Romancing Christmas

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…and the winners are KAREN ALLEN and SHARI MORSE. Congratulations to them, and thanks to all of you who left comments. I always enjoy reading them.

Way back in 1989 my editor at NAL asked me to be one of five contributors of to the first Signet Regency Christmas anthology of novellas, a new venture that was so well received by readers that it became an annual event for years afterward. I contributed to ten of them. Now six of those novellas of mine are about to be available again (on October 27, 2015) in two e-books, CHRISTMAS GIFTS and CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, published by Class Ebook Editions.

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I adored writing those novellas, We expect good things of the Christmas season. We expect peace and goodwill and the warmth and closeness of family celebrating together. We expect love and joy. We expect, in fact, all the elements we look for in a good romance. What better marriage can there be than that between Christmas and romance? When writing a Christmas story, I can be as sentimental as I want. The setting calls for an abundance of it. It is a time for love and healing, for second chances, for an end to loneliness, for surrender to friendship and love, for commitment to marriage and parenthood and happily ever after. In a Christmas story I can be unabashedly romantic. In the first novella I wrote, “The Star of Bethlehem,” still available in the anthology of five of my novellas  UNDER THE MISTLETOE, a marriage is in trouble. It gets worse when the wife hurls her diamond ring at her husband and it is lost among the coals of the fire. A little chimney sweep’s boy, whom the couple help when they discover the wretchedness of his existence, finds it and thinks to keep and sell it though he returns it in the end. In the meanwhile, however, the husband, stricken with guilt, has an exact replica made for his wife for Christmas, and she, equally stricken, has a replica made to show him at Christmas that she is sorry she so carelessly cast away the ring that had once meant so much to both of them. They end up with three identical rings–and with a great deal of understanding and forgiveness love and happiness–a happiness that includes the little sweep’s boy.

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And that is another thing I soon discovered about Christmas stories. They are almost invariably better, more heartfelt, when they include children as well as an adult romance. A child, after all, is at the heart of Christmas, and children can teach the adult characters and the reader a great deal about love. The feuding hero and heroine in “The Surprise Party,” neither of whom wants to be stuck with having to care for the recently orphaned children of her brother and his sister, both change their minds when they actually meet the children and realize how much they are being deprived of the carefree joys of Christmas. And both are bowled over by love when the youngest child is far more concerned with holding a surprise birthday party for Jesus than with opening her Christmas gifts. That story appears in the about-to-be published e-book anthology, CHRISTMAS GIFTS.

Perhaps the best thing I learned from the writing of those novellas was that the stories could be far more effective if Christmas was an essential element and the story happened as it did because it was Christmas and not just because by pure chance it occurred late in December. In “The Bond Street Carolers,” which appears again in the about-to-be-published e-book anthology CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, a jaded, disillusioned aristocrat has made sure that this year he will have nothing to do with all the mad hypocrisies of Christmas. But he is a connoisseur of music, and while walking down Bond Street in London one afternoon he happens to overhear a group of inferior carolers–and then a boy soloist whose pure soprano voice brings him to an abrupt halt. He must have the boy sing at one of his concerts, but the boy’s widowed mother will have nothing to do with the exploitation of her son. It is Christmas, however, and when he arranges a Christmas concert at his home and invites the whole group of carolers to perform there, how can the boy’s mother refuse to allow her son to be a part of it?

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I have written several Christmas novels as well as novellas. To two people who leave a comment below before the end of Tuesday, October 27, I will send a signed copy of the 2-in-1 paperback edition of A CHRISTMAS BRIDE and CHRISTMAS BEAU.