It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sort of. I mean, 2020 is testing us all. But there is still mulled wine, chocolates and twinkly lights. So let’s run with it. I adore the run-up to Christmas: late November and all of December are my absolute faves, and the thing I love most are Christmas movies. Unexpected snow storm? Tick. Stuck in a picturesque cabin with an impossibly good-looking stranger? Tick. Been summoned home to deal with a family crisis, and whaddayaknow, you bump into your first love? Tick, tickety, tick!
But much as I love Christmas movies, what I wouldn’t give for a few more with two women in the starring romantic roles – and that’s where queer Christmas books come in! Festive stories abound this time of year, so if you want your fix of yuletide love with some women at the helm, step this way. Here are my picks for a lesbian Christmas tale, best served with mulled wine and a Lindt Santa…
Not a romance but rather an ensemble piece, this book is based in a rambling old estate in Sussex, run by lesbians and now a lesbian retreat. There a truckload of characters to get your head around at first – I got dizzy keeping up at one point – but once you do, you’ll find you’re a guest at the house, too, along with the couples young and old, the newly blooming romances, the heartbroken and the about-to-give-birth.
This book is a gentle observational snapshot of Christmastime in a house full of lesbians, replete with a touch of drama, along with lashings of mulled wine and mince pies. It’s an easy read that draws you in and has a bumper crop of cracker jokes, along with skinny dipping, snowball fights and flowing champagne.
First, a disclaimer: although this book is set at Christmas, unlike all the other novels on this list, it’s not all that festive. But what it lacks in festive vibes, it makes up for with a gripping story, beautifully painted characters and a heart-wrenching dilemma for our central pair.
The Retreat is the story of Jo and Ed, best friends from school; and Ed’s wife, Natalie, who Jo has been having an affair with for the past eight years. On Christmas Eve, they find out their affair’s been rumbled, and Jo hotfoots it to a local retreat to work out where to go from here.
The novel is described as a ‘sort of lesbian romance’, and I can see why. There are no formulas used here, all the normal romance algebra thrown out the window. Instead, you’re treated to a true-to-life, touching and in turns heart-breaking tale of family ties, relationship breakdowns and the ultimately, the love that sticks no matter what. It’s a story told with conviction and heart, and one that doesn’t shy away from life’s big questions.
It’s been a while since I read a Jeanette tome. I forgot how good she is. Twelve short stories, twelve recipes. Even the way she describes the recipes makes me smile. Every word is carefully chosen. This book will make you want to bake Mrs Winterson’s mince pies, and fall in love with Jeanette all over again. You can’t ask for much more, whatever the season.
Another holiday banker is Jae’s Under A Falling Star – and while not explicitly a holiday-themed book, this does start off over Christmas and finish there the following year, so that’s good enough for me. Plus, a Christmas tree is one of the main plot devices, so it definitely qualifies.
This is the charming tale of workaholic Dee, and the new girl in the office, Austen. It involves class, family and love, as well as getting caught naked in a hot tub. And as everyone knows, class + family drama + love = winner! And hot tub sex is always a score too, natch. On top of that, this is by Jae, and I reckon this is her at the top of her romance game. Read it, you won’t regret it!
Another ensemble piece, this is a book I’ve read countless times and holds up even after all of those. It centres around a group of friends getting together at Amy’s cabin in the woods for the week between Christmas and New Year – again, there’s romance and heartbreak for the couples & singles, along with Amy’s pesky 20-something niece, Darby, who has a crush on her friend Molly.
You’ll feel the highs and lows of the holidays and the couples involved, and the sex scene near the end where Laura (or Sophie?) is having a sex dream and wakes to ask Sophie (or Laura?) if she can “finish her off” – well, you’ve just got to stand back and applaud such writing, haven’t you?
This is a brilliant book I’ve loved for years, and I defy you not to feel the same. In fact, I want to go to that cabin, but it probably only exists in Georgia Beers’ head. Damn it.
Last but not least, and my top pick of the lot is Gerri Hill’s Chasing A Brighter Blue. Gerri Hill needs no introduction: she’s written a gadzillion lesbian fiction novels and they’re all briliant, you have my word. Okay, I haven’t read all of them, but quite a few. And I’m here to tell you this falls into the ‘brilliant’ camp. So long as you overlook the moose in a Santa hat on the cover (not sure what the designer was thinking there). The book is better than that, trust me.
Set in the hills of Colorado, it features traumatised photo-journalist Reagan who wants to get away from it all at a resort hotel; and Shelby, whose sister happens to be marrying Reagan’s brother at said resort – oh, and her family owns it, too.
The book starts out with a delicious scene of Reagan hitting on Shelby at the bar, which is done with consumate Gerri Hill style. After that, just sit back and watch the wedding action unfold. Neither of the women are looking for love, but this is a romance, so I think they might just find it. Buy it and be put under Gerri Hill’s spell – truly, this is a Christmas cracker of a book!
Finally, I can’t leave my Christmas round-up without a shout out for my own festive books. Christmas In Mistletoe is the story of Fran and Ruby’s journey from enemies to friends to lovers, but also of the ultimate Christmas village and its cast of quirky characters. Fancy some sapphic love in the snow? Step this way.
This is the start of the Tori & Holly series that spanned the whole of 2016. In it, Tori Hammond wants a girlfriend for Christmas, and she gives herself a month to find one. Cue hilarious dates and first loves turning up, until suddenly, a new option opens up. It’s a Christmas romance set in London and it’s guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart, honest.