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

BlogCarnOct14-01 (1)

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:


Writer Wednesdays: Favorite Item on Your Desk…

BlogCarnMay6-01Welcome back to Writer Wednesdays. I’ve begun a romance-writer blog party where, once a month, my writer friends and I will all be blogging on the same topic on the same day — we’ll be talking about things all romance writers love to talk about: reading, writing, and romantic things.

Our first one was about our wedding day highlights.

And this one is about a favorite item on our desk.

Hmmm. … First, I’ll show you my desk in general to show how messy it always is:


I can’t even show you the right side because it’s just toooo messy over there! I just turned in my Book 3 edits on Monday, so things look a little messier than usual. I have my Thesaurus still out and open there above my keyboard. (Probably because I had to look for words to use instead of “nodded,” which I used an embarrassing 127 times in the manuscript.) I have my to-go cup from Wahoo’s there on my right, which is where we went to eat tonight. (It also happens to be the fish-taco place Fin takes Giselle to in THE RED BIKINI, wouldn’t you know?) My mail is kind of overflowing and crazy there in the top right. My Galileo thermometer says 72 degrees, with the 68-degree bulb rising, if you’re wondering how warm it is at 6 p.m. on May 5, 2015. And on the left I still have my flyer that the library made me for my visit last Saturday.

But I’ll zero in on my FAVORITE thing on my desk right now. Can you guess what it is out of the photo above?:


Yep, it’s the cute little sea lion! He’s sitting on top of my notes for Book 3.

He’s there for inspiration for Book 3, because it’s about a scientist who works at a sea lion rescue place on an island off the coast of California. My little sea lion has been sitting there for a year — ever since the day my husband, my teenage daughter and I went to this place in Laguna to research sea lion rescues almost exactly a year ago (weird!). My sweet hubby bought me this little sea lion toy as inspiration. (He bought my daughter one, too. They both went toward donations to the center.) My sea lion’s name is Moe, which you’ll understand more when you read Book 3!

Hanging above my sweet sea lion are my inspirational pictures for Book 3. That’s hero Elliott on the right, and the three Grant sisters on the left. Natalie Grant is Book 3’s heroine, and she’s the one in the middle. Paige Grant will be for Book 4. (And I haven’t decided yet if she’s the one on the right or the left!)

I find it so helpful to have inspirational pictures hanging when I’m writing.

In fact, I’ll try to take pictures of my desk for each book so you can see all the stuff I put around while I’m needing inspiration.

So that’s my favorite item on my desk right now!

Do you have a work desk? Do you have inspirational items on it? Do share! I love to see/hear what people surround themselves with.

Want to see what all my writer friends have on their desks? Here are the participants. All of us are Golden Heart 2012 Firebirds. You can click on their names to go to their blogs and read:

Fellow contemporary romance writers Tamra BaumannJamie WesleyKat CantrellPriscilla Kissinger | Paranormal romance writers Kay HudsonPamela Kopfler | Romantic suspense writers Carol Post Sharon Wray | Novels with romantic elements Natalie Meg Evans Jean Willett | Faith-based and sweet romance writers K.D. FlemingKristen Ethridge | Historical romance writers Kathleen Bittner-RothWendy LaCapra

Quick plug for one of the writers above:

K.D. Fleming has just come out with her third book this week! It’s a faith-based romance published by an “Inspirational” line. (Some of you probably didn’t even know there was such a thing, right?) Here are the deets:

The reporter is looking for a story that’ll be his ticket out of his small Georgia town. With her political connections, legal assistant Gina Lawson could help Toby realize his aspirations. Their friendship is just an added bonus, but falling in love isn’t part of his five-year plan.  Gina’s devoted to her family and community, and doesn’t plan to ever leave. Though she finds her favorite reporter maddeningly irresistible, she must guard her heart. But when a betrayal of trust threatens to shatter both their dreams, will Gina and Toby learn that they share the same values after all?

Buy links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, HQN

And be sure to come back every month for our Writer Wednesdays! Here’s what’s in store:


Writer Wednesdays: My Wedding Day Highlight…

Wedding Day.no border

We’re starting a new thing! I’ve begun a romance-writer blog party where, once a month, my writer friends and I will all be blogging on the same topic on the same day — we’ll be talking about things all romance writers love to talk about: reading, writing, and romantic things!

Our first one is about our wedding day highlights.

We picked this topic because our friend Kat Cantrell has TWO books coming out at Harlequin this month, both involving weddings: From Ex to Eternity and From Fake to Forever. You can see them at the bottom of this post, plus check Kat out here.

And now … Here we go: My wedding day highlight. …

Here’s us on our wedding day:

wedding day 1989

Dang, we were young. I had a beautiful wedding day. I really did. We got married in November because I love the cool crisp air in November and the normally sunny days. It was Thanksgiving weekend, 1989, and kind of the cusp of the holidays. Our colors were black and red, and everything looked gorgeous and holidayish. But the highlights of my wedding day — wouldn’t you know — were things you can’t plan at all. The highlights were things people said, a dance with someone special, my guests getting along in a “worlds colliding” way. Plus there was this guy:

scan0002J.R. Taylor was the best man in our wedding, and — like in the photo above — he was cracking us up all day.

He was Chris’ best friend. He’d flown in from Montana, where he’d been living after finishing his stint in the army as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. At the wedding, he brought a flask for Chris to calm his nerves (a spirit they’d enjoyed as buds in the past), gave a great toast, danced with the prettiest girls, and just all-around had a great time.

At the end of the wedding, we had done a crazy complicated car-switch because my dad had ordered us a surprise limo (Yay, Dad!) from the church to the reception. So some of us were without cars at the end of the night. And J.R. didn’t have a way home from the reception, and he’d come alone. So somehow we offered to give him a ride. Yep, in our “getaway car” with the windows all decorated “Just Married!” Problem was, Chris and J.R. were smashed by the end of the reception. And I hadn’t drunk at all. So I was voted the designated driver.

So … yes, me in my full-skirted gown and my ’80s headband veil, driving the getaway car out of the reception at 2 a.m. with what looked like TWO grooms. …

And then as we started driving, my two drunkards started complaining that they were “huuuuuungry, Laurie, huuuuuuungry,” and they wanted to go to In-N-Out. So I laughed and pulled into the one in our home town. Which is like the ONLY In-N-Out in Southern California that isn’t a drive-through (because of an old no-drive-through rule in Placentia).

So the three of us piled out of the car and walked in and ordered hamburgers — the bride (yep, still with her veil on!), and “two grooms”! We got a lot of attention at In-N-Out. But we had so much fun. And that will forever be my wedding day highlight.

(Want to read more about J.R.? I wrote a post about him here.)

Want to see what all my writer friends wrote about their wedding day highlights? Here are the participants. All of us are Golden Heart 2012 Firebirds. You can click on their names to go to their blogs and read:

Fellow contemporary romance writers Tamra BaumannJamie WesleyKat CantrellPriscilla Kissinger | Paranormal romance writers Kay HudsonPamela Kopfler | Romantic suspense writers Carol PostSharon Wray | Novels with romantic elements Natalie Meg EvansJean Willett | Faith-based romance writers Karen FlemingKristen Ethridge | Historical romance writers Kathleen Bittner-RothWendy LaCapra

Come back every month for our Writer Wednesdays! Here’s what’s in store:

Writer Wednesday List

And here are Kat Cantrell’s wedding books from Harlequin this month! Kat’s one of the Firebirds, and a great writer!



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