first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 22 December 2007
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and also for Christmas themed romances. Strangely, Christmas, and not Valentine’s day, is the biggest romance theme of the year. Almost every major author from Nora Roberts to Janet Evanovich to Suzanne Brockmann has done a Christmas romance in years past, and there are a number of anthologies from all the major publishers designed to appeal to any taste, from nice to naughty.
Inspirational readers have a number of options this holiday season, including A Big Apple Christmas and Colorado Christmas. Short story powerhouse Lori Foster appears with Gemma Bruce and Janice Maynard in A Very Merry Christmas, and the Brava release I’m Your Santa. Paranormal fans might check out An Enchanted Season which features a prequel short from Nalini Singh in her Psy/Changeling series. There’s also an urban anthology from bestselling author Nikki Turner, Christmas in the Hood, which brings together some new voices in the genre.
My favourite holiday anthology, however, focuses on some of the other holidays around this time of year, and doesn’t always follow the romance standard. But if you’re looking for something a little different from a traditional mistletoe driven plot, pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.
Holidays are Hell brings together four of the biggest names in urban fantasy romance. I have to admit to some trepidation when I picked this collection up. All the authors involved are currently writing very successful series, which often leads to the assumption by both authors and publisher that readers are already familiar with their worlds. This can lead to 2 problems. The first is a story that doesn’t stand alone and only serves to further plots already in motion in the series. The second is sloppy world building with too much explanations and too little story, or half explanations that leave the reader more confused than entertained. Luckily only the last falls into the latter trap. The other three are solid examples of the short story genre.
Kim Harrison sets her story Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel before Dead Witch Walking, and creates a lovely little ghost story based around the winter solstice, my favourite of the anthology.
Lynsay Sands has one of the best grasps in the industry on how to make a short story work. She follows up her amusing short in an earlier anthology Bite, with Run Run Rudolph, a shape shifting suspense.
Marjorie Liu’s Six happens during the Chinese New Year celebrations in China. Definitely the most action packed story of the lot, Six pairs Liu’s signature speed with a strong romantic plot.
Vicki Pettersson finishes out the anthology with her story The Harvest which uses the American Thanksgiving as a backdrop. Unfortunately, this story relies much too strongly on a familiarity with Pettersson’s novels to really work.
Whichever holiday you celebrate, I wish you joy and lots of good reading!