If, like me, you’re dreaming of a Christmas filled with books, films and mince pies, here are some of my favourite Christmas novels for inspiration, both for Christmas gift ideas,and for sitting by the fire with a glass of Bailey’s, with nothing to do but read :)
Three of the best Christmas romance novels
This Time Next Year, by Sophie Cousens
Minnie meets Quinn at a NYE party, and finds they were born in the same place at the same time on New Year’s Eve – and that Quinn has ‘stolen’ the name SHE was supposed to have. I read this novel just recently, and I loved the premise! It’s a mad coincidence, and I admired the way the author flicks back and forward in time, filling in the gaps with plenty more coincidences. Oh, and as well as romance, there are lots of pies, too. Who could ask for more?
Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess, by Jenni Fletcher
This Mills & Boon novel won the Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel of the Year Award at the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. 2020 was a dismal year, but books like these helped me through it. There’s a snowstorm, a marriage of convenience, a spirited heroine and a brooding hero – all my favourite tropes realistically drawn to make a page-turning and charming read.
A Kiss for Midwinter, by Courtney Milan
I loved Milan’s The Duchess War, which is Book One in her Brothers’ Sinister series. The heroine, Minerva, is a ‘quiet, bespectacled wallflower’, and the story is original and engaging. This is a follow-up novella featuring Minerva’s best friend, Lydia Charingford. I haven’t read this particular book in the series, but if it’s anything like her others, it will be the perfect read for a Christmas evening.
Three of the best mystery novels for Christmas
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie murder mysteries are made for Christmas. Hercule Poirot is a guest in an English country house. (First mistake: never invite Hercule Poirot to your house in the country. Murder is bound to follow!) He wakes up to find a sinister message waring him to avoid eating the Christmas pudding. That would be Christmas ruined right there for me, but Poirot goes on to rescue the season with his usual aplomb.
Duck the Halls, by Donna Andrews
I’ve never read any of Donna Andrews’ novels, but a friend recommended her Meg Manslow series to me. In this novel, besides dealing with murder, ‘someone has rigged a cage full of skunks in the Baptist church choir loft’. Manslow asks the question on everyone’s lips: ‘Who has the time during the busy holiday season to herd animals?’ This isn’t the first in the series, but can apparently be read as a standalone. I downloaded it because I loved the title and I’m a sucker for a pun.
Whiteout, by Ragnar Jonasson
Completely different in style is this Icelandic thriller. I’ve read several Jonasson novels, and I particularly love his descriptions. Iceland is a place I’d love to visit. (I’m hoping it’s not as full of murderers as Jonasson’s novels would suggest.) In this novel: ‘Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop?’ A spooky winter setting which I’m looking forward to visiting from the comfort of my own home.
Three of the best classic Christmas novels
Little Women, Louise M. Alcott
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without revisiting Louisa M. Alcott’s classic novel. This was the first book my mum ever bought for herself with her own money, in 1940, aged twelve. It was also the only book in her house, and she read it over and over again. It’s a testament to the novel and its author that the March sisters still have so much appeal today. (I also very much enjoyed the 2019 film adaptation, and especially the fabulous clothes.)
Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmore
I first read this book as a teenager. It’s set in the 17th century and was published in the 19th century. It’s an absolutely thrilling read. I particularly love the blizzard on Exmoor, in which ‘all the world is white with snow’, and a gripping sled ride across a frosty landscape in which the hero and heroine escape the clutches of the evil Doone family.
It’s a completely page-turning story. My one caveat with the novel (and it’s a big one, as with so many of the time) is that the women are forced into such a passive role. I’d love someone to write the book again: Lorna Doone, from Lorna Doone’s actual point of view, making her the heroine of her own destiny. But with the star-crossed lovers, the upstanding hero, the dastardly villain, and the wonderful descriptions, it makes a wonderful Christmas read.
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson is a genius author for children. Her books are some of the books I had as a child that have stayed with me as an adult. Like the best children’s authors, she’s not afraid to write about the world being a terrifying place, and scaring the crap out of you. In this book, Moomintroll wakes up in the night and can’t get back to sleep. He can’t wake his mum up, either, and he’s all alone. From this scary start, he acts with courage and resolution, going out to explore the strange snowy world outside, and making friends, and having adventures. Books are the perfect way for children to explore their fears in safety, and this book, with its gentle ending, makes for a wonderful read in the spirit of Christmas.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Christmas selection! If you’d like one more to add to the list, to make the 9 into a satisfying, round 10, Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium is an anthology of stories by nine of us authors in the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The stories revolve around a mysterious and magical shop owner called Miss Moonshine, who has the knack of providing visitors with exactly what they need. Our latest review calls it: ‘Uplifting, magic. Wonderful!!!…It will cheer anyone up, even in the darkest times.’ Christmas magic, indeed!
And if you’re looking for another uplifting read, new subscribers to my newsletter receive a copy of the uplifting novel The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. And I’ll be giving away another of my favourite classic novels with my Christmas newsletter. Subscribe here now to be sure of your copy!
Do you have a favourite Christmas read? What books do you have on your Christmas wish list? If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!