A warm holiday welcome to Fresh Fiction Reviewer, Miranda Owen, who is here to discuss some of her favorite holiday-themed romances! If this post doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, we don’t know what will. Without further ado…
I love a fun holiday-themed romance. Admittedly, my favorite holiday-themed romances involve Halloween, but I enjoy Christmas ones too. Some of my favorite books by Carolyn Brown and Terry Spear are centered on Christmas and family. The Christmas romances I’ve read this year – by old favorites and new-to-me authors – have had dual themes of “family” and “Christmas” with delightful results. The one story featured here that’s not set during Christmas is a paranormal romance by Cynthia Eden that opens with a catastrophic blind date on New Year’s Eve, but that story also has a lot to do with family.
In SOMEONE TO TRUST by Mary Balogh and THE CHRISTMAS KEY by Lori Wilde, the heroes are both drawn to women with big hearts and loving families. SOMEONE TO TRUST opens with an idyllic Christmas house party with the Westcott family and their assorted friends and relations. Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges can’t help but be charmed by these people because it differs so wildly from anything his own family has. His mother dominates the family and has done more harm than good in her efforts to preserve her temple to beauty and maintain her adoring court. The Westcotts and Radleys are a large, boisterous, opinionated, and imperfect family, but they love each other. Since honest affection and good humor is in short supply, a few days of family feasts, snowball fights, and other holiday celebrations seem sublime. Finding a woman he is enchanted by, who is everything his mother is not, is the cherry on Colin’s sundae. Mary Balogh excels at writing character-driven stories and capturing the complicated family dynamics – whether they be good or bad – and SOMEONE TO TRUST is a dazzling story about family, love, and Christmas cheer.
In Lori Wilde’s contemporary romance, THE CHRISTMAS KEY, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Mark Shepherd is scarred by his military experiences and makes his way to a charming small out at Christmas. His mission is to face the family of a fallen comrade. Mark’s survivor’s guilt almost is his undoing. When he finally meets the late soldier’s family, Mark is captivated and frustrated by the forgiveness and kindness he finds. Lori Wilde also weaves a mystical element into this story when Mark and the heroine, Naomi Luther, first meet they are surprised to find that they appeared to each other in dreams. Naomi is left to act as a mother to her orphaned nephew. Naomi is the kind of giving and loving mother that he never had growing up. His childhood was lacking in stability or love, but he finds love and a sense of purpose in the small town of Twilight.
A FIREFIGHTER’S CHRISTMAS GIFT by Vivian Arend and ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A COWBOY by Jessica Clare are both contemporary romances with hardworking and sweet heroes and heroines in various stages of crisis. Brad in A FIREFIGHTER’S CHRISTMAS GIFT is a firefighter who ends up being Hanna’s personal hero. When Hanna’s home catches fire, Brad offers his heart and his home to her and her child. Like the heroes in SOMEONE TO TRUST and THE CHRISTMAS KEY, Hanna hasn’t had a supportive family when she needed love and support the most. Coldness from others in her past makes Hanna reluctant to trust Brad, but he wins her over with his kindness and appreciation for family and those he cares about. The gift Brad gives Hanna for Christmas shows how much he values her as a person and deeply cares for her.
Like Brad, Eli in ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A COWBOY is a simple and hardworking guy thrown into close quarters with a woman he falls hard for. Eli has no family except for the people he works with on the ranch, so he’s left alone at Christmas run things with nobody except for the dogs and other animals for company. Cass is running away from the city, her self-centered and demanding boss, and her boss’ creepy boyfriend. When Cases’ car crashes, she has amnesia and is left to Eli’s tender ministrations. Her boss’ boyfriend is an entitled creep who hit on her and his unwanted attentions were wearing on her. Eli is the complete opposite. The longer Cass stays with Eli, he becomes increasingly attracted to her but refuses to act on his emotions because he is wary of taking advantage of her while she is recovering and might be vulnerable. He doesn’t realize that Cass is also developing an attraction and unsure about what to do about her growing feelings for Eli. There are lots of fun and sweet moments as Cass decorates the ranch house and gives Eli the love and kind of Christmas that he never had growing up. Eli is a sensitive cowboy and totally swoon-worthy hero.
A SHIFTER CHRISTMAS CAROL by Jennifer Ashley and MIDNIGHT BITE by Cynthia Eden are two thoroughly enjoyable holiday-themed paranormal romances. Jennifer Ashley takes familiar and favorite characters from her “Shifters Unbound” series and gives a classic Charles Dickens story a paranormal spin. Just about every book in Ashley’s “Shifters Unbound” series focus on family and mate bonds. In A SHIFTER CHRISTMAS CAROL, Ashley keeps that focus. Dylan Morrisey is a good man but also a complicated one who makes difficult calls in order to protect his family. The three Christmas “ghosts” get Dylan to appreciate and concentrate on what’s truly important when it comes to his family, and get him to refocus. In MIDNIGHT BITE, Lark Kinsley grudgingly sets out on a New Year’s Eve blind date that goes horribly wrong. This is very different, in many ways, from Cynthia Eden’s other stories. MIDNIGHT BITE is kind of a fun “damsel in distress” story but with Cynthia Eden’s unique spin on it. Lark’s mother could give the mother in CARRIE a run for her money. Lark’s mother was like Buffy the Vampire Slayer-“dark” which made for a somewhat hellish childhood for Lark. After her mother’s death, Lark just wanted to entirely remove herself from all things paranormal and avoid the drama. No such luck. When her blind date turns out to be a vamp and her knight in shining armor turns out to be the prince of vampires she doesn’t know which way is up. As opposed to many of the other stories discussed here, in MIDNIGHT BITE, family does not give this story a warm fuzzy glow. It’s only in freeing herself from the chains of her family that Lark can have the life she wants and find happiness.
THE DUKE OF DANBY’S HOLIDAY HIJINX by Samantha Grace, Ava Stone, and Claudia Dain is an anthology of Christmas-themed historical romance. This is just one installment is a series of collections featuring the Duke of Danby and his matchmaking ways. Ava Stone’s “On the Way to the Castle” opens with Richard Plantier, the 3rd Earl of Glasbury trying to finagle his way to the Duke of Danby’s upcoming holiday party. He is a man hunting one particular woman to wed in order to thwart a curse. Inevitably Richard falls in love with a completely different girl, and they get past all the obstacles in order to get their happily ever after. Even though his original plan seemed a bit cold-blooded, Richard is not a jerk and Lily is able to see his finer qualities. “On the Way to the Castle” has just the right amount of adventure, romance, and merry mix-ups. Like the other heroes in this anthology, Gavin MacBride in Samantha Grace’s “Three Little Words” is put in a very difficult situation. Gavin is supposed to escort heiress Victoria Eastland to her destination. Unfortunately for Gavin, Victoria chafes at this imposed escort and yearns for autonomy. Like some other women of the time, she finds more freedom by masquerading as a man. Unexpected family and a Christmas get-together seem a little unnerving for Victoria. The teasing and chemistry between the hero and heroine in “Three Little Words” is perhaps my favorite. As a devoted fan of Claudia Dain’s “Courtesan Chronicles”, I was looking forward to her story “Suitor by Surprise”. Miss Judith Whitton, youngest niece of the Duke of Danby is, like many of Claudia Dain’s heroines, an extremely determined young woman. She is determined that John Copley is the man for her and not much will dissuade her. Like Richard from “On the Way to the Castle”, Mr. Alfred FitzHerbert is a good man but he uses deception for what he believes to be a good reason. In Alfred’s case, it is to get Judith’s attention off of the rake John Copley. This story has the humor typical of a Claudia Dain story and much of it comes from everybody thinking of Alfred as the boring good guy incapable of dazzling any young lady. The chemistry between Alfred and Judith is great and make for a charming story.
Other Christmas-themed romances:
WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS by Victoria Alexander
MACKENZIE FAMILY CHRISTMAS by Jennifer Ashley
A COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS WEDDING by Pamela Britton
CHRISTMAS IN THE DUKE’S ARMS by Shana Galen, Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel, and Grace Burrowes
LADY SOPHIE’S CHRISTMAS WISH by Grace Burrowes
HOLIDAY ON ICE by Jaci Burton
A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A VAMPIRE by Kerrelyn Sparks
THAT HOLIDAY FEELING by Debbie Macomber
MUST LOVE MISTLETOE by Christie Ridgway
KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Bella Andre
HUNK FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Katie Lane
A BAD BOY FOR CHRISTMAS by Jessica Lemmon
A SILVER WOLF CHRISTMAS by Terry Spear
A HIGHLAND WOLF CHRISTMAS by Terry Spear
MERRY COWBOY CHRISTMAS by Carolyn Brown
A LASS FOR CHRISTMAS by Jane Charles
A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL by Cynthia Eden
CHRISTMAS IN SAVAGE BAY by Ann Lawrence
A CHRISTMAS BRIDE by Susan Mallery
NAUGHTY OR NICE by Alexa Riley
CHRISTMAS VOWS by Alexa Riley
THIS WICKED GIFT by Courtney Milan
SNOWFALL by Mary Ann Rivers
A HOLIDAY BY GASLIGHT by Mimi Matthews
A CHRISTMAS GONE PERFECTLY WRONG by Cecilia Grant
HOW THE DUKES STOLE CHRISTMAS by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe
A WALLFLOWER CHRISTMAS by Lisa Kleypas
HIS CHRISTMAS COUNTESS by Louise Allen
THE HOLIDAY PRESENT by Johanna Lindsey
BY WINTER’S LIGHT by Stephanie Laurens
ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE by Elizabeth Hoyt
THE TWILIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Christine Feehan
O’CONNOR FAMILY SERIES COLLECTION by Katie Reus
HER CHRISTMAS EARL by Anna Campbell
TIS THE SEASON TO BE SINFUL by Adrienne Basso
HAPPY PLACE by L.P. Maxa
A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS by Mary Balogh
CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE by Jill Shalvis
Thanks Miranda! Our TBRs thank you, too. Happy Holidays and happy reading everyone!
TITLES FEATURED IN THIS ARTICLE:
During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.
After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he.
They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. . . .
There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love.
She saw him in her dreams . . .
It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.
She was his buddy’s sister . . .
Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son . . . and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?
Holidays in Heart Falls #1
This firefighter has the perfect gift for a single mom and her little girl – if they’ll take him. A holiday story from New York Times bestselling author Vivian Arend.
All Bradley Ford wants this holiday season is a date or three with sweet Hanna Lane. He’s the new fire chief, recently returned to Heart Falls to help his father after an accident. And while he wasn’t expecting to find someone like Hanna so soon, Brad’s certain that Hanna—and her adorable daughter, Crissy—are perfect for him and his plans to settle down.
Hanna’s been taking care of herself since she became a single mom at sixteen. The only pure, honest love she trusts is her little girl’s, but for the first time in eight years, her libido flares to life. Something about Brad draws her like a moth to a flame—which is always a bad idea for the moth.
When a fire leaves Hanna and Crissy homeless, Brad offers them shelter at his family’s homestead. Crissy insists they’ve moved in with Santa. Hanna’s not sure how she keeps ending up under the mistletoe with Brad. And Brad? He’s hoping for the best Christmas gift of all…
Christmas arrives early when a fateful encounter leads two strangers to unexpected love in this holiday romance from New York Times bestselling author Jessica Clare.
Christmas may be coming, but it’s just another day at the ranch as far as Eli Pickett is concerned. Someone has to take care of the herd and that means no holiday vacation for him. But that’s just the way he likes it–it’s not like he has a woman to spend time with anyways. Most women don’t want the ranch life, or the surly, silent cowboy that comes with it. Fine with him. He’d rather have the quiet of a roaring fire and the company of his dogs.
Cassandra Horn is trying to make it to her parents’ winter cabin in Wyoming before the blizzard hits. She desperately needs a vacation from the chaos of Manhattan…and her boss’s boyfriend, who is making her life miserable. But Cass never makes it to the cabin.
A raging snowstorm causes her car to crash, where she’s found unconscious by Eli. When Cass wakes, she has no memories of who she is. Eli takes one look at Cass’s big blue eyes and dark curls, and like a Christmas miracle, falls head over heels in love. But while the attraction is mutual, can she give her heart to this cowboy if she’s not sure it’s hers to give?
Dylan Morrissey forgoes the Shifters’ traditional Yule celebration, to his family’s dismay. Instead, he joins Ben at the haunted house in New Orleans, planning to meet with potential, if dangerous, allies in the Shifters’ constant struggle for freedom.
But the sentient house has other ideas. Dylan wakes up—or rather doesn’t—unable to move or speak, and is taken on a journey to the past, present, and future.
Ben, Zander, and Tiger are his guides, but is what they are showing him truth?
Return to Shiftertown for a Shifters Unbound take on a classic Christmas tale!
A kiss on New Year’s Eve is supposed to be lucky…but a vampire bite? That’s not exactly something a woman dreams of getting. And when Lark Kinsley gets bit, all bets are off. She stakes her date, runs into the night, and tries to put the whole nightmare behind her.
Only she can’t.
Because she immediately runs into trouble—trouble in the form of a tall, dark, and deadly sexy vampire prince named Devereaux. He claims that he’s there to help her, but she’s not buying his story. The guy is no Prince Charming. After all, Prince Charming isn’t supposed to come with fangs and an appetite for blood. But Devereaux says that he’s been waiting centuries for her. That she is meant to rule with him. Obviously, he’s wrong. And possibly insane. She’s not meant to be the queen of the vamps. No matter what Devereaux says.
But he’s not the only one after her. Paranormal monsters are coming out of the woodwork. And the bite that she got? It’s making her feel strange. Hungry. Her self-control is shredding, and Lark knows she’s changing. She just doesn’t know what she’ll become.
The new year won’t go out with a bang…it will end with a bite.
It’s Christmas 1817 and the Duke of Danby is matchmaking again!
Spend the holidays in Yorkshire with freshly fallen snow, Yuletide balls and mistletoe kisses.
AVA STONE’s ON THE WAY TO THE CASTLE…
Identical twins, Ladies Lily and Amelia Woodward may look the same, but they’re as different as night and day. Ever-dutiful Lily is resigned to whatever destiny their great-uncle the Duke of Danby has in store for her, while free-spirited Amelia is determined to fight His Grace every step of the way. With Christmas upon them, the Woodwards set out for Danby Castle and stumble across an overturned coach and a pair of handsome gentlemen in peril. Will this fateful encounter alter the future for both sisters and the likely plans the duke had in store for all of them?
SAMANTHA GRACE’s THREE LITTLE WORDS…
Disheartened but not defeated, Gavin MacBride temporarily abandon’s plans for restoring the family coffers to escort his sister-in-law’s long-lost relative to Yorkshire for a reunion. Gavin might have failed to secure funds to ensure his family’s future prosperity, but surely, he can deliver a young woman to Danby Castle in one piece. * Heiress Victoria Eastland isn’t making his job easy, though, especially when she sets off for Yorkshire alone. With no carriages for hire at the local coaching inn, Gavin is resigned to give chase on horseback in inclement weather, but a Good Samaritan takes pity on Gavin and invites him to share his coach. Soon, the newfound friends are led on a merry chase that ends with a bold rescue and an unexpected discovery. The outspoken, foolishly brave Miss Eastland has been under Gavin’s nose the whole time—and a little too close when one is unprepared to lose his heart.
CLAUDIA DAIN’s SUITOR BY SURPRISE…
Miss Judith Whitton, youngest niece of the Duke of Danby, is not yet married. Having met John Copley one year ago at her first Christmas in Yorkshire, she is puzzled that John has not yet offered for her, especially after the intimacies they shared. * Mr. Alfred FitzHerbert knows why Copley has not offered for Judith: Copley is a scoundrel. If Alfred can distract Judith from her fatal infatuation with Copley successfully, Danby will fund his bridge project. Distract, not wed. No one looking at Alfie could ever imagine him being any girl’s fatal attraction, an insult no true Englishman can be expected to ignore, not even one nicknamed ‘the archbishop.’