Happy Holidays, dear readers. Winter is officially upon us. Hannukah may be over, but Christmas is only days away, Kwanzaa and New Year’s right around the bend, so there is lots of time for holiday surprises. What sorts of surprises, you may ask? Read on, and we’ll all find out.
No matter what holidays we or the characters in our favorite romance novels or novellas may celebrate, one thing that is for sure across all of them is that there will be surprises. No surprises, no story, right? Even though holidays are full of tradition (even when we or our characters are breaking, ignoring, or plan ol’ bah-humbug-ing said tradition) and we all know that romance is going to end happily for our lovers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be a few surprises along the way.
Some of these will, of course, take the form of actual, physical presents. Maybe the heroine, as an adult, finally gets that pony she’s always wanted (okay, maybe not the exact pony, depending on geographical location and/or equine lifespans, but a pony none the less, or maybe, by this time, a different sort of horse) or maybe she’s the one who tracked down the hero’s prized possession, big as a vintage automobile, or small as a rare, autographed baseball card, that he had to sell when desperate and down on his luck. Shoot, this is romance fiction we’re talking about. Maybe it’s both. That happens.
Maybe these gifts are exchanged after declarations of love, or maybe they come when all hope is lost, and snatch the unsuspecting lover from the pits of eggnog-fueled despair. Maybe they are the way that a shy or curmudgeonly hero or heroine is able to declare their love at all; actions do speak louder than words, and, at this time of year, what could be more appropriate? Cue frenzied dash to doorstep of love interest, for impassioned mistletoe (or not) smooches.
Other times, the surprise can’t be wrapped in paper and ribbon, because it won’t fit into any sort of box at all. Sometimes, this would incorporate abovementioned doorstep smooching (and who doesn’t like that kind of surprise? Better than door-to-door salesmen, any day. Jury’s still out on carolers, though the thought of carolers on jury duty could be the stuff of comedy or nightmares; reader’s choice.) Falling in love with the last person a character would ever have suspected fits in here, as well. Whether it’s returning home to Ye Olde Smalle Towne from the big city, and finding the boy/girl next door has passed the annoying kid stage and is now all grown up in the very best way, or a hard-driven businessperson choosing, against all odds and reason, love over career, the holiday season adds a special extra sparkle to unusual choices or twists of fate.
Even though all of the above are indeed surprises, they are also the sort of surprise one might expect in a holiday (or non-holiday) romance novel. There’s another sort, and it takes a special sort of author to pull that off; good thing there are a lot of that sort of author writing romance, because there’s nothing like it. While part of the appeal of romance, especially holiday romance, is knowing how things will turn out in the end, it’s how they get there that makes the ride worthwhile. In the hands of a clever writer, there can be a few twists and/or turns along the way that, even though we know the two lovers are going to end up together and happy about it, there is that small bit of wiggle room where we might begin to doubt. Maybe, this time, the conflict between the two lovers will conquer all (it doesn’t) or the romantic rival might have more of a chance than the love interest might hope (they don’t, but they might get their own story next time; romance is usually pretty good about things like that) or we might even see the two lovers begin the story as a committed (or nearly so) pair, whose bond is tested rather than tightened during the stress of the holidays.
No matter what the holidays, or the writers, might throw at our lovers, we have the assurance that all will be well in the end. No matter how far we might go, we can always come home, to warmth, and light and love (and some of that doorstep smooching wouldn’t hurt, either.) Perhaps the most surprising thing about holiday romances is how many very different ways there are to tell a love story that takes place around this time of year. The answer to that one? There is no end.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you like surprises in your holiday romance reading? Ever been surprised by the choices an author made or the route two characters take to finding love near the end of the year (or beginning of a new one?) Have you ever been surprised by falling in love with a story or author you weren’t sure you would even like? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. Prefer not to be surprised in your holiday romance reading? We want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.