12 Days of Christmas Read

12 Days of Christmas Reads — One Day in December by Josie Silver

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day nine, I’m sharing a romantic women’s fiction set in my adopted hometown.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist. After all, life isn't a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she'll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Let me begin by saying that I would strongly recommend One Day in December to anyone who enjoyed David Nicolls’ 2009 book One Day, a romantic story that follows two people’s story by checking in with them one the same day year after year. My only caveat is to say that I didn’t love One Day, just as I didn’t love One Day in December. However, just because something wasn’t quite right for me doesn’t mean that it won’t find readers who adore it.

This story is a long, slow burn of a romance that is really more women’s fiction than anything else because it follows Laurie’s story. She meets the boy from the bus, she’s disappointed to find that he’s dating her best friend, and she tries to get on with her life. The story sees her promoted, falling in love, and moving through the world, but the boy on the bus who was a fantasy has become a very real part of her life and he’s always there. Understandably, their story becomes even more complicated as the years go on until finally they get their happily ever after in a very Christmasy way.

I find stories like this problematic because I feel that often they can leave the women pining after the men for too long, waiting for them to wake up and see them for the perfect-for-you women that they are. I’d love to see the narrative reversed with the hero feeling as though he’s the one who is simultaneously thrilled and held back by the presence of the longed-for heroine in his life. However, for readers looking for a very long, slow building of a romance and a story of a woman coming into her own life, this book should do the job well.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day eight, I’m sharing a sweet historical romance set at a grand country house.

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He's grim and silent. A man of little emotion--or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she's ready to put an end to things.

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn't as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there's Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What's a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there'll be no false formality. This time they'll get to know each other for who they really are.

If you breakdown the historical romances I love to read, there really are two kinds. The first are high concept, super fast-moving romps with scandal and sex and big emotions. The second kind, however, is much, much quieter. The hero and heroine might dance around each other in courtship, but I never once think they might be caught kissing behind the library drapes because they would never find themselves in a position where they would slip behind said drapes. Instead, all of their tension comes from the very fact that they are still strictly following society’s rules despite—if they were being completely honest—wanting each other very, very badly.

A Holiday by Gaslight is one of the latter kinds of novels. Meticulous in its research and lovely in its sweetness, it follows two characters who have gotten off on the wrong foot. It’s a second chance romance without dramatic breakups and deeply guarded secrets of the past. The more time they spend together, the more Edward and Sophie realize that their original assessments of each other were shallow at best. Their coming together felt real and sweet and perfectly appropriate for the time period and their class status. You can see a young lady of the gentility and a man who has pulled himself up from humble beginnings actually having these conversations and misunderstandings and finally standing in front of one another at their most vulnerable.

The historical detail Mimi Matthews weaves into this book—short though it is—make it all the more pleasurable to read. It’s a quick read that will find a good audience with readers who like their historical romances accurate and sweet.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop by Portia Macintosh

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day seven, I’m sharing a romantic comedy for holiday movie lovers.

Ivy loves Christmas. As the owner of Christmas Every Day, the year-round festive store, you'd expect nothing less!

The only thing missing in Ivy's life is a dash of romance – something her twin sister Holly will not let her forget…

When her mother passed away, Ivy vowed to take over the running of her mother’s store and keep the Christmas spirit alive in the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

But all this changes when an enigmatic businessman moves to the town, threatening to bulldoze her beloved shop to make way for a holiday complex.

Can Ivy save her shop before Christmas? Could there be a different side to the newest resident of Marram Bay that would make all her Christmas wishes come true?

Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop is a Hallmark movie on the page, and for those who love the sweet romantic comedies that play on that channel around this season it’s perfect to scratch that itch or play a rom com drinking game with!

Ivy is the owner of the local year-round Christmas shop (drink) who inherited it from her beloved mother (drink). The hero is a city slicker developer (drink) who has rolled into town because he’s buying up the lot on which the Christmas shop sits from Ivy’s landlord (drink). There are quirky characters, a bit of misunderstanding, and some holiday lessons for all (drink, drink, drink!).

For me, these comfortably familiar stories need to deliver something unusual in the form of side characters in order to stand out. As I’m writing this review, the only character whose name I can remember without looking it up is Gaz. He’s a rough-around-the-edges mall Santa who comes to work for Ivy in her shop. He’s charming—if in need of a lot of character growth and perhaps some reminders of workplace appropriate behavior—and he helps ground the story.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day six, I’m sharing a cozy women’s fiction with sisterhood at its heart.

All Suzanne McBride wants for Christmas is her three daughters happy and at home. But when sisters Posy, Hannah and Beth return to their family home in the Scottish Highlands, old tensions and buried secrets start bubbling to the surface.

Suzanne is determined to create the perfect family Christmas, but the McBrides must all face the past and address some home truths before they can celebrate together . .

I’m an unabashed fan of Sarah Morgan’s. Her backlist is impressive so I’m not even close to reading it down, but I’ve been enjoying picking up her books over the last few years because there’s always something satisfyingly layered about her characters and their stories.

It should be no surprise then that The Christmas Sisters was one of the first books I picked up to read for this year’s 12 Days of Christmas Reads.

The story follows three sisters who’ve drifted apart over the years. However, this year they all wind up at their adoptive parents’ home in the Highlands. Stuck together, for better or worse, they’re with their biological parents’ tragic deaths while also addressing their sometimes rocky relationships.

I’m incredibly close with my sister (Why else would I do a podcast with her?) and I love seeing sisters portrayed on the page. But it isn’t just the sisterly relationships that are explored. Each woman is at a crossroads of sorts, and they work through their obstacles—sometimes making mistakes—until they understand that what they think they want isn’t necessarily what they actually want. Watching fully realized characters work out for themselves what they need to do to come to terms with their own happiness is one of the great joys of reading a women’s fiction novel.

Plus, being a Sarah Morgan book, there’s also a bit of romance for each of the girls. What’s not to love?

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — Not Just For Christmas by Natalie Cox

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day five, I’m sharing a romantic comedy featuring a bit of a grinch and a lot of dogs with big personalities.

Charlie hates the holidays, and this year is shaping up to be her worst yuletide ever. Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her flat is out of bounds after a gas leak, and her mother has gone to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her fifth husband. Finding herself single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie hesitantly agrees to dust off her wellies and spend the festive season in Devon, looking after Cosy Canine Cottages, her cousin Jez's dog-care centre.

However, her plans for a quiet rural Christmas with only the four-legged friends for company are dashed as soon as she meets Malcolm the deaf Great Dane, Hugo, his gorgeous (but engaged) owner, and Cal, the undeniably attractive but unbearably haughty and patronising local vet...

There’s nothing like a grinch story at Christmas. From Scrooge to…well…the Grinch, literature is full of them.

Meet Charlie. She doesn’t really do Christmas by choice. But when her upstairs neighbor’s boiler explodes (one of my flat residing nightmares) and her London home quickly becomes unlivable, she finds herself thrust on her dog boarder cousin during the festive season. Except the cousin has plans of her own, absconding to Lapland for a romantic rendezvous with an Arctic researcher and leaving Charlie in charge of the luxury kennel.

Enter a cranky, hot vet and a charming, hot Great Dane owner and we have ourselves a rom com live triangle set against Christmas.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas by Katie Riggle

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day four, I’m sharing a Colorado-set romantic suspense.

When firefighter and single dad Steve Springfield moved his four kids to a Colorado Christmas tree ranch, he intended for it to be a safe haven. But he never expected danger to follow them to his childhood home...

Or that he would come face-to-face with the one girl he could never forget.

Folk artist Camille Brandt lives a quiet life. As the town's resident eccentric, she's used to being lonely—until Steve freaking Springfield changes everything. Brave and kind, he's always had a piece of her heart, and it doesn't take long before she's in danger of falling for him again. But as mysterious fires break out across the sleepy Colorado town, Steve and Camille will have to fight if they want their happy family to survive until Christmas...

I’ve always liked a good Western United States-set romance novel, so Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas was a blind pickup from me based solely on the man in a cowboy hat, flannel, and denim on the cover. (I love the genre and its covers, but I’m glad to see that there was no snowy shirtless cowboy on this one. Poor man would’ve frozen to death.)

This light romantic suspense is unusual in that it flips the reclusive hero on his head and casts the heroine in that role. Camille isn’t comfortable around people, and that manifests not through physical awkwardness and clumsiness but pure dread at crowds, strangers, anything really. But Steve is a good solid man and father who shows her from the beginning that he poses no threat. He accepts her fear and discomfort for what it is and, suitably, the relationship progresses on her terms. This makes for a slow building romance that is ultimately believable and satisfying.

One of the most deft pieces of characterization in this book centers around the watching Camille becoming fully comfortable in Steve’s life. She relaxes and interacts and shows who she really is around him and his children gradually. The fact that she doesn’t automatically slip comfortably Steve’s life is a credit to the author. Steve doesn’t make her a social butterfly but helps her become a better version of herself in a realistic way.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and much, much more! For day three, I’m sharing a favorite cookbook that’s about so much more than just cooking.

The Christmas Chronicles is the story of Nigel Slater’s love for winter, the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling. With recipes, decorations, fables and quick fireside suppers, Nigel guides you through the essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year, with everything you need to enjoy the winter months.

Taking you from 1 November all the way to the end of January, The Christmas Chronicles covers everything from Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year to Epiphany. Throughout the season, Nigel offers over 100 recipes to see you through the build-up, the celebrations and the aftermath. Here are much-loved classics such as goose and turkey (and making the most of the leftovers), mincemeat and the cake; recipes to make the cold months bearable, like ribsticker bread pudding with Comté and Taleggio, salt crust potatoes with blue cheese and goat’s curd, and hot-smoked salmon, potatoes and dill; as well as bright flavours to welcome the new year, including pink grapefruit marmalade, pear and pickled radish salad and rye, linseed and treacle bread.

Packed with feasts, folktales, myths and memoir and all told in Nigel’s warm and intimate signature style, The Christmas Chronicles is the only book you’ll ever need for winter.

I love cookbooks, and I frequently read them cover-to-cover in the same way that I would a novel. I’ve been a fan of Nigel Slater’s ever since I started watching his quirky cooking shows on the BBC. Then I read and started cooking out of The Kitchen Diaries series, and I absolutely fell in love with his lyrical style and beautiful observations about cooking, gardening, and lifestyle.

The Christmas Chronicles is a mixture of recipes, observations about the holiday season, and entertaining tips. Slater can be particular and picky, but that just adds to the whole “thing” that he’s doing. I recently gave a copy of this book to my mother, and we’ve both been cooking—and reading—our way through the holidays.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day two, I’m sharing a very royal romance.

Not even in her wildest imaginings did Kumari ever think she'd become a princess. But having fallen for Ben - or rather Prince Benedict, sixth in line to the throne - it looks like nothing will ever go as planned again. And as Christmas rapidly approaches the distinction between family festivities and Royalty becomes ever more apparent.

With the paparazzi hounding her, her job on the line and some rather frustrating royal training, Kumari feels panic set in.

Does loving Prince Charming mean she'll get her fairy tale ending - and on her own terms?

This sweet, albeit thinly veiled retelling of Harry and Meghan’s engagement is more “run up to the royal wedding” than strict Christmas book. However, what worked best for me was watching Kumari struggle and learn to cope with the overturning of her entire life because the man she loves just happens to be sixth in line for the British crown. She deals with paparazzi and press, realizing that her job is no longer going to be viable, changing relationships with friends and family, and more. When she decides that being with Prince Benedict is worth all the bother—spoiler that you could’ve guessed—you understand the enormity of her decision.

If you’re looking for a royal escape this Christmas, this one is worth picking up.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

12 Days of Christmas Reads — How the Dukes Stole Christmas

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day one, I’m sharing an anthology of historical romances that are sure to make you smile.

Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.

The trouble with anthologies is that I always rank the stories. It’s human nature to try to bring order to things with lists and ranking and, despite my best efforts to enjoy each story on its own terms, I always fall victim to the temptation and end up disappointed in at least one of them.

You can image my happy surprise then when I discovered The Dukes Who Stole Christmas. Each story in this anthology is enjoyable and each offers a little something different for romance fans. Between the charm of Tessa Dare’s “Meet me in Mayfair”, the lush lyrical prose of Sarah MacLean’s “The Duke of Christmas Present”, Sophie Jordan’s classic enemies-to-lovers “Heiress Alone” set in the Scottish Highlands, or the refreshing change of Joanna Shupe’s Gilded Age novella “Christmas in Central Park,” al of the stories feel unique and fresh.

The conceit that ties all of these stories together—other than the Christmas timeframe and the “dukes” of the title—is a shortbread recipe. In some stories, the characters acknowledge that this shortbread has magical properties. In some, it’s incidental—more gesture of love than love potion. Either way, it’s used to reveal elements of character and draw the hero and heroine closer together.

I couldn’t finish this recommendation without spending a little more time on the standout story in the anthology. MacLean’s “The Duke of Christmas Present” delivers the wonderful yearning and slow-burning heat that I’ve come to rely on her for over the years. What the characters do is far more powerful than what they say after more than a decade apart. The language is beautiful, weaving around the reader as it guides one through pain and longing and—eventually—reconciliation.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page or sign up for my newsletter.

The 12 Days of Christmas Reads

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It’s the most wonderful time of year—and the most wonderful time of year to be a reader!

Last year I celebrated the Christmas season with my 12 Days of Christmas Reads. I highlighted 12 books with holiday themes that I thought readers would enjoy, from romance to historical mystery. This year I’ll be bringing the 12 Days of Christmas Reads back with an brand-new selection of books from an even wider range of genres.

The 12 Days of Christmas Reads kicks off on December 3rd. You can catch all of the Christmas cheer by checking in every day, keeping an eye on my 12 Days of Christmas Reads page that’s updated with a new post every day, or by signing up for my newsletter.