I have a few confessions to make:
- I dog-ear pages.
- I break the spines of paperbacks.
- I sneak a peek at the last page, just to reassure myself the HEA actually exists.
- I read holiday romances year-round.
Now, there are caveats to all of these statements. For instance, I only dog-ear pages and break spines in books I own, not in books that others have lent to me, and I inflict the damage I do because I have this completely and utterly insane notion that books, much like toys, should carry physical evidence of their owners’ love (“toys are meant to be played with,” therefore, “books are meant to be read”) (this is also why I buy the most battered copy on the shelf, because I know most readers want the prettiest book, and I worry that the battered book will be destroyed if it’s not purchased…and, obviously, I realize how nutty this sounds) (carry on). I also only sneak peeks at final pages if I’m really, intensely worried about whether the ending will be satisfying—an actual HEA (I did this with Kresley Cole’s Lothaire…I know, I’m ashamed of me, too).
As for the holiday romance thing, well, that’s probably the least awful of my readerly confessions, right? I mean, reading a Christmas-themed romance in July pales in comparison to my personal aversion to bookmarks, in my opinion.
Nonetheless, it’s holiday romances all the merry year long for me! I have a few I read regularly and without fail*, all of which are novellas. I’ve found that I read (and reread) them not because I have the insatiable urge to immerse myself in garland and tinsel when it’s 88° outside, but because some of the most excellent romantic storytelling I’ve ever read happens to be novella-length holiday romances.
So, what do I (re)read?
- Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
- Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey
- Beat of Temptation by Nalini Singh
- True Colors by Thea Harrison
While I religiously devour everything Tessa Dare and Nalini Singh produce anyway, I find myself much more likely to pick up a full-length novel by an author if she can ace the novella format. Bonus points if it contains good tidings and yule logs. For instance, my first Vivian Arend book was Tangled Tinsel, which resulted in a mass spending spree I really couldn’t afford at the time—darn those prolific-backlist authors!
There’s a bit of an art to the novella format. As a reader, I’m drawn to novellas because I have limited time to devote to pleasure-reading. As a writer, I enjoy producing novellas because I am, at heart, a script writer. I cut my teeth on the shorter-form storytelling of stage plays and screenwriting, and I fixate on dialogue more than any other element in a story; it needs to not only sound real, but feel real—which means cadence is just as important as vocabulary when I’m writing**. Every scene I write is a slice of film reel in my head***.
The point is, a well-executed novella is a rare treat, and I am a woman who likes her treats. Lucky for me, the format naturally lends itself to holiday stories (because special occasion). At this very moment, I have three unread, recently released holiday novellas waiting for me on my Kindle: Winter’s Heat by Zoe Archer, Season for Second Chances by Brighton Walsh, and Christmas Curveball by Shari Mikels (an author whose original quartet of adventure-historical-paranormals I enjoyed, an author whose debut novella I was charmed by, and a new-to-me author playing with one my favorite romance tropes (older brother’s best friend), respectively). I’m looking forward to all of them—and I’m ready to be impressed and filled with holiday cheer.
Other holiday/Christmas/winter novellas I’ve really loved, and which may or may not make it onto my habitual reread list in the years to come?
- A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand
- Ripped by Sarah Morgan
- In the Clear by Tamara Morgan
- After Midnight by Serena Bell
- Kisses, She Wrote by Katharine Ashe
- Thank You for Riding by Meg Maguire
I also find that category novels are well-suited to Christmas romances (re: shorter format). There’s snow on the ground and frost in the air for India Grey’s Craving the Forbidden (I can’t really even express my love for the book…I just finished my fourth read of it a few weeks ago), and a couple of years ago, I found myself charmed by On the First Night of Christmas by Heidi Rice.
I’ve got a holiday novella of my own coming out next week—Sparked, the next title in my contemporary city2city series. It’s one part lovers-reunited, one part holiday-spirit, one part flashback-romance, and one part sure-let’s-have-angry-ten-years-in-the-making-make-up-sex-in-the-projection-booth … and I‘ve included the entire first chapter as a preview at the end of this blog post.
Happy holidays, and happy reading!
*Around the actual holidays, however, I gravitate toward Courtney Milan’s Unlocked again and again, which I realize isn’t a holiday novella, but the original cover of which had a deep red dress and a silvery-white background…so my mind tends to make a Christmas-y leap, because red and silver/white, and I am an easily led horse to water. Thanks a bunch, Santa Claus and candy canes.
**I struggled with prose early on because I kept thinking dialogue within quotation marks was a separate voice than the POV narration that took place outside of that punctuation. It’s only in recent months that I realized cadence reveals itself in a character’s thoughts, too, and so should be reflected there.
***I also struggle with filler prose, for just that reason. I get antsy, setting the physical stage for readers. It’s something I’m working on. Continue reading