We Need a Little Christmas: Cozy Holiday Reads
I don't know about you but I could use a little Christmas - like right this very minute! 2017 has been hard y'all! In the immortal words of Auntie Mame, "we've grown a little colder/ we've grown little sadder/ we've grown a little older," and darn't I need some happy endings and some closure right the dang now!
In her recent National Book Award speech, Annie Proulx said, "...We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth...we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do. The happy ending still beckons, and it is in hope of grasping it that we go on."
After seeing that speech it suddenly occured to me why I've been reading romances, cozy mysteries and historical fiction like a dying woman in a desert - I've been thirsty for fictional happy endings because I certainly haven't been getting them in real life. So with that in mind here's a list of books* filled with Christmas miracles, opposites attracting, lovers reuniting, families reconciling, happily ever afters, mysteries being solved and villains being vanquished - plus lots of snow and holiday merriment!
*This is list is very me: I am an avowed Anglophile, I love historical fiction and I've never met a cheese I didn't like.
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
Baker Polly, bee keeper Huckle and Neil the puffin all return along with all the eccentric inhabitants of the windswept, Cornwall tidal island of Mt. Polbearne to celebrate the holidays and bake lots of bread. This is the third entry in Colgan's Little Beach Street Bakery series but you don't need to read the other two to enjoy it!
An English Murder by Cyril Hare
A snowed-in country house, all phone lines are down and the roads are impassable, the clock chimes midnight and a murder is committed. Who could've done it? For the friends and family gathered at Warbeck Hall it's a shock to think that one of them is a killer. Is it the scorned lover? The resentful cousin? A social climbing wife? Or maybe the butler did it? A classic mystery by a masterful writer. Other fun takes on the country house murder at the holidays is The Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer, Murder Most Malicious by Alyssa Maxwell and The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie.
Hughes writes stories about young American women finding love in European cities over the holidays that would make great movies for the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime (hint, hint). In London, an American pastry chef gets the opportunity of a life time and in Paris, a woman spends what was supposed to her honeymoon with a charming Parisian man. Tip: read them while listening to "The Bells of St. Paul" by Linda Eder on loop.
A Christmas Promise by Mary Balough
A mismatched pair are forced into marriage by a well-meaning father around Christmastime. But slowly, over the holidays, their estrangement turns to love as they celebrate the season, gather disparate friends and family around them, practice old traditions and make new ones together. After annual viewings of A Christmas Story and A Princess for Christmas (hands down my favorite Christmas romance movie) rereading A Christmas Promise is one of my favorite holiday traditions. A sweet, simple Regency romance full of Christmas magic. - this is Balogh at her best!
The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen
It's 1906 and all semi-retired private detective Molly Murphy wants is a quiet holiday with husband Daniel and their two children but an invitation to spend Christmas at a mansion on the Hudson changes all that. Mysterious deaths and a surprise visitor make for a tense house party but Molly is on the case! This is one of my favorite historical mystery series of all time and the perfect way to spend a winter afternoon.
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornack
Over the holidays, the Birch family is quarantined in their English country home when their doctor daughter returns from working in a disease hot zone. Forced to spend time together for the first time in years, tensions mount, long standing grievances are aired and secrets are revealed. This is a light, airy multi-narrative that gives a fun side-eye to family dysfunction and white privilege. It's similar in tone to The Nest and The Clasp and fictional family drama is always more fun than personal family drama.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Take two grieving seniors, one unhappy teenaged girl and two 30-somethings at loose ends and put them in a large, rambling house in a snowy, coastal Scottish village at Christmastime and what do you get? Only the best cozy romance/ family drama novel ever! I may be exaggerating a little bit but if you've never read it - do yourself a favor this holiday and put it at the top of your pile. Another favorite similar to this is Maeve Binchey's Ireland-set A Week in Winter.
A collection of four historical romance novellas by Lisa Kleypas, Lorraine Heath, Megan Frampton and Vivienne Lorret. A spinster reforms a rogue, true love prevails, love is made in an abandoned castle during a blizzard and the fake fiance/ girlfriend trope is put to good use twice! I eat these holiday story collections up every year - enjoy!
A Gift from Bob by James Bowen
James was a homeless drug addict in London when he rescued Bob in a cold, dark alley. Bob, an orange tabby with a heart of gold (fyi: orange male tabbies are the best cats ever!) gives James the strength he needs as he attempts to pull his life together and stay clean. Together they spend a cold winter learning about love, friendship, life and the true meaning of Christmas. Be prepared to sob on the subway. For even more tears watch the film A Street Cat Named Bob.
Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicot
The first in a new series set in 1920s England. Beryl, a glamorous American pilot, needs a break after her latest divorce so she goes to stay with her old friend Edwina in a quiet English village. But, it doesn't stay quiet for long....I love a cozy mystery set in England and this is a promising start for a new series.
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes--as everyone does--that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. Now it's Christmas 1968 and Thomas is headed to Paris with the letters he and Evie exchanged all through the war and where, one final letter is waiting for him. Keep the tissues handy for this beautiful epistolary novel.
Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard
In this Christmas Carol sequel, Tiny Tim is all grown up and trying to shake his past as a "cripple" and shed his financial ties with his dear "Uncle" Scrooge. Even with his education,Timothy feels more at home in London's underbelly. When he comes upon the bodies of two dead girls, he feels compelled to solve their murders and become the protector of a young girl in the neighborhood. This is an imaginative sequel that brings Dickens's world to life and keeps readers guessing. Another good book for Christmas Carol fans is the new Mr. Dickens and His Carol, which reimagines the struggles Charles Dickens had writing the most famous Christmas story of all time.
With stories by some of my favorite historical romance writers, Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Karen Hawkins and Meredith Duran - this collection of short holiday romances is an absolute keeper! Plenty of mistletoe surprises, disguised ladies, Scottish rogues, feisty lasses and burning passions. Is it getting hot in here or is that just me? Prepare to blush your way through your commute this holiday!
A Very Nantucket Christmas By Nancy Thayer
If you've ever dreamed of spending Christmas in Nantucket than author Nancy Thayer can help make your dreams come true. With this collection of two previously published novellas, "A Nantucket Christmas" and "An Island Christmas", you get a snowy Nantucket, family drama, handsome neighbors, matchmaking moms, rambuctious kids and mischievious pets. Sounds perfect to me! Also taking place in Nantucket is Elin Hilderbrand's Winter Street Inn series , which chronicles the life of Kelly Quinn and his loving dysfunctional family over the holidays. Seems like a good time to put the mulled cider on the stove and get out that plate of cookies.
The Cafe at Fir Tree Park by Katey Lovell
Maggie can finally exhale. Her cafe is doing good business and her kids are happy. A single mom, she feels like she's been holding her breath ever since her husband Clint was sent to prison but now she she can finally start living again and maybe return the flirtatious smiles from the cute Italian, soccer coach who comes in every weekend. But just when her life seems perfect, a cold wind starts to blow. This is not a holiday novel but the author is a good friend of mine and a book of hers is finally available at NYPL (!!!) and I wanted to celebrate! If you enjoy the books of Jenny Colgan, Jill Mansell and Giovanna Fletcher - you'll enjoy Katey's too.
Happy Holidays Everyone! May all your days be Merry and Bright!