Christmas Reading

So far this holiday season (I started before Halloween this year) I’ve read ten Christmas novels. My very favorites are the classic “sweet” Regency romance novellas of Mary Balogh. She’s been reissuing these and I’m collecting them all over again on my Kindle. My top pick for holiday reading so far is A Christmas Bride, which is paired with A Christmas Beau. All Balogh’s books are excellent, well written and poignant. A Christmas Bride reached inside and grabbed my heart.

Balogh only writes historical romance, and she used to bring out a Christmas title every year, but this year she didn’t. Her newer books are not “sweet” (meaning they have sex scenes) and they are longer novels, not novellas, but they’re still delicious. Also re-read (so far) this year: A Christmas Promise and Under the Mistletoe.

Another favorite author, Anne Perry, also does a Christmas book every year. She’s another historical author. Her books are set in the Victorian era. This year she published A Christmas Gathering, which featured a wonderful minor character from the Charlotte Pitt series. Perry’s themes are often centered around forgiveness and loneliness. In this novella, a gentleman cannot forgive himself for a past failure and because he keeps this secret from his wife, they both feel that essential loneliness that somehow bites sharper during the holidays. But these are romances, so the endings are always happy.

Happily ever after is not just for historical fiction. I’m really fussy about what romance novels I read these days, but I always enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, especially the humor. Thus, I had to read the newest title Shopaholic Christmas. At first I was a bit worried. She’s married and rich now, so she won’t be having the debt dilemma of that first (and best) book in the series. It was a bit slow to warm up, but when it did, I laughed on almost every page. For sure a feel-good holiday book.

Brenda Novak is another go-to contemporary romance author (she writes mystery too) when I’m in the mood for a HEA. Her Christmas at Silver Springs was lovely. An ex-con and a rock star’s almost ex-wife seem like an unlikely couple–I was curious to see how Novak handled the ex-con character–but this prolific author skillfully navigated a tricky romance that includes kids who are missing their rock star dad.

I love books set in Nantucket and Nancy Thayer’s An Island Christmas gives readers a peek at this summer haven in the off-season. There was a hint of Scrooge in the ailing and elderly curmudgeon, but the island native heroine manages to capture his heart along with his more age-appropriate son.

I’ve read and enjoyed a few more Christmas titles, including the funny contemporary The 12 Daves of Christmas by K.L. Brady (fiancee leaves her at altar, the rat!) and Invitation to a Cornish Christmas, two historical novellas by Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott. All three of these authors are new to me. I loved Brady’s humor. Kaye surprised me with the sensual aspect of her lonely hearts characters–I think because I was raised on the sweet Regencies which are truer to the era IMO.

Romance readers know that these days even historical authors often go “all in” on the sex scenes. Kaye took her time with these lovers in Cornwall, so the sex is more a simmering slow boil. I really liked how she played with the ocean and swimming and incorporated them into the storyline. Makes me want to watch the series finale of Poldark, which I taped last night! Have not read Scott’s novella yet, but anticipate another hit of Cornwall after Poldark.

I know it’s a bit early, but here I am already reading for Christmas spirit and so want to say happy holidays to lovers of Christmas. ❤

Christmas Reading

I love reading Christmas themed novels. It is my favorite thing to do in December and I don’t feel right unless I’ve got one going on my Kindle. I prefer to read new novels instead of returning to beloved classics, so I look for those released in 2012. Sometimes that date can fool you, as in the classic pair of novellas by the wonderful Mary Balogh. This year she re-released a double set of novellas first printed in the 1990s, so since it’s the first time the stories were pubbed in this form, the 2012 date was technically accurate.

I only learned they were classics when I read the “Dear Reader” note from Ms. Balogh that prefaced the book. That’s okay. The price was great and it’s been so long since I read “A Christmas Bride” and “Christmas Beau” that I fell in love with these Regency set romances all over again. Finished “Christmas Bride” last night (Yes, I cried. Balogh always makes me cry.) and started right in on “Christmas Beau.”

For Victorian setting, nobody beats Anne Perry, who brings out an annual Christmas story. “A Christmas Garland” was quite a departure for Perry. She set it in English-occupied India. I had misgivings, but it turned out to be absolutely my favorite Perry Christmas novel to date. But then,  I always say that. The mystery really had me stumped and Perry realistically adds in a touching romance. Mystery is the main plot, however, and that’s fine by me.

I’m still looking forward to Shirley Jump’s “Mistletoe Kisses with a Billionaire” a contemporary romance. It releases December 1. That’s Saturday. I’ll have “Christmas Beau” finished by then:)