So for this Friday post, as it’s the last week day before Christmas, we’re festive again but it’s not a series, but some Christmas instalments of series.
Firstly, a couple of the classic series have Christmas instalments. Poirot has Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding but Miss Marple only has a short story. There’s a Christmas story collection in the Maigret series too.
In series I have talked about, Jodi Taylor does a Chronicles of St Mary’s Christmas story every year that comes out on the 25th. I try and make sure I read them in the right order with the novels, but I think you can get away with winning these out of order. There’s a Christmas Pink Carnation short too – but that’s definitely only one if you’ve read the series! Susan Mallery has full-length and novella fill in stories in her Fools Gold series that are Christmassy and there’s also a Christmas novel in her Happily, Inc series as well as the fact that her new series has a Christmas theme. There’s a Lady Hardcastle short story too Virago also pulled together Angela Thirkell’s Christmas short stories together into Christmas at High Rising if you want some gentle humour from her world this Christmas.
I mentioned Jenny Colgan in the Kindle offer post, but a lot of her series have actual full length Christmas instalments – I really liked Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop, but there are several to chose from. And as I said in my O’Neil brothers post, Sarah Morgan also has festive instalments in her Puffin Island and From Manhattan with Love series. There’s a Christmas Agatha Raisin novel from M C Beaton, and a Hamish MacBeth short story.
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are lots of Christmas books in the Meg Langslow series. As you will have noticed from the reading lists, I’m currently on a binge re-read through the series, and I’ve just started to get to the point where the Christmas-themed books start happening. The series is delightful generally – but the Christmas ones are in particular.
It’s the final few days before Christmas, so here I am with a round up of some of the Christmassy romances that have come out this season.
There’s Something about Merry by Codi Hall*
This is a Christmas romance with a You’ve Got Mail-ish twist as the new foreman of a Christmas tree farm in Idaho falls for the boss’s daughter – except he doesn’t know that’s who he’s talking to. Merry’s spent the year working on herself and is ready for romance, but Clark definitely isn’t – he’s a single dad and he’s focussing on his son. The writing to each other stage of this was over faster than I expected, but the characters are nice, the setting is charming, and it’s got a very weird speciality knitted product to make you laugh. Fun.
Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan*
This is Sarah Morgan’s Christmas novel for this year – I’ve already mentioned that it’s a Kindle Deal this month, and obviously written about my love of her O’Neill brothers series. I don’t love this as much – it’s just got too many plot strands and a Very Definite Resolution for something that takes place over a couple of days, but the Snowy rural Scottish setting is delightful and I do love the way she creates her families. I could just have read a whole book each about two of the main plot strands so I wished there was more of each of them. I do think in years gone by she might have done this as a pair of novels set across the same period. But hey, the times they are a changing.
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parish*
Greta’s family don’t really understand how hard it is to be the only Lesbian in their tiny community in Maine. Truman’s had his heartbroken again and needs somewhere to escape to. A mutual friend organises a house swap between the two which sees Greta head to New Orleans, and Truman to Maine, where unexpected things happen to them both. Now, I should say that this didn’t work for me, because the characters rubbed me up the wrong way and the quirkiness levels were off the charts* BUT I know that it’s going to be someone else’s cup of tea because I’ve seen other people raving about this author. But if you want a swapping lives type romance – and some Jewish representation this Hanukkah week, you could do worse than try this.
As you may have noticed yesterday, last week was very much a week of Meg Langslow. But I did also finish a murder mystery with Christmas in the subtitle: which is a perfect timing as everyone* starts to finish work for the holidays.
A glamorous Hollywood actress is back in London. Marcia Tate has returned to try and get her revenge on the theatre community who snubbed her before she was a star of the silver screen. But when she’s found dead in a pavilion in the grounds of the author of the play she’s due to star in, a murder investigation starts and Sir Henry Merrivale is called in to investigate. This is a variation on a locked room mystery, where snow plays a key role. There is a large cast of suspects but it seems impossible for any of them – or anyone – to have committed the crime. And yet someone did.
Every year the British Library adds another few seasonal mysteries to their Christmas collection, and this is one of this year’s additions but despite the subtitle, the snow is the only really festive element – I think A Winter Mystery would probably be a better description. Carter Dickson is one of John Dickson Carr’s other pen names, and like his other books all the clues are there for you to figure it out if you know where to look – and he’ll give you the page numbers to prove it! Dickson’s writing style is not my favourite of that group of crime writers, but it’s a clever enough impossible puzzle that I didn’t mind too much.
I got my copy via Kindle Unlimited, which means you won’t be able to get it on Kobo at the moment, but you could also buy it in paperback from the British Library bookshop – it’s too late for posting before Christmas, but you could pop in to the shop if you’re in London, and I’m sure it’ll be on the Christmas mystery table in the larger bookshops.
*everyone else – I’m still at work until Friday night, and it’s a really busy week.
Continuing my festive-y seasonally appropriate sort of theme in a way, this week’s series is the Holidays with the Wongs novella collection by Jackie Lau.
This is a four novella collection based around holidays – starting with (Canadian) Thanksgiving, then Christmas, Chinese New Year and Valentines day. The premise is a set of siblings trying to avoid the matchmaking attempts of their parents, but finding love in the process. In trope terms we have only one bed in the Christmas story, where the hero and heroine get stuck in a snow storm, fake relationship, sort-of second chance and then no strings relationship turns real. I really enjoyed these – they’re funny as well as being romances and the Wong family are a hoot across the whole series. And as an added incentive, this series of novellas has just had the film rights bought – so you never know, you might be seeing them on a movie channel near you in the next few years
If you haven’t read any Jackie Lau before, they’re a really nice place to start. Lau writes really fun Canadian-set romances. And she has several other Christmas-set novellas too if you like them as well as full length novels. I recommended Donut Fall in Love in my late holiday reading post, but there are several of her books that I’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years.
So you can buy these individually, but they’re also available as a bundle of all of them on Kindle and Kobo which is actually the best value way of doing it.
Cheating again this week because I finished this on Monday, but really there is only so long you can recommend Christmas-themed books for and the first week of January is past that limit, but also seems a little early to be starting putting together the Christmas-themed books post for 2022, although to be fair, I have started it in the spring before!
The Christmas Card Crime is another of those charming British Library Crime Classics collections that I mentioned in my Christmas books post last week. So yes, it’s also slightly cheating to be picking this for BotW so soon after that post – although in fairness I did read the other one in November so it seems less recent to me! This has less of the names that the casual crime fan will have heard of and but many of them are regulars in the BLCC stable – like E C R Lorac and John Bude – and some of them are more towards the thriller/chiller end of the mystery spectrum. Most are good, a couple didn’t suit me but overall it was a nice way to spend a post-Christmas afternoon hiding from the rain. It should be noted that there is one story in here that overlaps with A Surprise for Christmas – and it’s one of the really good ones, so I was glad I had borrowed them both from Kindle Unlimited rather than bought them outright.
You can get The Christmas Card Crime as an actual paperback from the British Library shop or you can get it on Kindle – it will reappear on other platforms once it has rotated out of the KU selection.
It’s only a few days to go before Christmas now, and so it’s time for my annual Christmas reading post, which as is traditional coming slightly later than I had hoped!
Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance by Riane Konc
Lets start with something utterly cheesy and frivolous! Remember the old choose your own adventure books that we all used to read, well this is one of those but for Christmas movies and written by some one with a sharp eye on the tropes and stereotypes of the Hallmark Movie genre. Depending on how evil you are depends on how long the story is and where you end up, although there is an overarching story. I got this for Christmas last year and it would make a great gift for the person in your life who’s been watching Christmas movies since the day after Halloween!
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
For years Maelyn Jones has spent Christmas in a cabin Utah with a big group of her family’s closest friends. But this year it’s all gone horribly wrong, and even worst it could be the last Christmas at the cabin too. On her way back to the airport, Mae asks the universe to show her what will make her happy. Then tyres screech, metal collides… and she wakes up on the plane on the way to Utah before the holiday has even started. And what happens next is basically Groundhog Day with a romance and Christmas twist, as Mae tries to make her way through the holiday all over again – fixing what went wrong each time to try and break the loop and find her true love. This funny and sweet and it really worked for me – despite the fact that I don’t usually like time travel. I’ve written about Christina Lauren before (most recently about the Honey-Don’t list) and when they work for me, they really work. This is on the right side of the pranks and embarrassment scale for me, as well as being lovely and escapist in what’s been an awful year. The isolated nature of the cabin also means that you don’t really think about how different life in reality at the moment compared to what you’re seeing in the books. Wonderfully escapist.
The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews
I mean honestly it wouldn’t be a Christmas post without a mention of Meg Langslow. Donna Andrews has been on a two book a year schedule with this series for a while, but for the last few years the second book has been a Christmas one. This is the 28th book in the series and sees Meg’s already busy life complicated with the Helping Hands project – matching volunteers up to people who need help with jobs. There’s some one who needs a ramp building for wheelchair access, someone else has a quilt that needs finishing – and then there Harvey the Hoarder who is in danger of losing his home. Meg’s helped him before, so she’s sent in to work her magic again, but after some initial success, he’s found dead in his garage. But who killed him? One of his relatives hoping there’s something valuable in his junk or one of his neighbours who got fed up of living next door to his mess? After last year’s snowed-in murder, this is back in town and has some of the series’ Christmas traditions back in evidence. The mystery is good and I love spending time with the characters. And I think it would just about work for someone who’s never read the series before.
The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Willa Davis knew Keane Winters at high school, but when he comes into her pet shop needing someone to look after his aunt’s cranky cat while he’s at work, he doesn’t even remember her. Despite this inauspicious start, the sparks between the two of them just keep flying. But both of them have issues in their childhoods that make them think that relationships are not at thing that will work for them so they’ll have to work together to build trust and break down each others barriers to get to their happy ending. Now I know this doesn’t sound that Christmassy, but the backdrop to all this is the run up to Christmas and the festivities going on in Willa’s shop, so it totally counts and it has mistletoe in the title of course. This is the second book in Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay, and although you don’t have to read them in order, you will spot stuff from the other books in the series cropping up or being cued up in it. Perfect reading material for the sofa in the cold weather.
Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery
This book 12.5 in Mallery’s long-runing Fools Gold series (which feels like it has more in between titles than it does “proper” titles) and is actually closer to a novel in length than to a novella. Our heroine is Noelle, who moved to town to open a festive-themed store The Christmas Attic. Army doctor Gabriel is in town to recuperate after an injury and to visit his brother Gideon. Their parents are in town for the holidays too – and both men, but especially Gabriel, have a difficult relationship with their father – a literal drill sergeant. Gabriel doesn’t believe in happily ever afters, but when he ends up spending more time with Noelle to get away from his dad, he starts to reconsider. As an added bonus here, Gideon is the hero of book 11, and so if you’ve read that, this gives you a sort of extended epilogue opportunity with some old friends too.
The Naughty List by Ellie-Mae MacGregor
A bit of a wildcard here. This is a steamy Christmas novella with a single mum who wakes up on her sofa on Christmas night to find Santa is in her house. Santa – aka Nikolai – is lonely and horny and so is Kate. Thus high jinx and sauciness ensue. It’s not long, but it is fun. Don’t read it on the train though, it might make you blush!
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond*
And finally – the one I haven’t finished yet: this is Gary Raymond’s response to all the people who think that Love Actually is a perfect Christmas movie. I loved Love Actually when it came out, but as time has gone on, I’m more fond of some of the characters than I am about the whole thing, and there are definitely elements that have not aged well to say the least. Whether I’ll come out of this a convert to the Church of Hating Love Actually I don’t know, but I’m a third of the way through and it’s definitely making me laugh as well as think.
Hot on the heels of the new Christmas books post, here’s my annual look at some older Christmas books that I’ve read recently and liked. I don’t mind reading a Christmas book out of season – I’d rather stick to the reading order of a series than avoid a Christmas book – so some of them are things that I’ve read in mid summer… And you never know, they might be available at a discount this festive season.
A Very Merry Princess by Susan Mallery
Don’t be put off by the word princess in the title. Bethany’s step-dad is a Middle Eastern prince who has am extensive stable. When one of the horses is sold to a rancher in California, Bethany accompanies him to his new home, but using an assumed name. While there she falls for the rancher, but will their fledgling relationship survive when he finds out who she really is? This is a novella in the Happily Inc series which apparently ties in to an even earlier category romance that Mallery wrote nearly twenty years ago. Cade, the hero is the brother of one of the heroines from earlier in the series, and they all feature in subsequent novels. It’s Christmassy and Thanksgiving-y and quite a lot of fun – and a California Christmas makes a change from all the snowed-in for the holidays novellas!
A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan
Jonas Grantham is in love with Lydia Chingford. The problem is she can’t stand him – because the new doctor is one of the few people who could expose a secret from her past which would cause a huge scandal for her. He’s sarcastic and funny – but he hides the truth in his barbs. She’s guarded and anxious and doesn’t trust anyone anymore. This is Christmassy but also so romantic that various parts of the resolution made me teary-eyed. Of course it may have just been that I was overtired, but I don’t think it was because a hero who tells a heroine he loves her, all of her, is just wonderful in any circumstances. Swoonworthily wonderful in fact.
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths
This is the second in the Stephens and Mephisto series featuring a magician and a police detective in the early 1950s. Max and Edgar worked together during the war and this story sees them trying to solve a child disappearance during panto season in Brighton. This has gloom of a seaside resort in winter and the glamour of end-of-the-pier theatre. It’s not all Christmas trees and mince pies – after all rationing is still in effect – but it’s definitely a Christmas novel for all that. I was a bit mixed on the first in this series when I read it a few years back, but I liked this a lot more. I’ve got book three (not a Christmas novel!) on my library hold list at the moment.
Once again, I’m sorry it’s a bit late – but I started writing this post in October but it’s taken a while to come to fruition. All of the recommendations were either bought or came from the library (although a couple of the also read list came from NetGalley) – you should be able to get them from all the usual sources. If you still want mores festive-themed reading there are posts from 2018, 2017 new and old, 2016, 2015 and 2014. Blimey I’ve been doing this a while….
Also read (you can find reviews of all of these over on my Goodreads profile should you be so inclined): Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan, A Christmas to Remember by Joanna Shupe et al, All I Want For Christmas by Jennifer Gracen, 25 Days til Christmas by Poppy Alexander
As mentioned in various other posts, I have read *a lot* of Christmas books for this post. More than I was expecting because it turned out that I didn’t like a bunch of them enough to recommend them – even from authors who I usually find reliable. So that was disappointing. But here we have it at last – a shorter list than I was hoping for – but Christmas recommendations from this year’s festive-themed new releases.
Wrapped Up In You by Jill Shalvis
Ivy is a food truck owner who’s never known stability and doesn’t trust anyone. Kel is a rancher and a sheriff with trust issues on visting San Francisco after his life exploded. They start a fling, but when it seems set to turn into more, will their histories get in the way of a future together? This is the eighth Heartbreaker Bay novel – and if you’ve read the series, there are familiar friends here as well as it being the story of someone you’ve been getting to know as a side character in the other novels. I really liked it – it’s got a great mix of reasons why the characters don’t think they can be together, and although some of it could be solved by having a conversation, you completely understand why that conversation isn’t happening!
It Happened on Christmas Eve by Kirsty Greenwood
Fun and fast Christmas-themed romantic comedy short. Phoebe is a bit of a grinch about Christmas – after she broke up with her boyfriend last Christmas Day. In fact, she’s not the most happy go lucky person in general. So when she has to spend Christmas Eve with her boss’s son, she’s not exactly overjoyed – especially when he turns out to be the most charismatic person in the world and a bit of a flirt. But is this going to turn out to be more fun than she expected? I know Kirsty in real life and she’s as funny in person as her writing is.
Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian
This was a BotW pick, so I’ve already told you about it, but it bears repeating – this is a really fun tangentially Christmas-y story. It’s a murder mystery romance, with a country doctor and a very secret squirrel operative who met in shady circumstances in WW2. You know that I’m a big fan of Cat Sebastian‘s historical romances already – and she’s just as good at this more crime-y stuff too.
So there you are. I’m sorry it’s a bit late – but I started writing this post in October – that’s how hard it’s been to find stuff that I liked enough to recommend. All of the recommendations were either bought or came from the library (although a couple of the also read list came from NetGalley) – you should be able to get them from all the usual sources. Coming up next is the Christmas books not from this year – where I have seen more success thank goodness.
Also read (you can find reviews of all of these over on my Goodreads profile should you be so inclined): A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan; A Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory; Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeleine Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Jo Putney; The Christmas Invitation by Trisha Ashley; Christmas Calamity at the Vicarage by Emily Organ; 25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander
An embarrassment of riches on this week’s list, but I think this was my favourite. Lots of stuff from it will be making appearances in other posts soon too – in fact the only thing against Hither, Page being this week’s pick is that I sort of wanted it for my Christmas reading post, which is taking longer to put together than I was expecting because I haven’t liked a lot of the stuff that I’ve been reading with an eye to including it. But this wasn’t on the original list of potentials for the Christmas post, so I don’t feel too bad about it. Anyway, on to the book.
Hither, Page is a murder mystery and romance set in Britain in the aftermath of World War Two. James Sommers has come back from the war to work as the doctor in the village that he lived in as a child. After he catches his cleaning lady looking through his patient records and snooping in his flat he lets her go. But soon she’s found dead after a dinner party at the Big House and James feels like the peace of his post-war sanctuary has been shattered. Leo Page works for one of the shadowier (and possibly dodgier) bits of the British secret service and is surprised to be sent to a sleepy village to investigate a charlady’s death. Soon Leo and James are crossing paths – one as as he tries to solve the crime, the other he tries to get his village back to normal – or at least that’s what he thinks he’s doing.
I think you all know me well enough to know that this plot summary ticks quite a lot of my boxes – murder mystery, mid-twentieth century, secret services connection and it’s sort of enemies forced to work together. It’s funny and snarky and has a great cast of supporting characters who – as it’s the first of a series – we should hear more from in books to come. What is not to love.
I’m always after a new historical mystery series, and Cat Sebastian was one of my 2018 Obsessions as I worked my way through her back catalogue so this is practically a Venn diagram all on its own. My only complaints were that it wasn’t long enough and as it’s the first in the series I now have to wait impatiently for the next installment which doesn’t even have a name yet it’s so long away. However in writing this post I realised that there is another Cat Sebastian book due out soon (in December and I’ve got it pre-ordered already, well done PastVerity) which is good, but I think we’ve just ruled that out of BotW contention if I read it straightaway, which I think we all know I will. Hey ho (ho, ho), you can’t win them all.
My copy of Hither, Page came from the library – but it’s available on Kindle and on Kobo now.
I’ll admit I haven’t managed to read as many Christmas-set books this year as I usually do. This is mostly because the period in November when I usually start doing my Christmas-reading coincided with my last few weeks in Washington and my mad dash to read all the books that I’d got hold of there that I hadn’t been able to get hold of in the UK. But I’ve still got some Christmas recommendations for you.
Campion at Christmas by Margery Allingham
I realised when I was writing item that I haven’t really talked my about Albert Campion love nearly enough here. If you’re looking at Golden Age Detective series, Albert is probably number five after Miss Marple, Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and Roderick Alleyn. I started reading them when I lived in Essex – because Margery Allingham was from the county and the library system there had a huge stock of her books. This is four short stories with a Christmas theme – two of which feature Albert at various points in his life. It’s not a massively long read – but it’s new this Christmas and only £1.99 on Amazon or free if you have Kindle Unlimited (my copy came from NetGalley).
Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrew
I feel like I’ve writen a lot about the Meg Langslow series this year (there’s been a BotW post as well as mentions in otherroundupposts) but Donna Andrew consistently writes excellent festive installments to this series. At the start of this Christmas’s book, Meg discovers a mystery baby has been abandoned in the manger midway through a rehearsal for the town nativity play. The note left with the baby implies that Meg’s brother Rob is the father and when she attempts to track down the baby’s mother, it soon becomes apparent that this may be part of a bigger mystery. And as well as all this, it seems like there may be a war brewing between Meg’s beloved Caerphilly county and their arch-nemeses in neighbouring Clay County. What is so clever about this, is that although this is the 24th book in the series, Andrew has managed to keep mixing up her settings and mysteries enough that it doesn’t seem like Meg is a murder magnet. And this is no exception to that. It’s not cheap though – it’s brand new – and just under a tenner on Kindle, which is a lot I’ll admit and even more on Kobo. But the good news is that the most of previous years’ Christmas Langslows are cheaper – at £3.85 on Kindle at time of writing.
Christmas with the Sheriff by Victoria James
Moving away from crime to romance – this is a novella featuring a bereaved heroine who returns to her home town for Christmas several years after the death of her husband and son and finds the man who helped her through her loss is still there waiting for her. Chase is the town Sheriff and he’s had a thing for Julia ever since he first met her, but his best friend got there first. He’s hoping that she might now be ready for a second chance at love. I was worried this was going to be a bit too miserable, but it wasn’t – and I liked Julia and Chase’s developing relationship. And Chase’s little girl is cute. Free on Kindle and Kobo at the moment for everyone
Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis
And it wouldn’t be a Christmas book list without one by Jill Shalvis. This is last year’s one from her – in her Heartbreaker Bay series. It follows tech genius Spence and Colbie who is a best selling author under her writing pseudonym. Spence doesn’t think that he can have a long term relationship with anything except his work – he’s failed at it before. Colbie is running away from the pressure of fame, of her publishing career and of her emotionally dependent family. In the run up to Christmas in San Francisco the two of them stumble towards a discovery. It’s flirty, it’s fun and Colbie and Spence are perfect for each other. And it’s 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment – which makes it a bargain
What else am I reading this Christmas? I’ve got another Jill Shalvis on the pile – this year’s Heartbreaker Bay Christmas novel, Hot Winter Nights, as well as Sarah Morgan’s The Christmas Sisters and I’m fairly sure there’s going to be at least one Christmas book I’ve forgotten about sitting on the bookshelf or the kindle.
Let me know what you’re reading this December in the comments!