Mini Reviews #4: Modern Day Christmas Story Collections

As a genre, I’ve never really read a lot of short story collections. The run-up to Christmas, however, has seen that change. Quite drastically, even. So let’s get right into this with some modern day Christmas story collections!

I was offered ARCs of the books designated with an * by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

Let It Snow

Story

Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Opinion

I have to admit: it’s been a while since I read this one. Even after a couple of years, though, what stays with me is the fact that I appreciated so much how the stories in this collection were all intertwined. In every new story, you would get just a flash from the characters you’d already happened across, and, honestly? I feel like that’s not done enough in short story collections. This one, though? This one got that just right!

Rating: 3.75/5 (Goodreads)

A Season to Celebrate*

Story

Christmas Homecoming * Fern Michaels
Former Air Force Pararescueman Kevin Matthews is back home in Texas, working at his family’s Christmas tree farm while deciding his next move. Or maybe he won’t move at all, if sparks keep flying with the town’s new surgeon, Kate Stafford . . .
An Unexpected Gift * Kate Pearce
Widower Billy Morgan wishes his grown children still needed him. Good thing his longtime friend, Bella, does. She’s planning her son’s Christmas wedding and Billy is happy to help. Along the way they just might discover their own occasion to celebrate . . .
Christmas in Blue Hollow Falls * Donna Kauffman
Attorney Moira Brogan expects her brother’s Christmas wedding to be a peaceful affair. She doesn’t expect to be cornered by an unwanted lothario, rescued by a gorgeous Aussie chef–or be swept off her feet by said chef. Nursing a broken heart, the last thing she wants is a new romance. But Hudson Walker has other ideas . . .
Holiday Homerun* Priscilla Oliveras
Event planner Julia Louisa Fernandez dreams of a life in Chicago. But her family in Puerto Rico expects her to take over the catering business. Former pro baseball player Ben Thomas knows what that’s like–and when they meet, he might be the one to inspire a winning strategy, just in time for the holidays . .

Opinion

One of the biggest advantages of a short story collection is that there’s always something you’ll like. In this collection, for example, I found myself liking each story more than the previous one. I thought Christmas Homecoming was enjoyable at best. The characters I found slightly harder to relate to, but, then again… Returned soldier and doctor?  Not quite my lifestyle!An Unexpected Gift was – what’s in a name – quite unexpected. I usually read books focussing at least partially on main characters closer to my own age. This story of a second chance at love, though? It made me root for the main characters so much. And what’s, more: it made me want to read the rest of the books relating to the other characters!I’d never read anything by Donna Kauffman before this fall. As I recently made my way through her Hamilton Christmas-series, I’ve really come to enjoy her writing. I was proven *right* on that again, in Christmas in Blue Hollow Falls. She manages to get a lot of character development into even a short story. What’s more, this short story is part of a series that all feature one specific character for each book. I loved getting a sneak peek into the other characters’ lives and, yeah… I’m going to have to read about the rest of them as well.The real revelation, for me, was Holiday Homerun by Priscilla Oliveras. I absolutely loved the way this author included her own Latinx culture with the Christmas atmosphere. I also didn’t know that there was such a presence of people from Puerto Rico in Seattle, so that was a fun little discovery. More than anything, though, I really appreciated Oliveras managed to set up some pretty complex relationships between families, mothers and daughters, daughters and sports, … in just so little pages.All in all, I really enjoyed this collection! There were some fun new discoveries, some reading that was outside of my usual scope and of course – a whole lot of Christmas spirit. What more could you need?

Rating: 3/5 (Goodreads)

Santa’s On His Way*

Story

A Baby for Christmas * Lisa Jackson
The uneventful Christmas Annie McFarlane expected is suddenly anything but. First, there’s the adorable baby left on the snowy doorstep of her Oregon cabin. Second, there’s the extremely attractive, yet extremely angry man claiming to be the father. Liam O’Shaughnessy may be intimidating, but this is one precious gift Annie isn’t giving up so easily . . .
What the Cowboy Wants for Christmas * Maisey Yates
When Meg O’Neill’s longtime boyfriend lets her down, again, on Christmas no less, she braves an Oregon blizzard to get to her best friend Noah’s comforting arms. But this time Noah’s not telling her what she wants to hear—he’s telling her the truth, from his heart. And his words just might be the gift Meg’s been wishing for all along.
Snowed In * Stacy Finz
Rachel Johnson has found the perfect spot for her second Tart Me Up bakery in Glory Junction, California. Except she’s in fierce competition with hunky bar owner Boden Farmer. Worse, while the icy rivals await the city’s decision, they end up catering the same Christmas Eve mountaintop wedding—and getting snowed in. But sometimes a loss of electricity generates a different kind of heat . . .
A Cowboy Wedding for Christmas * Nicole Helm
Big city art teacher Lindsay Tyler isn’t just back home in Colorado for her brother’s wedding at the Barton Christmas Tree Farm and Ranch. She’s back for good. She just hasn’t told anyone yet—including Cal Barton, the ex-boyfriend she left behind. Will it take a Christmas miracle for him to welcome her back with open arms? . . .

Opinion

Most collections around Christmas, I’ve come to realise, are spin offs of larger series. Out of these four short stories, however, that was only the case for one.
A Cowboy Wedding For Christmas is the story of the youngest of the Garner Brothers. I hadn’t read any of the books about the rest of her family yet, but, well… I pretty much need to right now. Especially as this is, so far, the last book to appear. And I have no idea how everyone got to where they are now. From the oldest brother to the mom, via the older sister back to the brother who feels he “doesn’t have a choice” in his life. It really only took these tiny glimpses into their life for me to become invested in them already!
The same can be said, and even more so, in the main characters from What the Cowboy Wants for Christmas. The main character and both of her love interests first met each other as they all came to the same foster home. After finishing this short story, after reading about the need for and the influence of good foster families? I was basically ready to sign myself up for that. The author managed to – so beautifully – sketch an image that was both tender, raw and (of course) very sexy. I’m just throwing this out there – if explicit scenes make you uncomfortable? Then this collection is probably not the thing for you…
In Snowed In, one of the main characters mentions that the two MC’s being snowed in on Christmas? Kind of reminds him of those silly Christmas movies where people get stuck in a house. Well, talk about meta… This book is basically exactly that. With, you know, a little bit of extra fluffiness on top. Of course, you just have to, don’t you? I mean, it’s such a classic thing: two people who don’t like each other, get snowed in… The advantage to this short story, then, was that we actually got an inside view of exactly why those two people (dis)liked each other. What follows? A beautiful rendition of haters-to-lovers. With some green-red-and-white Christmas spirit thrown right on top!
Finally, there’s A Baby for Christmas. Honestly, I just wish there would’ve been more time to develop their feelings. This entire story is such a non-stop whiplash, from sadness, to joy, to confusion, to anger, back to sadness, to attraction, to … And all of that is just the first two chapters! The premises of A Baby for Christmas is so complex that I almost feel like it’s doing the story a disservice to keep it this short…
Altogether, though, I enjoyed this collection of short stories. It had quite a lot of explicit scenes, but then, it also had the romance to back that up. There were old loves, new loves, insta-loves… A little a bit of everything, really. And of course: there was snow. And Christmas. So much Christmas!

Rating: 2.75/5 (Goodreads)

Now, as might have been clear, right now – I’m still finding my way into the wonderful world that is short story collections. Do you have any that are Christmas-themed that you think I might enjoy? If so, please let me know below! And of course: if you’re in need of more Christmas-posts or the rest of this year’s blogmas? Be sure to check out the tags!

-Saar