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: