You've got to love those romantic Hallmark and Lifetime movies, famously set in quaint small towns blanketed in festive decor, and love stories with inevitable happy endings. Watching them has become a holiday-season tradition, but, come on, we all know the book is usually better than the movie. Luckily, you can find lots of sweet and cozy holiday romance novels, including dozens of new releases in the past few months.
We've rounded up six you can snuggle up with this season, a few with slightly older characters (you don't have to be under 30 to fall in love!). Several of these authors — Jenny Hale, Teri Wilson, Nancy Naigle and Karen Schaler — have previously written books that became Hallmark Channel movies. So you may just be reading a book destined for the big screen in a year or two.
Christmas at Fireside Cabins
Hale is the talented author behind Coming Home for Christmas and Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, both of which became Hallmark Channel holiday movies. This season she's whisking us away on a holiday vacation with Lila Evans and her three best friends in their late 30s to Fireside Cabins in Pinewood Hills, Tennessee. This may be the last annual trip for the foursome, as jobs and boyfriends begin to pull them in different directions, but Lila is determined to enjoy it. As it turns out, that's a tall order. The shabby Fireside Cabins looks nothing like the photos suggested, and a run-in with the surly coffee shop owner in town makes it difficult to find any Christmas cheer. Despite all that, Lila finds herself wanting to help the widowed owner of Fireside Cabins save her business, and she just might have found a reason — or rather, a certain coffee shop owner — that makes her want to stick around Pinewood Hills longer than planned.
You can't get more Hallmark than Christmas Charms, a new release from Hallmark's publishing company. Wilson's seen several of her books become Hallmark films, and this one has everything we love about the network's holiday favorites, including a small-town romance, complete with a dog wrapped in a Christmas bow, and a magical charm bracelet. Ashley is in her late 20s and has returned to her hometown after seeing what she thought was her dream Christmas go up in smoke. Instead of being proposed to by her boyfriend in Paris, she's back home in Owl Lake, constantly running into her ex-boyfriend Aidan, who's now a hunky firefighter. What's really strange, however, is how the charms on the antique bracelet a stranger gave her on the train home seem to represent things she wished for as a child that are now coming true. Maybe her dream Christmas wasn't in Paris, after all.
A Heartfelt Christmas Promise
Coincidentally, this one also follows a heroine who thought she would be spending Christmas in Paris. Vanessa Larkin was hoping to turn her business trip into a working vacation, but instead her company sends her to Fraser Hills, North Carolina — home of the best fruitcake in the U.S. Unfortunately, she's not here to spread holiday cheer but to shut down the fruitcake factory and turn it into warehouse space. Widower Mike Marshall's grandfather founded the factory but sold out to a big Chicago corporation years before. Even though Mike was never involved with the business, he wants to preserve one of the last pieces of the town's legacy for future generations, including his 16-year-old daughter. As he shows Vanessa around and she engages in the holiday festivities, she begins to wonder if she can give her new friends a Christmas miracle. There's also a bonus romance in this one, between Vanessa's recently retired second cousin, Anna, and Mike's grandfather Buck.
A Vineyard Christmas
At midlife, author Annie Sutton has finally followed her dream of living on Martha's Vineyard by renting a cottage on Chappaquiddick. She never imagined that the cottage would also come with a baby left on her doorstep in the midst of a Christmas blizzard. Suddenly, she's in the middle of the kind of mystery she might write, complete with plot twists and turns. Adopted herself, Annie knows what it's like to feel abandoned. She can't bring herself to take the infant girl to the police station, so she decides to find the birth mother on her own, in the hope that she'll change her mind. Secrets are hard to keep in a small town, though, especially when Annie meets a certain handsome police officer. (A reissue)
Christmas Ever After
This fun novel centers on Riley Reynolds, an author in her late 30s who gets caught off guard in an interview when she's asked how she can write about love when she still hasn't found “the one” yet. Three of her ex-boyfriends see the interview and, looking to win her back, surprise her by showing up at her Christmas Camp book event at the Christmas Lake Lodge. As her fans gather at the lodge, Riley must balance her three exes while trying to write her next book to redeem herself after her last offering bombed. Follow along as each of Riley's exes plans elaborate dates worthy of The Bachelorette and she starts falling for them all over again, learning more about herself in the process. If you loved Hallmark's version of Christmas Camp, based on Schaler's book of the same name, you'll want to check out this new take on Christmas camp.
The Gift of Family
Middle-aged couple Eugene and Rosemary Johnson seemingly have it all, but they're still holding out hope for the one thing they want most: a child. They've fostered teenagers twice, only to have them return to their birth families. Then Rosemary is told she'll need a complete hysterectomy, and they feel their dreams slipping out of their hands. When Eugene reaches out to Ethel, the woman who took care of him and his brother as children, to help Rosemary recuperate from her surgery, he has no idea how it will change their holiday plans — and their lives. Ethel is a widow in her 60s who's struggling to raise her three great-grandchildren, and it isn't long before the two families start depending on each other more and more. This sweet holiday tale works through complicated real-world problems while tugging at your heartstrings in all the right places.