The Ingredients of a Christmas Romance

Romances have often been accused of being formulaic, and Christmas romances?  Oh baby, those might be the most formulaic of all – but I still devour them every holiday season, both in book form and on the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas.  And I am certainly not the only one.  Those suckers are successful because they are satisfying.  And this has me thinking that it isn’t a formula for a satisfying romance that we’re talking about.  It’s a recipe.  

No one ever accuses an excellent souffle of being formulaic just because the chef followed a time-honored recipe.  He may add in some fresh flavors and spices, but that recipe has been pleasing people for centuries and there are some ingredients that are a necessary part of the experience.  And that’s how I think of Christmas romances.  A recipe for deliciousness.

All He Wants for Christmas

2018 HOLT Medallion Winner FREE for a limited time!

I am a bit of a Christmas romance addict.  My novel from last year, All He Wants for Christmas, is now FREE in ebook for a limited time (and as I write this #1 in the Kindle store!).  My current Christmas release, Miracle on Mulholland, just released earlier this week and is currently climbing the Christmas charts (at least I hope so, I’m an eternal optimist).  And I’ll be having a book out next year, A Royal Christmas Wish, as part of Hallmark Publishing’s Countdown to Christmas.  I may not be an expert, but I’ve definitely been around the Christmas block and learned a thing or two.

So what are the ingredients of a successful holiday romance?  Grab your cocoa and your freshly-baked cookies and let’s talk…

  1. Something is broken though the character may not know it.  This is your starting point for pretty much any romance.  Something is missing in our hero or heroine’s life, but they may have built their status quo in such a way that they don’t realize it.  That something may be a real connection, confidence, community, or a dozen other things, but they must find themselves catapulted out of their comfort zone and into a situation in which they come face to face with the thing missing in their life. Your Scrooge or George Bailey or Grinch needs to find his ghosts or angel or Cindy Lou Who – and in a Christmas romance? That catalyst will often come in a romantically fascinating package…
  2. Their love interest is the perfect person to show them what is missing.  Whether it is the stranger she never expected to meet or the enemy/foil who is wildly different from our heroine, or the friend who was always in the background and shares our heroine’s deeper values which she’s lost sight of, the hero is the one person who is most perfectly suited to show the heroine what she really wants out of life.  (And vice versa.)  They ricochet off one another – and every Christmas kitsch you can think of…
  3. Christmas traditions.  So many Christmas traditions!  You guys.  We need trimming the tree.  We need baking cookies.  We need gingerbread houses and caroling and snowball fights and ice skating.  We need Christmas memories and sharing old traditions.  These books are a celebration of the season.  The spice you add to your souffle can come into play here – you can make up your own Christmas traditions!  And as long as they bring people together, your reader will love it.  My motto?  The cheesier, the better.  All building up to the point when…
  4. One (or all) of the characters needs to learn the meaning of Christmas or find the spirit of Christmas in their heart. And, of course, fall in love! As a reader, I have a lot of flexibility of what that meaning or spirit might be, but it generally has something to do with warmth, kindness, love/family/community, caring, or sharing – all good, warm fuzzy things.  In any good romance the characters will grow, but in your Christmas romance the holiday is the catalyst for the character’s growth and plays a fundamental role in it.  And then they all live happily ever after!

And that’s it.  My simple recipe – though your spices may vary.  You can play Hallmark Bingo to enjoy the season – or remember you can grab my new release, Miracle on Mulholland, or get All He Wants for Christmas FREE to get some extra love in your holiday season.  Happy Holidays!

What are some of your favorite holiday reads? Do you have any ingredients to add to the recipe?

Miracle on Mulholland

Out Now!

Elia Aiavao wants nothing to do with Christmas this year. Once known for his good humor as the “Smiling Samoan” of mixed martial arts, he hasn’t had much Christmas cheer since he lost his beloved niece, so when he’s offered a job working through the holidays, he jumps at the distraction of running security for the Princess of Pop… only to discover his client is actually Calliope Rae, the star’s nine-year-old daughter.

Elia is determined to keep his distance, but that’s easier said than done when he meets Callie… and the sultry singer who is her unconventional mother.

Alexa Rae didn’t know the first thing about parenting when she found herself famously widowed with a baby on the way—so she did what she always does. She focused on her career while her personal life was falling apart and hired the best nannies in the business to take care of the baby. But now that baby is nine years old and every time Alexa looks at her she’s crushed by the guilt that she couldn’t be the parent she herself had never had.

With a new album and a new tour to promote, Alexa knows now is not the time to let up on her career, but maybe with the help of one unlikely Christmas elf—in the body of a sexy six-and-a-half-foot Samoan bodyguard—the singer and her daughter may find a Christmas miracle of their own and finally learn how to be a family.

A heartwarming holiday romance from award-winning author Lizzie Shane.


16 responses to “The Ingredients of a Christmas Romance”

  1. Gwyn says:

    I used to have a shelf dedicated to Christmas anthologies, which I faithfully reread every year. Had to pack them up a while back, and now I don’t know where they are. I miss them. And now you have me hankering for some gingerbread men and spiced cider, so I’ll have to go looking. I do hope your holiday books are climbing the charts! Nothing like a little Christmas magic to make good things happen.

  2. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    This is very handy, Vivi. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a Christmas-themed book. Maybe someday.

    Great post!

  3. Kate Parker says:

    I”ve found my Christmas traditions start in January and wrap up in August, which is the schedule writers need for Christmas stories. Writing about snowball fights when it’s 80 degrees out challenges our writers’ muscles. Good for you, Vivi, for taking on the challenge. Best of luck with your new book.

  4. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Vivi/Lizzie! 🙂

    I just finished my very first holiday novella and it was a new kind of challenge. Thinking about which traditions to include, as well as how to highlight the message of family and hope in the holiday season was fun.

    Enjoyed the post!

  5. Rita Henuber says:

    WoW! Love this and having a plan to follow doesn’t hurt. Thanks. Didn’t think about the traditions fueling the story. My family has some wacky ones. And crazy stories. I’ve thought about doing a Thanksgiving disaster novella. 🙂

  6. Darynda Jones says:

    I love it!!!! I love Christmas movies and books and stories and pretty much anything I can get my hands on. It’s such a special time. Thank you for this post. I’m so nostalgic now.

  7. I’m feeling a little Christmas in the air now. We also had our first snow today so this is timely! Thanks for sharing your recipe, Vivi.

  8. Our first snow left me stuck at work and not able to make it home. Boy did I think of a number of great meet-cutes.

    I love Christmas stories and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have another one out next year.

    Congrats on the new releases!!!


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