Tease: Holiday listening

Bake some cookies, make some cocoa, and snuggle up with these Christmas romances

Full disclosure. I am that person who runs around singing, “It’s the most wonderful time… of the year!!!”

In July.

Which is the earliest my coworkers will let me get away with it. I love holidays and celebrations, especially ones involving gifts — given or received — and hot cocoa and elf shortbread. So, this is about as exciting as it gets for me, to showcase some Christmas romance audiobooks for festive holiday listening.

Merry and Bright

Debbie Macomber
Read by Em Eldridge
Random House Audio/Books on Tape

Romance is a sprawling genre that pretty much encompasses every style of writing that you can think of. That said, if I were going to choose a contemporary romance writer who embodies faith and family, Debbie Macomber is the one. This bestselling author presents realistic stories with flawed characters who rise above their everyday problems to find happiness through grace.

I remember hearing her speak at a conference some years back. It was a general talk about her start in publishing and her husband’s encouragement during tough financial times. What stood out was her ease as a storyteller, her gentle self-deprecation regarding her lofty dreams and their inevitable stumbles and starts, and her boundless humor. Despite enormous success, Macomber was genuine and candid, someone you could drink tea and knit with while catching up on local to-dos. And her love of Christmas is as ubiquitous as mine (nearly). Look at her stable of books-into-movies, many of which are holiday themed. As you can imagine, these qualities translate so well to the audiobook format. MERRY AND BRIGHT checks all the boxes for me as a holiday listen. It’s a story of mistaken identity and holiday wishes that narrator Em Eldridge shares with a open manner that matches Macomber’s tone and writing style. Macomber’s many fans will be charmed by this light Christmas novella.   

Stephanie Laurens
Read by Helen Lloyd
Blackstone Audio

A little backstory. Okay, a condensed backstory. In 1998, Stephanie Laurens wrote a steamy historical romance called DEVIL’S BRIDE. Her saturnine hero and take-names heroine sparked a love affair that continues to this day surrounding Laurens’s Cynster family series. Now LADY OSBALDESTONE’S CHRISTMAS GOOSE is the first title in a new spinoff series. In the Cynster titles, Lady Osbaldestone is a grand clan matriarch, constantly meddling and matchmaking. Narrator Helen Lloyd welcomes listeners into this gentle Christmas adventure in the British countryside. A younger, but no less formidable, Lady Osbaldestone joins visiting children in locating missing geese, and, of course, matchmaking. Lloyd steps lightly through the mayhem, articulating Lady O’s arch tones and those of dignified elders and giggling children alike. What else can I say? Historical romance at its best.

You can also enjoy BY WINTER’S LIGHT, Daniel and Claire’s Christmas romance (Cynsters, Book 21), with narrator Matthew Brehner. If you like Brehner, he reads Stephanie Laurens’s Devil’s Brood series with a mix of the proper and adventurous that characterizes Laurens’s historicals.

Holiday with a Twist

Shannon Stacey
Read by Samantha Cook
Harlequin Audio/Blackstone Audio

After you’ve listened to a certain number of audiobooks, you end up with distinct preferences. You have narrators you love, narrators you avoid, and everyone else in between. HOLIDAY WITH A TWIST introduced me to narrator Samantha Cook, and it was love at first listen. Her lower register meant she could rock the hero — Croy — and other male voices. And she’s funny! Of course we all know that holidays are stressful. Author Shannon Stacey piles on the love as Leigh Holloway faces multiple life disasters, determined to hide them from her well-meaning family. Cook gets into the spirit of Leigh’s misery with a wry tone that picks up all the laughs, both in Leigh’s thoughts and in the dialogue from Leigh and her quirky family. Looking for a romantic audiobook to give you some Christmas spirit? This is the perfect escape from your holiday stress.

Chasing Christmas Eve

CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel, Book 4
Jill Shalvis
Read by Karen White
Harper Audio

Karen White has narrated many of Jill Shalvis’s contemporary romances, including her new Heartbreaker Bay series. Set in San Francisco, Heartbreaker Bay features a collection of small shops and restaurants and their occupants — all of whom will receive their own romance, of course! In CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE, White introduces listeners to Colbie Albright, who heads to San Francisco to avoid her own family drama and ends up with Spencer Baldwin — did I mention that he rescues her from an unfortunate encounter with a fountain? White creates Shalvis’s close-knit community in this holiday countdown romance. 

Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!

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