Special Holiday Stories?

Many of you got up at some unearthly time this morning to start your Christmas shopping. And for the next month or so, it is going to be go –go –go with more shopping, cooking, parties, children’s Christmas programs, and visiting relatives, leaving you with very little time to sit down and read. Of course you can buy the books you want to read, and after the holidays have a lie in and pamper yourself- there is definitely nothing wrong with that. But I like reading around the holidays. Many of the stories seem kinder, gentler, and filled with family.

What I do like is that holiday stories tend to have a lot of my favorite plot devices- like friends to lovers, pets, babies, and extended family. I am not saying that I want the stories to be sugarplum sweet, which I think is a big failing of some authors. Don’t get me wrong. I like happy, but I want a touch of realism with a little bit of conflict and bite, or surprise me with big chunk of humor.

I tend not to particularly care for fall-in-lust Christmas stories. Long ago I remember reading a Linda Howard Christmas story, White Out, in Upon a Midnight Clear. Of course it was sizzling, as her older stories tended to be. And while I liked it, I clearly remember being disappointed in the lack of emotional connection between the two. If I remember correctly they have sex before even exchanging a word.

In addition, I am tired of divine intervention stories with angels. Not that I didn’t like them at one time, but I just feel that this type of story has been overdone. It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic, but there has been a variation of this story in book form or film almost every year. Even Dolly Parton starred in the movie Unlikely Angel in 1996. Along with this, I am ho-hum about variations of A Christmas Carol and the plotline of the rich hero saving the heroine and her poor orphan siblings from the poor house, and then providing them with wonderful food and gifts. Or the poor heroine illustrating to the rich hero that even though he is rich in materialistic goods, he has a dearth of true friends and love.

You probably wondering what I do want besides friends to lovers, pets, and babies? I freely admit that I do have higher expectations of Holiday stories – especially around this time of year, whether they center on Christmas or Hanukkah. I want special. It is not enough for the heroine and hero to fall in love or the story to just take place around holiday celebrations.

I want the grand sacrifice or the colossal gesture. In a nutshell I want variations of O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi. One reason that this wonderful story made such an impression on me is that both the heroine and hero sacrifice something that they hold dear for the other. I not saying that a person needs to give up a kidney for the other, but I want the story to be special.

So far this year, I have read the cute, sweet and touching Holiday stories, with most of them falling in the B range. But the elusive special story has eluded me over the past couple of years.

And I think that it is the same for many of you. Whenever people ask for favorite holiday stories, I notice a lot of oldies recommendations and not so many current releases.

If you reach more for past Holiday releases more than the present, what is the difference? While a few bestselling authors do release Holiday theme stories, many that used to do so, have not done so in recent years. Do you find that you treasure stories by your favorite authors, more than others?

If you have found a new release that is special, tell us about it. What made it special for you? Of course it is too late for a Holiday story wish list for 2012, however if you had a direct line to authors and publishers what type of story would you like to see for 2013?

– Leigh Davis

17 thoughts on “Special Holiday Stories?

  1. Don’t forget Mary Jo Putney–the novellas CHRISTMAS CUCKOO and SUNSHINE FOR CHRISTMAS are great. Mary Balogh is also a reread every year–CHRISTMAS BRIDE (absolutely best MB book); CHRISTMAS BEAU, CHRISTMAS PROMISE, CHRISTMAS BELLE -wonderful books to read each year. Favorite novellas of MB are BOND STREET CAROLERS, THE WASSAIL BOWL, THE SURPRISE PARTY, THE BEST GIFT, FAMILY CHRISTMAS. Other Edith Layton novellas are RAKE’S CHRISTMAS; BEST WISHES, DUKE’S PROGRESS, HOUNDS OF HEAVEN. I own all of the REGENCY CHRISTMAS anthologies; now some are available as ebooks–usually as a collection by one author (MB, MJP) although there is a new anthology this yearMISLETOE & MAGIC with MJP as one auhor.

  2. A funny novella that I reread every year is by Jennifer Crusie called Hot Toy. It is in the anthology Santa Baby (2006). Back cover description: “…as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, … and finds herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game…”

  3. I’ve really never read any Christmas themed romances but I pre-ordered Mary Balogh’s this year. I read lots of posts about how the Christmas stories are/can be special and Mary Balogh is my all time favorite writer so I thought I’d give them a try. From the post above, I think I’ll try Pilcher too.

  4. One of my favorite Christmas stories is Edith Layton’s “A Gingerbread Man” from the Signet Regency collection “A Regency Christmas Feast”. It’s a charming friends-to-lovers story where the hero searches for the source of the gingerbread smell that has awakened him recently. He talks to friends and acquaintances, his mistress and his neighbors to ask them what they know of gingerbread, and the memories are both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Layton is a master at creating character in a few short paragraphs. I always recommend this when asked for holiday stories, and while OOP, it should be easy to find online or at a UBS.

    • Susan/DC: One of my favorite Christmas stories is Edith Layton’s “A Gingerbread Man” from the Signet Regency collection “A Regency Christmas Feast”.It’s a charming friends-to-lovers story where the hero searches for the source of the gingerbread smell that has awakened him recently.He talks to friends and acquaintances, his mistress and his neighbors to ask them what they know of gingerbread, and the memories are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.Layton is a master at creating character in a few short paragraphs.I always recommend this when asked for holiday stories, and while OOP, it should be easy to find online or at a UBS.

      Many years, my stocking stuffer book was the regency Christmas anthology. I don’t remember this one, but I did very much enjoy Layton’s books.

  5. Count me in for the Mary Balogh Christmas books, most of them are just wonderful. Also, I’m totally in agreement with the movies being shown since Thanksgiving up to Christmas on the two Hallmark channels and even some of the ones on the Lifetime channel. Great fixes for this time of year. Some are hooky, but many slip by just under the radar of being overdone. Regardless, they’re timely for sitting back and relaxing.

  6. Nora Roberts wrote a Christmas story where the hero gives the heroine the “12 Days of Christmas” presents in order to win her. It’s very sweet. I think it may be a MacGregor book.
    Victoria Alexander’s A Visit from Sir Nicholas is a nice Christmas novel. And Barbara Metzger has some sweet Regency Christmas Novellas. Robyn Carr’s latest was forgettable. I just read it and can’t remember a thing about it, but the hero’s name.

    • leslie: Nora Roberts wrote a Christmas story where the hero gives the heroine the “12 Days of Christmas”presents in order to win her. It’s very sweet.I think it may be a MacGregor book.
      Victoria Alexander’s A Visit from Sir Nicholas is a nice Christmas novel.And Barbara Metzger has some sweet Regency Christmas Novellas.Robyn Carr’s latest was forgettable.I just read it and can’t remember a thing about it,but the hero’s name.

      Barbara Metzger had some adorable books. Her books made me laugh so much.

  7. I love all Mary Balogh’s Christmas stories. I also love those written by Carla Kelly. Debbie Macomber’s Christmas books are like sugar cookies to me. They are a staple of the season, sometimes a bit overly sweet and cloying but enjoyable in small doses.

    I like the Hallmark movies too. Christmas is the one time of year that overly sweet is actually just about right.

  8. I’m with LeeB — this is where I start delving into all the Christmas Regency stories of years gone by. I hope I can find “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” on my shelves. I’m also a sucker for those dreadfully sugary sweet Hallmark Christmas movies. Lap ‘em up this time of year.

    • Janet W: I’m with LeeB — this is where I start delving into all the Christmas Regency stories of years gone by. I hope I can find “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” on my shelves. I’m also a sucker for those dreadfully sugary sweet Hallmark Christmas movies. Lap ‘em up this time of year.

      I like the movies sometimes – other times not so much.

  9. Back in 1994, Edith Layton wrote a Regency short story inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life” entitled “It’s a Wonderful Christmas.” I always like to re-read it around the holidays. Also, Elisabeth Fairchild, Diane Farr, Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly have written many lovely Christmas-themed novels or short stories.

    • Love Carla Kelly, I just downloaded Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand and Miss Grimsby’s Oxford Education from Amazon.

  10. Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher is a fav but currently packed away as we gut the spare room.

    I attempt the latest Carr and I haven’t managed to get past the first couple of chapters.

    • farmwifetwo: Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher is a fav but currently packed away as we gut the spare room.I attempt the latest Carr and I haven’t managed to get past the first couple of chapters.

      I don’t think I have ever read her- so i definitely need to check out this book. Thanks

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