In the past, I've generally avoided Christmas-themed romance novels. I'm not sure why, other than that they seemed somewhat forced and, well, seasonal. I mean, who really wants to be reading about sleigh rides and Yule logs in the middle of August? Somehow, though, this year I ended up receiving a mini-avalanche of Christmassy romance novels and decided I might as well give in, especially since some of them were from authors whose work I consistently enjoy.
For sheer fun and escapism, Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe was my favorite of the lot. It's a side story in her Pink Carnation series and, as such, is lighter and frothier. There's a bit of intrigue — it wouldn't be a Pink Carnation novel without a spy or two — but it's really more about the humor. If this novel's status as a bit of a holiday diversion and nothing more serious were ever in question, Ms. Willig kindly adds the character of Ms. Jane Austen and secret messages concealed in Christmas puddings.
Jennifer Haymore's A Season of Seduction was probably the most emotionally fulfilling of the list. Haymore doesn't write easy, fluffy romances and, even though this one takes place at the holidays, it's no exception. That's not to say that it will leave you all miserable and depressed. It is after all, a romance and comes complete with the requisite Happily Ever After. It just takes a little more to earn an HEA in Haymore's world.
A Midnight Clear by Kristi Astor was the one from the group that was not set in or around the Regency, so wins big points in my book for that fact alone. It had strong shades of Titanic only without the dying and a Leo who's secretly wealthy. As far as I can tell, this is Ms. Astor's first novel, though she's had fiction appear in some anthologies. There was a lot to like about this book and I look forward to seeing how Ms. Astor's career unfolds.
A Christmas Promise is a re-release of an older Mary Balogh title, but one I hadn't read before now. As with most Balogh, it was quite good. Unlike most, it actually had me a little weepy at the end. (That's a good thing. Really.)
Finally, Lisa Kleypas's A Wallflower Christmas is kind of an extended epilogue to her Wallflowers series. You don't need to have read the series to enjoy this short novel. In fact, this would actually be a good place to start, since it gives you a little glimpse — but not too much — of the couples from those earlier books.
So, when you need a break from all the crazy, escape to Romancelandia where the holidays are always fraught with more drama than even your family can cook up, but where you're guaranteed that, like a sitcom, everything will come out right.