Fangirl Fridays – Romantic Tales for the Holiday Season

It’s almost the end of the year! 2016 was not the best year for me, and I found myself looking for light, easy books that I could cuddle with in bed and just enjoy. Not too much pondering and problem solving. So as the holidays approached, I went in search of books with a Christmas theme to help get me into the spirit.

I’d like to share with you some of the holiday stories I read. These are short reads, all about Christmas and romance. Most of them lifted my spirits, and I can recommend them if you’re looking for something easy and fun to take your mind off the stress this time of year. (Except one.) I hope you’ll join me after the break.

Room at the Inn / Ruthie Knox
Carson couldn’t wait to leave his hometown, Potter Falls, so as soon as he graduated from college, he did. Julie met Carson at the university and they fell in love, but life and circumstances, mostly Carson’s, led them away from each other. Julie stayed in Potter Falls, while Carson fulfilled his ambitions and had a glorious career that took him around the world. Carson came back every now and then to his small, upstate New York hometown to visit his father, whom he felt he always disappointed. And every time he came back, he fell into bed with Julie and then he left... Their attraction was undeniable. Every time he left, he broke her heart, but he couldn’t resist her, nor could she him. Until his last visit. It was almost Christmas, there was a lot of snow, and with the accumulating snow grew a lot of feelings. Realization came slowly to both of them, especially to Carson who couldn’t admit his true feelings right up until Christmas Eve.

This is a lovely sweet, quick holiday read. It has a “second chance at love” theme, or in this case, maybe a twelfth or fiftieth chance at it.

She smelled like cinnamon and looked like Christmas, all red and green and gold, with tears in her eyes. He kissed them away, kissed the corners of her mouth, kissed her nose and her chin and her lips, and he smoothed his hands over her temples and her hair, held her head, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Jules. I’m so sorry.”

Unwrapping Her Perfect Match (London Legends#3.5) / Kat Latham
This Christmas-themed novella is book 3.5 in the London Legends series. The London Legends are a rugby team, and the heroes are all related in some way to the team or to rugby. One can really get into the spirit of the holidays with this sweet novella.

At six foot one, Gwen never thought she would meet someone who would make her feel dainty or at least normal. At six foot seven, John always felt that he intimidated people. They met at a fundraising auction, where women could bid on members of the London Legends rugby team. Gwen found herself unexpectedly bidding for John. Yes, they found that they were perfectly matched, but Gwen had some self-esteem issues and found it hard to trust, and John, being big and a bit awkward, tripped on his words. This situation led to some misunderstandings and heartache, as expected. Christmas Eve started in low spirits, but ended joyfully.

This story made me smile a lot, even laugh at times, and feel quite warm and cozy. You don’t need to read the full-length novels in the series to appreciate this sweet, sexy holiday story.

“Welcome to the class. I hope you’re all ready to have fun and create some beautiful, unique Christmas gifts for your families and friends. Over the next two hours, we’ll be making floral-scented candles in these teacups.” The hand on Gwen’s knee tightened. She pressed her lips together to keep from laughing. “Now, it’s not difficult, but it is sometimes quite delicate work, especially when you’re dipping your wick.”

“Twas the night before Christmas...”

We all know the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. This sweet short story is Cynthia Eden’s PNR version of that tale. Ben was one angry, very strong vampire who hated it all, who killed and killed without thinking, blinded by rage. He also hated Christmas Eve, because on that evening 10 years ago he became a vampire and lost the love of his life. Of course, he blamed himself for her death. So a demon, a shifter, and an angel decided to work together on Christmas Eve, in a last effort to save his soul.

This was all about love and redemption, about a second chance, and the good that is inside every one of us. At the end of this story I felt a sad happiness (Can I say that?) or vice-versa.

Ben hunched his shoulders and pulled his coat closer. The cold didn’t bother him. His body healed from nearly any injury, so when his fingers got too cold, they just started to reheat a few moments later. He healed and he lived and he hated it.

Holiday in Death (In Death #7) / J.D.Robb
The In Death series is described as a mystery-suspense crime series with a romantic streak, and this book adds a holiday theme.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas was a fierce, strong, and honest homicide cop in the late 2050s New York. She was called to investigate the murder of a young woman. There was a fresh “My True Love” tattoo on the body and a small partridge pin in her hair. The second victim had the same tattoo and a Turtle Dove pin. You see the serial killer pattern here? Yes, it was the Twelve Days of Christmas theme. Eve didn’t have much time to spare; Christmas Eve was around the corner. She hated Christmas; she was not good at buying gifts or being too friendly with people. Her hunky, super sexy husband, Roarke, was a very wealthy businessman, and you can definitely drool over him. (You have to read at least the first two books in the series to understand their relationship.) They were complete opposites, but he was her greatest support. Their sex scenes were short but hot. The mystery aspect was quite good, the holiday spirit was a bit on the suspenseful side, and if you know the In Death series, you know what to expect.

This was a tale of twisted love  which led to murder. The romance bit is between Eve and Roark, so if you’re a fan of theirs, you will most likely enjoy this as a Christmas tale despite the gruesome murders.

Eve engaged her On Duty sign and stepped out of the car. Immediately her ears were assaulted with a blast of music. Christmas carols pumped, full blast, into the air. She decided that people ran inside, ready to buy anything, just to escape the noise.

Snowy Night with a Stranger (School for Heiresses #4.5) Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, Julia London

This historical Regency anthology contains three short romance novellas where the heroine found herself, surprisingly, spending Christmas time with a stranger. There were happy endings, of course.

A Holiday Gamble / Jane Feather
Edward “Ned” Vasey, Viscount Allenton, was returning to his home in Northumberland after spending ten years in India. A blizzard closed the roads, so he found shelter at Lord Shelby’s home. Lord Shelby had some shady friends and a slimy cousin, but Ned was delighted to meet Lady Georgiana, Lord Selby’s niece and ward. He was charmed and intrigued by her behavior and soon found out that nothing was as it seems. Shelby was after Georgiana’s vast inheritance and planned to marry her to his brute of a business partner. But Georgiana was not the demur, obedient girl the world saw; she was cunning and clever; she used every trick she knew to run away from Shelby’s partner. Ned saw through her facade, completely fascinated by her. Of course, he helped her with her scheme, and they fled together on Christmas day. En route to freedom, they fell in love.

Kudos to the author for making Georgiana a very independent woman. She had her own plan to help herself; Ned just happened to be in the right place at the right time to assist her. The characters weren’t looking for love or for a marriage partner, they met and fell in love unexpectedly. This tale was simple but charming, not heart stopping but a delightful read.

Ned sat by the fire in his chamber, sipping cognac and waiting. He’d had some strange Christmases in his life, he reflected. No one could say eating boar’s head and brandy-rich Christmas pudding, and singing carols in the midday heat of Madras in December, was normal. But the British preserved their tradition religiously, however peculiar the circumstances.

When Sparks Fly / Sabrina Jeffries
I didn’t like this one so much. It was too predictable. An heiress who had very low self-esteem because she was plump and wore glasses ... she knows for sure that only fortune hunters will ask for her hand.

Ellie (our heiress) traveled with her aunt and her cousins to a Christmas party, when their carriage skidded down an embankment and into a river, injuring her aunt. To the rescue comes a sooty, black-clad Baron: Martin Thorncliff. Martin was full of pain and guilt; he blamed himself for his brother’s death. He knew he would always live alone, to atone for his brother death and because he was a scientist, a chemist dealing in explosives, which would be dangerous for a family. He did not like people and wanted to be left alone, but deep inside he was good and generous. He took Ellie and her family into his house, to tend her injured aunt and wait for the ice to melt. After several misunderstandings between Ellie and Martin, plus a few guilt trips, they fell in love and lived happily ever after. I felt a little embarrassed by the sex scenes, which were a bit silly. There is a cameo appearance in the story — Ellie’s little cousins brought a friend with them, Charlie Dickens, and there were several hints thrown around that this situation, and especially the Black Baron, inspired A Christmas Carol.

December was difficult enough for him without intruders fetching up near his land. Rich intruders. With children singing Christmas carols, of all the infernal things.

Snowy Night with a Highlander (The Scandalous #2.5) / Julia London
Scotland Highlands, a ragged Scottish Highlander, and romance. Do we need more?

Lady Fiona Haines was forced by the king to leave her comfortable life in London and travel to the Scottish highlands to look for her brother. The king wanted her to warn her rake of a brother, Jack, that the prince’s men were looking to arrest and hang him. She traveled back to her highland home with Laird Duncan Buchanan, a man who humiliated her years ago, when she was a young girl infatuated with him. Fiona didn’t know she was traveling with the laird, he introduced himself only as Duncan, his face are covered with a hat and two scarves due to the cold, and she could only see one eye because the other was covered with an eye patch. Fiona was sure he was the laird’s servant or tenant.

Duncan lived the good and careless, dangerous life with booze, parties, and women all around him. Unknown to Fiona, Duncan suffered a devastating tragedy a few years before, when his house was half burned in a fire that killed one of his close friends and burned him, too. Duncan was banished by society and became a recluse because of his scars. He tried to atone for his jackass past, helping his tenants and friends. He hid his deformity with a hat, an eye patch, and scarves, and when Fiona didn’t recognize him, he didn’t correct her. They traveled together in the tough Scottish weather, hoping to arrive in time for the evening of Hogmanay. Along the way they found danger and massive cold, but also attraction, then redemption and love. What else do we need?

I loved this story of the tortured hero who finds reparation, renewal, hope, and true love.

Duncan swallowed. Whatever she would say, let her say it — just say it. He wanted this over and done so that he might return to his lonely existence and forget her.
Fiona cocked her head to one side. “You left me.”
“Good evening,” he tried.
“You forced poor Mr. Nevin to accompany me to your home as if I were a wayward orphan!”
“I assure you, that was no’ my intent. I thought to spare you any question of impropriety.”
She snorted and walked in a slow circle around him. “Perhaps you sought to spare yourself any questions from your friends about your traveling companion.”
His friends? He had no friends, not any longer. “No’ at all,” he assured her. “I thought only of you.”

Dear Readers and Saucy Wenches, though I do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, full of love, health, happiness, and great books.


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