Most of us are attracted to a certain idea of the holidays. Cold weather, twinkle lights, hot drinks, fireside evenings, and the well-being that comes from rich meals and long hours of nothing to do but enjoy oneself. Because such a sanguine holiday isn’t always in the cards, we’ve put together a list of cozy romances and murder mysteries that summon all of the excesses and contentment of a fantasy winter holiday. Whether you fancy love over latkes or a killer eggnog, the 10 books below will sweep you off your feet — and under the rug — with the kind of sweetness only found at The Cookie Jar.
Hallmark movie fans will eat up Guillory’s story of a mature American woman finding unexpected love with the Queen of England’s private secretary. When Vivian Forest joins her stylist daughter on a trip to England to dress a member of the royal family, she finds herself drawn to “tall mug of hot chocolate” Malcolm Hudson, a refined and thoughtful gentleman game for a holiday fling. Guillory plays with historical romance tropes, having the lovers exchange notes via footman and indulge in aristocratic clichés like tea and horseback riding, while acknowledging the centrality of Black characters in a generally white literary and cultural environment. Relaxingly drama-free and swoony, Royal Holiday will put a Crown Jewel-bright smile on anyone’s face.
Wuv (twue wuv) sometimes involves a bus, misguided notions of friendship, and a jerk slowly (oh… so… slowly) learning the difference between a “total package” and someone who makes you feel completely at ease. If you’re the type of person who goes all in on the yuletide-fueled meet-cutes of Love, Actually and Serendipity, One Day in December will keep you curled on the couch late into the night, boxes of tissues and chocolates by your side.
We love a holiday pun. In this coziest of cozy romances, 30-something artist Kate Turner subjects herself to a series of blind dates under the collective gaze of her adorably tiny British village. Of course the dates are a hilarious disaster and love turns out to be hiding in plain sight, but any predictability in the plot — and predictability is part of its coziness — finds compensation in Bayliss’s knack for funny situations, colorful ensemble casts, and hunger-inducing descriptions of fresh baked goods. (Don’t read while hungry. Or, better yet, read with a tray of scones.) Sweet and silly, The Twelve Dates of Christmas is all the company you’ll need on a quieter-than-usual Christmas Eve.
It’s either fantasy or nightmare: the holiday vacation that never ends. Stuck in a Groundhog Day loop, Maelyn Jones has the unlikely opportunity to fix everything in her life, or at least save the vacation cabin she loves and finally hook up with her unrequited childhood love. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to travel back in time to correct mistakes (in short: wonderful) or just really, really wish Christmas would never end, writing duo Christina Lauren’s wise-cracking, endearing characters and enchanting winter cabin setting will scratch that itch and then some.
Christmas isn’t the only sexy winter holiday! Hanukkah offers eight nights of romance; plus, eating fried potatoes with sour cream is basically a religious requirement — that’s hot! Xan West sets the menorah on fire with her diverse f/f D/s romance. There’s a lot to love about this intense novel: the characters are middle-aged and navigating a variety of physical, gender, and sexual issues that impact identity while also dealing with a changing friendship, attraction, boundaries, and love. Jordan and Leah’s interactions feel authentic — sometimes painful, but always honest, and freeing the characters to experience life more fully.
Note: Author West includes a content warning and reference guide to help orient readers in what might be new or triggering territories.
Sure, kissing is cozy, but sometimes what you’re really craving is the mystery equivalent of a Snuggie. Holiday Murder collects two of Meier’s cozy mysteries set in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, a small town that would be idyllic if it weren’t for all the murders. Harried mother Lucy Stone is busy caring for her three kids, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, entertaining relatives, working part-time, and investigating the deaths of her boss and neighbor. Was it suicide; is the neighbor really a low-down recipe thief? Discover the answers in Meier’s unabashedly merry holiday mysteries.
Rhys Bowen’s charming Royal Spyness mystery series, starring Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the throne, is a one-way ticket back into the powdered bosom of Downton Abbey. In The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Georgiana is simply trying to escape the boredom of Christmas with her stuffy siblings when dead bodies start falling from the trees. How trying! Can Georgiana find the murderer in time to kiss Darcy (yes, DARCY) under the mistletoe?
Why should gentiles have all the murders? Rabbi Aviva Cohen is going through the motions in her South Jersey town (and dreading the imminent arrival of her first ex-husband) when she finds herself thrust into an investigation of the alleged suicide of a young woman mourning the recent death of her father, a bad-faith land developer. Warm and funny, with enough Judaica thrown in to feel relevant, Chanukah Guilt is a good pick for readers wanting a holiday cozy sans the Christmas tree.
If you love community Christmas theater (and who doesn’t?), pick up a copy of Andrews’s Dickens-themed cozy. Meg’s husband has pulled the entire family into his full-scale production of A Christmas Carol, which would be great except for the antics of the aging star actor playing Scrooge and the mysterious surplus of caged finches in town. Throw in an animal smuggling ring, a murder, and two Christmas spectaculars, and Meg’s got her hands full. Will the blacksmith/mom/stage manager/drunk actor minder/finch foster parent get everything resolved in time, or is it curtains for everyone in Yorktown?
Holiday cookie recipes and amnesia: tie this Christmas cozy magic in a bow and gift it to your favorite baker. In Christmas Cupcake Murder, Hannah is busy serving pastries to the good folks of Lake Eden, Minnesota, while dishing out advice to her sisters and trying to restore the memories of the mysterious man found near-dead two doors down from her bakery. There’s no murder in this novel, making it arguably the coziest of all, but plenty of amnesia-fueled thrills to keep the reader engaged between recipes.