christmas anth I had planned to blog on something entirely different this week, but reading Katie’s blog last week made me think about one of my favorite times to read category books – the end of the year. As we roll into fall, I get so busy with work and then later with holidays that I don’t always have much time for outside reading beyond my review books. This is the time of year when my anthologies and category romances come out. Some are Christmas-themed, some not, but all are good for a short escape when things are very busy.

I have a big, hefty stack of paranormal series and 400+ page historicals waiting for the perfect winter afternoon, but for now I’m starting to hit the time of year when the perfect short story or category novel will definitely hit the spot. I’m planning to pick up some new anthologies and series books this fall, but I decided to pull out some of my favorites to reread, too.

Katie has covered category books well already and the comments are full of great reading ideas. So, for some more good shorter reads, I’d love to hear what your favorite novellas/short stories are. Here are a few of mine:

In From the Cold by Nora Roberts – I first read this not long after I discovered Rebellion. The couple from that novel(whom I really liked) make an appearance in this story and I also loved the Revolutionary War setting of this story. Perhaps it’s all those childhood Christmas trips to Williamsburg and Monticello, but this is a setting that really speaks to me. This story can be found in the Harlequin Historical Christmas Stories 1990.

Dancers in the Dark by Charlaine Harris – I liked the entire Night’s Edge anthology, but this story in particular haunted me. The heroine, Layla Rue LeMay is a dancer with a vampire for a partner – but there’s so much more to this story than just the set-up. I love the way Harris uses language in this story and manages to pack great emotion into a very short format. Good news – the anthology has been republished so it’s readily available now.

Bargain With the Wind by Sharon Shinn – I first read this story for review a couple of years ago; I found this story hauntingly beautiful then and it’s lost none of its magic for me. Though not a holiday story, this fantasy romance is a perfect escape read and it works for me whether I’m in the mood for fantasy or romance. The anthology it comes from is not the strongest, but this is still a beautiful story.

Upon a Midnight Clear by Amanda McCabe – While Carla Kelly is often the first author people mention when discussing Regency Christmas novellas, many other authors including Amanda McCabe, aithor of this story from Regency Christmas Magic deserves some notice, too. This holiday story focuses on two somewhat tortured characters whose love rescues each from a very lonely existence. It’s the kind of story that makes me smile and get teary all at once.

Let Nothing You Dismay by Carla Kelly – And yes, Carla Kelly’s Christmas stories do get a lot of attention around here. Having read some, I have to say I can see why. She excels at writing stories that are sweet without being treacly. They are very good, and this one is my personal favorite. I like most of her characters, but the couple in this story (from the Regency Christmas Wishes anthology) just seemed especially likeable and their romance is the sort that makes one smile and get teary all at once.

The First Kiss by Julia Quinn– This story comes from Lady Whistledown Strikes Back and like many of Julia Quinn’s works, features very likable people. I don’t usually go for the, “But I’m not good enough for you!” plots. However, this story of a penniless hero and the heiress he loves is very well-written and I just melt when I read it.

And those are a few of my favorites. I love anthologies, so I have many, many honorable mentions. Surely I’m not the only anthology lover out there – I’d love to hear which novellas have worked well for others.

– Lynn Spencer