Christmas Novels | Season's Reading

From bookstores to small towns, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in these novels of charm, kindness, and corgis too.

Colgan, Jenny. Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop. Avon. (The Christmas Bookshop, Bk. 2). Oct. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780063260450. pap. $18.99. F

Colgan returns to Edinburgh-based McCredie’s bookshop and the messy life of its manager, Carmen Hogan, in this sequel to The Christmas Bookshop. Carmen is worried about her relationship with Oke, who’s planning a long trip to Brazil, the bookshop’s continuing financial struggles, and its owner’s sudden interest in selling the shop to the obnoxiously wealthy Jackson McClockerty in order to fund his own trip to Antarctica. With plenty of problems to solve, Carmen has a long Christmas wish list. Although this title is a sequel, it can be enjoyed on its own or out of order with minimal impact on the festive feelings created. Returning fans will still be rooting for the slightly clueless but relatable Carmen, her powerhouse sister and family, and all the dear friends previously made on Victoria Street, plus a few new characters who introduce satisfying surprises. By balancing the focus between saving the bookstore and working on Carmen’s personal relationships, Colgan always presents a reason to read one more chapter. VERDICT Readers looking for a chance to escape their own holiday hubbub will find a perfect respite in spending quality time with Carmen at McCredie’s splendidly decorated bookshop.—Stacey Hayman

Jenkins, Beverly. A Christmas To Remember. Morrow. (Blessings, Bk. 11). Oct. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780063119253. $27.99. F

Readers looking for uplifting, old-fashioned, small-town holiday celebrations should start planning out their route to Henry Adams, KS. After being purchased several years ago by Bernadine Brown on eBay, the community known as Henry Adams has become an ideal small town, combining big-city diversity with tight-knit and supportive neighbors. Arriving before the holidays, well-respected chef Thornton “Thorn” Webb hopes to build relationships before he begins detailed planning with the three co-owners of the town’s newest eatery, Three Spinsters. Thorn considers a more personal relationship with reverend Paula Grant, and she might also be interested. This 11th “Blessings” story (following On the Corner of Hope and Main) can be read on its own but will likely spur readers to go back to the previous 10 titles. The town is full of charming characters, each with their own backstory that is referenced while the current action unfolds, updating both new and returning readers. The book still spends plenty of time on existing romantic relationships and new partnerships. VERDICT The blend of Fannie Flagg charm and the kindness of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels will draw new fans to Jenkins’s series.—Stacey Hayman

Morgan, Sarah. The Book Club Hotel. Canary Street. Sept. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781335005120. pap. $17.99. F

With charming characters, an idyllic setting, humorous moments, and complex relationships, Morgan’s (The Island Villa) novel is everything readers could ask for on their holiday wish list. Hattie Coleman’s husband died two years ago, leaving her to raise their five-year-old daughter, Delphi, and run the Maple Sugar Inn. For the past 20 years, college friends Erica, Anna, and Claudia have taken a yearly book-club vacation. This year, Erica chooses the cozy Maple Sugar Inn instead of a big-city setting. Preoccupied with their own troubles, Anna and Claudia don’t know that Erica’s more interested in meeting Hattie than enjoying a relaxing getaway. The friends quickly include Hattie in their group, and together these four women face unexpected hurdles and discover, just like Delphi, that Christmas is truly a time of merry miracles. Even secondary characters are given backstories in this novel, and all the issues are thoughtfully discussed before finding possible solutions. This feels realistic, and the magic of a happily-ever-after at Christmas is celebrated in a satisfying way. VERDICT Fans of Christina Lauren, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, Jenny Colgan, or Mary Kay Andrews will want to put Morgan’s lastest on hold immediately.—Stacey Hayman

Noblin, Annie England. Christmas at Corgi Cove. Avon. Oct. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780063222243. pap. $18.99. F

Rosie Reynolds’s aunt and uncle, who’ve raised her since she was 15, are on the verge of losing their charming bed and breakfast, Corgi Cove. When they entertain an offer from a chain-resort corporation, Rosie makes a last-ditch effort to save her beloved home by entering a contest in the hope of having the B&B declared the best Christmas-themed inn in the USA—and winning the prize money. But it doesn’t help that the representative from the resort corporation, Everett St. Claire, is distractingly handsome. Alternating between Everett’s and Rosie’s viewpoints, the chapters are short and move the story along quickly. The mother-daughter issues between Rosie and her mother are superficial and don’t get explored, which helps keep things light and upbeat. Bonnie and Clyde, the B&B’s two corgis, add charm but are, disappointingly, not central to the plot. Also charming are the humorous quirky townspeople who come together to help Rosie in her mission to save Corgi Cove. VERDICT Although it could use more corgi and more Christmas, this quick-moving novel will especially appeal to readers who like small-town stories and opposites-attract romances, with a sprinkling of the enemies-to-lovers trope.—Sonia Reppe

Wiggs, Susan. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas. Morrow. Oct. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780063253513. $25.99. F

A year after her divorce, Brenda has embraced big changes, but she still is dedicated to the dog-rescue group Underdogs. This year for Christmas, her friend Dolly is driving adopted dogs from Houston to the small town of Avalon, NY, and she asks Brenda to be the second transport driver. After a snowstorm, a rescue by kindhearted paramedic Adam, connecting 12 dogs with their new owners, and meeting Adam’s young son and new dog owner Will, Brenda might be willing to believe in the magic of Christmas. Wiggs’s (Welcome to Beach Town) story brings both the main and secondary characters to life through small details, internal dialogue, and thoughtful interactions in a variety of settings. Obstacles to the central romantic relationship are just enough that there’s reason for concern over a happy ending, but not so big they can’t be overcome. The charm of the small town is reflected by its inhabitants, who provide a cozy feeling in the background. Information on rescue organizations and dog training are additional appealing elements. VERDICT Readers looking for a quick and satisfying Christmas novel, with the bonus of uplifting dog rescues, will love every page.—Stacey Hayman

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