The most wonderful time of the year is almost upon us, and if, like many of us here at Romantic Historical Reviews, your idea of a Winter afternoon well spent is to curl up with a good book, then what better time to delve into some terrific seasonal stories?
There are so many to choose from – old and new – and we’re here to help you to choose some great reads for the festive season.
Today, RHR staffers have chosen some of their all-time favourite Christmas stories for your delectation, ranging from Golden Oldies to recent discoveries, to get you in the mood for the holiday season.
Then from mid-December onwards, look out for some more in-depth reviews of seasonally-themed novels and novellas. As usual, there are a number of new releases hitting the bookshelves, but we’ll also be featuring some of the old favourites our reviewers return to time and again when they’re in the mood for some festive fayre.
Obviously, today’s selection is by no means an exhaustive list – just those books we’ve enjoyed that conjure up the warmth and joy of the season – and if you want to pitch in and tell us YOUR favourites, then by all means, let us know in the comments.
The Christmas Spirit by Elisabeth Fairchild
This is an absolutely magical and enchanting story which should probably carry a Kleenex warning near the end! It may not have an HEA in the traditional sense (although there IS one – I promise!), but it’s a beautifully written, and gorgeously romantic story about forgiveness, the redeeming nature of love and coming to know the true spirit of Christmas.
A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh
Ms Balogh has herself said that her Christmas stories have three main characters – the hero, the heroine and Christmas itself, and that is certainly true of this wonderful book. An impoverished earl makes a marriage of convenience with the daughter of a wealthy cit and makes no bones about making it clear that he’s as unhappy about the situation as she is. The couple has to overcome many obstacles, not least are their many misconceptions about each other, but overcome them they do, in a very emotionally satisfying and romantic manner.
A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Given I probably listen to almost as many audiobooks as I read print books, I wanted to include one in my Christmas selection. Courtney Milan and Rosalyn Landor have proved to be an absolutely fantastic author/narrator team, and this holiday novella is one of my favourites. It’s a delight from start to finish, a lovely story for the holiday period in which a broken young woman receives the gift of truth and a deserving young man gets his heart’s desire.
Jenny Q’s choices
A Winter Scandal by Candace Camp
It begins with a Christmas ball and a real baby found abandoned in the nativity manger, features an unpredictable mystery with a surprise twist I didn’t see coming, and a wonderfully romantic ending. But what I liked best about this one is that it’s really, truly about Christmas. It doesn’t feel like a romance with a Christmas theme tacked on; it’s a real Christmas story with the added bonus of a terrific love story. In fact, it has all the right elements blended perfectly to create one excellent Christmas romance.
A Lawman’s Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
A sweet and heartwarming Western historical romance, and if you can find the hardcover, it’s gorgeous little holiday keepsake. It’s touching and satisfying, perfectly blending humor and hardship with romance and the Christmas spirit. The writing is flawless, the characterization is rich, and the historical detail is excellent.
The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin
This is a vintage treat from the beloved author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. In the little village of Beulah, New Hampshire, one special Christmas card has the power to unite the town in the spirit of the season, help two wayward sons find their way home, and answer a lonely young mother’s prayers with the help of some colorful characters and Kate Douglas Wiggin’s signature charm and wit.
Lady Blue’s choices
Holiday Spirit by Kay Hooper – (appears in Gifts of Love, which also features Surrender by Lisa Kleypas).
I love this story and read it every year. A woman scorned plots to separate an engaged couple very much in love by manipulating circumstances so that it appears the hero is a liar and a cheat. With help from the heroine’s grandmother, and some spirits with a tragic past of their own, our couple is able to find their happy ever after during Christmas. Kay Hooper wrote some lovely romances before she switched genres, and this is one of my favorites.
Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes
The daughter of a duke, feeling melancholy during the holidays, decides to spend some solitary time away from her family. She is unexpectedly left to care for an abandoned baby (who will steal your heart) and is rescued by a charming gentleman (who will set your pulse racing) who knows his way around caring for a baby. Grace Burrowes has written some lovely Christmas stories, but her first remains my favourite.
Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly
A young lady meets a friend of her brother’s, and they have an immediate attraction, and it seems an engagement is imminent. The gentleman is a spy, and ends up betraying the heroine in the worst way before they reach their happy ever after. A somewhat heartbreaking, yet enthralling read by one of the best, Carla Kelly.
The Best Christmas Ever by Mary Balogh – (appears in A Regency Christmas III, with stories by Sandra Heath, Melinda McRae, Edith Layton and Mary Jo Putney)
A young girl, traumatized over losing her mother has found the lady she wants for her new mother. The problem is, her father and the lady have an unhappy history which has to be overcome before they can become a family. Mary Balogh has a gift for writing touching Christmas stories, and it was very hard to pick just one. I also recommend Christmas Beau, The Best Gift, and A Handful of Gold.
Lady Wesley’s Choices
If you’re looking for heart-warming, squeaky-clean, beautifully written Christmas stories, Carla Kelly is the author for you.
Coming Home for Christmas contains three novellas with an unusual link. These lovely stories cover three generations of husbands and wives and how they met and fell in love. No lords or ladies in sight — just everyday people finding love in the midst of wars.
Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection includes four novellas set in the Regency era: “The Christmas Ornament,” “Make a Joyful Noise,” “An Object of Charity,” and “The Three Kings.” With her quiet wit and profound grasp of history, Kelly creates characters who embody the true spirit of Christmas.
Marian’s Christmas Wish is a full-length novel. Marian is a wonderful, and quite young, heroine: smart, outspoken, and brave. Gil, our hero, is older — a diplomat, and an earl. Their story takes many unexpected twists and turns; and while Marian’s marvelously offbeat family members create plenty of problems, there is no doubt of their devotion to one another.
Although Carla Kelly also writes inspirational stories, none of these books fall into that genre. Rather, they exemplify the best of this holiday season: hope, kindness, compassion, and the importance of family.
Kisses, She Wrote: A Christmas Romance by Katharine Ashe
This is a breathtaking and romantic novella, a love story between Jacqueline, a lonely and awkward princess, and Cam, a gentleman rake who begin a flirtation when he discovers her intimate diary entries about her secret fantasies…of him.
A Bluestocking Christmas by Monica Burns
A sexy and seductive holiday novella featuring a bluestocking heroine, a take on the “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme, literary wordplay that is both playful and provocative, and a gentleman hero determined to marry for love.
The Cheer in Charming an Earl by Emma Locke
This is kind of a wacky holiday story, about a determined heroine taking charge of her own destiny and an earl who is charmed by her efforts—after first being enraged by them. Different but fun.
A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh
This one of my favorite Christmas stories. It is one of a promise to a beloved, yet dying father to marry the man of his choosing, the Earl of Falloden. Eleanor Transome will fulfill her father’s dying wish, even though it is the farthest thing from her own heart’s desire. Can this unlikely pair learn to love each other and make a marriage work in time for Christmas?
As always, Ms. Balogh writes another emotionally-charged love story, where at one point I could not imagine this couple would ever find their “Happily Ever After”, but as is her specialty, she ties it up neatly with a gorgeous bow. This is one you won’t want to miss!
One Horse Open Sleigh Race by Karen Hall
Karen Hall has been a favorite author of mine for a while. Her Christmas stories are heart-warming and touching. I have read all of them. One Horse Open Sleigh Race is a delightful tale of a spirited young woman who tends to speak her mind when it would be better if she kept her thoughts to herself.
The Earl of St. Martin has all his plans arranged until Amanda Fleming enters his life. From their first meeting she sends him into a spin with her outspoken ways and daring behavior. When she ends up winning the sleigh race, he realized sometimes the best laid plans are not always the best ones. Sometimes one needs to take chance on love.
The Secret Christmas Ciphers by Carolynn Carey
I just love Carolynn Carey’s sweet romances and this one is particularly good. It starts out on the day of Derek and Abigail’s wedding day, and things are not good between them. There are a lot of hurt feelings of betrayal for Abigail that Derek has to overcome, so he can win her trust and her love back. Ms. Carey spins an enthralling tale, and it kept me reading well past my bedtime, but it was well worth it!