering if it would be out of bounds to even mention it, but I've finally decided to take the plunge. Especially since this thread is several months old, so if this is offensive, it won't offend too many people, I hope!

First, thank you very much for your kind remembrance of RECKLESS MISS RIPLEY. And second, I have dusted it off and released it as a stand-alone, if anyone is interested - it's called DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW and you can see it here: http://www.amazon.com/Dashing-Through-the-Snow-ebook/dp/B005LKBPVW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1318644607&sr=1-2

Why did I retitle it? (I hear you cry.) Well, basically because I don't have an art department to clue readers in to the fact that it's a Christmas story ... so I thought I'd better name it something Christmasy!

Happy reading!
Diane
MistMiraHaven
14. Shinjinee
I totally second Myretta's recommendations. I adore both Balogh and Kelly's Christmas stories. "The Christmas Ornament" is a memorable story for me. Thanks so much for this thread, since it brings back so many happy memories of my 1990s!
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