12 Terrific Historical Christmas Novels and Short Story Collections for Your Holiday Reading

It’s that time of year again when the holiday spirit takes hold and I am compelled to read Christmas stories in between shopping and baking. I especially appreciate short stories during this busy time and there are a lot of historical anthologies to choose from along with novellas, and novels to get me in the mood and distract me from the craziness at work and home. Here are twelve books in my personal collection set in Regency and Victorian times that Jane Austen and historical romance readers will devour. Be sure to add to them to your #TBRpile. You won’t regret it.

How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Christmas Romance Anthology, by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

Make some time in your busy holiday schedule for yourself with a cup of tea, Christmas cookies, and this delightful short story collection by four bestselling historical romance authors that will sweep you away and into the Regency ballrooms of London, to Scottish castles, and to the Gilded Age New York. I always enjoy Tessa Dare’s novels and the other three authors are at the top of their game too.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Meet Me in Mayfair” by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless–and unexpectedly handsome–Thorndale himself. Now the duke’s holding her future in his hands…and he’s not letting go.

“The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean

Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm–the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

“Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan

When Annis Bannister’s family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss … until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

“Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe

Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column’s author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing–especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

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Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron

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A Preview of The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant

The Knight Before Christmas, by Marilyn Brant (2019)Hey-ho-ho Jane Austen fans. How are your holiday festivities and shopping shaping up? My neighborhood has decked their houses with lights and a few Santa’s on the rooves. One even sports a giant green Grinch. Ouch! They could use a good dose of holiday cheer, like watching one of the billion Hallmark Holiday movies airing on TV right now or reading The Knight Before Christmas, Marilyn Brant’s new holiday-themed contemporary romance. We have reviewed several of Marilyn’s previous novels here in the past with glowing results. Her Jane Austen-inspired According to Jane, and Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match are worthy of adding to your shelves.

However, today we are introducing you to her latest release, The Knight Before Christmas. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, she takes the essence of Austen’s nonsensical heroine Miss Emma Woodhouse and her older, wiser neighbor George Knightley and gives them a modern spin. Here is the book description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author herself for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota, after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town’s biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she’s now organizing.

With nods to Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, this modern heroine may be a little “clueless” in the Midwest, but she’s got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who’s all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she’s determined to figure out how to set things right and save The Knight Before Christmas. This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), Narrated by Harry Frost

Yuletide: A Jane Austen-Inspired Collection of Stories (Audiobook), edited by Christina Boyd, read by Harry Frost (2019)Hey-ho gentle readers!

The holiday season is quickly approaching with all of its delights. My local radio station started playing Christmas music the day after Veterans Day. Retailers are hanging garland and stocking their tables with gift-giving fare. A friend told me that they are finished with their shopping and have already mailed their gifts. It’s not even Thanksgiving and I am behind!

Desperate to get myself in the seasonal mood I coincidently learned of the new release of the audiobook of Yuletide: A Jane Austen Inspired Collection of Stories. I had read the book last year, so this was a nice surprise. It contains seven Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories set during the holiday season in Regency and modern-day. You can read my review of Yuletide for a summary of the stories and my impressions. Here are the book description and audio excerpts from the publisher.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably….” — Jane Austen

A holiday short story anthology with some favorite Austenesque authors, Yuletide is inspired by Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice, and the spirit of the season. Regency and contemporary alike, each romance was dreamt to spark love, humor, and wonder while you dawdle over a hot cup of tea this Christmas.

  • Chapter 1: Opening Credits
  • Chapter 2: “The Forfeit” by Caitlin Williams
  • Chapter 3: “And Evermore Be Merry” by Joana Starnes
  • Chapter 4: “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio
  • Chapter 5: “By a Lady” by Lona Manning
  • Chapter 6: “Homespun for the Holidays” by J. Marie Croft
  • Chapter 7: “The Season for Friendly Meetings” by Anngela Schroeder
  • Chapter 8: “Mistletoe Management” by Elizabeth Adams
  • Chapter 9: Closing Credits

AUDIO EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella, by Mimi Matthews – A Review

Holiday by Gaslight Matthews 2018 x 200What better way to get yourself into the holiday spirit than with a Victorian-themed Christmas romance. Set in the Dickensian London of the 1860s, and in Mr. Darcy territory of Derbyshire, A Holiday by Gaslight, by Mimi Matthews offers everything that a Victorian-era Christmas love story should. A snowy Palladian country manor house to set the idyllic scene: holiday traditions of bringing family and friends together to celebrate by decking the halls, sleigh rides, and yule logs—all culminating in a Christmas ball. Mix in a dutiful daughter of a baronet whose ill-founded assumptions of her suitor result in her rejection of their courtship, and you have a second chance love story reminiscent of North and South (1855). Like Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic tale of social division and misconception, the hero and heroine of this novella have both pride and prejudice.

Pressed by her family’s sinking finances into courting a prosperous cotton merchant below her social standing, Sophie Appersett and Edward “Ned” Sharpe’s relationship was doomed from the start. She does not want to marry, and he, after being raised in an austere household does not know how to woo a lady, relying on a stuffy etiquette manual for advice. No matter how much it would please her father to marry him, she thinks him too taciturn and dull and does not suit her expectations of a future husband. He, on the other hand, overlooks her family’s grasping need for her to marry money and only sees her fine character. When she calls it off, he seems unmoved at the loss. She is relieved. Her father is furious.

Placing her doubts and her pride in her pocket, Sophie ventures out to his Fleet Street business attempting to offer an olive branch of reconciliation. Would he, his family, and his business partner attend the Appersett Christmas holidays at the family estate in Derbyshire? She reasons that they could be honest with each other and give the courtship a second chance. Ned is doubtful, and his judgmental mother even more so – yet how could they pass up the opportunity of ten days in the country at the home of a baronet? Continue reading

A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons & Mistletoe, by Carlo DeVito – A Review

A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito 2015 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite author celebrated Christmas in the 18th century—or just know someone who has—A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons, and Mistletoe by Carlo DeVito is the perfect package to place under the tree this holiday.

A Jane Austen Christmas takes us through Jane’s life story but focuses only on events that happened around Christmastime. We begin with the holiday season of 1786, when Jane is only 11-years-old and spends time with her visiting cousin, Eliza, and ends with the Christmas of 1815 when Emma is published for the first time. On the way, we get to know more about Jane Austen and her family, read about holiday traditions in 18th-century England, and learn to make some delicious, Regency-era Christmas treats. Yum!

At first, I thought there might not be much to say about Jane Austen at Christmastime. Though all her novels mention Christmas, the season isn’t a big focus, except perhaps as a backdrop for Mr. Elton’s unwelcome proposal in Emma. But, the narrow seasonal scope of this book really makes it an easy-to-read guide to some of the important moments in Jane Austen’s life. Because the author is just touching on Christmas memories, the reader isn’t overwhelmed with tons of details about the author’s life story. We just get to focus on key events in her journey. Continue reading

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace 2014Christmastide holiday celebrations were much different during the Regency-era than the Victorian traditions that many people celebrate today. If you are curious about how Jane Austen, her family, and friends decked the halls, what food they ate, games they played, and gifts they exchanged, then A Jane Austen Christmas by Austenesque author Maria Grace will be of great interest to writers and readers of the era.

Maria has written five Regency-era novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, notably the Given Good Principles series and Remember the Past: …only as it gives you pleasure. Writing period-accurate novels requires extensive research, so it seems only logical that Maria should turn her hand to nonfiction. If this new release focusing on Regency-era holiday traditions is as delightful as her novels, we are in for a treat. Here are a preview and exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.  

DESCRIPTION: 

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery. Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even wedding celebrations, started a week before Advent and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the traditions, celebrations, games, and foods that made up Christmastide in Jane Austen’s era. Packed with information and rich with detail from period authors, Maria Grace transports the reader to a longed-for old fashioned Christmas.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

Celebrating a Jane Austen Christmas  

Each year the holiday season seems to begin earlier and earlier. Complaints about holiday excesses and longings for ‘simpler’ and ‘old fashioned’ holiday celebrations abound. But what exactly does an ‘old fashioned Christmas’ really look like?

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery. Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even wedding celebrations, started a week before Advent (the fourth Sunday before Christmas) and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Like today, not everyone celebrated the same way or observed all the same customs, but many observances were widely recognized. Some of the traditions and dates that might have been observed included:

New Year’s Eve

For some, New Year’s Eve meant thoroughly cleaning the house to start the new year clean. Old superstitions required ashes, rags, scraps and anything perishable to be removed from the house so that nothing carried over from one year to the next. In this way, the family would preserve their good luck and banished the bad.

Some celebrated with the family or a party gathering in a circle before midnight. At the stroke of the midnight hour, the head of the family would open the front and back doors to usher the old year out the back and welcome the New Year in the front.

First Footing

Some Scots and residents of northern England believed the first visitor to set foot across the threshold (the first-footer) after midnight on New Year’s Eve affected the family’s fortunes. Ladies, in particular, wished for a tall, dark, and handsome male stranger without physical handicap, especially if his feet were the right shape.

High-insteps implied that water would run under—that is bad luck would flow past. A flat foot meant bad luck, as did women in most cases. Not all agreed on these omens. For some, blonde or red-headed, bare-foot girls brought good luck.

The first-footer entered through the front door, ideally, bearing traditional gifts: a coin, a lump of coal, a piece of bread or shortbread, whiskey, salt and a black bun—representing financial prosperity, warmth, food, good cheer, and flavor in the new year. Tradition held that no one spoke until the ‘first-footer’ wished the occupants a happy new year.

Once inside, the first-footer would be led through the clean home to place the coal on the fire and offer a toast to the house and all who lived there. Then the first-footer might be permitted to kiss every woman in the house. The first-footer would leave through the back door and take all the old year’s troubles and sorrows.

Dark haired young men often made the rounds of the neighborhood houses, bringing good luck to the homes and to themselves when invited in for a holiday toast.

New Year’s Day

A variety of traditions for New Year’s Day suggested how one might discern or influence fortunes for the coming year.

In one, a farmer hooked a large, specially baked pancake on one of a cow’s horns. Others gathered about to sing and dance around the unsuspecting bovine and encourage it to toss its head. If the cake fell off in front of the cow, it foretold good luck, if behind, bad.

In Hertfordshire, at sunrise on New Year’s Day, farmers burned a hawthorn bush in the fields to ensure good luck and bountiful crops.

Creaming the Well

In some regions, young women raced to draw the first water from the well, a practice known as ‘creaming the well.’ Possession of this water meant marriage within the coming year if she could get the man she desired to marry to drink the water before the end of the day.

Others believed the water had curative properties and even washed the udders of cows with it to ensure productivity.

Until the 18th century, gifts of food, money and clothing (especially gloves) were exchanged on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas or Twelfth Night.

In Scotland and the northern regions of England, traditional New Year’s foods included: shortbread, venison pie, haggis, black bun (similar to mince pie) and rumbledethumps, similar to bubble and squeak or colcannon.

wassailng cow x 350

Wassailing

Wassailing and caroling are often used interchangeably as terms for singers going from house to house. But in the Regency era, particularly in cider producing regions, wassailing had a different meaning.

Wassailers might go from door to door, with a large wassail bowl filled with spiced ale. They sang and drank to the health of those they visited. In return, recipients of their blessings gave them drink, money and Christmas food.

On the Twelfth Night or its eve, wassailers also blessed orchards and fields and sometimes even cows. A wassail King and Queen led the singers in a tune as they traversed from one orchard to the next.

In some traditions, the Queen would be lifted into one of the trees, often the largest, where she placed wassail soaked toast as a gift to the tree spirits.

Other customs had the men bless the tree and drink to its health. They would circle the largest tree in the orchard while singing and splashing it with cider. The rest of the group would sing, shout, blow horns, and bang drums or pots, until gunmen fired a volley into the branches in hopes of chasing away evil spirits. Sometimes, fires were lit and tended through the night while the wassailers went to the next orchard.

In Herefordshire, wheat fields were lit with bonfires and wassailed similarly to orchards.

AUTHOR BIO:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, sewn six Regency era costumes, written seven Regency-era fiction projects, and designed eight websites. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

Website | Facebook | Twitter  | Goodreads | Pinterest

SUMMARY:

Many thanks to author Maria Grace for sharing a peek at her new nonfiction book with us during the holiday season. I would love to see the tradition of Twelfth Night established in the US. The beautiful cake alone has won me over.

Twelfth Night Cake © Ivan Day x 350

Image courtesy of Austenonly ©Ivan Day 

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace
White Soup Press (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (131) pages
ISBN: 978-0692332332

PURCHASE LINKS:

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Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2014; excerpt Maria Grace © 2014, Austenprose.com

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

The holidays make me nostalgic for past times I’ve never actually experienced, so I leapt at the chance to spend the Yuletide season with Jane Austen. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the twelfth installment in a series that features one of my favorite novelists as an amateur sleuth, but so far I hadn’t managed to read one of them. It seemed high time to rectify that lapse, especially since author Stephanie Barron studied European history in college and then worked as a CIA analyst, highly suitable credentials for writing a story of intrigue set in the past.

The book opens on a blizzardy, bitterly cold evening with Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra traveling by coach to the home of Jane’s eldest brother James and his family in Hampshire. Unfortunately, when they reach the end of the public line the women find that James has sent an unlighted open horse cart for the last few miles of their journey, even though it’s dark outside and blowing snow. Both Jane’s mother and sister have their heads bowed to prevent the snow from stinging their faces, so it’s only Jane who sees the rapidly approaching carriage heading straight for them. There’s a terrible crash and the ladies are thrown to the floor of the now ruined cart, but almost as shocking is the language of the gentleman in the carriage. Raphael West comes gallantly to their rescue and certainly acts with consideration and grace, but he proves he must be some kind of freethinker by swearing in front of them without reservation. Jane is intrigued.

t’s Christmas Eve of 1814 and this trip is a homecoming of sorts because James lives in Steventon Parsonage where Jane grew up, but with James in charge, it’s not the lively, loving place it was when their father was alive. James is stingy about lighting fires in the chilly rooms, contemptuous of Jane’s writing career, and broadly dismissive of most holiday traditions believing they aren’t Christian enough. Except for enjoying the company of her niece and nephew, it might have been a dismal visit for Jane, but fortunately, they are all invited to join a large party celebrating Christmas at The Vyne, the beautiful ancestral home of the wealthy, generous, and politically connected Chute family. The Vyne is also the place Raphael West was heading when his carriage crashed into the Austen’s cart.

Their hosts at The Vyne are William Chute, an amiable older country gentleman who’s been prominent in Parliament for two decades, and Eliza Chute, William’s energetic much younger wife who’s a longtime acquaintance of Jane’s. On being properly introduced Jane discovers that mysterious Mr. West is the son of a famous artist and is visiting The Vyne to sketch William Chute for his father. Or is he? Miss Gambier is another guest who interests Jane. She’s highly fashionable but being in her late 20’s is well on her way to spinsterhood and she has an almost forbidding reserve that suggests things hidden. Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, by Jane Odiwe – Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Mr Darcys Christmas Calendar by Jane Odiwe 2014 x 200I have often thought of Pride and Prejudice as the ultimate fairy tale. While it does not have the traditional folkloric fantasy figures such as dwarves, fairies or giants, Jane Austen did create iconic romantic characters that have become prototypes for modern writers and a plot that includes the perfect happily-ever-after ending. It is easy to see why we want to return to that fantasy and live in the era with her characters again and again through new stories.

Austenesque author Jane Odiwe has written two Austen-inspired novels with strong fantasy elements: Project Darcy and Searching for Captain Wentworth. She has a particular talent for time-slip novels where a modern heroine, like her fairy tale compatriots—Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Belle in Beauty and the Beast—are touched by a magic that changes their lives, setting them on a course of discovery and romance. Her latest is a novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, is set during the holiday season in modern day and Regency England. Jane has generously supplied an exclusive excerpt of her new work. I hope you enjoy it.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

A novella for the Christmas holidays – Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over!

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Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery – Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200We are very excited to welcome Austenesque author Stephanie Barron to Austenprose today for the virtual book launch party of her new novel, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, the twelfth installment in the fan-favorite Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.

Ardent readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a huge fan of this fabulous series featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth – so much so that we celebrated  2011 with the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge, including all eleven novels in the series to date. It was great fun only dampened by the possibility that the eleventh mystery, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, might be the last in the series. Imagine my delight when I heard the news that Soho Press would be publishing the next mystery!

The three year wait was torture, but now Stephanie Barron’s darling child has arrived in grand style. We are so thrilled that she has honored us with this fabulous guest blog revealing her inspiration to write the novel based on actual history, and Jane Austen of course.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

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