‘Tis the season to feel cozy, at least for readers who live in a blustery, northern climate. There’s nothing better than a good book to warm up with, whether it’s by a fireplace or just by a Netflix Yule Log.
This holiday season, check out some of these brand-new titles—as well as some underrated already-released favorites—that will put you in a festive mood.
Twice upon a Christmas by Shanna Swendson
Natalie is torn between her passion and the security of her career in this story about a Christmas wish with its own, Sliding Doors
-style magical twist. When Natalie flips a coin to help her choose which path she should follow, she can’t bear to look at the result. The next morning, she finds herself living the day over again—and each day, with her choices sending her along two diverging paths.
On one route, she sticks with her safe career, working on a prestigious account with an attractive executive from her company. On the other, she follows her passion for music, but her time away from work means she’s working a less glamorous assignment—one with a grouchy client who has surprisingly hidden depths. As her two paths diverge, it becomes harder to keep her different lives straight, and she knows she’ll have to choose in order to break the spell by Christmas. This 2017 novella hits all the right notes for fans of romantic fantasy and comes with just the right cozy ending for readers to feel satisfied. (Fans looking for even more Christmas magic may also enjoy Swendson’s just-released cozy paranormal, Mystery of the Secret Santa.)
The Christmas Clash by Suzanne Park
Two feuding restaurant families in a mall at risk of closing are at the center of author Suzanne Park’s new YA rivals-to-lovers holiday romance, The Christmas Clash
. High school photographer (and Santa’s elf) Chloe Kwon has never had anything nice to say about too-gorgeous, too-smart Peter Li, who seems to be friends with everyone but her. But when a prank she pulls to undermine one of his holiday specials goes wrong, the two end up agreeing to swap meals from their family restaurants. When both of them realize the mall where they grew up, and where their parents have their restaurants, is in danger of closing, they have far more bringing them together.
While the story goes back and forth between Peter’s and Chloe’s perspectives, much of the story revolves around Chloe becoming a finalist in a prestigious photography competition. That her skills are vital to the plan to save the mall only makes Peter wonder if he’ll ever find his own talent, rather than living in the shadow of his smarter, more successful older brother. Both of the protagonists have a lot that they’re working through, showing them mirrors of themselves in their relationship with each other. But that, in turn, makes them want to solve the mysteries of their parents’ feud and see if they can put it to rest once and for all. Park packs a lot into the feel-good romance, which is also a celebration of America’s fading mall culture. For a cute holiday romance that’s sweeter than spicy (and sure to make you hungry for a food court), this is a go-to choice.
Pair this with another 2022 retail-centered YA Christmas romance, Talk Santa to Me by Linda Urban, to double your Christmas shopping (without shopping) experience.
Christmas, Pursued by Bear by Ryann Fletcher
A photographer is also the main character of Ryann Fletcher’s shape-shifter romance Christmas, Pursued by Bear
, in which a family of shape-shifting bears do their best to stay off of anyone’s film. Unfortunately, Andie, who hopes to win a wildlife-photography competition, accidentally snaps one of them on the local midwestern nature reserve. When Cat realizes she’s been caught, she figures out how to hide the evidence, but she’s not sure she can hide her attraction to Andie.
Meanwhile, Andie’s suspicious that her SD card has gone missing—and is increasingly intrigued by Cat. As developers threaten the reserve they both love, the two find they have enough in common to get over pesky differences of species and stop the threat to their beloved wilderness. With plenty of humor and some real talk about making ends meet (despite the more fantastic elements), this sapphic romance is a silly, feel-good tale.
For another sapphic holiday romance, check out Courtney Kae’s In the Event of Love, which features the city girl returns to hometown Hallmark-movie theme (but sadly, no bears).
Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories
Looking to add a few chills to your cozy Christmas? Telling ghost stories at Christmas has been a tradition (including the most famous of all: Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
) for many years, and cartoonist Seth, teaming up with Biblioasis, has spent the last several creating a series of illustrated holiday ghost stories that are the perfect stocking stuffer size. Taking classic short stories and adding design and geometry-heavy illustrations, Seth reintroduces eerie works from writers including Gertrude Atherton, Lady Asquith, and Shirley Jackson, among many others.
Jackson’s A Visit is a Gothic tale of a haunted estate stuck in time; The Dead and the Countess is Atherton’s story of a train that keeps the dead from resting. Lady Asquith’s The Corner Shop is, among the three, the best suited for a Christmas retelling. It’s the mysterious tale of a man who buys an antique and suddenly finds himself better off—but realizes that the circumstances behind his purchase are far more than what they seemed. The feel-good ending offers the most hope and cheer of the three, but the series has twenty more to choose from, making them great small gifts for holiday exchanges.
Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis
If you’re looking for something that has all your cozy winter vibes but without any actual mention of Christmas, the first novel in Burgis’s Harwood Spellbook of Regency-ish fantasies is a great discovery.
Cassandra Harwood was a magician, the first woman to become so (against great odds and with great struggle for respect). But after attempting a spell too strong for a single person to manage, she’s left without her powers, her fiance, and her hope for a brighter future. When her politically minded sister-in-law and studious brother talk her into attending a house party with other members of the Boudicate (the ruling female politicians of an alternate Britain), culminating in a ceremony renewing a treaty between humans and elves, she’s ready for social suffering. What she doesn’t expect is to endanger the treaty herself, or to have to solve the mystery of who’s behind the enchanted snow swallowing the countryside. While the stakes are high, the tone of this magical story never escalates into peril that takes it beyond a sense of cozy reading. Cassandra is a strong, stubborn heroine, well worth following.
Pair this with C. L. Polk’s Stormsong, the second in their excellent Kingston Cycle, which also features a magical winter storm, political intrigue, and a compelling romance in an alternate historical England.
Alana Joli Abbott is a reviewer and game writer, whose multiple choice novels, including Choice of the Pirate and Blackstone Academy for Magical Beginners, are published by Choice of Games. She is the author of three novels, several short stories, and many role-playing game supplements. She also edits fantasy anthologies for Outland Entertainment, including Bridge to Elsewhere and Never Too Old to Save the World. You can find her online at VirgilandBeatrice.com.