With leaves turning colors, days getting shorter, nights getting longer, temperatures falling, and spookily-wrapped tasty treats pretty much everywhere here in the US, there is a definite sense of change in the air. Sundresses, shorts and sandals give way to sweaters, socks and boots. Kids (and teachers) are back to school, plans for a plethora of fall and winter holidays are in full swing, which also means seasonally themed romances, both anthologies and single titles are about to make their appearances, if they haven’t already. What sorts of tricks or treats might any given reader expect to find between the covers of these seasonal releases? Glad you asked.
With Halloween arguably the kickoff for the fall and winter holiday season here in the US, it’s only natural that spooky-themed romances experience some booming business this time of year. Paranormal romance has ghosts, vamps and shifters aplenty all year round, but, in the season of pumpkin spice everything, they can seem thicker on the ground than fallen leaves…and who doesn’t want to jump into a big ol’ leaf pile? It may be a tall order for a long-running paranormal series to turn up the volume and make a Halloween story extra scary, but for a talented author, that’s a challenge easily met, to deliver a double dose of the right kind of chills. For readers who prefer things a little (or a lot) more on this side of the veil, romantic suspense offers a side of perfectly natural danger, and nobody does tension like the classic gothics of old…which may gain extra points if read in the original vintage volumes. Fleeing a gothic mansion in one’s unmentionables, on the wind-swept moors never gets old, and could inspire one heck of an on-point Halloween costume. Maybe even cosplay for the rest of the year.
Thanksgiving (at least the American variety) doesn’t seem to be as much of a draw for holiday-themed romance, although it’s hard to imagine why. Okay, the holiday has only been a holiday since 1863, so that rules out every Regency ever (besides their being British) and, frankly, anything before 1863, when there weren’t any traditions, because the holiday was brand new, (or at least in the official sense of the word) but First Thanksgiving Ever could be a historical anthology theme, right? Maybe scootch up a bit into the early 20th century, and go for the Americana vibe? For contemporaries, Thanksgiving would be a natural time for past, present and future heroes and heroines to gather around the family table. Some could travel from far away, others never left, joyous reunions, family squabbles, friends to lovers, etc. Not that it doesn’t happen in scenes within regular books, but there has to be a market for this, unless it’s those tricky food coma scenes. Maybe next year?
When we get into the winter holidays, that’s when things get a little more complicated, so maybe it’s a good thing that Thanksgiving serves as sort of a buffet…uh, buffer. Christmas romances are far and away the most prevalent of winter holiday romances, with observations that run the gamut from a tight focus on the spiritual side of the very first Christmas ever, to the more secular side of modern celebrations, sometimes even with a paranormal twist. Historical, contemporary or futuristic, romance readers and writers love Christmas stories, and they’re easy enough to find as soon as they hit the shelves.
The romance readership is an eclectic bunch, and stories geared around other winter holidays can bring as much love, even if they aren’t as easy to spot. Flames old and new can spark all through Hannukah and/or Kwanzaa, and Yule be wrong if you think other cultures don’t have their own celebrations to put some warmth in a long winter’s night. From ancient times to the modern day and beyond, reading romances set around traditions not our own can only expand the festive feel, and allow us to share in a celebration we might otherwise never experience.
One holiday we all can celebrate is New Year’s Eve/Day, when the calendar itself turns over (and provides a nifty excuse/opportunity for time travelers, because that does happen now and again, at least in books.) New Year’s resolutions, a kiss at midnight, second chances, new beginnings; who doesn’t see the love in all that? It’s very tempting, when the new year rolls around, to vow we’re going to be stricter with our book budgets, or more cautious in adding to our TBR lists, but with the plethora of holiday romances coming out, that can be more of a pipe dream than a resolution. Who can resist these timeless tales, all wrapped in glitter and bows?
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you read holiday romances? If so, do you read stories that fit with your own experience, or do you like to visit other times and traditions? Do you read holiday romances only during the holidays, or whenever the mood strikes? If you could design your perfect holiday romance, what would that be? (I, personally, would love some Tudor or Edwardian Christmases.) Do you know of any Thanksgiving romances? (serious question; I really want to know) If holiday romances aren’t your thing, we’d love to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.