Holiday theme reading is sort of like baking traditional Christmas cookies. You eat cookies all year 'round, but during the holidays you want something that really makes you feel part of the celebration. Christmas romance novels are sort of like that; maybe it's the same sugar cookie base you always use, but for a couple of months you really want the ones that have red and green icing.
In days of yore, you could count on there always being a Regency Christmas anthology on the market, and a Harlequin mini-series, too, but there wasn't necessarily more than that. With the advent (like how I did that?) of e-publishing and the rise in popularity of shorter works, it seems like there are more Christmas reads this year than ever.
After reading a selection of books that are part of the 12 Days of Christmas blog tour, I've curated a short list of holiday reads that might make the decision-making process of matching your tastes to what's available a little easier.
Perfect for when you are totally snowbound and want a break from rewatching all those BBC period dramas:
Season for Surrender
He’s a debauched rake, she’s a good girl with brains. There’s a bet on the table, and the fun is in watching just how good the hero’s going to get and just how bad the heroine’s willing to be. But wait, there’s more! Ever heard of a bottle episode? Long story short, it’s basically when a TV show shoots an episode with the cast doing all scenes on a single set. (“Hey, the door just shut behind us and now we’re locked in together for an hour!”) Sort of like…a Regency house party! And this is not just any Regency house party; this is a Regency house party set during Christmas time and populated by a bunch of risqué aristocrats.
The author does a particularly nice job of intertwining the holiday elements into the story.
Bonus points for: The hero’s bittersweet/amusing internal dialogue.
Perfect for cozy fireside reading, when the house has fallen silent and not a creature is stirring…
My Kind of Christmas
He’s a Navy pilot recovering from the loss of his wingman (no, literally!) in a plane accident and she’s a med student recovering from a car accident. They head to Virgin River (this is Carr’s 20th book of the series) for some R&R but don’t end up sleeping too much. This book combines a cozy small town community and a big family-oriented ensemble cast without ever making you feel like you had to have read books 1-19 to figure it all out. It was my favorite of the bunch. Maybe it’s because the author has lived in this world for so long, but I bought the world-building, I thought the relationship between the hero and his dead pal’s widow had incredible depth, and, yes, I got weepy around e-page 300.
Bonus points for: Oh, c’mon. The Top Gun vibe is kind of awesome. Plus, he’s an Irish hottie.
Perfect for when the rest of the family goes out to shop for your presents and you’re suddenly completely (and I mean, completely) alone in the house:
Hers for the Holidays
He’s a former marine and she’s a…goth tattoo artist heroine (Huh. Apparently, it’s been a while since I last read a Blaze.) There’s a suspense angle in this read, but it doesn’t pull focus from the romance (and sex.) In many ways, it’s a unique Christmas story in that it’s about a woman who returns home at the holidays, but she doesn’t have family at home anymore. What better way to reignite the Christmas spirit in a difficult situation but with your own sexy (boy) toy soldier?
Bonus points for: Hot voyeurism, the finesse required to comingle a heartstrings-tugging backstory with some serious bad girl sex.
Perfect for when you are shopping for everybody else’s presents and you’re fifty-seventh in line, no relief in sight:
The Best Thing
He runs a construction company with his (equally hot) brothers, she works in the office. This quick-read novella mixes one part secretary-boss trope, a dash of unrequited crush fulfillment, and a heaping serving of recovering-womanizer-tamed-by-The-One. And that’s not all. There’s a reason “the office Christmas party” is like a trope of its own. Things happen. (If you don’t believe me, go rent Die Hard.) There is no such thing in books and movies as an office Christmas party where you simply show up, drink generic cola and eat M&Ms, have a pleasant enough time and go home. This story begins with the aftermath of said party. Oh, yes. She done kissed the boss (with tongue!). And now everything’s gone partridge-in-a-pear-shaped. Will our hero figure out how to “handle” this mess before the next office Christmas party?
Bonus points for: when Mom calls the hero a man-whore, that Hallmarkian bullhorn confessional.
Perfect for reading out loud to the Christmas elf you are trying to seduce:
I Need You for Christmas
He’s a sculptor, she’s a Canadian Mountie. (You don’t get that combo too often.) Do you want a gentleman on the street and freak in the bed? Interesting twist wherein the heroine has the power job and the artist hero has the more beta profile—on the surface, anyway. It’s always kind of hilarious when you get a review copy of a book in electronic form and are without the sort of context a cover and back copy blurb provide. I figured, oh, Canadian Mountie...that sounds pleasant. How hot can this be? Shows you how much I know about Canadian Mounties. (Not to mention, so many possible puns, so little time...) This book starts off with a serious bang between two people who already seem to be aware they are in love. If you want to skip the early stages of a relationshp arc and get right to the, um, meat, this book is for you.
Bonus points for: funky Canadian lingo
Perfect for readers who love those chocolate holiday samplers:
This three-pack of holiday novellas gives you two contemporary stories and one historical, perfect for cross-genre readers. By the way, if you've been hearing about the “new contemporary romance voice,” and want to read it for yourself, Ruthie Knox is a great example.
Knox kicks off the anthol with an old-flame-that-still-burns-bright story set in a small town New York state. She's got a slow-build on this one, and it works beautifully because the chemistry between these two character is believable, hot and highly emotional.
Molly O'Keefe is up next with a story that is a prequel to her full-length novel, (Crazy Thing Called Love). The heroine is about to turn eighteen years old—and get married, to the hockey-playing bad boy hero. It's not often you come across a romance that deals with the issues surrounding very young lovers, so if that's your thing, this is your read.
Stefanie Sloane is the anchor author with the lone historical offering. The heroine's a jilted bride and he's her super-rich best friend from childhood. (Friends-to-lovers trope alert!) It's a short, quick read that focuses on the fun of trying to get two people who have always been meant-to-be to say so properly before it's too late.