Favorite Christmas Romance Novellas


I love the holidays. And I love holiday books! I used to buy about four or five new Christmas-themed romance books a year, stack them all on my night stand right before Thanksgiving, then read them slowly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was glorious.

I always adored that the stories were seasonal, and they got me in the Christmas spirit when I wanted to be – my favorite time of the year! (Actually, November is my favorite time of the year, and, by the way, where are the Thanksgiving novellas? I’d totally read those! Big family drama, chaos in the kitchen … I’d be up for that. …)

Anyway, I also love that the usual Christmas romance novellas are only 40,000 words each, and I can read each one quickly – no long-drawn-out plots where you have to remember all the characters for weeks on end. I can usually do one a night, all the way up to Christmas.

And I love that they are usually sold in anthologies of three to five writers from a single publishing house, so it’s a great way to get introduced to a lot of new writers. Heard of a writer but not sure if you’d like her? Try a novella! It’s not much commitment, but you can get a clear sense of her style right away.

Love all that.

But, I must admit, my love started to fade when I read too many of them in a row.

There’s always one of these four things: a snow storm, a faraway cabin, a car or plane stranded in a blizzard, and at least one cynic who has hated Christmas since he/she was a child (usually the hero, but sometimes the heroine).

And if the story isn’t about a snow storm and a faraway cabin, it’s about an office Christmas party where two workers get each other for Secret Santa or one has to dress up as Santa. (Usually it’s the hero, and of course he looks really hot in the Santa suit.)

Now, granted – I’m only reading contemporaries. Maybe the historicals have greater plot variety. (Although historicals would be interesting, since Christmas wasn’t really a popular holiday until around the Victorian era, right? What do the Regencies feature – winter solstice?)

Anyway, out of all of the Christmas novellas I’ve read (among the 30-plus that are starting to sound the same), there’s one that really stands out.

But before I tell you what it is, I’ll list everything I’ve read. I’ll probably go back and reread a bunch of these this year. Some were really terrific:

  • Dashing Through the Mall(Sherryl Woods, Darlene Gardner, Holly Jacobs – Harlequin, 2006)
  • The Christmas that Changed Everything(Mary Lynn Baxter, Marilyn Pappano, Christine Flynn – Silhouette, 2000)
  • Santa Baby (Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, Carly Phillips – St. Martins, 2006 – bought this one because I’m a big Jenny Crusie fan)
  • The Night Before Christmas(Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, Jill Shalvis, Kathy Love, Katherine Garbera, Kylie Adams – Kensington, 2005)
  • Sugar and Spice(Fern Michaels, Beverly Barton, Joanne Fluke, Shirley Jump – Zebra, 2006 – bought this because I started reading Shirley Jump’s blog)
  • A Holiday of Love(Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Arnette Lamb and Jill Barnett – Pocket Books, 1994 – an oldie, but I found it at a second-hand store and wanted to read it because I’d become a recent fan of Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux)
  • Jingle Bell Rock(Lori Foster, Donna Kauffman, Susan Donovan, Janelle Denison, Alison Kent, Nancy Warren – Kensington, 2003)
  • A NASCAR Holiday 2(Pamela Britton, Gina Wilkins, Ken Casper, Abby Gaines – HQN, 2007 – bought this one because I’d just taken a class with Abby Gaines and wanted to see her newest release)
  • Silver Bells(JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton, Judy Duarte – Zebra, 2008)
  • Santa, Honey(Kate Angell, Sandra Hill, Joy Nash – Dorchester, 2009)

But the one that stands out among these 30-plus is this one: Susan Donovan’s story in Jingle Bell Rock. It was called “Turning Up the Heat” (with characters Valerie and furnace-repairman Earl). It was just so … different. It had a different kind of plot, a completely surprise ending, and was just all-around fun. It makes me want to go find everything of Susan Donovan’s now.

And the newest one I have on my Kindle but haven’t read yet is last year’s Cowboys for Christmas, by my Golden Heart sisters Terri Osburn, Kim Law and Liz Talley. I couldn’t read it last year because I was on deadline, but this year I definitely want to make time for it!

So tell me – do you like Christmas romance novellas? What’s your favorite? What plots keep you coming back for more? And what plots do you wish to see out there?

Ready for more holiday book recommendations? Here are my writer friends who are blogging on this topic today: Paranormal writer Kay Hudson | Contemporary writer Tamra Baumann | Novelists with romantic elements Jean Willet and Natalie Meg Evans | and Romantic Suspense writer Sharon Wray. (Oooh, and check out Sharon’s interview with Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter right below that post!)

And please come back and visit more of our Writer Wednesdays. Here’s what’s on tap:


My Favorite Character Name

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So one of the things I’m excited to catch up on now is doing some blogging with some of my writer friends. This month’s post is on favorite character names. (I’ll be posting some of the previous posts I’ve missed as well and backdating them – stay tuned!)

Anyway, for favorite names, we decided we could talk about names we’ve created for our own characters or names we’ve loved in others’ books. And at the end of this, I’d really love to hear names you’ve all loved as readers!

Of my own character names, I think the one I’ve loved the most is secondary character “Rabbit” from The Red Bikini.

Rabbit is a compilation of real surfers — I drew from one’s looks, one’s surf style, one’s age, and another’s personality. But the one who I modeled his easygoing, funny attitude on is Robert “Wingnut” Weaver. Wingnut is in the documentary movie Endless Summer II, but I’ve also seen him in other television programs, and he always has the funny-but-sweet personality I wanted for that character. Wingnut is also a leader and teacher, which was perfect for Rabbit. So I had my model. But a lot of Wingnut’s big persona is in his crazy name! And I wanted a great nickname like that. So I set out to think of a crazy nickname to capture my character’s zany, sweet, funny and big personality.

First I named him “Turtle.” In fact, I wrote half the book with him named that. But my husband and good friend Grace both warned me that “Turtle” was too cliché a name for a surfer sidekick. (It’s nice to have people talk straight to you like that!) So I reluctantly agreed and tried to think of something else. Eventually “Rabbit” leaped to mind. There is a real Australian surfer named Rabbit Bartholomew who is considered one of the best 50 surfers of all time and could have served as a model for my Rabbit, but I honestly wasn’t thinking of him. I was just thinking Nickname — Turtle — Funny — Animal. And “Rabbit” came to mind. (In fact, I thought more of John Updike’s “Rabbit” series, which I read and loved in high school, more than Rabbit Bartholomew.)

So that’s how that name was born. And now I can’t imagine him named anything else. I get nearly as much fan mail for Rabbit as I do for the main hero Fin!

A second character name I really love is secondary character “Renece” in Ten Good Reasons. Renece (pronounced to rhyme with “Denise”) was the name of a girl I knew in high school who I always thought was really pretty. And I always thought, for some reason, that if I had a daughter with my then-boyfriend/eventually-husband, she would look just like her, with the same coloring and same hair. So when I got pregnant eventually with a little girl, I knew I wanted that name. But my hubby didn’t love it. And my parents didn’t love it. No one did, really. So eventually I abandoned the name and we went with “Rene” instead. (And my daughter Rene does look just like her!) But when I needed a name in Ten Good Reasons for a secondary character who wouldn’t be in the book much but who needed a memorable name, I went with “Renece.” And when my mom read the book for the first time, she called me and said, “You finally got to use your name!” So that’s my little secret.

As for names I’ve loved in other books, for some reason Jenny Crusie’s characters leap to mind. She often picks off-beat names that conjure strange or goofy images, but then you fall in love with the character and eventually fall in love with the name — Min, Cal, Davy, Agnes, Daisy, the list goes on and on. So I love all of Jenny Crusie’s character names!

What are some of your favorite character names? Or, conversely, you can list names you really didn’t like and explain why — it’s good for us authors to know pet peeves.

If you want to hear other writers’ fave names, check out the blogs of writers Sharon Wray, Kay Hudson, and Wendy LaCapra, who are all participating in this month’s blog topic. (And I think it’s Sharon’s birthday today! Be sure to go over and say Happy Birthday, Sharon!)

DD_500And, speaking of Wendy, she has a new historical romance release coming Monday that has to do with names! Check out her teaser:

Fate tore the Duke and Duchess of Wynchester apart, and they’ve sparred from afar ever since. But when the stitched-up Duke wins time with his duchess, he finds the infuriating nickname Wyn may not be only thing he can learn to love.

To go to Wendy’s gorgeous excerpt/buy page, where you can learn more about the book, giveaways, read excerpts, and more, click HERE.


And don’t forget to come back for more Writer Wednesdays in future months! Here’s what we’ll be writing about:


Scenes from Summer …


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So I’m way behind on blogging, aren’t I? I had a really great summer, despite the crazy writing schedule that kept me writing basically every minute of every weekend. But my family kept me happy! We had a great Fourth of … Continue reading

And She Typed ‘The End’ …


There really is no greater feeling in a writer’s life than typing those words “The End.” We get to know the characters, we wrestle with them, we talk to them, we argue with them. We rearrange scenes, we rewrite whole sections, we stay up late and get up early. We say no to events, we eat dinner at our computers, we write a gazillion notes, we review them and then rewrite more scenes. We struggle, we cry, we anguish.

And FINALLY … months later … we hit those keys and type “The End.”

It’s really glorious.

So I just finished Lavender Island Book 2 and turned it in this week! This one will follow “The Kiss on Castle Road” and will come out next July. Both of these books are about the Grant sisters, Natalie (“Kiss”) and then Paige (Book 2). I loved writing about these sisters, and I LOVED writing about Lavender Island! I can’t wait to bring these books to you, both in 2016!

So what’s next? Well, for the immediate future, I just have to get my life back in order! Racing to these deadlines means your house sort of falls apart, mail piles up, your to-do list becomes insane, your son points out that he’s grown out of all his shirts, your friends and family are all calling and texting and wanting to get together, and you sort of have to come back to the real world. So that’s what I’m doing now!

But in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating about “Kiss” release day fun, the review crew, and more, so stay tuned!

THE RED BIKINI Won a Literary Fiction Award!

holt-AOM-MSYay! The Red Bikini was selected by reader judges as a HOLT Award of Merit recipient for outstanding literary fiction in the Mainstream / Single Title category.

Very cool!

As a HOLT Award of Merit recipient, my name and book title will also appear in a full page ad in the September issue of RWR (Romance Writers Report).

My little book isn’t breaking any sales records, but I’m really proud of all of its great reviews and accolades!  

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