What to read for the holiday season? It really depends on your mood!
Tidings of Great Joy by Sandra Brown is an old favorite: architect Ria and Mayor Elect Taylor meet at a party, hook up and she gets pregnant, and they decide to make a go at a relationship. I prefer my romances a little more messy than beautiful and powerful rich people in love, and the ending is problematic with it’s controversial gift, but the romantic tension, emotional connection, and seasonal mood hold up.
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is funny, sexy, diverse, and sort of meta with a Christmas movie at the heart of it.
In Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun, a demisexual girl gets fake engaged for money but can’t let go of the manic pixie dream girl she met last Christmas (insert Wham! song here….) messy, vulnerable and unexpected.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren is sort of Groundhog day but set at Christmas. While spending Christmas with her family at their home in Utah, Maelyn Jones makes a last ditch effort pass at her crush of thirteen years… and ends up back on the plan to Utah, stuck in some time loop. Humor, romance, and self-discovery abound.
One Day in December by Josie Silver is a romantic, British slow-burn romance full of throat-choking angst. Laurie catches a stranger’s eye on the bus and it’s love at first sight; she spends years looking for him, but when they reconnect, he’s been dating her best friend for enough weeks it’s not going to work out for them.
Historical more your speed? A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews is about a last ditch effort to get to know a man who will be the answer to her family’s money woes.
A Very Merry Bromance is a seasonal tale set in the series about a group of dudes in Chicago who use romance novels to solve their relationship problems. In this volume, a country music superstar with a record deadline finds his muse in a whiskey heiress who is dead set against entangling with him (again) in spite of their chemistry after a one-night stand–but she’s happy to secure him as her company’s spokesperson. Set during the Christmas holidays, the use of Hallmark movie tropes to tell this seasonal story is playful and well-executed, if predictable, and satisfying.
For a humorous take on the season with a strong setting and unique characters, try Mistletoe and Mr. Right (Moose Springs, Alaska #2) by Sarah Morgenthaler.
And This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousins is the book I fantasize about writing: the idea that your person is there, on the periphery, and when the time is right comes into your orbit at last. Minnie Cooper is convinced that Quinn Hamilton, born a few minutes before her on NYE (and earning the cash prize she should have garnered for the first birth of the new year) is the person behind all the bad luck in her life. Unbeknownst to both of them, their worlds subtly collide, placing them in the same place every year until they finally meet.
Too much Christmas for me might be the right amount of Christmas for you! Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert is Brigadoon set in a magickal Christmas village Julemarked. Strong in worldbuilding this is another “they’d been orbiting one another for years!” romance. Once Upon A Royal Christmas feels like Christmas threw up everywhere, with it’s princess for hire falling for the real thing in a kingdom’s holiday competition that is a marketing win-win.
If you’re looking for something less traditional, Merry Little Meet Cute is my favorite this season, about the filming of a Hallmark style Christmas movie. It was funny and sexy with perfect pacing, plotting and snappy dialogue–but sex work and open relationships might not be everyone’s cup of tea. And for a non-Christmas holiday story, Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer features a Jewish girl who secretly loves Christmas, writes very successful Christmas-themed holiday romances and covers her apartment with Christmas decorations.
Want more? Good Reads just posted a booklist of recently published Christmas stories, and When In Romance covered some Christmas stories in their recent podcast “All the Holidays” (we’re on the same page about Merry Little Meet Cute!).