Some people blast the festive tunes morning to night. Others gorge themselves on Hallmark holiday rom-coms. And then there are those of us with a minutely more cerebral seasonal vice: Christmas rom-com novels, the cozier the better.
They usually hit the shelves in October, but I like to wait until December before I crack the first spine, and then I escape—not unlike going through the wardrobe to Narnia—into a magical kingdom of meet-cutes, mistletoe and low-stakes suspense. This festive fic is particularly suited to that liminal week between Christmas and New Years when real life itself seems paused, and it feels perfectly reasonable to lose yourself in these snow globe worlds. Pro tip: For maximum enjoyment, salt the uncomplicated joy with a Christmas mystery or two. I find PD James’s classic collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Murder, does this nicely.
Crack open the Quality Street, turn on the fireplace channel and prepare to snuggle up with this year’s best cozy rom-coms in book form.
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Wrapped Up In You by Talia Hibbert
Will is an A-lister billionaire voted Sexiest Men Alive, but honestly? All he wants for Christmas is Abbie, the whip-smart twin sister of his best friend—and the woman he’s had a crush on since forever. Luckily, the elves—in the form of a raging blizzard—are on his side, and an opportunity to win over Abbie (thus far entirely immune to his many charms) arises when they get stranded together over the holidays.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss
Not to be confused with a Hallmark film of the same name, this is the tale of Kate, a 34-year-old designer who lives in a charming British seaside town and is badgered into dating 12 men on 12 dates in the run-up to Christmas, all as a favour to a friend trying to get a dating agency off the ground. A flimsy premise, yes, but a fun romp nonetheless.
A Princess For Christmas by Jenny Holiday
HRH Maria of Eldovia (a winking nod to Hallmark’s A Christmas Prince) finds herself in New York just before Christmas, on a failing trade mission to save her tiny principality’s watchmaking industry. One night, her driver doesn’t show and she finds herself in a cab driven by Leo, who is handsome and has a complicated family situation, not unlike Maria’s own. Cue the whirlwind romance set against a backdrop of N.Y.C’s most festive sights.
The Christmas Invitation by Trisha Ashley
An artist who was raised on a commune in deepest Wales, Meg finds herself about to spend the holidays in an equally eccentric household. Commissioned to paint the portraits of a renowned historian and her poet husband, she’s welcomed into their rambling gothic mansion on the edge of a moor upon which stands the Starstone, a pagan monument that comes into its own on the winter solstice, just days away. But before then, Meg has a more pressing problem: A ghost from her romantic past, who just happens to be her subjects’ nephew…
In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Best-friend author duo Christina and Lauren present a festive twist on their usual brand of relatable romance. In a riff on It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, Maelyn gets the chance to relive a disastrous Christmas weekend, wherein she drunkenly made out with her long-time crush’s little brother. Whether or not she’ll actually make things any better the second go around, however, remains to be seen…
All About Us by Tom Ellen
This time of year makes many of us reflective, so it’s no wonder that we have another entrant into the “what if you could go back and change everything” category. This tale focuses on Ben, consumed with the idea that his boring, frustrating life might be different if he hadn’t let Alice—a uni crush—get away. A stranger in a pub hands him a mysterious watch, gifting him with the chance to go back to where he thinks it all went wrong, and see how he likes a different version of the story.
Holiday Home Run by Priscilla Oliveras
Not all holiday rom-coms need stop at chaste pecks in the snow! This breezy read comes with a serving of heat, quite literally: It’s set in Puerto Rico (where it’s blessedly warm in December), telling the story of Julia, who is desperate to start a life away from her family’s catering business. Enter Ben, a retired pro baseball player who volunteers to help Julia with a big fundraiser for the youth centre. If you don’t see where this is going, it’s three strikes and you’re out, batter.
One More For Christmas by Sarah Morgan
A queen of the beach read, Sarah Morgan is no less deft at spinning us a juicy family drama in the winter. Her setting is the Scottish Highlands, where we meet Samantha and Ella, two sisters about to spend Christmas with their estranged mother, who’s appeared out of the blue after five years. There’s a romantic subplot, of course, but the real heart of this one is the only slightly sappy mother-daughter reconciliation.
You Had Me At Hockey by Kelly Jamieson
Even if the closest you’ll get to a rink this year is sliding across the floor in your socks en route to chipping the last jelly beans off the gingerbread house, this hockey-themed romance (part of a long-running series) surely counts as winter physical activity? As the name might suggest, it’s about an NHL pro whose routine life is upended by Sara, an influencer who wants him to come on her podcast. (Let it not be said this genre isn’t keeping with the times!)
White Elephant by Trish Harnetiaux
Not a romance, per se, but such a crackling little festive read I couldn’t resist throwing it in. I mean: a murder mystery that starts at a holiday party, kicked off when a bizarre statue of a cowboy pops up in the annual “white elephant gift exchange,” and nobody knows who it belongs to…except two people in the circle who happen to know it was used as a murder weapon in a crime carried out years ago.