As promised, I'm back today to talk about a few of my tried and true Christmas romances. Some have been around for many years while others are recent additions but they are all treasured friends that I look forward to visiting every year. I wish I could list all of my favorites but I fear that I'd max out our space limit long before reaching the end of my list! Here's a small sampling of the many Christmas stories that have, and continue to, make me smile, make me laugh, make me cry and fill my heart with joy.
A Christmas To Remember
By Kay Stockham
Publisher: Harlequin SuperRomance
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Marley Pierce has spent the last five years putting her life back together after it was torn to pieces by Beau Buchanan, a cocky bad boy she met while visiting her grandmother. In two short weeks, Beau seduced and abandoned the sheltered, naive Marley, leaving her to return home to her small town to face pregnancy, disgrace and tragic consequences for both her and her family. She's older now, wiser, and has worked hard to build her landscape design business and rebuild her good reputation, yet her relationship with her parents, especially her mother, still suffers. She's shocked and furious when Beau shows up in her small town to work at a housing development where she's doing the landscaping, especially when he doesn't even remember who she is. She vows to have nothing to do with him but can't help but be drawn to him once again, especially when she learns where he's been and what happened to him. And, the more she's around him, the more she likes him. He seems so different than before: kinder, more thoughtful, more genuine. But she's torn between wanting to spend time with him and needing to send him away because he tore her life apart once and she's terrified he'll do it again.
Regaining consciousness in a military hospital in Germany, Beau Buchanan has no memories of the bomb that injured him, no memories of the man sitting by his bedside waiting to take him home and no memories of Beau Buchanan. His mind is a terrifyingly clean slate. When he encounters Marley while working at a job site with his father, he's immediately drawn to her and shocked that she seems to hate him. He still remembers nothing of his past and struggles to come to terms with the terrible things that she says he did to her while, at the same time, struggling to heal and to remember. He wants a second chance with her, a chance to prove that he's a changed man and would never treat her badly. But, as the two grow closer, Beau begins to have flashes of memories, memories that make no sense, until he begins to question if he's really a changed man...or a different man.
A Christmas To Remember was my introduction to the writing of Kay Stockham and vaulted her straight to my auto-buy list. Her books are deeply emotional and thought provoking, frequently centered around complex family dynamics and always, always touch my heart. Like a well choreographed dance, they never miss a beat.
This is the sequel to an earlier book of Stockham's but stands well on its own. If you're like me though, you'll be intrigued by an important secondary character named Joe who keeps appearing in the memory flashes and will want to read his story in Man With a Past:Going Back, Harlequin SuperRomance #1347 (May 9, 2006).
By Cindy Miles
A Highlander Christmas (Anthology)
Publisher: NAL Trade
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Determined to not spend another Christmas alone, Paige MacDonald is on her way to Inverness, Scotland when her car breaks down in a snowstorm, depositing her on the doorstep of the seemingly deserted Gorloch B&B where she is greeted by a gorgeous, but decidedly inhospitable, Gabriel Munro. Gabriel reluctantly agrees to let her stay but refuses to help her with anything, making her get her own room key, carry her luggage and even fix her own meals. The reason for his rudeness becomes clear when Paige trips and falls...right through the man standing in front of her! Unless the storm clears, it appears that, this year, Paige will be spending Christmas with the ghostly spirit of a centuries-old Highland warrior. Miles has done a superb job of creating a life-like man with the limitations of a spirit in this finely crafted love story. The romantic scenes in particular were simmering with sensuality while, at the same time, very poignant. "A Christmas Spirit" is, by turns, a humorous, heartbreaking and heartwarming gift not to be missed.
This is the review of "A Christmas Spirit" that I wrote last year when I fell in love with Ms. Miles' writing and characters, especially Gabriel. I recently re-read Gabriel and Paige's story and was just as enchanted the second time around. Click here if you'd like to read my reviews of the other two stories in the anthology.
By Deborah Simmons
The Brides of Christmas (Anthology)
Release Date: November 1, 2005
The widowed father of seven grown sons, Fawke de Burgh, Earl of Campion, is still a young, strong and virile man. With his sons beginning to marry and leave his home, he's also becoming a lonely man but, even so, a woman to share his life is the furthest thing from his mind. Campion has already buried two wives that he loved and isn't looking for a third. But sometimes fate knows what we need, even if we don't.
Caught in a terrible snowstorm on Christmas Eve, Joy Thorncombe, Lady Warwick and her small party of servants and guards take refuge at Campion's home. A widow who was forced, at age sixteen, to marry a thirteen-year-old boy who died a year later, Joy is a self-sufficient, intelligent woman who has worked hard over the years to manage her home, care for it's people and avoid re-marriage. Left untouched by her child groom, she's never understood sexual desire and has never wanted another man in her life...until she meets Campion. Suddenly, she's filled with the urge to explore kisses, caresses and more but only on her terms: a mutually satisfying romp in the Earl's bed before she continues on her way. While her mind has the plan clearly formulated though, her heart has other ideas...as does the Earl.
The de Burgh's are one of my favorite medieval romance families. The sons' books all have places on my keeper shelf and I was delighted when I first learned of their father's story in this Christmas anthology. You don't have to have read the other books to obtain the full enjoyment of "The Unexpected Guest" though it may have you searching them out once you finish Campion and Joy's story.
By Jo Beverley
The Brides of Christmas
Release Date: November 1, 2005
"They've stolen the Blessed Virgin Mary!"
When Joan of Hawes agrees to switch places with her cousin, Nicolette de Montelan and assume the role of the Virgin Mary in the Christmastide play, the last thing she expects is to be kidnapped by a de Graves, especially not Edmund de Graves, the famous Golden Lion! But, if Joan is surprised, that's nothing compared to Edmund's shock when he discovers he's risked his life to steal away not his brother's lover but her spirited, opinionated, too-smart-for-her-own-good, though innocent, cousin.
The de Graves and de Montelan families have been feuding for generations and all over a piece of cloth that was carried into Jerusalem during the Crusades. When Nicolette de Montelan falls in love with Gerald de Graves and becomes pregnant, the pair hope to bring an end to the feud by marrying but, instead, Joan is "rescued" instead of Nicolette, Gerald is captured by Nicolette's father and thrown into the dungeon and Edmund and Joan find themselves fighting an attraction that quickly deepens into emotions that will be impossible for them to act upon...unless they can find some way to end the feud and bring peace between the families.
This is a wonderful, fast-paced novella with engaging characters, emotional twists and delightful banter, all skillfully woven together by Beverley. I've been reading it every year since 2005 and still enjoy it today as much as I did the first time.
Those are a few of my tried and true favorites from years past. What Christmas romances do you bring out year after year to help you get into the holiday spirit?
Don't forget to check out my reviews of some terrific new Christmas romances in yesterday's blog!