Romance author and blogger Anne Browning Walker counts down her favorite romance books of the season. See also: Anne's 7 Smart Romance Books.
Department stores may have been jingling Christmas carols in your direction for weeks, but most people are only now just getting into the Christmas spirit. So as you put up your tree and enjoy the fire on a snowy night, make sure to add reading a romance to your holiday to-do list. Plenty of holiday romance novels can add to your cheer and hopefully make some cold winter nights that much hotter.
There are hundreds of Christmas romances out there for your perusal. Not sure where to start? Try an anthology, where you get snippets from many different writers.
Naughty & Nice by Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe, Stefanie Sloane - I picked up the new anthology, Naughty & Nice because I have become a big fan of Ruthie Knox. Her story, “Room at the Inn” makes the purchase worth it. Despite working in the short story format, Knox manages to build a slow burn between estranged college sweethearts Carson and Julie. It reads like a full-length novel but takes less time to get through – a perfect break if you’re harried doing holiday shopping.
Snowy Night with a Stranger by Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, Julia London - I enjoyed all three stories in Snowy Night with a Stranger, a Victorian-set anthology in which snowstorms and the resulting confinement lead to love. Julia London’s “Snowy Night with a Highlander” brought back pleasant memories of a semester abroad in Scotland and reminded me a little of a favorite classic, Jane Eyre. With burns that cover part of his face and body and a past he pays penance for now, Duncan Buchanan borrows more from Mr. Rochester than do most other romance heroes.
The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig - Those of you familiar with Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series will be familiar with the hero of this charming romance, Turnip Fitzhugh. Turnip, as his nickname implies, shares little in terms of looks or intelligence with the average romance hero; however, Willig manages to write so that you root for him perhaps even more strongly than many of her other leading men. Turnip’s love interest, Arabella, is strong and spirited without overwhelming him. I found myself laughing throughout the book, often at Turnip’s thoughts: “Time to make his daring entrance and charge to the rescue, sweeping away all malefactors with a hey-ho and a heave-to.”
Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas - I picked up A Wallflower Christmas because I had enjoyed other books in her Wallflower series. This short Christmas read follows Rafe, the American brother of two of the Wallflowers, who has come to England to find a titled bride. Rafe’s father has set his sights on the beautiful Lady Natalie; however, Rafe becomes fascinated with her companion and cousin, Hannah. I loved Hannah’s calm dignity, even when she was stuck on a ledge while attempting to retrieve an errant toupee.
A Christmas Bride by Mary Balogh - A Christmas Bride starts in a similar way to A Wallflower Christmas, and both feature men who choose different brides than originally intended. Yet A Wallflower Christmas stays light and fun despite some heavy issues relating to parental expectations, while A Christmas Bride nearly becomes a character study of the leading lady Helena Stapleton. Widowed and bearing the burden of a shameful secret, she has gained independence unusual for the time period, yet remains unhappy. She stole the story from the hero, Edgar Downes, and her own redemption at the end of the story may be more satisfying than her journey into love.
Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr - Bring Me Home for Christmas, an installment in Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, finds Becca on the precipice of an engagement, wondering if she has gotten over her first love, Denny. In an effort to sort out her feelings, she foists herself on her brother’s hunting trip in Denny’s new hometown of Virgin River. I loved how Ms. Carr created Christmas traditions for this town and enjoyed when Becca threw herself into helping the town weather a snowstorm. After witnessing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I could really appreciate the way the town of Virgin River came together.
Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs - This book follows the town librarian and a troubled former child star as they work together to put on the local Christmas pageant. Ms. Wiggs paints such a vivid picture of the town at Christmas that I could imagine myself in each of her settings. Wiggs’ heroine shows frustrating insecurity at times, but this made her even more real to me.
Hers for the Holidays by Samantha Hunter - Hers for the Holidays is a departure from the warm and fuzzy fare I’d found. If you’re looking for Christmas with a little bit of edge, this might be the novel for you. From the more risqué Harlequin Blaze line, love blooms between a tattoo artist and a former Marine returning to her childhood Montana home. Harlequins can sometimes be a gamble, but in this book you will win both a little bit of nice and a little bit of naughty.
Angels at the Table by Debbie Macomber - Angels at the Table finds us in New York City, and it opens when the ball drops for the new year. Thanks to a foursome of mischievous angels named Shirley, Goodness, Mercy, and Will (get it?), a fated couple endures more than their share of problems on the way to love. Light and frothy, this book sparkles like Christmas lights. People who enjoy inspirational romances will find a lot to like in this book. Even those who don’t will chuckle at the antics of the angels.
Christmas Yet to Come
Holiday in Death by JD Robb - Some readers may know JD Robb better as Nora Roberts, the wildly successful author of many romances. Roberts also writes a series (In Death) under the pen name JD Robb, which takes place more than 40 years in the future, featuring murder cop Eve Dallas and con-turned-billionaire Roarke. Holiday in Death revolves around a serial killer and his use of the “12 Days of Christmas” imagery. Another departure from traditional Christmas fare, this novel kept me turning the page to watch Eve Dallas catch the bad guy, all while grumping about holiday shopping for too many friends. Solving a murder and finding thoughtful gifts? That’s inspirational!