Thursday, December 13, 2012

LET'S TALK ROMANCE (1): Top Five Holiday Romances

A great new meme where readers/bloggers discuss what they love about the romance genre.  Sponsored by Jac at For Love and Books and Mary at The Sweet Bookshelf.


 1. "This Wicked Gift" by Courtney Milan, from The Heart of Christmas anthology (Historical Romance)
Lavinia Spencer has been saving her hard-earned pennies to provide her family with Christmas dinner. Days before the holiday, her brother is swindled, leaving them owing more than they can ever repay. Until a mysterious benefactor offers to settle the debt. Innocent Lavinia is stunned by what the dashing William White wants in return. Will she exchange a wicked gift for her family's fortune?

My first introduction to Ms. Milan was this holiday novella.  I was immediately drawn to her clear, witty writing style and the fact that she used non-aristocrats in her story.  Lavinia and William were great characters whose love story was just long enough to be satisfying.  Some authors struggle with writing believable romances in novellas due to the shorter page count, but not Courtney Milan!

2. "Home for the Holidays" by Jeaniene Frost, from The Bite Before Christmas anthology (Urban Fantasy)
It's home for the holidays in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. Cat and Bones may long to wrap presents and set up a tree, but this Christmas, an evil vampire and long-buried family secrets will threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer.

Cat and Bones are one of my favorite couples so it should be expected that I adore their Christmas novella.  I love how Ms. Frost provides a great introduction to her Night Huntress world (for newcomers) while still keeping it interesting for long-time fans.  The appearance of one of Bones's long-lost relatives throws quite a damper into the NH crew's holiday fun and I loved almost every minutes of it.

3. A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (Historical Romance)
It’s Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren’t for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts. 

This is a wonderfully sweet conclusion to Kleypas's popular Wallflowers series.  I loved the main love story which featured Rafe, the brother of Wallflowers Daisy and Lillian.  Another thing that was so great about this book was the way Ms. Kleypas integrated the four Wallflower couples without overshadowing Rafe and his heroine.  I especially enjoyed the scenes with Evie and Sebastian since they were my favorite couple of the series.

4. All Through the Night by Suzanne Brockmann (Contemporary M/M Romance)
It’s Christmastime in Boston, and this year the silver bells will be wedding bells as FBI agent Jules Cassidy ties the knot with the man of his dreams, Hollywood heartthrob Robin Chadwick.  The pair plan a quiet, intimate ceremony, to be witnessed by family and close friends from the FBI, SEAL Team Sixteen, and Troubleshooters, Incorporated, including Sam Starrett and Alyssa Locke. But the holiday season brings more to the happy couple than they expect.

A waterfall coming through their kitchen ceiling, a bat colony in the attic, old family tensions . . . even an international incident can’t dampen their spirits. But add to that a parade of unexpected guests, including a reporter looking for a scoop, an ex-lover hell-bent on causing trouble, and a dangerous stalker, and suddenly the wedding is poised to unravel in chaos.  But nothing will stop Jules and Robin from getting their happy ending, because along with a guest list featuring the most elite counterterrorism force in the world, they have their own secret weapon–true love.

What a great way to tie together the epic Robin and Jules romance!  I fell in love with this couple and really enjoyed watching them deal with everyday drama such as marriage proposals, new jobs, and wedding preparation.  And since it is the Troubleshooters series...there's also plenty of suspense and action to keep everyone on their toes.  While Robin and Jules stole the show (as they do every time they appear on page), I also liked the secondary romance between Robin's assistant and a desperate reporter.

5. An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James (Historical Romance)
One spectacular Christmas, Lady Perdita Selby, known to her friends and family as Poppy, met the man she thought she would love forever. The devilishly attractive Duke of Fletcher was the perfect match for the innocent, breathtakingly beautiful young Englishwoman, and theirs was the most romantic wedding she had ever seen. 

Four years later, Poppy and the duke have become the toast of the ton... but behind closed doors the spark of their love affair has burned out.  Unwilling to lose the woman he still lusts after, the duke is determined to win back his beguiling bride's delectable affections...and surpass the heady days of first love with a truly sinful seduction.

This is the second installment in James's Desperate Duchesses series, but it can be read as a stand-alone.  What attracted me most to this book was the way that the author describes the Christmas holiday during the Georgian England era.  The descriptions of the parties, decorations, and clothes were impeccable and just put me in the holiday spirit.  I also liked the romance which involved a troubled marriage between two people who married before really getting to know one another.  One of my favorite aspects of this story was that it is actually the hero who attempts a makeover in order to attract his wife rather than the other way around.

Honorable Mentions: When Sparks Fly by Sabrina Jeffries, The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon, Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare

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