I love stories set during Christmas! However, it can be difficult to settle into a cozy holiday novel when you’re looking at a seemingly endless Christmas to-do list. With this in mind, I’m offering a list of highly recommended Christmas novellas, three of which are available on Audible, in print, and as e-books. (The Best Worst Christmas is only available from Audible.)
Holiday by Gaslight, by Mimi Matthews
Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned… (4 hours and 4 minutes)
Set in 19th century England, this story is wonderfully romantic but also properly Victorian. (Lots of yearning, but nothing untoward, if you get my drift.)
The Best Worst Christmas, by Kate Forster
Lily is back from Australia for the first time in seven years to spend Christmas at her mum’s house in a small, gossipy English village. To her surprise, she returns to find that her mother is dating the man next door, who also happens to be the father of her ex-boyfriend Tom. Tom, who broke Lily’s heart all those years ago. Tom, the real reason Lily fled to the other side of the world and stayed there. Tom, who is also home for Christmas and right there, next door. (4 hours and 29 minutes)
This Audible Exclusive is great fun — I laughed A LOT as I listened to the audio — and I would give it a PG/PG-13 rating for language and innuendo. Lots of romantic tension between Kate and Tom, but nothing too physical. (Yes, I’m getting rather granny-ish when it comes to sex in novels!)
The Christmas Hirelings, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Sir John Penlyon is a widower who lives alone, having disowned his daughter for marrying beneath herself. He spends Christmas with his friend Thomas Danby and his niece Adela, who points out that Christmas is quite dull without children. Danby takes it on himself to hire some children in order to cheer up his friend. He brings three siblings, sweet and endearing children, who do indeed enliven the holiday. The youngest of them, little Moppet, in particular, charms Sir John and endears herself to him. However, Moppet falls dangerously ill and Sir John begins to regret opening his heart. And yet, it is the season of miracles… (Synopsis adapted from Fantastic Fiction) (3 hours and 53 minutes)
Originally published in 1875, The Christmas Hirelings is an exceedingly sentimental Victorian story, and I LOVED it. It’s available in all formats, but I highly recommend the Audible recording by Richard Armitage. His vocal performance is absolutely top-notch.
Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man, faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery that forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church. (1 hour and 57 minutes)
This isn’t a romance, but the story certainly is about love. It’s also about “quiet bravery,” according to the 2022 Booker Prize judges. (It’s been short-listed.) Claire Keegan writes clearly and beautifully about an ordinary man and his decision to act in an extraordinary way. It brought me to tears.
Happy Holiday Reading (or listening)!