Who wouldn't want someone to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas time? Guest editor Katherine D. Morgan rounds up five of the best festive romance books to cozy up with by the fire with a mug of cocoa over the coming Christmas holidays.
We’ve noticed that Romance books set at Christmas time seem to be perennially popular. There is always a new batch of festive novels every year. Why do you think that is?
For me, personally, there’s nothing more romantic than Christmas time. It’s the perfect time for staying in with the person that you really like. When I close my eyes and picture my favorite Christmas scenes, they involve me and my boyfriend sitting on the couch, drinking hot cocoa, while watching bad romantic comedies. They also include us picking out the perfect Christmas tree, then rushing home to decorate it while listening to Michael Bublé on his record player. I think that if you’re in a relationship, then it’s a time for romance and getting close to your partner.
If you’re not, then it’s a time for merriment and the possibilities of what could happen as the year draws to a close. If you go back home, will you run into your childhood best friend—now recently single and who you’ve always had a crush on? Will you wind up spending your Christmas vacation working on your family’s tree farm and hoping that a handsome lumberjack will kiss you under the mistletoe? It really is the season for romance.
Ha, quite. So what ingredients make for a good Christmas love story?
I think that this is where the ‘grumpy/sunshine’ trope works really well. I always love a festive character teaming up with another who doesn’t love the holidays, but soon falls in love with the way that the festive person sees the world. I love it when the characters dive into their respective backgrounds, because whether you have a good relationship with your family or one that leaves you wanting more, families leave their mark during the holiday season. I enjoy the descriptions of the lights; the smells of the delicious food as it wafts off the page; the way that one character never seems to wear a scarf so their nose and cheeks turn pink from the cold… Whew, I’m getting chills just from thinking about it.
Let’s talk about the first Christmas Romance book you want to recommend: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory. Why do you like it so much?
First, I want to say that Guillory writes such fun romances, and although Royal Holiday is the fourth in her first series, it’s one of my favorites of all time. It was actually the first romance I’d ever read where the main character, Vivian, is an older Black woman. Guillory admits to being obsessed with the royals, so of course, when Maddie, Vivian’s daughter, gets a chance to style a member of the royal family, her mom tags along. Hijinks ensue, especially when Vivian meets Malcolm, the Queen’s private secretary. Even though their fling is only supposed to last until New Year’s Eve, there are enough sparks in this book to last a whole season.
Your second book recommendation is You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky. What is it about this Christmas romance that you find so appealing?
I love a punny title, and this one is brilliant. One of my favorite tropes is the ‘found family’ trope, especially when it’s about one character—in this case, Matthew—who realizes that even though he is privileged in so many ways, it doesn’t beat finding people who care for you and love you, whether you have a couple of millions in the bank or barely two cents to rub together. The found family trope is especially evident in the LGBTQ+ community, since folks can be ostracized by their own loved ones for being who they are, so I love seeing stories like this where it all ends happily ever after.
The third Christmas romance book that you want to recommend is A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone. Can you tell us a bit about it, and why you think we should read it?
I won’t lie: this one is very unconventional, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but maybe it will be yours. It’s about an adult film star who manages to get semi-accidentally hired to appear in a family-friendly Christmas movie. I know, I know: talk about naughty or nice! The film star, Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey), may be hesitant at first, but when she realizes that her co-star is none other than her childhood crush, well, things take a steamy but festive dive. I think that this one is a fun read, one to get people talking, and well, who doesn’t like to talk?
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Book number four on your list of the best Christmas romance novels is Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison. Tell us more.
I’m not entirely sure how I found out about this charming series (most likely Bookstagram), but if you enjoy a Christmas romance with all of the bells and whistles, then I have exactly what you’re looking for. Do you love the ‘fake dating’ trope? Do you also appreciate the friends-to-lovers pipeline? Oh, and do you also enjoy a well-rounded cast, a whole bunch of Christmas cheer, and a little steam? If you answer ‘yes’ to all three of these questions, then look no further. I love championing indie authors, and if I can do that around Christmas, well, then, you bet that I’m going to!
And I think that brings us to your final Christmas romance book recommendation: Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun. What’s it about, and why do you like it?
Since I work at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, I would be a fool if I didn’t mention Kiss Her Once for Me which takes place during the Christmas holidays, and all starts with a meet-cute in the famous bookstore. There’s so lovely about seeing a place where you work become a main character in a romantic comedy. Sure, there’s the fake dating trope again—it’s one of my favorite tropes, and I will not apologize for loving it so much—but there’s also so much heart in this book. I loved the cast of characters and watching them each get their own happily ever after made me want to run outside and play in the snow. There’s nothing better than a Christmas romance.
Thanks for this lovely festive list. Are there any other romance novels that you look forward to cozying up with in front of the fire this festive season?
I’m going to be reading a few holiday romances where the leads are actually Jewish. As someone who prides herself on reading mostly in the romance genre, I want to be able to make sure that I can recommend at least one book to anyone who walks through the doors at Powell’s.
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I’ll be enjoying The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer, which stars a Jewish woman who secretly writes Christmas romances as she falls in love with her childhood nemesis and realizes that maybe Hanukkah can be pretty magical too. I’ll also be looking at Season of Love by Helena Greer, which takes place at a Jewish-run Christmas tree farm, and features a cast of LGBTQ+ characters; and lastly, How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow, a young adult novel that offers a sapphic Jewish twist to the whole ‘enemies to lovers’ trope during the Christmas season.
But when it comes time to decorate the tree and kiss my boyfriend under the mistletoe, I’ll be making sure that In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae, and Whiteout, a young adult linked short story collection written by the same cast of all-star writers of Blackout, will be tucked away in my Christmas stocking.
December 3, 2022
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