Readers’ Panel: What do you think about Christmas chick lit?
By Jade Craddock
As we move into December, the festive season is well underway. But in the world of chick lit, Christmas fever strikes months earlier, with the snow-dusted, glitter-filled covers hitting the shelves in October and November. So what do readers make of this extended holiday season and how do they view Christmas chick lit? Who better to ask than our expert readers in this special festive Christmas Readers’ Panel. ♥
Kat, Scotland: Christmas to me is all about spending time with my partner John and reading Christmas chick lit. I have in the last few years been able to find a favorite book that was Christmas related and I hope this year will be the same. Some of my favorite Christmas reads are Amy Silver’s All I Want for Christmas is You, Cally Taylor’s Home for Christmas and Debbie Macomber’s A Merry Little Christmas. I have great expectation for The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews which is out 2015.
Phoebe, USA: I would have said I was not much on “themed” stories around holidays, but then LOVE, ACTUALLY came out, and I have to watch it every Christmas. The thing is, though, it’s not really a “Christmas” movie -yes, it’s set at that time of year, but as far as I can remember, we never even see a Christmasy scene, except for just decor/music. (Except for Uncle Jamie, of course, coming to family Christmas, but even he bugs out before the actual holiday. I *hate* Uncle Jamie!). So my thought is, I love a good story no matter when it’s set. If the season is intrinsic, then it works for me. But as far as “Christmas stories” or “Valentine’s Day stories” or the like, it’s not really my favorite – I probably wouldn’t pick up a compilation of holiday-themed chick lit stories, and I doubt if the fact that one is set at Christmas would make me want to read it. For me, it always hinges on the relationships and the characters – if the book sounds like it’s full of interesting, faceted characters undergoing interesting changes and challenges, I’m in – no matter when it’s set.
Lee-ann, Australia: Last year a book club I am a member of had a ‘read as many Christmas-related books as you can’ challenge. Like most of the other members, I forgoed the traditional Little Women or A Christmas Carol route, and delved into the world of Christmas ebooks. The amount of Christmas ebooks on offer is overwhelming. Many are novella size and free. I assume that the idea is the writers and/or publishers hope you will enjoy the writer’s style to such an extent that you will subsequently purchase a full-priced book. From the free books, I tried a variety of styles: historical, sci-fi, contemporary, heartwarming. They were all romance, however, and depending on your definition, could all fall into the chick-lit genre. They were all terrible. The average rating was 2/5. I actually handed over money for one that had a cute title, pretty cover, and catchy blurb. I would definitely class it as chick-lit. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t five stars either unfortunately. Interestingly, I found that even though all the books were advertised as Christmas books, most contained limited mentions of the holiday. At a guess I would say most were written before the marketing theme was decided on, and the Christmas references were added to comply. Therefore, in nearly every book’s case, Christmas was not an integral part of the plot/ setting/ theme, leaving me feel quite cheated. I will admit I’m not the most festive person at the best of times (carols literally make me shudder), but after the challenge I vowed to never again knowingly read another Christmas romance or chick lit book. Bah humbug.
Kevin, Malaysia: Christmas chick lit. What’s not to love when characters find love and discover the true meaning of Christmas during the festive season? Living in Malaysia all my life, I have NEVER had the real experience of a white Christmas, scratch that, I’ve never even touched real snow before! Reading Christmas chick lit is heavenly. I get to fall in love with the characters, have a fictional glass of mulled wine (yes, I am old enough to drink!) and have a proper cuddle with the hero. My favourite Christmas chick lit authors have to be Carole Matthews, Scarlett Bailey and Jenny Colgan. Just to name a few. I might not get to have snowball fights with dashing heroes, but at least I can enjoy the magic of Christmas at the price of a book!
Nicole, Australia: I’m not a big fan of Xmas chick lit. It feels like it’s more of a money spinner to cash in on that time of year. I feel especially disappointed when authors I love put out a book of short stories who don’t usually do so. I also find it has to be Xmas to read Xmas books but then I find I can only read a couple or I get bored. So some sit on my bookshelf until the following year or with short stories, I never get around to reading them at all. There are some authors who do write good Xmas stories, like Carole Matthews, but I feel that they are few and far between.
Trish, Ireland: I only noticed that Christmas chick lit was a thing a few years ago. Browsing in a bookshop I noticed a stand full of books that had lovely snowy, glittery covers and as I absolutely love Christmas I bought a couple. As it turned out, one was a combination of two previously published Mills & Boon novels but it was a great read. It had two tasty, alpha male heroes and was romantic and sexy. The other was a Trish Ashley. I can’t remember what it was called or what happened in it apart from … not much. The heroine took off to the country, pootled around a bit, some bloke showed up two-thirds of the way along and appeared to be what was going to pass for the romantic interest & yes, it was Christmas. It was utterly uninteresting and I’m not even sure I finished it. Trish Ashley publishes a Christmas novel every year but I never had any desire to try another. I browse the Christmas chick lit stand every year but I’ve never bought any more. There are several reasons:
1. It’s the same names every year and most of them are authors I’ve previously found disappointing or just not my sort of chick lit – rural and cosy rather than my preferred metropolitan and sexy.
2. Why always rural? This drives me nuts! Why do they *always* have to be set in a cottage on a village green or out in the wilds. I’m a city girl and think there’s nothing as magical as Christmas in the city but I’ve never found a novel specifically written as a Christmas book that was set in a city. It’s done well in lots of regular chick lit – Gemma Burgess captured the social, parties-and-warm-pubs feel of a city Christmas in A Girl Like You; in Rebecca Chance’s Bad Angels the life-on-hold atmosphere of London between Christmas and new year was very well done. I want more of that but I’m not going to get it. If I found one with a picture of ice skating at Somerset House on the cover – think last Christmas’s gorgeous Debenhams ad – I might be tempted but I think my money is safe.
3. Christmas alone isn’t enough to sell me a book. Sticking a sparkly cover on any old ho-hum tale of stepkids and exes or the latest in the seemingly endless parade of tea room tales isn’t enough to get me interested. I reject that stuff every day of my reading life and a glittery Christmas tree cover won’t change that.
If I find a Christmas-in-the-city story about cheerful singletons, where nobody owns a sweet/tea/cake shop, or any other knit-your-own-turkey kind of business and with a hero I can imagine as Benedict Cumberbatch – sold! Otherwise I’ll do what I usually do at Christmas and re-read an old favourite.
Katrina, Scotland: I love Christmas chick lit – helps with the Christmassy feeling – best read cozied up on the sofa with a blanket and a nice hot cup of tea.
Chanpreet, USA: I think Christmas chick lit is great. It’s one of the times people really enjoy themselves. There is something special and magical about that time of year. When we have wedding chick lit, divorce chick lit, cheating chick lit, summer-y chick lit, and so many more, why not have Christmas chick lit too? Now I don’t like to see Christmas chick lit in July or October. I like it in November and December, when it’s closer to the time. It’s like seeing Christmas chocolates in stores in August. Blah!