The Bodice Ripper’s Guide to Festive Historial Fiction

Book Page Christmas Trees

The nights are drawing in, there’s frost on the ground and everywhere you turn, someone’s put tinsel on something. Pop stars are covering cheesy Christmas songs, Ann Summers is displaying sexy Santa outfits and we’re all girding ourselves to spend a small fortune on relatives we don’t see the rest of the year.

Let’s face it, modern Christmases are a bit rubbish. Aside from the Doctor Who Christmas special and the vague promise of snow, I could do without it this year. But when my Scrooge-like impulses start to take hold, I yearn for a simpler time. A time when Christmas meant snow-laden real pine trees, crackling log fires and rosy- cheeked urchins carrying turkeys twice their size.

I’ve written before about how historical fiction makes for perfect seasonal reading – when it starts to get chilly, there’s something deeply comforting about escaping into a world of corsets, quadrilles and caddish gentlemen. Luckily, there’s plenty to tickle your fancy this Christmas, with some new releases and old favourites to get you into the festive spirit.

So without further ado, allow me to present the official Bodice Ripper’s Guide to Christmas (in Books):

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

Fans of Willig’s ridiculously enjoyable Pink Carnation series, in which both Regency-era spies and the 21st century PhD student researching them have adventures and romantic interludes, will already be familiar with the hapless Turnip Fitzhugh.

A man who could out-dandy Beau Brummell, what he lacks in intellect he more than makes up for with his good heart and loyalty. Arabella Dempsey is a governess who stumbles across the stately home that houses Pink Carnation’s spy academy. Can they to foil villains, fall in love and still be back in time for Christmas dinner?

All I Want for Christmas is a Duke by Delilah Marvelle & Maire Claremont

Technically Marvelle describes her novels as ‘trouser rippers’ rather than bodice rippers, thanks to her feisty heroines, but I’m sure she’ll forgive the inclusion. All I Want for Christmas is actually two novellas – Merry Christmas, Mrs Robinson by doyenne of the sexy historical romp Marvelle, and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Claremont, whose début novel The Dark Lady is due out in early 2013.

An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James

A handsome duke, a Christmas wedding – what more could a girl want? But Poppy Selby’s ever after isn’t quite so happy, and four years later she and the duke are husband and wife in name only. It might take a Christmas miracle for the duke to make his wife fall in love with him all over again – or it might just take a few honest conversations…

This is festive, but it’s also surprisingly dark, and James strips away the glamour from the period whilst also crafting a love story between two people who never really got to know each other before they said ‘I do’.

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

A bit of a cheat, this one, since it only opens at Christmas. The second novel in the Gemma Doyle trilogy finds Gemma exploring the extent of her magic – and her inability to help those closest to her. Bray skewers the Dickensian image of a Victorian Christmas with savage glee, but there are enough lush festive set-pieces to warm even Ebenezeer Scrooge’s heart.

Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn

The only thing wrong with this is that it’s a novella, and I wish it were three times as long. Ten chapters of festive deliciousness featuring everyone’s favourite Victorian sleuths, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane. There are mad footmen, troublesome ghosts and the best recipe for wassail you will ever find. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to see if she’s got an equally good hangover cure…

If you’d like some historical holiday reading of your own, we’ve got one copy of the All I Want for Christmas is a Duke e-book to give away.

All you need to do to enter is comment below telling us what literary delights you’d like to find in your stocking this Christmas….

Kaite Welsh

(Image via macinate)