Wow, Christmas is less than three weeks away, and I have been impressed with the bumper crop of Christmas and Holiday stories published this year. Between my Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon and 20 Books For Christmas, I have read over 30 books this year, some backlist, but most published this year. This latest group were almost all listened to and the audiobooks were all well done. Although one of these is somewhat predictable, I enjoyed them all and they brought me the warm, cozy, feeling I enjoy with my Christmas reading.

A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman, Nancy Peterson (Narrator)

Published November 15th 2022 by Graydon House, Harlequin Audio

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Susan Norcross’ parents were killed in a car accident when she was only fourteen. She has blamed herself for their death all these years. Luckily for her, she was raised by her paternal grandparents and they were wonderful, keeping her memory of her parents alive. Both Susan’s grandmother and mother, met their husbands while they were dressed as Santa Claus, and Susan’s poem as a young child about finding her Kringle, had mapped out her love life. She is still single and her friends are determined to help her find her “Single Kringle” this year. Susan is the owner of her family’s bookstore, Sleigh By the Bay, that embraces Christmas fully, with her grandparents dressing as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Susan and her best friend, Holly, enter Chicago’s Santa run and she meets another runner dressed as Santa. They seem to hit it off and make plans to meet after the race, but he doesn’t show. The rest of the story has Susan and her friends trying to find the Santa Susan met over the next year.

This was such a delightful story. There is a lot of humour, but also some heartwarming moments. Susan has a lot to overcome that she doesn’t even realize. She needs to let go of her guilt over her parents’ death, stop trying so hard and just accept the good things coming her way. Her grandparents and her “Santas” all help her to let go and move on throughout this book. Susan realizes that there is more than one Santa out there, and she meets three wonderful men, but none of them are her “Santa”. Although she doesn’t find her “Single Kringle” she finds herself along the way. I really liked the characters in this book. Susan, her family and friends as well as her “Santas” were all wonderfully caring people, who I would love to be friends with. With another Santa Run coming up, Susan decides it will be her last one, but will a miracle strike? Viola Shipman is an auto-read author for me and this book reminds me of why. With wonderful characters, great writing, self-reflection that everyone can identify with to a degree and a happily ever after, I can’t recommend this Christmas book more. The audiobook was narrated by Nancy Peterson and she does a great job with this story. Using tone, expression and adding emotion to her performance, I enjoyed this audiobook very much.

Once Upon a Royal Christmas by Teri Wilson, Brittany Pressley (Reader)

Published November 1st 2022 by Hallmark Publishing

3.5 Stars:

Gracie Clark, runs a children’s party business and performs as “Princess Snowflake.” She wants to expand her business, but she needs a loan and keeps being turned down. Her best friend and business partner, enters her in a contest to win $30,000 if she is selected to play a character in the annual Ice Village festivities and accompany the royal family to holiday events in San Glacera. Prince Nikolas is the heir to the throne and while he is away on a royal activity, his family is convinced by his sister to hold the contest to raise tourism. They depend on tourism and it is on the downward spiral, so they need to do something. Of course, Gracie wins, but can she also win the heart of the prince?

Once Upon a Royal Christmas is a fun, Hallmark story where a commoner from the US meets, falls in love and eventually gets her happily ever after with a prince from a small European Country, San Glacera. Gracie has a heart of gold and loves making children happy. She wants them all to see and celebrate whatever is unique about themselves. She has some sadness in her past, surrounding a previous relationship as well as her talent as a singer, and she needs to work through it if she wants to find happiness. This is a beauty and the beast type trope, with Nikolas being a grump and not wanting anything to do with the fake princess. As they get to know each other, due to forced proximity, they begin to see different sides of each other. The rest of the Royal Family and staff are happy to push them together and they finally find their happily ever after. This is a bit of a predictable story, but I did enjoy it with it’s fun characters, humour and the dogs who also play a part in getting them together. The audiobook is narrated by Brittany Pressley. I have become accustomed to her narration and I enjoyed her performance of this story.

A Very Merry Bromance (Bromance Book Club #5) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Published November 1st 2022 by Berkley

4.5 Stars:

A Very Merry Bromance is the 5th book in the Bromance Book Club series and it is country music star, Colton Wheeler’s romance. In the previous book, Gretchen Winthrop and Colton Wheeler are attending the same wedding and end up going back to Colton’s room. This book opens with them waking the next morning, and Gretchen running away like she is being chased. Colton has no idea what happened, but he wanted to get to know Gretchen more. Fast forward a year, and Gretchen’s family finds out that she knows Colton and wants her to approach him to be a spokesperson for their high end whiskey. Colton is in a bit of a slump. He hasn’t put out any music in a couple of years, and his label does not like the stuff he has sent them. He is in a funk and has been told he needs to work with a songwriter. Gretchen is not a fan of her family. She doesn’t work in the family business, but is an immigration attorney, who depends on donations to keep her clinic open. When her brother offers her a spot on the board of the charitable foundation if she gets Colton to agree to the deal, so she swallows her pride and makes an overture. Colton says he will consider it, if she agrees to go on a date. She agrees, but she won’t like it. This is your grumpy/sunshiny trope, with Gretchen being the grump. As they spend more time together, we learn about Gretchen’s past which was horrible and how her brother terrorized her growing up. Colton also has some issues about self-confidence and that he is a fraud, but when he and Gretchen get to know each other, she unknowingly becomes his muse.

This is a series that does have open door bedroom scenes, but I enjoy the stories so much, I skim those scenes and continue to enjoy this series. The idea of this group of guys being in a romance book club and using what they learn to help each other with their relationships is such a hoot. They are all back in this book, adding that familiarity as well as some humor. Colton is all sunshine and wants Gretchen to enjoy the happiness that Christmas brings, but Gretchen is a Scrooge as she has no happy memories from Christmases in her youth. I loved the festivities that he planned for her, like it or not, and she ended up having a good time. There is always a serious issue in every book in this series and this time it is bullying, parents not supporting their children, greed and power. As well there is a nod to issues within the immigration system. Once again there is a story within the story as Colton gives Gretchen a romance book to read. We could all use a Colton, someone that supports Gretchen unconditionally, sticks up for her to her family and loves her enough to put his career on the line. This is another great addition to the series and I definitely recommend you read this one, or better yet, the whole series.

The Christmas Hummingbird (Miramar Bay) by Davis Bunn, Graham Winton (Narrator)

Published October 25th 2022 by Recorded Books, Kensington Books

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Christmas Hummingbird is an interesting and enjoyable story. It is set in Miramar Bay right around Christmas time, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a Christmas story. Ryan Eames is the chief of police in the small coastal tone and a single mother to her lonely, uniquely gifted eleven year old son. She is stretched thin by double shifts and grappling with an out-of-season coastal wildfire, along with a series of thefts in the vacation homes in the fire area. When it appears the fire was intentionally set to be able to carry out the heists, Ryan is convinced to deputize Ethan Lange. Ethan was burnt out in the fires and he is now starting over. He is an artist, works at a bank and is quite good at following clues and coming up with plans. Ryan feels some kind of connection to Ethan, who she invites to dinner and miraculously, watched Liam and Ethan connect in a way that she has not seen before. When Ethan finds a hummingbird who is sick and possibly dying from smoke inhalation, he rescues it and teaches Liam, Ryan and others how to care for it. This leads to Liam coming up with a plan to save the hummingbirds and it pulls the whole town together. With other animals to be saved, more robberies occurring, the fire spreading and Ryan, Liam and Ethan developing relationships, this is a beautiful story.

I really enjoyed this story set at Christmas, that uses the magic of Christmas to solve a mystery, catch some bad guys, save some animals and bring a bullied little boy into his own and become part of the community. I really liked all the characters in this story, especially Liam and Ethan. Their relationship was wonderful and I loved watching Liam blossom. Ryan is a wonderful mother and police officer, but I’m not sure how the decision to hire Ethan actually came about. “The Christmas Hummingbird” is a story about healing and second chances, as well as how anyone can step up to help save the environment or those that live in our world. It looks like this might become a series and I will definitely read or listen to the next one in the series, if that happens. The audiobook is narrated by Graham Winton, who is a good choice as the book is told from Ethan’s POV. I have listened to other books he has narrated and enjoyed them as well. I recommend this one in either format if you enjoy romance, stories of family, mystery and crime.