Tis the Season for Holiday Hopefuls

Photo by the author

The past few years, I’ve read maybe one or two winter-themed books during the holiday months, like In A Holidaze and One Day in December. While I loved them, it never occurred to me to seek out other seasonally themed romances and romantic comedies. 

This year, though, it feels like everywhere I turn, I see a winter holiday book I want to read. 

Maybe I just wasn’t as keyed in to new releases in prior years, but it feels like holiday romance is a big trend this winter season and I am here for it. 

Personally I grew up celebrating Christmas, and I love learning about other holiday traditions as well. So, I’ve set a goal of reading as wide a spread of holiday-themed romances as I can this year. 

It won’t feel like the holiday season to me until a few weeks into November, but since that’s not that far away, I figured I’d start anticipation rolling by writing about the stack of books I’m hoping to get to this year. 

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads

The first acquisition from my holiday stack, The Matzah Ball follows Rachel, a Jewish girl who loves Christmas. In fact, she has a secret career as a Christmas romance novelist which she’s kept hidden from her family. 

But then, her publisher demands a Hanukkah romance, and Rachel struggles to find the same spark, leading us to the titular Hanukah ball as she tries to capture the holiday magic. An interesting premise, but that’s not what stuck out to me the most about this book. 

You see, Rachel also lives with a chronic illness, and I’ve not had the pleasure of reading too many romances with chronically ill characters. She feels that her condition has gotten in the way of finding the love she writes about, but of course, that’s probably going to prove untrue given the genre. 

As someone who has a chronic condition myself, I’m happy to see more and more books centering this experience popping up. Hopefully, this one lives up to my expectations!

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

 Cover image courtesy of Goodreads

Twin sisters decide to swap lives at the holidays in The Holiday Swap, which feels like a plot pulled directly from the Hallmark movie lineup. 

That’s not a dig — I adore Hallmark holiday movies for all their formulaic cheesiness. If you haven’t played the Hallmark movie drinking game, you should. I often play with water or soda — it’s really all about the joy of screaming out as the clichés come across the screen.  

Of course, it’s not a holiday Hallmark experience without cookies, and Charlie and her twin sister Cass are chefs and bakery owners, respectively. While the bakery’s the ostensible reason for the swap of the season, there’s also a rugged firefighter and a gorgeous physician assistant who’ll have to grapple with the mistaken identities. So.. yeah, I’m expecting this to deliver exactly the feel-good holiday sappiness its cover suggests. 

A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads

Can I read the title of A Holly Jolly Diwali without hearing Michael Scott from The Office in my head? Alas, no, I cannot. But that didn’t stop me from feeling drawn towards this international adventure of a romance. 

Main character Niki is our practically minded protagonist whose life suddenly gets flipped upside down when she is laid off and decides to travel to her friend’s wedding in Mumbai. She meets our love interest, Sameer, at a Diwali celebration, and the two have an immediate connection. 

I’m not totally sure what to expect of this one, but it does fit the holiday bill since it starts with the festival of lights and ends with “love waiting for her on Christmas morning.” The fact that its set primarily in India and involves travel as part of the love story intrigued me, and I’m curious to see where it goes.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads

A friend texted me a link to the Goodreads page for The Twelve Dates of Christmas ages ago, so when it popped up in a promotional email from Book Outlet, I knew I had to snag a copy. 

Our protagonist, Kate, has a “bah, humbug” attitude towards dating, particularly in her small town with limited romantic prospects. Except of course the meddling best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises love for the holidays, leading her to 12 dates over the 23 days leading up to Christmas. 

This one promises small town vibes and some hilariously awful dates, because surely all 12 can’t be the men of her dreams.

These books have me dreaming of curling up by the fire with hot chocolate and reading my way through the holidays with a plate of cookies at my side. Since I loved theme reading witchy books in October, I suspect I’ll get an extra helping of holiday joy from these titles, too. 

 I’m hoping to add a few more books to the roster so if you’ve got anything on your list, from old favorites to your holiday hopefuls, let me know!

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What We’re Reading Wednesday, October 27th

Our weekly space to chat about books and reading

Image created by the editor on Canva

Happy Wednesday, book friends! Halloween week is upon us, and we’re about to transition from “spooky season” to the more general blur of winter holidays that will take us through to the end of 2021. 

Let’s just say that again for a moment. End of 2021. It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching 2022 when, emotionally, it still feels like February 2019 was last week. Just me? 

Regardless, I’ve been leaning into the October spooky vibes harder than usual this year, and have a hefty stack of winter holiday-themed reads to carry the seasonally appropriate trend through winter. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s talk about the past week in reading!

(Full disclosure: Specific book links are Bookshop affiliate links, which earn me a small commission on your purchase at no additional cost to you.)

Recent Reads

In a blur of a weekend while Andy was away, I read through a decent chunk of Payback’s a Witch to get prepped for my buddy read chat with IRL book friend Nicki on Monday. We stopped at the end of Chapter 19 for this week, with a goal of finishing up by Halloween. So far, I’m really enjoying this witchy spin on John Tucker Must Die (Nicki’s descriptor, which I think is apt). 

As a treat for accomplishing this, I settled in around 7pm with Jen Deluca’s latest installment in her Willow Creek Ren Faire rom com series, Well Matched. I proceeded to read all the way through, staying up past bedtime and puzzling my pup Azula. 

When we first settled into bed, a party raged in the backyard across the alley. To my shock and surprise, I outlasted them. In fact, I was so engrossed in my book that I failed entirely to notice when the loud music finally stopped. Needless to say, I loved this book! If you do need more proof, my full review posted earlier this week. 

Audiobook wise, the great Mediator reread marches on, and I’ve been chugging through them in quick succession in a mad rush to be reminded of when Jesse and Suze actually kiss for the first time (spoiler: it’s book four).

Alas, I had the disappointing experience of finding out that the fifth book, for reasons unknown, was released only as an abridged audiobook. The shortest book in the series was abridged to a measly two hour shadow of its former self. I was so livid about how poorly done this was, I ranted about it on my phone call with Nicki and then to Andy immediately after hanging up on that call. 

Book 6 is, thankfully, back to the previous narrator and unabridged format. But, I’m taking a quick pause while deciding if I should forge ahead and hope my teenage memories of book 5 will suffice, or if I should read my print copy as a reminder. 

Current Reads

As mentioned above, I’m working to finish Payback’s a Witch by Sunday, so I’m plugging ahead there.

I’ve also started The Decorating Club for an upcoming book tour. Unfortunately the file I received doesn’t translate super well to the Kindle, which has made it a little challenging to get into the book, but I’m going to play around with the file a bit and see if I can get a cleaner look and dig into this one more easily. 

Audiobook wise, I’m waiting on my Audible and LibroFM credits to restock before pressing on, so I’m filling my ear time with podcasts for the next couple days — Book Riot: The Podcast and The Glass Cannon Podcast, if you’re curious.

Up Next

I have so many exciting books on the horizon! I want to dive into my stack of winter holiday rom-coms, but I’m trying to hold off until after the vibe transitions from witchy to twinkly lights. Betting I’ll make it, like, one week into November, tops. 

For now, I’m going to work my way through some of the digital ARCs that have been burning a hole in my Kindle shelf, probably starting with Josie Silver’s One Night on the Island because, I mean, how can I not after One Day in December destroyed me in all the best ways? 

Tag, You’re It!

That’s me for the week, my friends! 

I have a feeling I’ll be pulling back on reading a bit this coming weekend since I let things like grading, laundry, and groceries fall by the wayside during my Well Matched reading marathon. Ugh, responsibilities. 

What about you, book friends? I’d love to hear what you’re reading, what you just finished, or what you hope to get to next. 

Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed this week’s What We’re Reading Wednesday, you can keep up to date by following here, on Medium, and/or on Instagram. Don’t forget we also accept guest posts for What We’re Reading Wednesdays if you want to snag a future column. Details here: Submit To What We’re Reading Wednesdays!

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