Dear Bitches, Smart Authors Podcast

37. Holiday Romances!

This week: holiday romances! What we don't like about them (kind of a lot of things) and a few books that we do like. Plus, we attempt to answer the burning question, “How many Christmas brides are there?” Plus Jane tells us about one of her favorite old-style Regency romances.

Here are the books we talk about in this episode:


Holiday Sparks - Shannon Stacey Romancing the Holiday Anthology Helen Brooks - His Christmas Bride Blaze Wyndham - Bertice Small

Theresa Romain - Season for Surrender Cecilia Grant - a Lady Awakened The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming - Lemony Snicket

Brenda Novak - When Snow Falls Brenda Novak - When Lightning Strikes Brenda Novak - When We Touch A Curious Courting by Laura Matthews


Many huge thanks to Harlequin for sponsoring the podcast. They have things to tell you! Here's one:

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Get ready for Harlequin’s Christmas Countdown with daily deals and free stuff every day ‘til Christmas Day. Starts December 1st at



Our music is provided by Sassy Outwater. This track is called “Suzy,” by a Parisian group called Caravan Palace. You can find their album, “Caravan Palace,” on iTunes, and you can find the band on MySpace and Facebook.


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  1. 1
    Sandy L says:

    Mary Balogh has written several Christmas Regency books. Did either you or Jane find any of them memorable?
    Although my family celebrates, I am not a Christmas person. I’d much rather fly to the Carribbean than set up a Christmas tree. Too bad we don’t have the money! So unless a Christmas book is highly recommended, I won’t be reading it.

    Thanks for the podcast.

  2. 2

    I miss the Signet Regency Christmas collections. Some of the finest Regency authors would pen amazing stories for them, including Carla Kelly, Edith Layton and Mary Balogh.  One of my favorite Balogh Christmas stories is The Best Gift. If I need to unclog my tear ducts, I reach for that one.

  3. 3
    Cee Marsden says:

    I find myself buying stacks of Christmas-themed romances *every year*—mostly category romances—even though I forget most of them as soon as I’ve read them. I think I buy them as book-shaped decorations, or as a sort of calender that you read instead of hang on the wall…

  4. 4
    ridiculousspider says:

    I like holiday romances because I can get the cozy feeling of a white Christmas spent with family in front of a roaring fire without actually having to…you know…deal with snow…or my extended family.  (I adore my immediate family, though.)  I also like how I can enjoy all the decorating and shopping and gift wrapping and so forth without having to do it myself.  So I like holiday romances because I’m lazy.  :D

  5. 5
    Nadia says:

    I tend to avoid them because they can be so cavity-inducing sappy.  Especially if there are plot moppets involved.  I have to like the author already before I’ll pick one up.

    Now, if someone pens a Festivus story, I would get all over that.  You can never read about the Airing of the Grievances too often.

  6. 6
    Jamarleo says:

    I love re-reading my favorite holiday mystery ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’  for much the same reason (straight mysteries become unbearably treacly and the cozies start to throttle you with joyful smarmy happy glow).

    If you want a non-traditional love story (between a boy and a briquette) ‘Lump of Coal’ is very sweet.

  7. 7

    I’ve avoided holiday romances in the past because so many of them are sticky-sweet or overwhelmingly Christmas-Miracle-y. After last year’s extremely difficult holiday season (my mother was undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy), I’ve been feeling almost parched for a bit of Christmas cheer (and I’m an atheist. Go figure). As a result, I’ve tried to read a few more holiday-themed novels, but most of them are abandoned within the first two chapters because they are just. so. kitschy.

    I liked that Season for Surrender had references to the holiday without being all, “Christmas is the BEST! We should all celebrate Christmas ALL YEAR LONG! Christmas spirit, bitches!” It was a nice balance. Thanks to the book club chat last night, I picked up an Eloisa James Christmas novel that I’m planning to start when I finish my current read. I love Eloisa, so I’m hoping that she won’t let me down.

    Basically, I just want a festive novel that doesn’t overemphasize religion or seasonal magic or children. Maybe just a little extra glitz and some food porn and a bit of sexytime in front of the fire. Aw, yeah.

    I have a theory that maybe the historicals won’t be as syrupy as the contemporaries. I hope. Please?

  8. 8
    PamG says:

    Last year I read All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis.  a little Romance, a little sci fi, and no sappiness at all.  I think I got the recommendation from SBTB, so you may all have read or rejected it already.

  9. 9
    Sugarless says:

    I’m throwing my hat in the ring with people like Dread Pirate Rachel as someone who would love to read a Christmas romance to help get into the warm, fuzzy Christmas spirit, but doesn’t have the patience for the overwhelmingly sappy/religious/miracle-y ones, so I shy away from them sometimes.

    Basically I want any Christmas romance to be warm and fuzzy like sitting on a fuzzy rug in front of the fire, but I don’t want to be punched in the face with DO YOU LOVE CHRISTMAS YET? RAAAWWWRRR

  10. 10

    Oooh, I loved All Seated on the Ground when I read it last year! I made my sister and my dad read it, too. It used to be available for free online at Asimov’s archive, but when I tried to find it again a few weeks ago, it was gone. Boo!

  11. 11

    Must recommend The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig – I read it in July, and immediately passed it to my bestie reading buddy so we could share the holidays early! Hilarious, not sappy, and completely captures the chaos of holiday school pageants. My appreciation was heightened b/c Mr. Richland makes a traditional English Christmas pudding, suet and all, so I could fully enjoy the many appearances of the plum pudding. Must read!

  12. 12

    There was a Silhouette Christmas anthology I loved so much in high school that I read it until pages fell out. I don’t remember all the stories, but I think one had screaming rabbits? My favorite story was about a couple who had split up. The hero ended up in the hospital around Christmas Eve and the love story was told through the heroine’s memories and dude’s mind ramblings during surgery. There were cows stuck in the mud, rodeo accidents, Christmas cookies and sexytimes in front of the fireplace. It was set during Christmas, but everyone was in the hospital worried about dude, so not overwhelmingly Christmasy. I think that novella really set my love of a reconciliation / get-back-together story.

  13. 13
    Terrie says:

    I’ll reread a good number of the Mary Balogh Christmas stories.  It strikes me that while Christmas features in her stories, she doesn’t overdo the Christmas miracle.  As with all her stories, she writes about people dealing with themselves and each other.  Holiday traditions bring people together which provides the opportunity for healing and change.  I think her Christmas stories emphasize the same values all her stories do—learning to see beneath the surface into what really drives someone, which leads to understanding and forgiveness, to love and healing. 

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    “Basically I want any Christmas romance to be warm and fuzzy like sitting on a fuzzy rug in front of the fire, but I don’t want to be punched in the face with DO YOU LOVE CHRISTMAS YET? RAAAWWWRRR”

    THIS is exactly how I feel much of the time when I read the treacly-miracle-laden holiday romances, especially contemporaries. Like I’m a fois gras goose being force-fed the Christmas spirit.

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:

    Carrie S reviewed All Seated on the Ground last year. Spoiler: she LOVES this story.


  16. 16
    cleo says:

    I recommend Willis’ Christmas anthology – Miracle and other Christmas Stories.  (All Seated on the Ground is not in it)  I I got it from the library a few years ago and fell in love with it.  And it’s still in print / e-book.  She obviously enjoys the Christmas season but doesn’t rub the reader’s face in it – and she has a sense of humor about the Christmas season, which is often lacking in holiday stories.  IIRC, not all of the stories have romances, and one doesn’t really have an hea, but there’s a nice mix of styles and genres and some understated romance – and one story has a killer romantic sub-plot with an unlikely hero.

  17. 17
    cleo says:

    I love that story.  I have it in her collection Under the Mistletoe – which is a collection of several of her novellas, I think all printed previously. 

  18. 18
    cleo says:

    I have a couple non-treacly contemporary Holiday anthologies that might work for you.

    I love the Night Before Christmas, with stories by Erin McCarthy, Jill Shalvis and others.  The stories are short and sexy.  It’s contemporary. My two favorites are by McCarthy and Shalvis. 

    I like Shannon Stacey’s holiday novellas – Mistletoe and Margaritas, and Holiday Sparks.  They were both part of different Carina Press holiday anthologies, but you can get them separately.  I tend to like CP’s anthologies, including their holiday ones. 

    If you read m/m, Nine Lights over Edinburgh by Harper Fox is a lovely Hanukkah novella – with a romance between a hardened Scottish detective and a slightly discredited Mosad agent. The plot is ott but the romance is awesome.  It’s my favorite story from the His For the Holidays anthology.

  19. 19

    Wow, thanks for all the suggestions! I bought Miracle and Other Christmas Stories based on the strength of your recommendation. I’ll definitely look into the anthologies. Nine Lights over Edinburgh sounds dreamy.

    You’re making my wallet cry! :-)

  20. 20
    LauraN says:

    Oh no!  I was looking forward to reading that again this Christmas.  I adore choral music, especially Christmas music, and that story just pushed all my happy Christmastime buttons.  I suppose I still can read it, but I want to get it for free . . . you know, like a gift.  Bah, humbug!

  21. 21
    Emily says:

    Sorry if this is too late. I had internet problems.
    Anyway last year I read Carla Kelly’s Coming Home for Christmas. It was an anthology of three novellas. I LOVED this book! I gave it an A+ even though I never gave anything A+ before and since. It was historical set in three different time periods with history I didn’t know much about. It was so good.
    I also love Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. More cynnical, but not over the top. I highly recommend it.
    In general I want more multicultural romances not just white American/Anglican generic Christmas whatever. I like people who have specific Christmas traditions based either on herritage or custom. I want there to be more than one to celebrate. I also would totally read a Hannukah romance.

  22. 22
    Samantha L says:

    Christine Merrill has a lot of Christmas romances out that aren’t overly sweet. Mistletoe Wager has a regency house party and a German heroin. Her latest Undone, To Undo a Lady, has an Indian hero who’d rather celebrate Diwali.

  23. 23
    ducky says:

    Every Christmas I reread “Some Enchanted Season” by Marilyn Pappano.

  24. 24
    samantha says:

    A couple of my favorites.

    The Christmas Visit(HQN Historical, Anthology)-  by Margaret Moore, Terri Brisbin and Gail Ranstrom. I LOVED the Margaret Moore novella. In fact I wish I still had my copy because I want to read it again.

    A Regency Christmas Carol (HQN Historical) by Christine Merrill

    Regency Christmas Courtship (Signet, Anthology)  Barbara Metzger, Edith Layton, Andrea Pickens, Gayle Buck, Nancy Butler LOVE Signet

    And since I just finished Brenda Novak’s When Lightning Strikes I am going to read the holiday flavored When Snow Falls next.


  25. 25
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    I love reading the historical Christmas romances. I buy a stack every year. Some are better than others, but I love them all!

  26. 26
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    There are several books entitled In the Bleak Mid-Winter. Who was the author?

  27. 27

    Ditto on the Christine Merrill recommendation.  Just finished Inconvenient Duchess and it wasn’t over the top at all.  It was great.

  28. 28
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