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.