Many of you got up at some unearthly time this morning to start your Christmas shopping. And for the next month or so, it is going to be go –go –go with more shopping, cooking, parties, children’s Christmas programs, and visiting relatives, leaving you with very little time to sit down and read. Of course you can buy the books you want to read, and after the holidays have a lie in and pamper yourself- there is definitely nothing wrong with that. But I like reading around the holidays. Many of the stories seem kinder, gentler, and filled with family.

What I do like is that holiday stories tend to have a lot of my favorite plot devices- like friends to lovers, pets, babies, and extended family. I am not saying that I want the stories to be sugarplum sweet, which I think is a big failing of some authors. Don’t get me wrong. I like happy, but I want a touch of realism with a little bit of conflict and bite, or surprise me with big chunk of humor.

I tend not to particularly care for fall-in-lust Christmas stories. Long ago I remember reading a Linda Howard Christmas story, White Out, in Upon a Midnight Clear. Of course it was sizzling, as her older stories tended to be. And while I liked it, I clearly remember being disappointed in the lack of emotional connection between the two. If I remember correctly they have sex before even exchanging a word.

In addition, I am tired of divine intervention stories with angels. Not that I didn’t like them at one time, but I just feel that this type of story has been overdone. It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic, but there has been a variation of this story in book form or film almost every year. Even Dolly Parton starred in the movie Unlikely Angel in 1996. Along with this, I am ho-hum about variations of A Christmas Carol and the plotline of the rich hero saving the heroine and her poor orphan siblings from the poor house, and then providing them with wonderful food and gifts. Or the poor heroine illustrating to the rich hero that even though he is rich in materialistic goods, he has a dearth of true friends and love.

You probably wondering what I do want besides friends to lovers, pets, and babies? I freely admit that I do have higher expectations of Holiday stories – especially around this time of year, whether they center on Christmas or Hanukkah. I want special. It is not enough for the heroine and hero to fall in love or the story to just take place around holiday celebrations.

I want the grand sacrifice or the colossal gesture. In a nutshell I want variations of O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi. One reason that this wonderful story made such an impression on me is that both the heroine and hero sacrifice something that they hold dear for the other. I not saying that a person needs to give up a kidney for the other, but I want the story to be special.

So far this year, I have read the cute, sweet and touching Holiday stories, with most of them falling in the B range. But the elusive special story has eluded me over the past couple of years.

And I think that it is the same for many of you. Whenever people ask for favorite holiday stories, I notice a lot of oldies recommendations and not so many current releases.

If you reach more for past Holiday releases more than the present, what is the difference? While a few bestselling authors do release Holiday theme stories, many that used to do so, have not done so in recent years. Do you find that you treasure stories by your favorite authors, more than others?

If you have found a new release that is special, tell us about it. What made it special for you? Of course it is too late for a Holiday story wish list for 2012, however if you had a direct line to authors and publishers what type of story would you like to see for 2013?

– Leigh Davis