It’s Christmas, with New Year’s right behind, and it’s the time of year everyone seems to be writing and / or publishing romances. In late October, I posted “Four Christmas Romances,” short reviews about four romance novels or novellas with a Christmas theme. I followed that a week later, with “Four More Christmas Romances.”
I haven’t even made a dent in what’s out there. Search for “Christmas romance stories” on Google, and you quickly learn that no one talks about a Christmas romance story or novel, in the singular. Instead, people talk about these stories in great bunches, like “the top 25 Christmas romance stories” and “14 Christmas romance stories that will melt your heart.”
And to be clear, we’re not talking about famous Christmas stories, like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which is not a romance but a ghost story. And Christmas romance doesn’t mean stories like “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Anderson, or “A Christmas Dream” by Louisa May Alcott, which is a children’s version of A Christmas Carol. No, we’re talking about romances set at Christmas, and one of the early examples is “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, first published in 1905.
I haven’t exactly binged on Christmas romances, but that may depend upon your definition of “binge.” For the last two weeks, I’ve read a lot of them – novels, novellas, short novels, and short stories. I’ve discovered that, like every other book genre or sub-genre, there are Christmas romances that are well done and ones that – aren’t. I’ve learned that they tend to share a number of attributes. I’ve also learned there are sub-genres of sub-genres – Christmas stories that are Christian fiction, non-Christian but “clean” fiction, non-Christian but “steamy” fiction, stories that emphasize the religious meaning of the season and stories that see Christmas as a time of warm feelings about friends and family.
For the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing short reviews of some of the stories I’ve read (sorry, I pitched the steamy ones) and some of what I’ve learned about this popular sub-genre of the popular romance genre.
First up: two novels that are about making a wish at Christmas. Wishes aren’t just for birthday cakes and candles; sometimes you have a wish list for Santa ot just simply a wish for Christmas, usually for some particular kind of gift.
A Christmas Wish by Leanna Morgan
Leanna Morgan’s A Christmas Wish is the third entry in her Sapphire Bay series. Set in Montana (which must allow lakes to have bays), this novel begins as a sub-sub-genre – romantic Christmas suspense – before it changes to a more traditional Christian romance about halfway through. Megan Stevenson, 34, is a former teacher in Dallas, now operating a fantasy cake business in Milwaukee. She’s also caring for her niece, Nora; Megan’s parents and sister were killed in an automobile accident.
Megan receives a visit from FBI Special Agent William Parker, who tells her that (a) she likely has a brother she never knew about, (b) she was adopted, and (c) a terrorist group is after her brother and his relatives, and they’ve been following her. Megan and Nora are taken by the FBI to a safe house in Sapphire Bay, Montana, with William providing most of the security. William has his own personal tragedy; his daughter died from injuries in a car crash and his wife blamed him so much for the child’s death that she divorced him.
Five-year-old Nora provides a considerable amount of the glue that causes Megan and William to begin to stick. Megan also makes cakes and cookies to die for (with a recipe at the end of the story). Nora’s Christmas wish is for a daddy, and she’d like one just like William. But there are issues and problems.
His Christmas Wish by Melissa McClone
His Christmas Wish by Melissa McClone is set in Oregon near Mount Hood. Carly Bishop left the town six years earlier, following the accidental deaths of her fiancé and her brother in a fall while climbing. The accident happened two days before Christmas Eve – and two days before Carly’s Christmas Eve wedding. She’s returning home for the first time; her former sister-in-law has remarried and is expected a child at any time.
Jake Porter, four years older than Carly, was her brother’s best friend; he was also part of the rescue crew that found the bodies of the two dead climbers. He’s had his own grief from his friend’s death to deal with, as well as longstanding feelings for Carly, feelings she never knew about. Circumstances force Jake and Carly together, when they have to care (and provide Christmas) for the sister-in-law’s children when she has the new baby.
Will Carly get over her fear of climbing and what can happen to people she loves? Will Jake be able to bring his feelings for Carly into the open? McClone keeps the reader guessing to the very end.
Both of these novels fall into the “non-Christian but clean” category of Christmas romances. And one of the characteristics of this sub-genre is how long it takes for a kiss to occur. Occasionally, you'll feel like shouting "For Heaven's sake, kiss her already!"
Top photograph by Carlos Hinojosa Zuniga via Unsplash. Used with permission.