Nov 19 2014 4:30pm

Favorite Christmas Stories from Dickens, Putney, and More!

Christmas in the Duke's Arms AnthologyToday we're pleased to have four authors joining us at Heroes and Heartbreakers. The four—Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel, and Miranda Neville—have released a Christmas-themed anthology, Christmas in the Duke's Arms and are here to talk about their favorite Christmas stories. Thanks, ladies!

When Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Shana Galen, and I agreed to write a anthology of connected Regency Christmas novellas, we had to decide how to approach the holiday. Christmas romances run the gamut from inspirational to full blown deck-the-halls Santa/Rudolph/Frosty traditional. Since the Regency era was actually a bit of a down time for Yuletide in England, coming between the ancient folkloristic celebrations and the Christmas of Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria that presaged the modern holidays, we could pretty much do as we pleased.

We agreed that the stories in Christmas in the Duke’s Arms should be warm and romantic and I know that my fellow writers, at least, delivered perfectly. As for the Christmas side, there’s plenty of greenery and mistletoe, a Christmas assembly and lots of love and happiness. I asked my fellow writers about their favorite Christmas stories.

Grace Burrowes:

I love the subtler Christmas tropes—the stranger bearing gifts, miracles in unexpected places, light overcoming darkness, warmth in the midst of winter, family of choice over family of origin (shepherds will do in a pinch, right?), and the community we can find at the margins when there's “no room at the inn.” While “The Gift of the Magi” is my favorite Christmas romance, I also love the children's television specials, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Those were probably the first stories to make me cry, when all seemed lost, and being pushed out into the cold looms as the hero's irreversible fate—until love prevails! Love the Bumble, love that little tree, and love Linus's blanket swaddling the base, helping the tree stand up to be admired.

What all my favorite Christmas stories have in common with all my favorite romances is the starring role of love in the tale. Love makes us better, braver, kinder, more tolerant, and—I'm convinced—happier. The many wonderful Christmas romances that abound as the holidays approach are a big part of why I enjoy Yuletide reading so much!

If you’ve never read O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi,” it’s in the public domaine. First find your box of tissues.

Shana Galen:

I’m going old skool with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Every year I either read it or see the play, and it never fails to put me in the holiday spirit. The book really did revitalize Christmas and contribute to making it the popular holiday it is today. I can’t help but love Bob Cratchit and his family, who understand that Christmas is not about what you get but what you give. I even kind of like the knock-offs, like Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol. But save me from the Barbie version. That may be my least favorite Barbie movie. I just don’t buy Barbie as Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol

Carolyn Jewel:

One of the best holiday stories I ever read was by a fellow student in a writing class I took in the late 1980s. He was a Jewish lawyer whose wife was a ballerina, and his writing was the stuff of literary prizes.

I wish I’d saved his stories, but I was convinced he would publish his work and that I would be able to read him in print. It never occurred to me that a writer with such a gift would not. I search for his name from time to time but if he’s writing, he’s not publishing under his real name and not in any of the places I’ve been looking. I believe, though, that a talent like his will not leave him alone, and that one day, he will share those stories with the rest of us.

One of his stories, he told us before he handed it out for us to read, he thought did not succeed. It did, though. At its heart he’d written about the holidays. Like every piece of brilliant writing, it was about more than the events he wrote about; a woman walking into the desert and finding hope and faith and redemption. There was not one mention of holidays or the tenets of any given set of beliefs. As the holidays approach I will be looking for stories like his, that remind us of the good we can do when we choose.

Miranda Neville:

My keeper shelf bears a couple of dozen dog-earred Signet Christmas anthologies. I don’t save them for December, but read them year round. I adore these Regency stories of love and redemption amid snow and greenery. There’s something particularly inspiring about people finding each other at the darkest time of the year. The essence of romance is finding family and connections, centered on the loving couple but also within a larger community. Perhaps that’s why Christmas—or the equivalent winter solstice celebration depending on ones faith or tradition—makes such a great background for love stories.
Trying to pick one favorite, I was torn between two, both by Mary Jo Putney.

“The Christmas Cuckoo” is a story of a soldier returning from war who temporarily runs from new and frightening responsiblties (he unexpectedly inherits anearldom) and falls into Christmas with a family who mistake him for someone else. Charmed by the family’s welcome, Jack falls in love with the eldest sister, Meg, and keeps putting of the moment when he must confess that he is a cuckoo in the nest. The other is “Sunshine for Christmas,” unusual for its Italian setting and for its lack of community. Lord Randolph Lennox is a lonely widower who meets a thirtysomething governess in Naples. As she shows him around the city, the isolated pair find in each other the connection they crave.

Imagine my delight when I found that both novellas have been reiussed digitally by Putney, with three other Christmas stories, in Christmas Revels. As a bonus, the book includes The Black Beast of Belleterre, new to me and now added to my top ten Christmas novellas.

What are your favorite Christmas stories?


Learn more about or order a copy of Christmas in the Duke's Arms anthology by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen, available now:

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Grace Burrowes started writing romances as an antidote to empty nest and soon found it an antidote to life in general. She is the sixth out of seven children, and grew up reading voraciously when she wasn't enjoying the company of her horse. Grace is a practicing child welfare attorney in western Maryland, and loves to hear from her readers.

Carolyn Jewel was born on a moonless night. That darkness was seared into her soul and she became an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of historical and paranormal romance. She has a very dusty car and a Master’s degree in English that proves useful at the oddest times. An avid fan of fine chocolate, finer heroines, Bollywood films, and heroism in all forms, she has two cats and two dogs. Also a son. One of the cats is his.

Miranda Neville grew up in England, loving the books of Georgette Heyer and other Regency romances. Her historical romances include the Burgundy Club series, about Regency book collectors, and The Wild Quartet. She lives in Vermont with her daughter, her cat, and a ridiculously large collection of Christmas tree ornaments. She is thrilled to finally write a Christmas story in collaboration with three amazingly talented ladies.

Shana Galen is the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Kirkus says of her books, “The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun,” and RT Bookreviews calls her books “lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kahintenn
I've read Christmas in the Duke's Arms, and I recommend it enthusiastically! Just bought the Putney for Kindle.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love the traditional Signet Regency collections also. Mary Balogh's holiday collections are amazing, as are Carla Kelly's (she's taken her Signet stories and bundled them together). I am saving Christmas in the Duke's Arms until after Thanksgiving, and I am very excited to read it.
3. Kahintenn
@MFrampton, I preordered your new book at the same time!
Miranda Neville
4. Miranda Neville
@Kahinetenn. You have a treat ahead of you with the MJP stories. Glad you enjoyed Christmas in the Duke's Arms.

@MFrampton. I am sure there are some Signet holiday collections I don't have. Off to look for the Kelly bundle.
6. Kareni
Ah, I remembered one other holiday story I very much enjoyed -- Courtney Milan's "THIS WICKED GIFT."
7. Janga
I love Christmas and Christmas romances. I think I read my first ARCs of 2014 Christmas stories in August. This month I have begun rereading old favorites, the Balogh, Kelly, and Putney stories others mentioned included. Edith Layton also has some wonderful stories in those old Signet anthologies. I wish they were collected. Jo Beverley's Winter Fire is another favorite. Debbie Macomber is practically a Christmas industry on her own. My all-time favorite contemporary Christmas romance is an old category by Muriel Jensen that features wounded hero and heroine, big family, nuns, kids, holiday feasts, and a huge HEA. It would be too much at any other time, but at Christmas, it's perfect. I read and loved Christmas in the Duke's Arms three weeks ago.
Miranda Neville
8. Miranda Neville
@Janga Winter Fire is one of my very favorite Beverleys. Such a great couple. And I can't resist a hero in a full length fur coat.
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