By Talia Hibbert
As a child, I briefly attended a Catholic school. It was a strange time, mostly because my family is not Catholic, and also because nuns can be kind of full-on in large groups. They have a tendency to gather like holy murders of crows.
Don’t get me wrong, though; I thoroughly enjoyed my dip into the, ahem, Christian lifestyle. “So, Talia,” you ask in a convenient rhetorical device (thanks, by the way), “what was your favourite part?” Why, Christmas, of course!
Christians love them some Christmas—and, due to the wonders of colonialism and cultural hegemony, so do a ton of other folk. To me, Christmas is an explosive orgy of love, exuberance, and glittery drama. Take those characteristics, grab a handful of romance, smush ‘em together, and what do you get? MEGA ROMANCE, of course. Honestly, I thought that was obvious.
So, in the spirit of the season, my latest column of Kindle Unlimited recs is unapologetically Christmas-themed. Prepare for puns, grand gestures, family dynamics, and mystery-gift-based-tropes.
You’ve been a very good bean this year. [Strokes long white beard.] Now, here are your presents…
First of all, this book comes with a fabulous Christmas playlist in the front, and I appreciate that kind of energy. Secondly, in this story of colleagues-with-benefits reunited after a serious betrayal, Renshaw pulls off a believable and compelling star-crossed-lovers set-up. I know. You’re shocked, because that trope is irritating and generally poorly done. Me too.
In EXMAS, the hero seems like a total arse, but he genuinely isn’t. The heroine shouldn’t give him an inch, but it’s understandable when she does. I didn’t want to throttle anyone while reading, and none of the main characters made me despise humanity at large. Now, that’s what I call a Christmas miracle.
This story is wonderfully written, compelling, slightly angsty, and overwhelmingly satisfying. It’s also subtly, constantly sexy, with heat running through each page like blood through veins. But the best part, hands-down? The pun in the title, of course.
I’m a simple girl.
BEAR HOME FOR CHRISTMAS is the kind of book where lonely waifs are rescued by handsome, trustworthy strangers and taken home to perfectly welcoming families who give them the love they’ve always dreamed of. It’s the kind of book where characters say things like “That’s neat!” and generations-long feuds are cleared up by heartfelt pleas from plucky teenagers. It’s the kind of book where the big, soft, loveable, huggable hero is, quite literally, a bear.
I don’t think that telling you any of this counts as a spoiler, because we all know exactly how these books go, and that is why we keep reading them.
The book also contains a whole heap of my favourite tropes. There’s You-Are-My-Mate caretaking (without any super-aggressive lust), a consent-obsessed hero, a road trip, and—of course—the iconic “Oh, no, there’s only one bed and it’s cold so we need to huddle for warmth!” moment. Ah, yeah. That hits the spot.
If you feel like making a huge cup of hot chocolate with actual melted chocolate at the bottom and marshmallows on top, but you’re too lazy to do it, don’t worry! Reading this book will have the exact same effect on your emotional well-being and your festive cheer levels, all without you having to venture into a kitchen.
Drink it down while it’s still hot, smile as the heat gentles to a nice warmth in your belly, and smack your lips as you recall the sweetness hours later. Metaphorically, I mean. This is a book, Janet, not a delicious liquid confection. Pull yourself together.
I wasn’t sure if I should include this book on a romance list, because the ending is very ambiguous and firmly happy-for-now. But it has so many Christmas Romance tropes, and it was so interesting to read… and this is my list, so there.
But seriously, here’s my ***!!!SPOILERY!!!*** disclaimer: the romantic shenanigans in this story are more coming-of-age than HEA, and the two heroes might not ever see each other again. But also, they totally might. They might! I am choosing to believe that they do.
***!!!SPOILERS OVER!!!*** Phew.
So, what are those Christmas Romance tropes I was harping on about? Well, this begins with the wonderful ‘hot, lonely guy staying with your family’ trope, and the rest of the festive delights spin out from there. By the way, I know it seems like I’m making these long, rambly tropes up as I go along, but I’m totally not. These are all Established Things. Just trust me, okay?!
The heroes sneak around together—sexily. They share desserts and make dirty jokes about it. They even go caroling at one point. (For those who have not watched as much U.S. television as I: carolling is a popular American pastime in which you harass your neighbours and make total fools of your family.) In short, this book is a Christmas smorgasboard of fabulosity. Also, the cover is killer. Go forth and spoil thyself.
Here it is! The final entry! And I saved my personal favourite for last.
People act like ‘smut’ is a dirty word, which it literally is, and I like that. I can—and frequently do!—enjoy low-heat romances, but when a book is gilled to the brim with explicit sexiness I am one happy camper.
Let’s be real: sometimes (often) you (I) find yourself (myse—okay, you get the point) in the mood for a quick-and-filthy story with a growling, lovesick hero and wide-eyed virgin heroine. It’s Christmas, you fiends. I demand to be fed!
SECRET SANTA is that kind of romance. It has some great Christmas tropes: colleagues at office parties; Secret Santa shenanigans; the aforementioned ‘lonely waif taken in by family man’ situation. But be warned: there are serious alpha hero ‘I am plotting to have you, frown frown, punishing kiss’ vibes. If that’s not your thing, you’re outta luck.
However, if you enjoy grumpy heroes, plucky heroines, intense sex scenes, and heart-warming family connections, you’ll love SECRET SANTA. It’s so sweet it should come with a dental health warning and so sexy it should come with a hand-held fan. You know, because it’ll get you hot and bothered. God, I’m funny.
Now, before I go, would you like to know a festive secret? Of course you would, you little gossip.
In my Kindle, I have a folder called ‘Favourites’, and according to my mathematical prowess (the calculator on my phone) 57% of the books in that folder are Christmas romances.
Do I have a problem? Perhaps. And once you read these recs, you will too! Sharing is caring. Merry Christmas.