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Festive Fiction – Our Favourite Genres with a Christmas Twist

By Brittany Holness, Holly Butterfield and Gemma Mathers

It’s that time of year again! The decorations are up, the streets are full of festive lights and we’re just weeks away from the big day. Everything just gets a little bit cosier and more wholesome in December – including our books! 

Christmas books are hardly a novelty; there are lots of great classics for both adults and children that help to unite that festive spirit. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens has been around for nearly 200 years, and many of us grew up reading the likes of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. But over recent years, the number of Christmas-themed books being published has drastically increased, with the shelves at bookshops dotted with everything from festive romances to wintry mysteries. There’s just something special about reading your favourite genres with a Christmas twist!

Murder mysteries and crime novels have a well-deserved reputation, and adding a festive element  something a little different  to an exciting new venture, only serves to enhance their popularity among the readers who may not want to hang up their mystery-solving hats for the festive season. Over the years, the number of Christmas-inspired tales has only grown, a trend we can already see as bookshops are stocking more and more mysteries set at Christmas. There are a multitude of reasons why these stories have been such a success. 

Firstly, the combination of an often isolated setting with a familial drama is the perfect scenario for a mystery to unfold in. Big groups, often families, unite at one location for the Christmas period and, naturally, chaos ensues. The seasonal setting also paves the way for unpredictable weather, adding the bonus element of the characters being snowed in and trapped in a remote location. Forced proximity has a way of driving secrets from their hiding places, and if the guests are unable to leave, there is little else to do but tug at the threads of the mystery. The Family Game by Catherine Steadman really leans into these tropes. Readers follow the protagonist as she spends the holiday period getting to know her new fiancé’s family, a novel that is complete with family secrets, festive games and a snowy environment that adds a real tension to the story. 

Pacing is another great factor of these tales. The urgency of the festive period creates fast-paced stories with gripping plots and interesting characters; whatever mystery or crime element must be solved in time for Christmas so that the day isn’t ruined. This aspect creates a satisfying ending in which the characters may enjoy a well-deserved Christmas after all the drama. The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett puts a focus on this idea, leaving the characters to solve the murder mystery so that it doesn’t ruin their Christmas panto! 

With the increased trend of holiday-themed books, there is no surprise that other elements that readers typically read all year round would also be similarly coveted. A lot of Christmas-themed books double as romances that occur during the winter. Is there a more romantic time to fall in love than a chilly period that is juxtaposed by the warmth of a love interest? It’s a time to melt anyone’s heart. There are several elements that are incorporated into scenes that then set the tone for the love story. Consider the cosy setting, Christmas markets, mulled wine, festive lights and hot chocolate while snow paints the streets outside. The cosiness of this time period only enhances the romance that will soon find the protagonists. 

Oftentimes, certain sub-tropes are also essential elements in winter romances, for example, when characters are forced to stay in one place together due to the poor weather that the season often affords. Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me is an inclusive marriage of convenience story which exemplifies the aforementioned forced proximity, paired with a snowy and isolated location that’s bound to incite some romance.

There are also an abundance of the classic hallmark plotlines that we know and love. For example, when the main character returns home, usually a small town, for the holiday season and rekindles an old relationship, or even a new relationship with a close friend. They also discover what it is they really want out of life. A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone is a story about two best friends who have to fake-date in order to save the protagonist’s tree farm by securing $100,000. 

Another popular trope that has reached great heights is “grumpy x sunshine,” where one partner loves Christmas and the other is a bit of a Grinch – the perfect dynamic for a classic romance! An example of this classic theme that is referenced in numerous forms of media is Chloe Liese’s The Perfect Holiday which features two individuals who have almost nothing in common – including their feelings for the holidays. It spins a compelling tale about two coworkers who, upon being informed about the grim finances of their place of employment, begin to compete and outshine their opponent due to a fear of being fired.

There are numerous Christmas romances that will give you warm and fuzzy feelings during these cold winter months. Alternatively, curl up with your eggnog or hot chocolate and see if you can solve a murder mystery that threatens to ruin Christmas! There are so many festive reads to choose from, with a variety of interesting plots. We can’t wait to see how other tropes might be incorporated into fiction this holiday season.


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