One of my favorite holiday-themed tales is my friend Mary Kay Andrews’ Blue Christmas, which is warm, sweet and funny, complete with a hilarious turkey-carving disaster. So I blissfully gobbled up Christmas Bliss (St. Martin’s, purchased e-book), which is the diverting follow-up, featuring more of Weezie and Bebe’s excellent adventures. It’s the week before Christmas and Weezie is prepping for her small Christmas Eve wedding to Daniel, Savannah’s hottest chef. Except Daniel’s showing off his culinary expertise to the sultry owner of a chi-chi restaurant in Manhattan. Meanwhile, bestie Bebe is happily and heavily pregnant, juggling her job on Tybee, renovations on a new house, and worries about her charter-boat captain beau Harry’s career. As Weezie hops on a plane for a surprise trip to New York, Bebe is left with mischievous mutt Jethro and the burning secret that she is still married to her snake of an ex-husband. All sorts of complications ensue — including Weezie losing both her coat and shoes in separate big-city mishaps, and Bebe enduring a baby shower — but Andrews neatly wraps up the intersecting storylines into a package that’s merry and bright.
Debbie Macomber’s Starry Night (Random House, digital galley) is about as improbable as me shedding pounds over the holidays, but at least it’s a no-cal treat. Chicago reporter Carrie Slayton hopes to trade the society beat for hard news with an exclusive interview with best-selling wilderness author Finn Dalton. Only the reclusive Finn never gives interviews, not even when Carrie eventually tracks him to Alaska and hires a bush pilot to drop her off at Finn’s isolated cabin with a snowstorm howling at her heels. Forced together in close quarters, the odd couple find some common ground, but their mutual attraction isn’t great enough to overcome Finn’s issues with love-’em-and-leave-’em women like his mom and his ex. Carrie returns to Chicago without her scoop or Finn — until he comes looking for her. Awwww.
A snowstorm also plays Cupid in Susan Mallery’s Christmas on 4th Street (Harlequin, digital gallery), another winning entry in her Fool Gold’s series of contemporary romances. It’s only slightly more realistic than Starry Night, but Mallery’s fans are used to almost-magical events in the small California town. Putting tragedy behind her, Noelle Perkins forsakes her law career to open the Christmas Attic shop on 4th Street. She’s brimming with holiday cheer, unlike Army surgeon Gabriel Boylan, coming off a hard tour overseas to visit his brother. Gabriel is undecided about his next move, although his exacting drill sergeant dad expects him to continue in the military. Lovely Noelle has him considering his options, but their romance craters until the aforementioned storm and an ensuing avalanche intervene. Sweet.
Katie Flynn’s A Christmas to Remember (Random House Adult Trade, digital galley) is one of several books by popular British authors to be released globally as e-books. Flynn’s warm-hearted tale is a bit soapy and predictable, covering seven years after World War II as young Tess Williams grows up in Liverpool, where food is still rationed and times are hard. Living with her grandmother Edie above a hat shop, bright Tess makes friends with widower tobacconist Albert Payne, tangles with mean girl Marilyn, is torn between the affections of farmer boy Jonty and city boy Snowy, and wonders whether to go to university or get a job. An accident and then a stray cat set her on an unexpected path. All’s well that ends well with another memorable holiday. More for fans of East Enders than Downton Abbey, although I like both.