Thursday, August 12, 2010

White Christmas in August

I found a new way to cope with the worst heat wave within my memory. It’s still more than four months until Christmas, but I’m already reading Christmas books. In addition to giving me an early infusion of the holiday spirit, the books allow me to read about snow falling and people wearing sweaters and coats. For a few hours I inhabit a winter world, and in a Georgia August with the heat index regularly hitting 100 and beyond, that’s not a bad place to be.

I started reading Debbie Macomber’s Christmas books back in 1993 with A Season of Angels, the earliest adventures of Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. I haven’t missed a Macomber Christmas book since. In fact, I often reread several during my Christmas reading ritual. But the angelic trio remains my favorite, so I was happy when they earned a mention in Macomber’s 2010 Christmas book.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle, due for a September 28 release, is a sequel to Mrs. Miracle (2005), and it is the same kind of sweet, feel-good story as its predecessor. This second book is Macomber’s take on The Miracle on 34th Street with Mrs. Miracle taking over Santa Claus’s role. It’s appropriate that Mrs. Miracle’s new mission takes her to New York City and Finley’s, the last of the Big Apple’s family-owned department stores. Although Christmas is crucial to the success of Finley’s, Jake Finley, heir to the chain of stores that bears the family name, and his grumpy father haven’t personally celebrated the holiday for many years, not since Jake’s mother and sister were killed in an accident one Christmas Eve.

Holly Larson has her own concerns about Christmas. With her parents working as medical volunteers in Haiti and her widowed brother Mickey in Afghanistan with his National Guard unit, she is the legal guardian of her young nephew Gabe, whose heart’s desire is the electronic toy Jake Finley has predicted will be the hottest toy of the season. Money is tight, and Holly worries that Santa may not deliver on Gabe’s request.

Enter Emily Merkle, better known as Mrs. Miracle. This time she’s a seasonal employee in the toy department at Finley’s rather than a housekeeper, but her uncanny knowledge of people's hearts and history and her matchmaking ways are still very much a part of the story. She gently nudges Jake and Holly and the other characters toward a happy ending that sees wounds from the past healed, lovers united, and a child’s dearest wishes granted.

I highly recommend this book for Debbie Macomber fans or for anyone who has a soft spot for sweet Christmas stories with an angelic accent. These same people will probably enjoy the Hallmark movie of Call Me Mrs. Miracle with Doris Roberts returning in the title role. It premieres in late November. I’ll be watching.

I haven’t been reading Sherryl Woods as long as I’ve been reading Debbie Macomber, But I have followed her to Charleston, the Rose Cottage at Chesapeake Bay, Serenity, and, more recently, Chesapeake Shores. I was delighted when I learned that she was writing a Christmas book about the O’Brien family.

A Chesapeake Shores Christmas , another September 28 release, is the fourth installment in Woods’s popular series of novels set in Chesapeake Shores, the Maryland town built by Mick O’Brien. While this story of Mick and Megan O’Brien finally working through all the obstacles to their remarriage can be read as a stand-alone, readers who have followed the series will take special delight in seeing Mick and Megan achieve their happiness together amid the bonds and brawls of the boisterous O’Briens.

Abby and Trace along with the twins Carrie and Caitlin (The Inn at Eagle Point), a pregnant Bree and Jake (Flowers on Main), and Kevin and Shanna with their blended family (Harbor Lights) make appearances. Second son Connor’s continued resentment of his mother and the complications in his own life are key parts of Mick and Megan’s story, and Jess, the youngest O’Brien, joins in the family plots and parties too. A Chesapeake Shores Christmas is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation and a hard-won happily ever after that is all the sweeter for being redeemed from what threatened to be a most unhappy ending to a love story. Even an occasional cynic may like something sweet at Christmas, and fans of small-town, family-centered books will be pleased with this addition to the subgenre.

Those who read and enjoyed the other O’Brien books will be happy to know that three more Chesapeake Shores books will be released in 2011: Driftwood Cottage (Connor’s story) in April, Moonlight Cove (Jess’s story) in May, and Beach Lane (cousin Susie’s story) in June.

Sometimes I want to read a romance with a sizzle factor, but I’m glad sweet romances are still around. Sometimes they are just the thing to appeal to this reader’s palate. Do you read sweet romances? Do you, like me, have a special affection for Christmas romances? What advice do you have for fighting the literal heat wave many of us in the U. S. are struggling with?

My thanks to Harlequin, publisher of both these books, and to NetGalley for providing me with free electronic advanced reading copies.


MsHellion said...

I don't read sweet too often, but for Christmas I think it's more fitting. There seems to be something a about a Christmas themed erotica. I think it's the whole family thing. You don't want to be thinking of erotica when your whole family is in the house with you.

I loved Macomber's angels--those are the most perfectly named angels ever. *LOL*

I couldn't read them now though. Reading snowy stuff now has the opposite reaction. It's like when I was in Florida, looking at Hogwarts, sweat pouring off me and staring at the "snow" on the buildings. I didn't feel chilled; I felt...annoyed. *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

I haven't read sweet in a while, though I'm not reading extreme spice either. I think I fall a little in between. Never read Macomber though I got a friend hooked on them a couple years ago. Someone gave me a few, I passed them on, and she was hooked.

Never read Woods, but I really like the sound of this series. Reminds me a bit of the Malory family series and Nora's family sagas. In fact, the short Christmas books for the Malory series and Nora's Gallaghers are the only ones I've ever read.

I don't think I would read them now, being as I can't trick my brain this well. LOL! But the way my fall is looking, I'm going to need something relaxing to read by Christmas and these just might be the thing.

Janga said...

Hellie, I think I'm just highly suggestible. I can remember seeing Dr. Zhivago (the original one with Shariff and Christie) in late July in Hotlanta and shivering the entire time it took us to walk several city blocks to the lot where my friend's car was parked.

I've read some fairly sizzling Christmas stories, but I agree they don't mix well with family scenes. :)

Janga said...

Terri, lots of people are hooked on Macomber. Her Christmas books are my favorites, but I enjoy those that are closer to women's fiction than romance. My favorite are Changing Habits, the story of three women who enter and later leave a religious order and Between Friends, the story of a friendship that endures across miles and bridges very different life experiences. I think you'd like those.

You'd like Woods's family series too. The O'Briens are a great family, and the first two books plus the Christmas one are all reunion books.

quantum said...

Janga,belonging to an island race I don't get the extremes experienced by continental dwellers thank goodness. My only advice, based on limited experience in Continental Europe, is to eat plenty of ice-cream and ice lollys, drink lots of iced water, swim for exercise and if possible head for the coast or the mountains!

I also like Christmas books, but only at Christmas. I find Mary Balogh is perfect festive reading and have now read three ( Snow Angels, A Christmas Bride, Christmas Belle) all of which received my rave award of 5 stars.

On the Balogh TBRL I have: Under the Mistletoe, Heart of Christmas, The surprise party, A Christmas Promise, No Room at the Inn, Christmas Beau, The Bond Street Carolers. Not sure if there are any more that I have missed.

Is this perhaps a record for the number of Xmas stories published by one author?

Anyway, I reckon those will last me for another three Christmases, then I may try the ones mentioned here.

Its definitely good to be spoiled for choice though, especially at Christmas!

Perhaps you will be blogging about Summer reads when Christmas arrives? *grin*

I love the contrarian approach .... marks you as someone who is book-wise savvy. *smile*

Becky said...

I am a huge Debbie Macomber fan, so can't believe that I haven't yet read "Call Me Mrs. Miracle." I love, love, love Christmas books and recently had the privilege of reading Darryl Nyznyk's newest Christmas book titled, "Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas," which is not scheduled to come out until October 15th. Can't wait for others to read it. I found the book to be the real-world grit of Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" coupled with the emotion, tension and passion of the classic films "It's a Wonderful Life," and "Miracle on 34th Street."

Becky said...

I am a huge Debbie Macomber fan, so can't believe that I haven't yet read "Call Me Mrs. Miracle." I love, love, love Christmas books and recently had the privilege of reading Darryl Nyznyk's newest Christmas book titled, "Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas," which is not scheduled to come out until October 15th. Can't wait for others to read it. I found the book to be the real-world grit of Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" coupled with the emotion, tension and passion of the classic films "It's a Wonderful Life," and "Miracle on 34th Street."

Janga said...

Q, I love Balogh's Christmas stories. I think I've read them all--six novels and 11 novellas. I make certain to reread at least "The Best Gift" and "No Room at the Inn" every Christmas. And Snow Angel is another favorite, one I think is often overlooked.

Janga said...

Becky, thanks for stopping by. Call Me Mrs. Miracle hasn't yet been released. I'm sure you will find it on the shelves of your local book venues around September 28.

I checked out the info on Mary's Son. It sounds like one I would like very much. I'll be sure to look for it.

Liz said...

I go back and forth with Debbie Macomber -- sometimes I think the coincidences just stretch my sense of belief, disbeief, whatever you want to call it. That said -- it's so darn hot here, and I like her enough I'm going to put the book on reserve! I've not read the other author, but heck, she's going on the list too.

I just read about another Christmas book (well, two, actually). One is a Harlequin -- "The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle" -- that sounded good. And another isn't in the romance genre at all, but looks like a great Christmas story, very heartwarming. It's "Mary's Son," by Darryl Nyznyk and involves a rich girl (age 11) who's lonely in her big fancy house with a dad who is too busy for her and the thug-teen who wants to burgle her house. And then came the mysterious Nicholas ... It sounds like it's a modern "Christ in Christmas" kind of story, with appeal to adults and YA readers alike.

The author writes thrillers, too -- I'm going to look for one at my library.