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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Books that could—or should—be Hallmark Christmas movies

In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’m here to tell you that Hallmark Christmas movies (HCM) are officially A Big Deal. In the past few years, these touching movies have gone from being how you might pass the time while at home with a winter cold to Must See Television. In fact, the Hallmark Channel and Country Living teamed up this year on a special single-issue magazine called Countdown to Christmas. “Celebrating 10 years of feel-good watching, the Hallmark-movie-inspired ideas in Countdown to Christmas are sure to bring holly jolly joy and movie-set magic to your holidays for years to come!” My favorite part of this magazine—besides, let’s face it, every page—is the play-while-you-watch Bingo, which includes categories such as “Adorable Local Bakery,” “Wise-Beyond-Her-Years Child, and “Female Character Wearing a Red Coat or Puffer.”

Clearly there’s a market out there for those of us who love the simple happiness of these movies. I’ve been a Hallmark Christmas movie lover for a while, and a book lover my whole life, so it only makes sense that I went in search of books that evoked the joyful, cozy feeling of these sweet movies.

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Let It Snow by Debbie Macomber

This one has all the components of the beloved HCM formula: the tension between big city and small town. A deceased parent. And snow. In Macomber’s slim novel, two strangers meet when their flight from San Francisco to Seattle is rerouted during a snowstorm to Portland. Shelly and Slade begrudgingly rent a car together and on the drive from Portland to Seattle, sparks start to fly. Slade is stuck outside of Seattle at Shelly’s father’s house, and the two travelers are forced to spend more time together doing Christmas-y things like cutting down a tree and playing piano in front of the fire. The only thing that’s slightly off-formula for this sort of movie is that the characters share several passionate kisses!

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Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer

Not only is this the second novel called Let It Snow on this list, but Let It Snow is already the title of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Thayer’s Let It Snow is set on Nantucket during the winter season. And yes, there are elements of a classic HCM: deceased parents, a plucky heroine with a small business, an adorable kid, and a quirky cast of friends. Christina Antonioni is the owner of a small toy shop on Nantucket’s wharf, but her business is nearly shuttered when her Scrooge of a landlord attempts to raise her rent. Coincidentally, Christina has not only become friendly with the landlord’s granddaughter, but she’s falling for his handsome son. Bonus HCM points for a beautifully described cookie baking scene. I’ve only been to Nantucket during the summer, but can imagine it dressed in full Christmas glory. This has my vote for the Book Most Likely to Turn into a Hallmark Movie.

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Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber

Yes, I’m including two Macomber books, but with good reason. Macomber not only regularly writes Christmas romances, but several of her books have been turned into HCMs already. She’s a bit of the Snow Queen of the Christmas novel—in the best way possible—and it was a struggle to only include two of her books on this list. This novel, set in the remote Alaskan town of Ponder, opens with manly sword-maker Palmer proposing to his summer love, Josie. The only problem is that Josie is a city girl and headed back to Seattle to start a job at a hip new restaurant. After a travel snafu, Josie eventually makes it back to Seattle where she discovers her dream job and life aren’t quite as perfect as she had hoped. While this didn’t follow the traditional storylines of a classic HCM, there’s the right raw material: a zany cast of characters, a small town, and a widowed mother.

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One Day in December by Josie Silver

This book is just different enough to be one of the Hallmark’s big push (my term) movies—not cast with one of their oft-used actresses like Candace Cameron Bure or Lacey Chabert, but with a new Hallmark talent. One December, Laurie locks eyes with a man just as her bus drives away. After looking for him for a year, she is introduced to him as her best friend and flatmate’s new boyfriend, Jack. For the next 10 years, Laurie and Jack weave in and out of each other’s lives. It’s a romantic dramedy that is just begging for the HCM treatment.

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A Lake House Holiday: A Small-Town Christmas Romance Novel by Megan Squires

Jolene lives in the small, charming town of Merrylark Lake, where she’s been busy helping her friends and neighbors while mourning the death of her fiancé. One Christmas, heartbroken cowboy Luke Handley is the tenant at the house next door, and as soon as these two meet, the chemistry is apparent. Unfortunately, Luke’s ex-fiancée comes to town and complicates what looks to be a match made in the North Pole of Heaven. But good friends, cookies, and a small business bring these two back together by the end of this novel. I just did a triple-check of IMDb to make sure this wasn’t already a HCM.

I’m not sure how I could put together this list without a shout-out to some of my favorite seasonal books: The Winter Street books by Elin Hilderbrand. Yes, I am an unabashed Hilderbrand fan, and this series of four books is begging to get the TV movie treatment. Or at least I’m begging for that. The Winter Street series follows the Quinn family, the owners of the Winter Street Inn on Nantucket. These books are bittersweet odes to family and the holidays, and they are a must-read for fans of Hilderbrand, Nantucket, holiday books, or anyone with a heart and soul. Just kidding on that last one. But these books are perfect snuggle-by-the-fire books. And what more do you want over the holidays?

Happy watching—and happy reading!

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