If I could fill a Christmas basket for each of you with my favorite Christmas historical romances of 2012, I’d include a book for each day of Christmas week: four new releases and three reissues.
Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight, Grace Burrowes
I love Grace Burrowes’s large, loving Windham clan—eight siblings and parents who are as fascinating as their children. Lady Louisa’s book is the sixth in the series. It features not only a Windham heroine who is smart and different and determined to avoid matrimony (for what seems to her very good reason), but an even more unusual her—a pig-farming knight who is clearly her social inferior. Secrets abound, and the delighted reader is soon cheering for these two practical lovers to attain an HEA that is everything their poetry-loving hearts deserve. Library Journal named this book one of the best romances of 2012.
’Twas the Night after Christmas, Sabrina Jeffries
Reconciled lovers is a common theme in romance, but Sabrina Jeffries gives us a story of reunited families in this Christmas romance, and both reunions are effected when characters take action. Camilla Stuart, a widow with a small son, is so determined that the Earl of Devonmont spend time with his mother that she resorts to trickery. She ends up paying a price, but Devonmont is in danger of the greatest loss, the “truths” that have shaped him and his heart. Family, forgiveness, an appealing child, and a story that requires a hanky or two—what more can you ask for in a Christmas romance? Library Journal named this book one of the best romances of 2012.
His Mistletoe Bride, Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly has created some of my favorite heroines, and she does it again in this book. Phoebe Linville is an American Quaker, and while she may be viewed as too independent and unconventional by her more traditional brother and his family, her religion is more than an interesting label attached to a heroine who in other ways is indistinguishable from dozens of others. She makes choices based on her faith, and those choices are essential to the plot. Also, Christmas is not just background. The celebration is genuine. This is a lovely, heartwarming story about romantic love, familial love, and love of one’s fellow human beings; it’s a story about forgiving and growing and opening one’s heart. It’s the best kind of Christmas romance.
Season for Surrender, Theresa Romain
I’m not a fan of books about wagers, but I am a fan of Christmas stories and of bookish heroines. In the case of Theresa Romain's Season for Surrender, the heroine had the added advantage of being a character I’d liked in an earlier book. By the time Louisa Oliver and Alexander Edgeware, ninth Earl of Xavier, discover they share an admiration of Dante, I was rooting for both characters. I loved the Christmas setting, and I loved seeing these characters grow. I particularly loved watching Louisa discover how much more she is than she has ever realized and how she pushes Xavier to reexamine the assumptions upon which he has built his public life.
A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau, Mary Balogh (2012 reissues in a single volume)
A Christmas Bride (1997) is one of my favorite Mary Balogh books for several reasons. First, it’s a Christmas book, and Balogh is one of the best at crafting a Christmas historical that leaves me feeling as if I’ve really visited Christmas Past. Then, it’s connected to two other all-time favorite Regencies: the hero, Edgar Downes, is the loving brother of Cora Downes, the deliciously funny title character of The Famous Heroine, and the heroine is the evil, seductive stepmother of Sir Gerald Stapleton in A Precious Jewel. Finally, there are so few romances about redeemed heroines that I cherish the few good one I find. There’s nothing light about this book, but it is rich with Christmas themes of love, forgiveness, and redemption. It’s one of Balogh’s most powerful books.
Christmas Beau (1991)
The second novel in the reissue is not as extraordinary as the first, but it’s a touching Christmas tale nonetheless. A revenge story seems like a strange plot for a Christmas story, but the Marquess of Denbigh’s festering sense of humiliation at being jilted and his determination to avenge the wrong he suffered eight years ago are unaffected by the season. In fact, Christmas becomes a part of Denbigh’s plan as he uses the holiday, Judith Easton’s children, and whatever else he needs to persuade Judith to be one of his Christmas guests at his country home where he plans to seduce her and leave her heartbroken and humiliated. But Judith’s own regrets and open admission of fault and the promptings of Denbigh’s own heart prove Christmas can still be a season of miracles.
Regency Christmas Wishes, Barbara Metzger, Emma Jensen, Sandra Heath, Edith Layton, and Carla Kelly (2012 reissue of 2003 Signet anthology)
“The Lucky Coin” by Barbara Metzger offers a little magic, a terrific beta hero, and a lot of laughs. “Following Yonder Star” by Emma Jensen combines an imminent birth, a prodigal’s return, and a friends- to-lovers plot with Christmas trimmings. “The Merry Magpie” by Heath uses a matchmaking magpie, groveling par excellence, and the Christmas restoration of a marriage that ended six years early when Sir Charles Neville’s adultery was discovered. All three of these stories are fun reads, although some readers may be unable to get past the adultery in the Heath story. But it’s the last two stories that had me downloading the 2012 edition to my Kindle.
“Best Wishes” by Edith Layton is a rare love story on two counts. First, the hero and heroine are a young, happily married couple preparing to celebrate their first Christmas together. Second, the argument they have, their first one after a year of marriage, is surprisingly realistic; it concerns where they are going to spend the holidays. The characters are richly developed, and the heroine’s attachment to her family and their traditional celebration and the hero’s wish to spend the holiday with friends is a conflict that resonates across time. Readers will sympathize with Pamela’s hurt that Jonathan wants to spend time at the home of a former lover and with Jonathan’s feeling overwhelmed by Pamela’s close-knit family. The resolution is also credible and comforting.
“Let Nothing You Dismay” by Carla Kelly focuses on two wounded misfits, a barrister and a teacher at a girls’ school, who are thrown together when they are left to make Christmas for children whose parents won’t be there to share their celebration. Healing and happiness prove within the grasp of these two ordinary people whose courage and resilience are extraordinary. Nobody does this kind of story better than Carla Kelly.
Did you read any of these? What others are under your holiday tree?
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.