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December 24, 2022

4 Christmas Novels for Your Holiday Reading

by Donna Huber


I've been on vacation this week and between baking batches of Christmas cookies I've done a lot of reading. If you aren't quite ready to wrap up your Christmas reading, then you should pick up one or more of these books. 

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

A Murder at Balmoral by Chris McGeorge 

book cover of Christmas mystery A Murder at Balmoral by Chris McGeorge
October 2022; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0593544136
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); mystery

It's a Christmas murder mystery! Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this locked-room mystery.

It is set in present day but it is an alternate history to our own as the British family in the book is not the same one that currently sits on the throne. The Windsor on the throne in the book come from the line of Edward VIII. In the book's universe, he did not abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. There are some similarities and this royal family has plenty of secrets to keep the reader intrigued.

The King has decided he wants to have a family only Christmas Day. He sends all of the staff away except for his head of security and the chef. No one expected there to be a blizzard that knocks out the power and phone lines. Nor do they expect the King to keel over dead. With the head of security nowhere to be found and the family pointing fingers, it is up to the chef to decide who the killer is.

A Murder at Balmoral is a stand-alone novel and a good option for readers looking for a holiday story that isn't a romance. I'm not one to follow the royal family, but I'm sure readers who do enjoy all things royalty will enjoy this mystery involving a royal family. We get glimpses into what Christmas might be like with the Royals as the chef attempts to make the traditional Christmas feast all on his own (he has to serve as well!)

It isn't an easy mystery to figure out. The chef has no investigative skills and he has served this family for a long time so has a hard time believing anyone would want to kill the King. 

Buy A Murder at Balmoral at Amazon

The Christmas Trip by Sandy Barker

book cover of Christmas romance novel The Christmas Trip by Sandy Barker
November 2022; One More Chapter; 9780008552794
ebook (384 pages); romance

I loved The Christmas Swap and I hinted a few times in my review that I really hoped we would get more about the main characters. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw Sandy Barker had written another book with Jules, Chloe, and Lucy. The Christmas Trip was just as enjoyable as the first book.

It is a year later and for the first time all the girls, along with their partners, are going to spend Christmas together. It wasn't the original plan but when Archer's plan to take Chloe to Paris falls through due to a natural disaster canceling their flight he knows he needs something to make Christmas extra special.

This is such a fun story. I literally laughed out loud several times. There were some great lines. You feel like you are with a group of your friends and since you feel like you know the characters so well it is even funnier. 

It isn't all laughs though. There are some serious moments. I think I identify the most with Lucy so her storyline had me a little teary-eyed at times. 

I love all the characters and I loved getting to see more of their lives. As I mentioned this is the sequel to The Christmas Swap, you don't HAVE to have read that book but The Christmas Trip will be more enjoyable if you do. They are quick reads so if you haven't read the first book you could easily read them both before the new year. And seriously they are just fun novels you will be glad that you did.

This closer to women's fiction than romance and it is a clean read. There's some kissing and little foreplay but the bedroom scenes all fade to black. 

Buy The Christmas Trip at Amazon

The Naughty or Nice Clause by Kate Callaghan

book cover of Christmas romance novel The Naughty or Nice Clause by Kate Callaghan
November 2022; Indie; 978-1739753740
ebook, print (258 pages); romance

I was drawn to this book partly because of the cover and partly because I kept seeing it and I didn't want to miss out on what might be a big holiday hit. 

It was a little bit of a bumpy ride for me. There was little foundation provided to build the story upon. it relies on the familiar trope of enemies-to-lovers. But we are only given a little glimpse of the enemy part before quickly progressing to lover.

It is a short book so there isn't a lot of room for set-up. I didn't realize that they were in Ireland until a few chapters in. The characters don't have accents or use words that would indicate they are Irish - we had to be told.

A bit more time is spent on the world-building of Mason Klaus's village but even then it is pretty superficial. At times, I felt like this was a Hallmark movie wannabe - you know the Christmas movies that have the premise of a Hallmark movie but not the budget. 

I did like the world of Yule. I liked that the author had a different take on the Santa Claus mythology.

I felt that the pacing was a bit rushed. It was as if the story was just there for the sex scene and we needed to hurry up and get there. The Naughty or Nice Clause does have a bit more heat but it is pretty much just one scene. 

The obstacles to their relationship were often contrived and not overly inspired. You know the contract thing is going to come back to bite her. (While I'm on this point - why was she using Mrs. Klaus's email account. What email doesn't offer web-based access so that a user can login from anywhere?) At least when Lyla runs off it isn't because Mason yelled at her but because her cat got out. 

This book had a lot of potential. I think a little more time and space would have made it a better book. If you are looking for quick, superficial read then this one is good for that. 


Christmas at the Ranch by Anita Hughes

book cover of holiday romance Christmas at the Ranch by Anita Hughes
September 2022; Griffin; 978-1250818584
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romance

This is the third Christmas novel I've read by Anita Hughes. I look forward to them almost at much as I do Debbie Macomber's Christmas novels. Last year's novel, A Magical New York Christmas (read my review), is my favorite so this one had a lot to live up to.

Christmas at the Ranch isn't as Christmasy but there is plenty of winter activity. And it is set at Christmas. I think part of the reason it didn't feel as Christmasy is because the main character Samantha has been invited to her publisher's ranch for a house party - pretty much everyone there is a stranger to her.

I liked Samantha. She just wanted to spend Christmas in her apartment with her dog. I didn't feel like there was really anything wrong with that - I like being home with just my cats. But if she stayed home there wouldn't have been much of a story. I felt like Bruno and his wife were underutilized.

While I liked Drew and Samantha, I felt the secondary characters kept stealing the show. Samantha's parents' Christmas vacation sounded like a lot of fun and I would love see more of their adventures.

I'm not sure how I felt about the "outtakes" from Samantha's book plots. The first few were fun and gave a sense of Samantha's character, but then they started to feel more like a distraction from the story. 

Overall this was a good story. I spent the entire day reading it.

Buy Christmas at the Ranch at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour



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