Posted On December 20, 2012 by Print This Post

The (Mixed) Blessings of the Christmas Romance with Grace Burrowes

Are you ready for an early holiday treat? Grace Burrowes is here to talk about the Christmas romance. Who can resist a little love under the mistletoe?

The (Mixed) Blessings of the Christmas Romance

Look around the bookstore shelves, and you’ll see a bumper crop of Christmas soldier_215 themed romances. Maybe the holidays are a particularly lonely time, and folks need the comfort of a good happily ever after, maybe winter weather keeps us indoors hibernating with our books.

Or maybe there are practical and craft reasons why the Christmas romance will be a perennial favorite.

Some of the advantages of a holiday romance are commercial. Christmas books are typically released in early October, and they stay on the shelves, often in end units, special displays, or up by the register, until early January. Then too, people are in the stores, in shopping mode, for those same three months. Better yet, Christmas comes around every year, and a holiday romance lurking in your backlist will get a browsing boost simply by virtue of the time of year.

And lest ye forget, each holiday season sees an avalanche of e-readers and gift cards given over the holidays, all in need of immediate use. Are you hanging sleigh bells on that Work in Progress yet?

From a craft perspective, Christmas romances have even more advantages. Specific Christmas tropes can provide a starting point for your plot: Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” gives us the life (or heart) in need of a make over, with both the love and the hardship of the season serving as catalysts for positive change. “The Gift of the Magi” is another take on the magic of true love as manifest in a holiday setting, and the biblical story of the Nativity is rife with images, allusions and characters that can all enhance a Christmas-set romance.

When my editor invited me to write my first Christmas romance, I started with those biblical references, because I was under a very tight deadline, and did not have the luxury of swilling wassail and pondering plotting alternatives while lingering under the mistletoe. I opened the first scene in book at a coaching inn, one full to the rafters as the result of a snowstorm, and there was, (all together now, on three…) No Room At The Inn. From page one, the readers knew they were in a Christmas tale, and a little of the heavy lifting of creating empathy and moving pacing forward was done as a result.

The story also included wise men coming from the east, an abandoned baby, liberal doses of Handel’s “Messiah,” and two people who suffered intense loneliness each year at the holidays. I didn’t have to think those plot elements up, they were, so to speak, Christmas presents resulting from the holiday nature of the story.
Larger Christmas themes lend themselves to romance stories, too The bleakness of winter, the left-out-in-the-cold feeling of a character cut off from community, orphaned feelings, and the traveler far from home, can all work very well for characters at the beginning of their personal growth arc.

Hope, maybe the predominant theme of the biblical Christmas story, is often all that inspires a character to move from the Big Black Moment toward the Happily Ever After.

Love, gratitude, generosity, and other warm fuzzy feelings, are where we want our characters to end up, and they are certainly present in an ideal holiday season.

Then too, Christmas traditions can help the story move along from a stagecraft perspective—social gatherings, caroling, decorating, cooking, feasting, wassailing, mistletoe, sled riding, gift giving, midnight stars—all give the characters business to transact on their way from page one to the HEA, and this business is different from the usual office meeting, ballroom waltz, or demon hunt that we rely on for a non-holiday story.

With all of those factors in the ho-ho-ho column, why wouldn’t every author have a holiday romance to her name?

One factor weighing against holiday romances is that by early January, your holiday romance will disappear from the shelves as if it never existed. Valentine’s Day comes barreling into view, followed by spring break, and your Mistletoe Moment is over.
Then too, competition among holiday romances is ferocious. Bestselling authors write holiday romances because it’s a way to meet new readers, editors acquire holiday romances because every fall catalog is expected to have some. Holiday romances come in every romance flavor—historicals of many stripes, contemporary, category, paranormal, you name it, and somebody has hangs Christmas lights on it every year.

And for all the material the holiday themes give us to work with, it’s hard—really, really hard—to find new ways to present the Christmas romance. Marley’s ghost is might easy to spot in all his guises. Yes, the tropes are rich and varied, but they can easily become shopworn and predictable rather than creative and romantic.
And yet, I’ve written three Christmas romances, and will probably write more. The theme of hope blossoming in the depths of winter’s cold and darkness, of love finding the most lost and despairing hearts, is so powerful, and so inspiring, that even if nobody needs to read those stories some day, I will still need to write them.

So… what’s your favorite Christmas story, and why? And yes, you can say “It’s A Wonderful Life,” because it’s pretty high on my list, too. To three commenters, I’ll send a signed copy of “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish,” my first attempt at a Christmas romance.

***

I don’t think I can top Grace’s Question – what is your favorite Christmas romance?

On Friday, a farewell post from our fave editor, Theresa Stevens

***

Bio:

authorphotos005I am the sixth out of seven children and was raised in the rural surrounds of central Pennsylvania. Early in life I spent a lot of time reading romance novels and riding a chubby buckskin gelding named—unimaginatively if eponymously—Buck. I also spent a lot of time practicing the piano. My first career was as a technical writer and editor, a busy profession that nonetheless left enough time to read many, many romance novels.

It also left time to grab a law degree through an evening program, produce Beloved Offspring (only one, but she is a lion), and eventually move to the lovely Maryland countryside.

While reading yet still more romance novels (there is a trend here) I opened my own law practice, acquired a master’s degree in Conflict Management (I had a teenage daughter by then) and started thinking about writing…. romance novels. This aim was realized when Beloved Offspring struck out into the Big World a few years ago. (“Mom, why doesn’t anybody tell you being a grown-up is hard?”)

I eventually got up the courage to start pitching manuscripts to agents and editors. The query letter that resulted in “the call” started out: “I am the buffoon in the bar at the RWA retreat who could not keep her heroines straight, could not look you in the eye, and could not stop blushing—and if that doesn’t narrow down the possibilities, your job is even harder than I thought.” (The dear lady bought the book anyway.)

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39 Responses to “The (Mixed) Blessings of the Christmas Romance with Grace Burrowes”

  1. I like ‘The Bishop’s Wife’. It’s a movie with the meaning of Christmas mixed in with some fun. Cary Grant plays an angel in it. Charlie Brown Christmas and the Grinch are my kids’ favorites.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | December 20, 2012, 8:32 am
  2. Grace -

    Just a quick note. I recently finished The Heir and loved it (and as Tracey Devlyn will tell you, I’m picky about my historical romance reads!). Can’t wait to read the brothers’ books!

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | December 20, 2012, 9:13 am
    • Kelsey, a lot of people say that’s their fave GB, and I think in part it’s because the darned thing is 113,000. Yes, it doubles as a doorstop, but a book that size gives and author time to really develop character, and a reader time to bond. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Posted by Grace Burrowes | December 20, 2012, 10:49 am
  3. Morning Grace!

    I love Christmas romance stories! I have two in my TBR pile waiting for me…I’d better get my rear in gear..=)

    For movies – I agree with the Bishop’s Wife – love Cary Grant! And of course, it’s a Wonderful Life….so many to choose from.

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 20, 2012, 9:19 am
  4. Hi Grace – I have a Christmas novella out today and I wrote it by the pool in June – what time of the year did you write yours?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | December 20, 2012, 10:47 am
  5. Robin, I wrote Sophie more or less over the Christmas holidays, but wrote Louisa and Lady Jenny in the depths of summer–which was hard!

    Posted by Grace Burrowes | December 20, 2012, 10:51 am
  6. Two movies come to mind: Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas. Love both of them. Also really enjoyed both of your Christmas tales to date … even if I did miss the full to the brim inn reference D’oh!

    KB

    Posted by Kristen B. | December 20, 2012, 11:12 am
    • Kristen, thanks, but I don’t think the references SHOULD hit the reader over the head. They’re more like landmarks you drive by every day and don’t realize you’ve memorized. They subconsciously assure you that you’re on the right route without requiring you to read a literal signpost. I’ll bet very few readers got the analogy of Sophie’s three older brothers riding in from the East.

      Posted by Grace Burrowes | December 20, 2012, 11:58 am
  7. “White Christmas.” Watch it faithfully every year. Great songs, great story. Bing Crosby singing the title song, at the beginning and the end. Danny Kaye, singer, dancer, funny man. Rosemary Clooney, with her honeyed voice. Vera-Ellen’s fast tapping feet. Honestly, I could go on and on and on. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, everyone!

    Posted by Amy Villalba | December 20, 2012, 11:13 am
  8. Miss Sophie’s book is my favorite Christmas story. It made me laugh and cry. Love that book!

    Posted by Joyce Ward | December 20, 2012, 11:14 am
  9. My favorite is Flowers in the Storm its so good

    Posted by Amber L | December 20, 2012, 11:30 am
  10. I loved Lady Sophie’s story. Is the comment about wise men referring to her brothers? LOL! I enjoy watching “Love Actually” every Christmas. It’s a movie with interwoven tales of love in all its different forms at Christmastime, and always leaves me smiling. ( I already have this book.)

    Posted by Rose | December 20, 2012, 11:49 am
    • Yes, to her older, interfering, we-know-best brothers, who can’t change a dirty dipe unless under threat of torture. And yet, they bring gifts too, particularly at the end of the story, but they are gift to the child, not the little sister who no longer needs fraternal “help.” (And yes, I have three older brothers whom I love DEARLY, but….)

      Posted by Grace Burrowes | December 20, 2012, 12:03 pm
  11. I absolutely love “White Christmas”…watched it every year while I was growing up and now I play it for my kids. They get a kick out of it. As for reading, I love Lisa Kleypas’ “A Wallflower Christmas” and “Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor”…

    Posted by Sandy Kenny | December 20, 2012, 12:17 pm
  12. I haven’t read either, may I please recieve a copy for Christmas? ~ Grace, did I mention that I have been a very good girl this year!!

    Wishing you a safe & very Merry Christmas & a prosperous 2013!

    Posted by SANDI BURCH | December 20, 2012, 12:20 pm
  13. Every year I read as many Christmas romance books as I can, so I really couldn’t pick a favorite. I just love reading them during the holidays. Thanks for the great giveaway Grace!!!

    Posted by Mary Doherty | December 20, 2012, 12:29 pm
  14. Thanks for the wonderful post, Grace! My debut novel is a Christmas story releasing next November. I did worry that I was making a mistake writing a holiday romance for my first book, but I love, love, love the story so much that I know it’s the book that I want to have hold the special title “my first book.”

    Happy Holidays!

    Robyn

    Posted by Robyn Neeley | December 20, 2012, 12:51 pm
  15. Grace, I’ve read Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight and thought it was fabulous! I love Christmas-themed romances, historical, contemporary or paranormal.

    I love so many of them that it’s hard to pick a favorite. The original (not colorized, please!) Miracle on 34th Street is my favorite Christmas movie, but it only seems to show up with fake color anymore.

    Posted by Nancy Northcott | December 20, 2012, 1:41 pm
  16. It’s a wonderful life. The romance in that movie is so sweet and romantic.:)

    Posted by Ebony Morton | December 20, 2012, 1:59 pm
  17. I really like The Mistletoe Bride this year, sweet romance

    Posted by Sheryl Nyary | December 20, 2012, 2:20 pm
  18. I have trouble pinning down favorites in any genre, but I do love books that relate to the season, whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween or whatever. For some reason I have a lot of Christmas-themed murder mysteries on my shelves – go figure!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 20, 2012, 5:00 pm
  19. Your books are wonderful – fav would be hard to say, but fav character – prob. Valentine. I’m a sucker for musicians. Fav. Christmas movies: White Christmas w/ Vera Ellen’s amazing tapping toes & Irving Berlin music and Truman Capote’s autobiographical story about the making the fruitcakes starring Geraldine Paige. Merry Christmas, Grace!

    Posted by Mary R. | December 20, 2012, 7:01 pm
  20. Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight is well written, Grace! Out of all your books so far, this is my favorite. Probably because Joseph, as the hero, comes across as an ordinary guy with an extraordinary character. I would love a copy of this book, Grace! As for movies, my favorite is White Christmas. As a child we’d catch it on TV on Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house during the 70′s and in the next room she’d be playing Christmas music on her old player piano. Good memories!

    Posted by Kamie E. | December 20, 2012, 7:20 pm
  21. Well, my favorite Christmas story would have to be the one that started it all. We start our Christmas morning off reading Luke 2 to our boys before they are allowed to open presents. Growing I went to church school and we sang Luke 2 every Christmas Eve at the Children’s service.
    As for your books, Lady Louisa’s book is my favorite of yours so far. Loved Sophie’s as well, but there was just something about Louisa and Joseph’s story that really touched me. I would love to have a copy of either one to go with my e-reader versions.

    Posted by Sarah R. | December 20, 2012, 8:26 pm
  22. My favorite Christmas romance is A Wallflower Christmas

    Posted by Amanda Martin | December 20, 2012, 11:13 pm

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