Choco-lit Reading, for me, is that branch of romance novels that sits well alongside a big mug of tea and a bar of something sweet. Chocolate, for preference, but a decent slice of cake or a couple of biscuits works well. It’s sometimes sneered at by the well-read Literati, including one writer whose work I admire, who wrote this weekend ” Book Title Trends I Would Be Happy Never To See Again, Ever: 1. THE GIRL…(insert barely-thought-out variant) 2. THE (insert important male character here)’S DAUGHTER/SISTER/WIFE 3. THE LITTLE (insert quirky shop or cafe here) IN (insert location). Please, Santa, please.”
“The Little ….. in ……” makes up quite a few Choco-lit reading piles, to be fair,and damning them all seems harsh and unnecessary. Yes, some of them are not as good as they could be, but this is like actually banning chocolate off the shop shelves: an elitist view of someone’s reading diet. Sometimes you need that mug of hot chocolate, or that bowl of sweet pudding and you eat it, enjoy it and the next day move back onto the healthy soup, salad or quiche. It’s a matter of balance, isn’t it? Nobody would suggest that reading nothing but chick-lit would be good for you, the same as reading nothing but high-end literature (especially that written recently) would benefit you either, leaving you depressed, anxious and worried about the way of the world. It’s about balance, and sometimes in a world that is driving people crazy with concern the only sensible thing to do is to escape completely. And if you can’t escape physically, then a mental vacation to the Little … in …. will do just as well.
Back to the point of this post. It’s half way through November and the next few weeks will be packed, probably, mentally and physically with the things that make Christmas. In the middle of all the stress, work and activity, grabbing a few moments to make a warm drink and read a book that needs no more from you than that you remember the names from one page to the next is exactly what the Doctor would order. Probably a handsome, dark Doctor, with a sad past (dead wife, or girlfriend from Hell who mistreated him). Grab a coffee from the quaint cafe in the centre of the village, the one run by the heroine’s best friend, and take a table overlooking the green where a large community event is planned for Christmas Eve, and let’s escape. I love Choco-lit books, not least because usually on Kindle they cost no more than 99p or £1.99, meaning you can read them as fast as you like and know they won’t break the bank. Here are a few I’ve read and a few I’m planning to read before January bites. (Warning: this post contains a heap of pictures and a lot of affiliate links to Amazon!!! You’ll be here for ages, so grab a mug before you start)
Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain.
Anna hates Christmas with a passion. She’s worked in carefully chosen places for the last few years to avoid any mention of the season, because Christmas has not been kind to her. When she takes on the job of carer to Catherine at Wynthorpe Hall, the one promise she gets from Angus the owner is that they are going to have a very low-key Christmas. Does that last? Well, of course not. It lasts until the love interest arrives, an dvery nice he is as well. I haven’t read any of Heidi Swain’s past works, but I enjoyed this one so much I’ve picked up both Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland and Mince Pies and Mistletoe at The Christmas Market as well. Two quiet evenings in accounted for, at least.
The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan.
I have a friend who loves Sarah Morgan’s work, and she recommended this to me. I never had sisters, so that whole dynamic holds a fascination for me. The mother, Susanne, wants her three girls home for Christmas and Posy, Hannah and Beth head back to their old home in the Scottish Highlands to find that having an ideal family Christmas means facing old family issues. I am going to enjoy reading this with a good pot of tea and a mince pie when I get the chance.
The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons.
Not officially a Christmas story, but I read Annie Lyon’s The Happiness List in the summer and loved it. Since nothing but nothing soreads Christmas cheer like singing loudly for all to hear, I think this story will slide nicely in to my Christmas and provide a much-needed break from tinsel and fairylights.
The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson
I’m currently reading and enjoying this one. Three very different women find themselves pregnant and expecting at Christmas and meet up at a very early Mothers to Be group. It works as a stand-alone novel, but it does include characters from Milly’s previous novels including the aptly titled A Winter Flame. Because it does track the pregnancies from sperm to end, the book isn’t completely Christmas-focused, which means you can read it whenever you like. The cover is gorgeous, however, and very evocative.
Covent Garden in the Snow by Jules Wake.
A different setting for this romance, not a country village or large hall in sight, but the Opera House in Covent Garden. I bought this in the height of the summer when I was in Covent Garden, but put off reading it until now. Sometimes you need the cold, dark, miserable light of a winter evening to make the sparkle in the story even greater. I love Covent Garden as aplace, so I am looking forward to settling down and reading about it in the snow. From reviews, it has tones of You’ve Got Mail, with an unknown email correspondent as well. Jules previous book, From Paris With Love this Christmas, is already on my Kindle and awaiting a read.
And if you’re overdosing on Christmas happiness, snow and mistletoe, then turn to the dark side. Grab a thriller and enjoy. My top thriller read this year which I can’t recommend enough is
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
Cluedo meets Inception meets Groundhog Day meets Agatha Christie, this book takes your brain and plays with it. It’s carefully plotted, great writing and moves you through a world of 1920s excess with speed. Go read the reviews on the page and believe them. It seriously is that good, and kept me awake to finish it. It’s already won a couple of readers’ awards, and I hope it goes on to win many more. Seriously, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.
This story begins just before Christmas in Mayfair and goes on through the year. The Mitford sisters are children in the book, and it’s really more about their Nanny, Louisa, solving a murder that has left the Police bewildered. It’s good, exciting and not too heavy. Ideal reading for that post-Christmas stupor, as it’s interesting enough to keep you awake.
Enough! That’s enough books for now. I’ve linked to Amazon, where I’m enrolled in the Affiliates programme, so if you buy through any of the links on my page, I get a couple of pennies to add to my book fund. I’m not sponsored or paid by any company to review or recommend any books, so if I say a book is good, it’s because I have really enjoyed it and do recommend it.
I fund myself by selling my own books. If you enjoy my writing and would like to free me up to do more of it (the last few weeks I have been exceedingly quiet on the blog because of pressure of full-time work) then the easiest way to do that is to buy a book. They don’t cost a lot in ebook form, and do make excellent presents for the people you love. I’ve put links to them all down below.
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas: how to use hygge to keep Christmas a happier and calmer season. A reviewer wrote “Jo’s done it again! this is a lovely little book, full of how to make your Christmas more hyggely! Its got hints and tips regarding making preparations in the lead up to Christmas, and beyond, and I loved the fact that it gives you ideas on how to be kind to yourself, when you’re rushing around trying to look after everyone else. I’d definitely recommend this book to friends and family”
Enjoying A Self-Care Christmas: Easy ways to look after yourself in the madness that is Christmas.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol: I love Dickens’ book, so I took it, looked at it and write about how much it still has to teach us nowadays. The answer was: a lot. There are a lot of parallels between Dickens time and ours. Perhaps it’s time to bring back the Ghost of Christmas Present, and his reminder to help those less fortunate than us.
50 Ways to Hygge The British Way: My first book, and a brilliant introduction to hygge if you’re not a natural Dane. “I simply adored this book, so many easy, inexpensive ideas to improve your life. Puts everything back into perspective. Disappointed when I turned the last page, as I wanted this book to go on forever! but I will be reading her other books for more inspiration and sanity!”
Happier: How Using Hygge, Lagom and my Own Common Sense helped me to find a happier life. I love this book, it’s the most personal of them all. When I nneded to find a way out of a dark place, hygge was there.
Thank you for reading this far, hopefully work has calmed down and I’ll make it here a little more often. Let me know what books you’re looking forward to reading this year: good recommendations from good friends are priceless.