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.
So this is actually two separate series and one standalone. Or at least it is the way I’m counting them. But they are (in the main) really quite Christmassy and often Wintery too so they’re perfect for this time of year. And as we’re in the middle of a cold snap here at the moment, books for curling up in front of the fire with are great.
I’ve grouped them together because they are all set in little villages in Lancashire where you see some of the previous characters pop back up in later books – and two thirds of them centre around Christmas. I’ve written about Trisha Ashley before, but thear are probably my favourite of hers – as I said at the top, they’re warm hugs of books, perfect for cozy afternoons on the sofa under a blanket. They’re all romances – but the British kind, where there is a bigger plot going on that ends up in a romantic happy ending, rather than the more American one type – where any other plot is a side order to the romance. I hope that makes sense, I’ve only just come up with that sort of definition. And only now because I hate using the term Woman’s fiction so much.
Anyway, in the Sticklepond sequence is A Winters Tale is wintery but does have Christmas in it and is about Sophy, who goes back to her big historic family home for the first time after she inherits it. There’s a charming but dubious cousin and a strong and silent gardener as well as some eccentric older ladies and a possible ghost. Chocolate Wishes is not a Christmas novel, but has a chocolate maker and an ex-rock star in a second chance romance. Chocolate Shoes… is a shoe shop owner with a very annoying fiancé, who gets a mysterious next door neighbour. And the. We’re back to Christmas with a single mum with a poorly child and a handsome baker.
Then Twelve Days of Christmas and A Christmas Cracker are both set in Little Mumming – the first has a house sitter running into the home owner who is trying to avoid the village festivities, the second has a cracker factory and a woman who is trying to recover after she was framed for a crime she didn’t commit. And finally The Magic of Christmas has another cute Lancashire village with some unique festive traditions and the heroine is unexpectedly single with several men vying for her attention.
And to be honest if you can’t find something there to tempt you, I wash my hands of you. They’re all fairly easily available in ebook although as they’re fairly old now (A Winters Tale is the oldest and came out in 2008) I don’t know how easy they’ll be to find in the shops.
We’re moving towards Christmas and so I thought I would start a seasonal series strand to help with your festive reading needs! And I’m starting with an old favourite author – Sarah Morgan and her O’Neil Brothers series, which is are nearly a decade old now – which is frankly quite scary.
And I’m going to say at the outset, that only two of the three books in this series are set at Christmas – but that’s two thirds so it still counts. This series is set in the Snow Crystal ski resort in Vermont. Our three heros are the O’Neil brothers – whose family run the resort. In the first book in the series. Sleigh Bells in the Snow, Kayla would rather ignore Christmas than celebrate, but she heads to Snow Crystal to try and win the marketing business of the resort’s owner Jackson. Suddenly Last Summer is about Elise, a chef in the town and the runway brother Sean, who is a surgeon who had a one night stand a few years back and are busy ignoring it. And the third book in the series is Maybe this Christmas where ex-ski racer and single dad Tyler ends up with his friend Breanna (who is secretly in love with him) staying in his chalet because the resort is overbooked. So that’s a career girl finding love while turning aroudn the fortunes of a ski resort, a second chance romance and a single dad romance. If you don’t want to read the whoel series – and why wouldn’t you because you’ll then get to see the previous couples pop back up again – you can pick your trope and start there!
Sarah Morgan has a long list of Christmas books now, so it took a bit of thinking to pick one to feature here – but I went for the O’Neil brothers, because the snowy setting makes it feel extra Christmassy. But if you want more Sarah Morgan Christmas, there is a Christmas book in her Puffin Island and From Manhattan with Love series as well as various standalone novels.
You should be able to get hold of these fairly easily in ebook, but I don’t know how likely you are to find paperbacks nearly decade on. But to get yo sgtarted here is the Kindle link to Sleighbells in the snow and a Kobo link to the “box set” of all three.
Yes, it came out in the US last month, but here in the UK today is the day for the Christmas Sarah Morgan novel – this year’s is called Snowed in for Christmas. This is somewhere between a contemporary romance and a women’s fiction novel – yes I know, I’m not a fan of that as a term, but I don’t think there’s another shorthand that works as well – it has a romance at the heart of it but it’s not just a romance, and it feels like it’s not quite the same as Morgan’s previous romances – although you’re still going to get a happy ending. Or at least I hope you are – I haven’t finished it yet!
A lot of the advance copies I have waiting for me on the kindle now are Christmas books. As ever I’m planning on getting the Christmas reading suggestion post done early this year. And also as ever I suspect it will never happen. But what I do want are your recommendations for your favourite Christmas-set books. Not new ones, the old favourites you return to year on year. Please and thank you!
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