This year’s grab bag of books for the Christmas season contains more than the usual hefty helping of nostalgia. Novelists take readers as far afield as Victorian Scotland; an essayist remembers Christmas on the plains of South Dakota; a historian uncovers the real St. Nicholas.

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook, Oct.) is the popular author’s first Christmas novella. On Christmas Eve 1894, Meg Campbell abruptly leaves the family home in Stirling, Scotland, to which she has returned for the holidays, preferring solitude to strained family relationships. But an unexpected encounter on the train prompts a reckoning that will require forgiveness. Higgs has more than 3 million books in print, among them six historical novels set in Scotland.

Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot (Revell, Sept.). Roses don’t bloom at Christmastime in Wyoming, but the season is a time for miracles, as Celia Anderson discovers when itinerant carpenter Mark Williams moves into her boarding house in Easton, Wyoming Territory, in late 1882. Cabot (Paper Roses) is a charter member of Romance Writers of America and writes under various pen names.

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins (Abingdon, Oct.). Sixteen-year-old Jimmy Reed lost his dad in the early days of World War II, and each Christmas his mother Madge hangs the Congressional Medal of Honor on the tree to commemorate her late husband. As Christmas 1945 nears, Jimmy receives an unexpected letter that contains new information and a mystery. Prolific writer Collins’ work includes Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas.

The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra by Adam English (Baylor Univ., Nov.) uncovers the life of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, the real figure who made a contribution to Christianity at the Council of Nicaea convened by the Emperor Constantine well before Western cultures made him a palimpsest for the spirit of holiday giving.

The Christmas Plains by Joseph Bottum (Image, Oct.) offers essayist Bottum’s musings and memories of growing up on the plains of South Dakota and celebrating Christmas in the Black Hills. Bottum is the former editor of the journal First Things.