It takes a special blend of cozy holiday magic and realistic romantic tension to stand out from the yearly haul of Christmas love stories. These five romances deserve to be at the top of your wish list.
★ A Christmas Home
You can almost smell the Christmas cookies while reading A Christmas Home by Marta Perry. After a decade away from Promise Glen, helping her widowed father raise her siblings, Sarah Yoder returns to the Amish community of her birth. She hopes to live a fulfilling and independent life surrounded by her extended family. Her grandmother already has an idea for Sarah’s employment—working as a bookkeeper for neighbor Noah Raber’s furniture-making business. Noah’s wife ran off years ago and left him with twin boys, now 6 years old, who quickly clamor for Sarah’s attention and capture her heart. Noah finds his way there, too, even though there’s seemingly no hope for him and Sarah to wed, as Noah is technically still married. In A Christmas Home, love becomes an end unto itself, something to be celebrated even though its complete promise might never be fulfilled. But this is a romance novel after all, and Perry writes a deeply felt and deeply pleasurable kisses-only story in perfect keeping with the season.
The Highlander’s Christmas Bride
Christmas in the highlands turns romantic in The Highlander’s Christmas Bride by Vanessa Kelly. After the man she’d been promised to chooses someone else, Donella Haddon retreated to a convent. But the sisters don’t want her as a nun either, so a handsome stranger is sent to serve as her escort home. Widower Logan Kendrick and his young son make Donella reconsider her plan to find a new religious retreat, and soon she is immersed in family and seasonal celebrations. With the attraction she and Logan feel for each other, Donella acknowledges she may have found a new direction in life—if old secrets and clan gossip don’t get in the way. Kelly’s charming characters make every page feel like a party, and a dash of suspense adds spice to this enjoyable historical tale.
The Merry Viscount
A few days before Christmas, a snowstorm forces stranded stagecoach riders to lodge with a Regency aristocrat known as “Lord Devil” in The Merry Viscount by Sally MacKenzie. Caroline Anderson leads the beleaguered group to the residence, as the owner was her childhood friend. But years have passed, and the man who opens the door is not the boy she remembers. Nick intended to spend the unwelcome holiday with friends, and he’s displeased that the orgy he planned is interrupted by the newcomers. But he soon finds himself captivated by Caroline. The lightness of this holiday romp is anchored by the emotional baggage of the leads—Caro with her well-earned trust issues and Nick’s memories of unhappy holidays past. Steamy bedroom scenes in which Nick proves to Caro that her fears of intimacy are unfounded are complemented by those giving the viscount a new understanding of his painful family history. The Merry Viscount is bawdy and romantic fun.
A dog trainer explores her fun side in Lucy Gilmore’s Puppy Christmas. Lila Vasquez, the responsible oldest of three sisters, helps prepare a single dad and his daughter for life with a service dog. Ford and his 6-year-old daughter instantly warm to Lila, who in turn is surprised by Ford’s charm and chatty nature. Soon they’re trading spicy quips and saucy banter. Though Lila regards herself as a “fun sponge,” she loosens up and begins to reveal another side of herself. Ford realizes he’s going to have to drop his flirtatious mask and risk getting real with Lila if he wants her in his life. Readers will enjoy Lila’s sisters, Ford’s neighbors, the cute kids and cuter puppies—this book leaves no doubt that Christmas is the cuddliest time of year.
The Christmas Dare
Childhood summer sweethearts find a second chance in Lori Wilde’s The Christmas Dare. Twilight, Texas, is known for its romantic Christmases. When Kelsey James is left at the altar, she goes there with her BFF Tasha on what was supposed to be her honeymoon. It’s Tasha’s idea, because there’s always been that one “what if” guy in Kelsey’s life: Noah MacGregor, who now lives in Twilight and runs a small hotel there. The pair meet again and sparks fly, but there’s their unhappy past breakup to get over and Kelsey’s domineering mother waiting in the wings. Can Noah give Kelsey reason to sever toxic family ties? The Christmas Dare is full of heart and holiday fun as the couple seeks their happily ever after while enjoying imaginative Christmas-themed festivities.