Dec 5 2013 2:02pm

It’s Beginning to Read A Lot Like Christmas: The Lure of the Holiday Novel

Let It Snow by Heidi CullinanToday we welcome Heidi Cullinan to Heroes and Heartbreakers to share her nominations for favorite holiday novellas. Heidi's own holiday book, Let It Snow, has just been released, and is the story of an erstwhile Goldilocks (a hair stylist) snowed in with three very different bears, masquerading as lumberjacks. Thanks for joining us, Heidi!

I remember, with great fondness, trotting across the street from my college dorm to browse the shelves of Meyer Pharmacy’s romance novel selection, but never so much as I did from October to December because that’s when the holiday anthologies came out. They were treats from authors I loved, as well as peeks at authors I might come to cherish. They put me in the holiday mood, promising a warm, comforted feeling between the pages.

Publishing has changed dramatically since those days, but thank God the holiday novel/novella fad is still around, in many ways bigger and better than ever. We still have the traditional staples and samples breed of New York house anthology, but thanks to ebooks, we have stand-alone novellas as well. Long novels, short stories: we can read them all, and the variety keeps coming. I keep hoping we’ll get more Hanukkah-themed romances, or Christmas-in-Australia (beach barbeque on Christmas Eve!) or maybe even Christmas on a space station. Tell me you wouldn’t read the hell out of any of those—and probably they’re out there, only awaiting our Google-fu. It’s a reader’s market in romance, and at Christmastime? It’s packages under your Nook and Kindle all season long.

Last year I made my first foray into writing a holiday novel, and the experience was so delightful I started planning a series of Christmas stories halfway through writing the first one. So many of the story fences are already laid down: the setting can be anywhere, but there will be tinsel or candles somewhere, and families/friends getting together. The climax must be around the holiday dictated by the theme. And of course two people must fall in love. I think that setup frees us both as readers and as writers and adds to the comfort. In a romance we always know the story will end happily, but in holiday romances, the cocoon factor is amplified. Sometimes that’s not what we want. At the holidays, though? Man, bring it on.

The best part of reading—or writing—a holiday romance is the permission to wade knee-deep into schmaltz and camp, wrapping it all up in a bow of sentiment. And where our real-time holiday seasons are often full of stress not always resolving into the kind of happily ever after we’d like, holiday romances always do. When we dive between those pages or curl up with our ereaders, we get something very rare: holiday spirit without holiday headache. Best of all? The stories are ours forever, and we can reread them every season…or give ourselves a little Christmas in July.

A Gift of Love AnthologyMy all-time favorite holiday anthology will forever be A Gift of Love, published in 1997 and containing this delicious juggernaut: Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Andrea Kane, Judith O’Brien, Kimberly Cates. I remember standing in the aisle looking at this list, a mix of authors I loved and authors I hoped to adore and simply vibrating with anticipation. The only thing better came a few years later, when McNaught and Devereaux went double-header and produced Simple Gifts. And your heart is going to break, because these aren’t available in ebook, neither one.

I also love Christmas novels: Samantha’s Heart by Pamela Quint Chambers still makes my heart melty, and though Jill Marie Landis’s Come Spring is only partly set at Christmas, it’s always this time of year I think about reading it again. (Ultimate snowed-in story, double-heading with mistaken identity AND arranged marriage! WIN.) But my favorite newer-released holiday novel? A Secret Light by Z.A. Maxfield. Historical, gay romance, set at Hanukkah.

All romances fill us with hope, but holiday romances have that extra Burl & Ives polish, nostalgia and simplicity rare in real life, available for pocket change. I encourage you to pick up a little portable holiday cheer today.


Learn more about or order a copy of Let It Snow by Heidi Cullinan, available now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes



Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her first holiday story, Let It Snow, at

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1. Mo
As soon as I read your Aussie Christmas line, I thought of Ginny Baird's Beach Blanket Santa. It's not set in Australia and it does feature a storm (not of the snow variety) at the beach. It's probably the most memorable "non-traditional" Christmas stories I have read recently.

Now that I think about it, I'd love to see a Christmas-themed novella from Rosalind James' Escape to New Zealand series. Not all her characters would celebrate Christmas, of course, but for those that would, I think it would be a cool look in to the lives of her characters.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love holiday books, too, and I LOVE reading them again and again and again. My favorites are historical holiday novellas, since they're short and sweet--often cloyingly sweet--and I love them.
3. Kareni
I'm currently reading with pleasure Carla Kelly's Christmas Collection. It's a collection of four of her stories ~ The Christmas Ornament, Make a Joyful Noise, An Object of Charity, and The Three Kings.
Heidi Cullinan
4. HeidiCullinan
Mo, that sounds great! I'm going to go look that up.

We really need a big database of Christmas novels somewhere for those of us who get in the mood...
5. Janga
I'm a huge fan of holiday anthologies, and I have both A Gift of Love and Simple Gifts in my collection. The Signet Regencies are probably my favorite anthologies. My Christmas would not be the same without time to reread at least a dozen or so of those stories.
6. Pdubs
I was excited to read the ZA Maxfield recommendation but can't find it anywhere. Does anyone know if this is still available. That Heidi is such a tease!
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