Searching for Christmas Stories

xmashearth The idea to talk about Christmas stories crystallized after several readers posted on the Romance Potpourri Forum asking for holiday recommendations and my completion of a Christmas anthology review. After reading several stories that just didn’t do it for me, I realized that I want a certain type of story around Christmas. AAR staffers have definitely written about Christmas stories in the past, so I was able to find a lot of guidance. Rike has talked about her love of comedies and redemption – themed holiday stories. AAR conducted several mini polls about favorite Holiday stories and anthologies such as the ones in 2005, 2006, 2007 and then in 2009. Lynn has also written about her love of Christmas anthologies, and I suspect that there is much more information on the site.

Now if you are thinking that around this time of the year, any sentimental story will do, that is definitely not the case. Ten years ago I burnt out on historical romances, so there aren’t many historical books on my keeper shelf. I haven’t read some of the favorites mentioned in the previous polls for years, so I don’t remember if any meet my holiday requirements. I do know that contemporary stories for the most part seem more about finding love than anything else. And while that is more than worthwhile and I can handle a good sexy romp for Valentine’s Day, but around Christmas I have higher expectations.

Very few of us have a totally Hallmark Christmas. It is unrealistic to expect it. We’re human and there is a lot of stress around Christmas from having enough time to get everything done, to stretching our dollars, to finding the perfect gift, but with a Christmas story I want to escape into fantasy and bring back the certainty that I had as a child of Christmas being a magical time.

Robin Uncapher’s comment that, “My favorite Christmas stories are ones where the characters seem to find something beyond themselves in the meaning of Christmas,” comes the closest to duplicating my thoughts. I probably would paraphrase it as saying I want characters that exemplify the true meaning of Christmas with giving. Maybe it is because long ago O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi shaped my expectations.

I like my stories to have giving with meaning, and by giving I am talking the giving of time, of self, and of love; a two carat diamond ring under the tree doesn’t cut it. I want the whole fantasy – emotion and all. And that includes the Kodak or miracle moments such as a found family member or a soldier returning home or a child being adopted. Around Christmas, I want books that touch my heart.

I know that some people don’t like children in stories, but with Christmas stories my preference is to bring them on. But don’t give me children only interested in what Santa is going to bring. I want to read about them doing things like picking a name off a local Angel tree and helping a needy family, or reaching out in friendship to someone in need. Or maybe the miracle happens to them, such as a new mother or father.

So I guess what I am talking about is that I don’t want a wallpaper Christmas. A book needs more than a Christmas setting, holiday party, or a visit from Santa Claus. Sounds like I have set the bar pretty high, doesn’t it?

Out of all the holidays in the year, Christmas has always been the most memorable for me. I guess that is why I expect the books around this year to be so, too. So how about you? What do you look for in a holiday story? Do you find that your expectations are fulfilled? What recent releases have you read that really put you in a holiday mood?

- Leigh Davis

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14 Responses to Searching for Christmas Stories

  1. maggie b. says:

    For many years Debbie Macomber wrote the best Christmas stories out there. I am not loving this years story “Christmas Tree Lane” but her Angel books were the absolute best. Her stories tend to be about forgiveness and redemption. Great themes, imo.

    This year, nothing is putting me in a Christmas spririt. Maybe when I get the tree up . . . . .

    maggie b.

  2. Jacqueline Seewald says:

    Hallmark Channel has chosen Debbie Macomber’s Christmas novels for film two years running. Her novels are warm and embody the spirit of the season.

    Jacqueline Seewald

  3. farmwifetwo says:

    I’ve read a few lately and posted them on goodreads. Should make a Xmas shelf.

    My “go to” Xmas one is Winter Solstic by Rosamund Pilcher. She’s never written another book after it – many before it – and I wish there was a follow-up to it.

  4. Bavarian says:

    I’m searching too. I’m just in the mood for a good christmas story and I must confess, I like my christmas story a bit sweeter than my usual taste goes. I’m always hoping to find something like the older stories written by Carla Kelly, Mary Balogh or Mary Jo Putney.
    So I downloaded the new Gift-Wrapped Governess anthology (Harlequin). What a mistake! Three stories and none of it better than a D IMO!. Implausible plots, lusting and sex but no “christmas spirit” at all. Now I’m waiting for the release of the new Carla Kelly stories December 1.
    I also have “I’ll be home for Christmas”, another anthology with a Linda Lael Miller story on my reader. Perhaps meanwhile I should try these three, but honestly at the moment I’m somewhat frustrated. The afore mentioned book has killed my own “christmas spirit”.

  5. melody burns says:

    I think I must be the only person on the the planet that does not like Macomber’s books. I’ve tried, but ……
    My favorite Christmas stories are usually Regency Romance.
    “Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand” by Carla Kelley is one of my favs.
    Victoria Alexander wrote “A Visit From Sir Nick” which may be out of print, but worth finding and reading. Barbara Metzger has written some wonderful Christmas books. Lisa Kleypas’ wrote a contempory novel “Friday Harbor”(can’t recall complete title) but it was sweet. Her “A Wallflower Christmas” has all the elements for a holiday farce/romance. And don’t forget
    “A Christmas Carol” the most wonderful holiday story ever written. It will renew your Christmas cheer!

  6. Leigh AAR says:

    Of course I haven’t read the Kelly yet, but where are the new releases that embody the spirit of Christmas. My reading so far has been hit and miss.

    Of course there is nothing wrong with re-reads, but sometimes I am just in the mood for something new.

  7. Anne says:

    Every year around December 1st I pull my copies of the now out of print Signet Regency anthologies off the shelf, find myself a quiet corner and settle down to get into the Christmas spirit. I get myself in the mood for the true Christmas by rereading for the thousndth time the stories by Carla Kelly, Barbara Metzger, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton among others. I save Carla Kelly’s Make a Joyful Noise (in a Regency Christmas Carol 1997) for last, because I think it’s the best of these short stories with well drawn and believable hero, heroine and children. Even our hero’s mother is fun.

  8. Maria F says:

    Diane Farr has a Christmas story, “Dashing through the Snow” for sale on amazon (.99 for the kindle version). I haven’t read it yet, but I like her regencies. Looks like a short story (1295 locations).

  9. Maria F says:

    About the Diane Farr story I mentioned earlier: in the Author’s Notes, she says, “An early version of _Dashing through the Snow_ was published published as _Reckless Miss Ripley_ in the anthology _A Regency Christmas Eve_ by Signet…” I think that collection is from 2000.

  10. PatH says:

    I always think of Mary Balogh when I think of Christmas books. And I love rereading them too!

  11. Jo-Ann W. says:

    I love Connie Willis’ Miracle and Other Christmas stories. Not romance, though several stories have romances in them.

  12. Leigh AAR says:

    Jo-Ann W. I didn’t know that Willis had written any Christmas stories. I will definitely check it out

  13. Jo-Ann W. says:

    Leigh, I hope you enjoy it if you get it. I believe most of the stories have been published in some of her other anthologies so you may have already read them, but a few were first published in this book.

  14. Louise B says:

    Thank you for the recommendation of Connie Willis’s Miracle. Like most of the other commentators, I didn’t know she’d written a Christmas anthology. I read this post Sunday night and Monday I was in the local bookstore where they had a Connie Willis display set up. There was one copy of Miracle left. I bought it–and discovered as a bonus, the book was autographed by her! The stories are great, and I owe this find to all of you.

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